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RE: Schooling (was Connections)

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I think you're all over it.
Many schools do an excellent job in preparing their undergraduate
students to pass the EIT.  But when it comes time to "specialize in
structural engineering", that MS degree can be like funneling from a
bathtub into a capillary tube.  
The system holds us hostage via the thesis - a huge investment in time
with often little transferrence to our future abilities in the field.
Oh, not that we should completely abandon it! - but any good school
willing to properly service its customer (the student), should offer a
non-thesis path that focuses on outstanding practical preparation rooted
in sound theory.  In that optional path there should be room for
introduction on how to draft (CAD or not), read drawings, and detail.

Let's look at another highly focused profession, the medical profession.
Roughly 4 years undergrad, plus roughly 4 years transitioning to the
specialty, plus whatever it takes for residency (sort of like intern).
A continual process zeroing in on what you're really going to do in
professional practice.  The residency pays low dollars, but from there
on the compensation is excellent.  Oh, where's the thesis on an obscure
subject?  Somehow they manage to get their professional research and
journal articles without requiring the thesis of EVERYBODY.  

Now don't pick apart the parallels - I'm just trying to make a general

I see no problem in questioning our entire system of engineering
education - let's drop the sense of tradition for a moment and think
freshly about what works and what doesn't.  Any examples?

Ed Tornberg


-----Original Message-----
From: Clifford Schwinger [mailto:clifford234(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Monday, December 01, 2003 7:42 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: RE: Connections


I heard this excuse before (about universities not
being able to squeeze coursework in stuctural drafting
into the undergraduate curriculum).

I should have made it clear in my original post - I
think structural drafting should be a mandatory course
for engineering students seeking their Master's
degree.  This makes perfect sense to me. Students
seeking their Master's degree in structural
engineering are obviously specializing in structural
engineering. There would be no civil engineering
students "wasting" their time having to take this
"specialized" course that they might never need to use
in other fields of Civil Engineering.

Actually, I'm confused by the arguement that
structural drafting courses can't be "fit" into the
undergraduate curiculum. When I was a student I had
plenty of leeway to choose lots of electives both in
and out of engineering. Perhaps such a course could be
offered as an elective to undergraduates who know that
they are on a structural engineering track.

I suspect that academia does not look too highly upon
such low-brow stuff as "structural drafting" - that's
a shame.

Topics that are held in much higher esteem by academia
are articles such as those published in the December
2003 issue of the ASCE Journal of Structural
Engineering, pages 1707-1716 titled "Form Finding of
Sparse Structures with Continuum Topology

I challenge anyone to read the first page of that
article and translate for me in English ANY ONE
SENTENCE! I'm certain that I just set myself up for
this one, but who cares. When you (try to) read the
article you will get my drift about the point I'm
trying to make.

I'm not saying that seemingly obscure cutting edge
research is not important - it is very important. I'm
just saying that universities that can belt out
engineers who are "plug-and-play" in their first jobs
will rapidly gain the admiration and respect of
engineering community. As dinosaur who is responsible
for working with young engineers, I have a good handle
on which universities are doing a good job at
preparing engineers for the "real world" and which are
not. When I hear that new hire got his/her B.S. or
M.S. as "so and so" University I have a fairly good
sense about whether we're getting a Yugo or a Lexus.

(Boy did I wander off the original topic of this
thread or what?!)

OK, I guess I asked for it. Flame me.

Cliff Schwinger

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