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Re: Schooling (was Connections)

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Bill:

Bingo.  Exactly.

If only more in the profession thought like that (you mirrored my thoughts
almost exactly, except for the analogy).  You confirmed my belief that
many "romanticize" their level of knowledge/productivity out of school,
but you have a better historical perspective than I (I am not too far
removed from a "newbie" as my BSE degree was in 92 and my MSE in 93).  In
otherwords, I have always had a hard time buying the whole "when I went to
school, we graduated much more prepared than kids today" bit (it is kind
of like the whole "when I went to high schools, we had to walk both ways
up hill thru 4 feet of snow...barefoot" bit that parent's sometime use).

So, in otherwords, I could not have said it better myself..and I won't
try.  So, I will just shut up now (OK, I heard some of you cheering...not
nice <grin>).

Regards,

Scott
Ypsilanti, MI


On Thu, 4 Dec 2003 BCainse(--nospam--at)aol.com wrote:

> Scott-
> I would use a little different analogy than the "manufactured product."
>
> Think of a student as analogous to a bottle of wine.  When first produced the
> wine is probably somewhat drinkable though not finished (as the student is
> capable of doing basic routine engineering tasks, but not complex tasks).  As
> the bottle ages, the flavor, body and complexity generally improve (this is the
> student gaining experience, able to handle more and more complex tasks).
>
> I work with a lot of young engineers that have learned to run the computer
> really well in school.  What they lack is engineering judgement.  I have found
> that by mentoring them, forcing them to understand what the model is telling
> them and making them relate to the physical problem they are solving develops
> most of them into fine engineers. Of course the most difficult part seems to be
> getting them to understand constructability.  This can only be learned by
> developing details, watching how they are built in the field and listening to the
> cursing of the workers in the field trying to build the difficult-to-build
> details, then, trying again to make it easier and more fool proof for the next
> time.
>
> It is the responsibility of us gray beards to mentor the younger engineers on
> an ongoing basis, challenging them to continually take on more challenging
> tasks but providing a supportive environment where they can make their mistakes
> and learn from them. In my experience, most students right out of school have
> some basic skills I can use right away, but they are not a journey level
> engineer.  Expecting otherwise is pure folly.
>
> I have been in the profession since slide rules were used.  On a basic level,
> I frankly don't see much different in how we go about things now versus then.
>  I do see different tools being used (computers vs slide rules, CAD vs table
> drafting, etc.). But the basic creative process is still much the same.  I
> also don't think today's student is any more or any less prepared than I was
> entering the profession. As we age, we often forget the learning process we went
> through.
>
> Expecting a school to turn out a finished product is ludicrous.  I remember
> one of my professors at U.C. Berkeley, Dr. Graham Powell, teaching one of his
> first courses at UCB, telling the class to look at the table of contents of the
> Mechanics of Materials text (which was by Popov, another great professor).
> He told us he didn't plan on teaching us every topic in the book.  What he
> promised was to teach us how to learn, where to search for answers and how to
> develop confidence in our problem solving abilities.  He said that if we learned
> how to research answers we could solve most any problem.  Well, 37 years later
> I have found that Dr. Powell, as a young Professor, truly understood what
> education is and what it is not.  It is developing an attitude of life long
> learning and and a pursuing a continual process of developing problem solving
> skills.  It is not about learning a body of skills (other than some very basic
> ones).  Learning professional skills is a life-long endeavor.
>
> Regards,
> Bill Cain, SE
>


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