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- To: <seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org>
- Subject: Re: foreign engineer requirements
- From: "Tim Allison" <AllisoT(--nospam--at)trusjoist.com>
- Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2003 07:23:15 -0600
I don't know I believe that classes outside of the engineering curriculum have helped me become a better engineer, but they at least gave me something to talk about at bars other than the optimal angle to hold a pint of beer for chugging. I had the fortune of taking a history class from Prof. Widenor, who was a speech writer for Adlai Stevenson, the only person to lose a Presidential race 4 times IIRC.
I think more importantly, books can only prepare your mind; you still have to participate in different activities, apply what you have learned, and develop new thoughts to truly become well-rounded. There should be some mandatory requirement for extra-curricular activities in high school and college, whether it is playing in a garage band, sculpting, building model rockets, or whatever. Actually, there should be no requirement. The world is your opportunity to waste. If you don't want to take advantage of what's around you, so be it. Leave that opportunity for someone who does.
If a better understanding of general concepts in engineering and some specific knowledge is what should be required of new graduates, perhaps ASCE should not emphasize course requirements, but rather put some actual meat on the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. My peers in college considered it something of a joke, a hazing ritual that makes you get up at 7am on a Saturday. Not that my latter course work didn't help me in passing, but I think I could have gotten by with just my first couple years of studies. I don't really see what passing that exam proved, except that I had a minimum amount of competence to practice engineering. If that exam were beefed up some, and companies made it a requirement to have your EIT (or EI or whatever is applicable), you could increase the general ability of graduating students without forcing those who were born to do engineering to take another 10 courses if they don't want to.
>>> smaxwell(--nospam--at)engin.umich.edu 07/24/03 01:21AM >>>
Others have chimed in on the issue and I find myself agreeing with many of
them, including some that I would thought would always be on the other end
of social issues from myself.
I have to admit that when I was in school I did not like having to take
humanities courses. I wanted to do just do engineering related courses.
When I was in the civil program, did not want to do any civil courses on
things like waste water treatment or environmental engineering but rather
take just structural courses.
I have since changed my view (at least on the humanities courses, but not
necessarily the environmental engineering courses). Those courses ended
up helping me fit better into society (although I am still a gear-head
nerd). If I had only taken pure engineering courses, then I would likely
have a more difficult time dealing with and speaking with "foreigners"
I also find this to be true when dealing with the "breadth" course in
civil engineering. If I had my wish at the time, then I would have only
taken structural courses. But I now strongly believe that some basic
civil/general engineering courses (such as soils, fluid mechanics,
thermo, statics, solid mechanics, dynamics, hydraulics, CE materials,
basic structural analysis, basic environmental [REALLY hate to admit
that], waste water treatment, etc) should be required of all CEs.
They are many currently that are "attacking" the current civil engineering
undergraduate education system and the PE licensing system. They complain
that the undergraduate education systems are not producing what they had
in the past nor what employers want currently. While I certainly believe
that there can be changes made for the better, the whole push behind the
whole "masters degree as the first professional degree" (although ASCE has
modified their position so as to imply that the masters degree is not
really the requirement...but it is still the intent) is comprised of
arguements that don't hold water from my perspective.
Many of those who push ASCE's initiative argue that to raise our stature
(and pay) our path to licensure (educationally at least) needs to be more
like those of doctors and lawyers. I won't delve into my belief that
this is a load of crap (if you think that having more years of education
will cause your pay to increase, then I have bridge that I want to sell
you). I raise this issue to point out that _IF_ our eduction system were
more like doctor's or lawyer's, then we would have 4 years of primarily
non-technical "pre-engineering" courses to abtain an undergraduate degree
that really has no engineering (or very little pure engineering courses)
courses. THEN, we would have to take an additional 2 to 4 years of
graduate level courses that would actually contain the true engineering
courses. The point is that those doctor's and lawyer's (OK, maybe not
lawyer's so much) that everyone in the profession seems to hold as the
golden standard for how we want things to be for us have EXTENSIVE
coursework in humanities, social sciences, language, etc (i.e. non-medical
or non-legal coursework) before they even begin to think about taking the
real technical courses.
The whole problem with this whole area of debate (at least in my opinion)
is that too many people think that everything can be taught in the
undergraduate system. To me, the whole push behind the ASCE initiative is
that the engineering profession wants its graduates to be fully productive
engineerings IMMEDIATELY after they graduate. I would argue that this is
NOT the intent of the PE licensure process. The undergraduate education
part of the process is meant to give a basic understanding of the basic CE
engineering principles (as well as other basic "life" courses) AND teach
us how to then apply those principles AND finally make us able to teach
ourselves new things that build upon those basic principles (i.e. think
for ourselves). The equally important part of the PE licensure process,
that those who are pushing the ASCE initiative seem to conveniently
ignore, is the 4 years of experience. This is akin to an apprentenceship.
The intent is that someone is supposed to mentor us for 4 years and help
us gain the practical knowledge that the schools are NOT meant to give
(although I personally believe SOME practical education is school is
warrented...just not to the level that some seem to want). This is an
area where the architects have us beat hands down. They take rather
seriously the experience requirement, while we tend to just shove those
getting experience onto the "grunt" work with little mentorship or
supervision at times (certainly not always the case, but true many
times...it was not true in my case...my boss right out of school gave me
excellent opportunities to see the full spectrum of things as well
essentially deal with my own projects with his close supervision,
guidance, and assistance). The architects have a formal system that
REQUIRES that they get some exposure in various aspects of architecture
before they get licensed. We, on the otherhand, many times just have
someone design columns for 4 years or do all the shop drawings.
While I certainly think that there are things to potentially improve in
the educational system, I do believe that the requirement of taking some
non-engineering related courses such as humanities or social sciences is
not one of them.
Oh, and I do believe the education in general is a good thing, escpecially
education beyond the undergraduate civil engnineering degree. My belief
is along the lines of the more the better. But, if the undergraduate
education is rather solid, then I believe the choice of formal graduate
education is something best made by an individual. Life-long continual
eduation is a must, but it does not have to be only achieved through a
formal graduate education.
On Wed, 23 Jul 2003, Andrew Kester wrote:
> I am completely happy and a big supporter of the current system in the US to
> become a Professional Engineer. I believe the education and practical
> experience go hand and hand, and both are absolutely necessary to become a
> competent PE.
> My one big complaint would be with most engineering degrees in the US (like
> my own), those from "liberal arts programs", is that a good 2 years + is
> spent taking liberal arts classes. (After that, it is usually around 3 more
> years of science, math, and engineering classes.) Now these classes were
> interesting and worthwhile in their own right, but not very necessary (I did
> enjoy them actually). People claim this helps to produce well rounded
> people, helps engineers and scientists be well rounded by making them take
> history, psychology, English and the like. I contend that I have forgotten
> most of this information and outside of Jeopardy it is of little use. I got
> a minor in English and I still do not think it is that much help. I believe
> I would have been better served by a couple of technical writing, reading,
> speaking, etc. type classes.
> I am not sure about India, but one thing many other countries may have going
> for them is that their educational systems are set up differently. In many
> European countries (probably elsewhere- but I have the most firsthand
> experience with Europeans) you decide your program/major from day one as a
> freshman. Now this does not help the indecisive, because once you get going
> if you change your mind you have to start all over. But this means a 4-5
> year engineering program is 4-5 years of engineering classes. A guy at work
> is from Scotland and completed this type of program, in Building
> Engineering. I feel he was better prepared at Day One at work then I was.
> How can you not be? I could boil my relevant structural classes down to 5-6
> classes out of the 50 that I took in college. Now I believe most European
> countries have licensing requirements similar to ours, I know in the UK they
> do with the Charter system, where you work 3 years then take an exam.
> Perhaps in countries like India, even though they do not have a system of
> registering professional engineers for licensure based on experience,
> education, and examination, they have an education better suited to
> producing technically sound engineers...
> No system is perfect, and the US has a great thing going, but everything can
> be better!
> Just some thoughts...
> Andrew Kester, EI
> Longwood, FL
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