Monday, January 12, 2015

Engineering as Actually Practiced

1.       Actual engineering is done for a client—hence economics, politics, etc are essential. That engineering is value laden is surely not restricted to client concerns, but it is a good start.
2.       “Engineering Science” allows one to teach courses with no actual engineering. (“You’ll get to the good stuff next year.”) Bad idea?
3.       Design and team work are crucial. Very few professions or jobs allow just for individual work, and engineering is fundamentally team or group. It should feel that way from the beginning.
4.       Is it possible for someone who happens to have a BA, in anything, to take a few math and science fundamental courses, and then get a MS in, say, electrical engineering. I assume most masters students nowadays already have an undergraduate engineering degree.
6.       Just what kinds of mathematics are needed for undergraduate engineering education? Some calculus, plus the usual high school studies. More?  Maybe computer algorithms. Maybe some logic. I imagine that one might teach all this in a one semester course—practical and outrageous.
7.       I believe that economics and history might be core here. The economics says something about why and how given resource constraints, the history about why what you see now is what it is. Also, it demythologizes the stories people are told.

8.       I would not push people to read the Federalist Papers, for example. Unless it was attached to particular engineering issues… It should not be hard to have a liberal arts set of subjects that are always attached to engineering, and since engineering has developed historically the reverse is also true. But the trick is not to present it as enhancement. Rather what we call liberal arts is just what is needed to understand engineering as a practice.

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