From: Gerard Madden, SE [mailto:gmadden(--nospam--at)maddengine.com]
Sent: Thursday, April 07, 2005 10:49 AM
Subject: RE: Evaluate drafters' reliability
David Fisher and I have been making this point for years on this list.
The main drawback is you can get the biggest M.I.T. Geek (no offense to
alumnus of that fine University on this list (gail)) who can solve a
stiffness matrix in 5 minutes while eating a burrito and checking their
stock prices on the internet, but the same Genius might not be able to
detail a simple connection detail in 3 hours.
I don't recall where I first read this, but someone has postulated that
the "demise" of common-sense engineering training occurred beginning in
the late 50s-early 60s era at Engineering colleges in the U.S.
This was the time of Sputnik, and the initiation of the "Space Race"
between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. American pride was wounded by the
realization that "the Commies got there first," and science and
engineering began to work together in earnest to overcome the late
Civil engineering, always before based on empiricism more than on
precise mathematics, began to feel "left out" of the quest for the "New
Frontier," and civil engineering enrollments began to lag behind those
of their more "high tech" engineering cousins as M.E.s began designing
rockets and E.E.s forged ahead on the electronics wave.
Civil engineering colleges began to question their role, as well as to
come up with more "sizzle" to sell to college freshmen trying to decide
on their career directions. They began to try to become more
sophisticated, possibly even beyond the scope of the problems they
purported to solve. The increasing availability of digital computing
resources spurred this on even more (anyone remember ICES? That was the
M.I.T. C.E. school's answer to the question of "relevance").
Soon, the folks training the next generations of engineers were not
practical engineers themselves, but Ph.D.s--which is to say,
RESEARCHERS. They put their stamp on the profession such that there has
since been a kind of "disconnect" between what structural engineers (in
particular, in my experience) THINK that their careers are going to be,
and the reality of what S.E.s do on a daily basis.
Sometimes, this leads to a disappointment on the part of the new grad.
Many seek to regain the "high" they got as students by enrolling in
graduate school, delaying their careers and incorporating even more of
the academic point of view into their approach to the profession.
I say this as someone who's been there and done that as an engineering
student in the late 70s-early 80s era. I think, based on my experiences
with recruiting and hiring new grads in the 90s and 00s, that things
have if anything gotten worse.
Personally, I wish there were more of a balance. I think that research
is vital for the improvement of structural performance--but I wish that
structural engineers in general would "calculate less and draw more."
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