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View Full Version : Attention engineers...What type are you and why?


Paul H
07-27-2004, 09:57 PM
Well the topic pretty much says it all. What kind of enginner are you and why did you choose that?

jpsaul7usa
07-27-2004, 10:48 PM
Chemical Engineer. Betcha didn't see that one coming. ;p Strangely enough, our second driver (there's only us two) is also going into chemical engineering. Weird, huh?

Rafi A
07-27-2004, 11:17 PM
yes, but how/why did you choose chemical?

Madison
07-27-2004, 11:20 PM
Chemical Engineer. Betcha didn't see that one coming. ;p Strangely enough, our second driver (there's only us two) is also going into chemical engineering. Weird, huh?

You are not an engineer yet.

Astronouth7303
07-27-2004, 11:30 PM
Software. It's what my dad does, and it's my hobby (and probably career too).

Who said you needed a degree (or even get paid) to be an engineer?
IMHO, it's the achievement.

Madison
07-27-2004, 11:37 PM
Who said you needed a degree (or even get paid) to be an engineer?

Being part of an organization that's expressed purpose is to raise awareness and respect for engineers and their work, I find it amazing that people are so quick to minimize such achievements and elevate themselves to similar, "iconic" status.

If one doesn't need a degree (or a salary) or, say, experience to be an engineer, what is it exactly that makes people like Dave Lavery more admirable than the video store clerk down the street? I bet that clerk has seen MacGyver or something, so what makes Andy Baker more qualified as an engineer than they are?

A season in FIRST does not an engineer make. Not even six seasons will do it.

Andy Baker
07-28-2004, 12:10 AM
Who said you needed a degree (or even get paid) to be an engineer?

What the heck, I'll say it. In my opinion, yes, you do need a degree to be an engineer. Don't trivialize the process, tibulations and effort needed to get an engineering degree. I know very few engineers who do not have an engineering degree. They are few and far between, being exceptions, not the rule. What you said here pretty much insulted the engineers and engineering students who visit these forums.

As for me, I enjoy being a mechanical engineer. Luckily, I knew it early in school. I liked art, math, mechanical drawing, physics, and building things. I really did not understand electronics and computers at an early age, and I had no desire to learn about them... so I gravitated more toward mechanical systems.

Two of my uncles are mechanical engineers, and I was always enthralled with what they did. One worked for Hughes Aircraft (LA), and the other worked for Cal Tech at Edwards AFB. As they told me what they did, I just knew that being an ME was for me.

For college, I decided to go to the University of Evansville (http://www.evansville.edu/). They had many programs that appealed to me at the time. While in college, I got a co-op job at General Electric Plastics (http://www.geplastics.com/), working as a production and process engineer. I REALLY did not like process engineering (analyzing and tweaking the process for improvements), but I liked the odd jobs I got while designing mechanisms to improve the production line. I recall making a simple linkage that released pellets into 50 lb. bags. It was a simple design, but I really enjoyed creating it.

After college, I got a job at Delphi (formerly Delco Electronics) (http://www.delphi.com/) and I have been working in the same department for 13 years. It's a fun job. I get to sit behind a computer and design automated machinery for Delphi's production lines. Our design department works with a UAW skilled-trades shop right across the hallway, and we make some pretty neat stuff. These designers and tradesmen have been making neat machines for many, many years. Many types of automated machines that are on the market today (Scara robots, circuit board screen printers, automated handlers, flip chip placement machines, etc.) were developed for Delphi's in-house use by this department, many years before other companies started selling them as standard equipment.

So, my usual day is this:

check email
do CAD design work (Unigraphics), both design and drafting
do engineering investigations and evaluations (search for parts and suppliers, make calculations, specifications, etc.)
check on project build status in the shop
converse with boss and co-workers (numerous, informal design reviews)
talk to production people (my customers)
talk to suppliers (negotiate, evaluate parts, etc.)
do FIRST stuff when I can (TechnoKats, check CD Forums, etc.)... like today we had a demo during lunch


Anyway... that is what I do and why I do it. What I like the best is sitting down and creating a new mechanism to address a "problem" - just like designing a FIRST robot.

Andy B.

Astronouth7303
07-28-2004, 12:30 AM
[QUOTE=Astronouth7303]Who said you needed a degree (or even get paid) to be an engineer?[QUOTE]
Before this gets really out of hand, let me explain that a little.

I did not mean degrade anyone's hard work (or cash) that is required to get any degree. But at the same time, there are many capable engineers who are not formally taught, are learning, and/or are just too young to have a degree or a salery (I'm sure quite a few people in FIRST fall into one of these three).

If I were an employer, I would hire the guy with a degree. But how much of it can be self-taught and/or mentored? I have 0 formal schooling in what I do, but as a software engineer I am capable and becoming more so every day. I may not measure up to the guy with a PhD in Computer Science, but I'm doing pretty well, I think.

Cory
07-28-2004, 05:48 AM
[QUOTE=Astronouth7303]Who said you needed a degree (or even get paid) to be an engineer?[QUOTE]
Before this gets really out of hand, let me explain that a little.

I did not mean degrade anyone's hard work (or cash) that is required to get any degree. But at the same time, there are many capable engineers who are not formally taught, are learning, and/or are just too young to have a degree or a salery (I'm sure quite a few people in FIRST fall into one of these three).

If I were an employer, I would hire the guy with a degree. But how much of it can be self-taught and/or mentored? I have 0 formal schooling in what I do, but as a software engineer I am capable and becoming more so every day. I may not measure up to the guy with a PhD in Computer Science, but I'm doing pretty well, I think.


But the fact remains that until you hold your degree in your hot little hand, you *are not* a real engineer. I totally agree with Andy. To see 15 year old kids going around the forums calling themselves engineers (Im not trying to pick on you or single you out) is pretty ridiculous in my opinion, and really does degrade all the work that they did to get where they are.

Heck, I know CPR and basic first aid, but I dont go around telling people I'm an EMT.

and personally, I would be VERY scared if I knew a building, car, or airplane had been designed by an "engineer" who possesses no degree, or has ever had formal training, and was "self taught".

$0.02

Cory

GeorgeTheEng
07-28-2004, 06:20 AM
If you REALLY want to get technical... Legally, in most states and definitely in NJ, the only real engineer is one who holds a professional engineering (PE)license. There are certain implications to what a PE can do, and situations where a PE is required. That being said, I don't have one but have a bachelors and masters degree in engineering and think I can claim to be one.

On the original topic. I'm a Computer engineer by training, a Network and Telecommunications engineer by more training (i.e. Masters degree), and a Programmer by trade. I have to say my desire goes back to HS where I was luck enough to work in the local computer store in town. (in the days when a small 3 person store could exist before Best buy, the internet, etc) My boss was a person who enjoyed showing me things and getting me to help him. I have to credit him with fostering my enjoyment in electronics and computers that led to me study engineering in college.

Collin Fultz
07-28-2004, 06:46 AM
So...not to be a party pooper...but in response to the thread topic

Andy Baker is a mechanical engineer (see post for what he does and reason why he likes it)

What type of engineer are you?

I really did not understand electronics and computers at an early age

They had electricity back then? :)

David Kelly
07-28-2004, 07:54 AM
Dude, you are 16 and still in high school (I would assume unless you are some genious that has already graduated from college but I dont see that as the case at all). You are not an engineer. Just because your dad may be a software engineer does not automagically make you a software engineer as well. You are young and still have a long while before you mature.


Andy Baker = engineer; Astronouth7303 = student.




[QUOTE=Astronouth7303]Who said you needed a degree (or even get paid) to be an engineer?[QUOTE]
Before this gets really out of hand, let me explain that a little.

I did not mean degrade anyone's hard work (or cash) that is required to get any degree. But at the same time, there are many capable engineers who are not formally taught, are learning, and/or are just too young to have a degree or a salery (I'm sure quite a few people in FIRST fall into one of these three).

If I were an employer, I would hire the guy with a degree. But how much of it can be self-taught and/or mentored? I have 0 formal schooling in what I do, but as a software engineer I am capable and becoming more so every day. I may not measure up to the guy with a PhD in Computer Science, but I'm doing pretty well, I think.

Paul Copioli
07-28-2004, 07:55 AM
I am a mechanical engineer.

I received my Bachelor's of Science (B.S.) in Aeronautical Engineering from the United States Air Force Academy, a Master's of Science (M.S.) degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan, and a M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan.

My first job was for the U.S. Air Force doing wind tunnel testing for what is now known as the F-22 at Wright-Patterson AFB. After receiving my Master's degree, I worked for Lockheed-Martin in Sunnyvale, Ca. doing spacecraft design for the Air Force. I was transferred from Sunnyvale to Denver, Co. to work on NASA spacecraft; specifically, the Stardust Mission propulsion system design. Missing the MidWest, I came back to Michigan to work for FANUC Robotics (my current job). I have been with FANUC for 7 years and I love every minute of it!

My typical day is much like Andy's, except I do a lot of mechanical and dynamic analysis of robot motion in addition to design work. I also get to test new robot developments for dynamic stability and accuracy. Lately, I have been able to finally use my fluid dynamics knowledge acquired while attaining my Aerospace degree because our group has been doing paint applicator development. We now develop the robots and the painting systems to paint automobile interiors and exteriors.

I have known since I was about 12 that I wanted to make complicated mechanisms. I, like Andy, wasn't into the electrical side of things so mechanical engineering was for me. If I had to do it all over again, I would probably try to double major in controls and either mechanical or electrical engineering.

By the way; if you are in high school or in your first few years of College (studying engeineering), in my eyes you are not an engineer. I wish I could be more PC, but it is black and white to me.

Karthik
07-28-2004, 08:10 AM
If I were an employer, I would hire the guy with a degree. But how much of it can be self-taught and/or mentored? I have 0 formal schooling in what I do, but as a software engineer I am capable and becoming more so every day. I may not measure up to the guy with a PhD in Computer Science, but I'm doing pretty well, I think.
I'm sorry, but I don't think you get it.

You don't measure up to someone with a PhD in Computer Science, and you aren't doing well in comparison. It takes years of hard work to get a PhD. You need to discard a chunk of your life to reach that point. Say goodbye to your friends, family and hobbies for a while, because your life is consumed by your thesis. A PhD for some people is there entire life's work. My Father finished his when he was 34. Just because you've written a couple of programs here and there does not put you on par with someone who has written a thesis. This is like a 15 year old saying, "ooh, I've finished all the experiments that came with my chemistry set, I'm a chemist now."

The main goal of FIRST was to change our culture to a point where young people looked up to engineers as role models in the way they currently look up to athletes. How many little leaguers out there have the audacity to compare themselves to Derek Jeter and say "Oh yeah, I'm almost there". This whole attitude is ridiculously insulting to all the engineers in the forum.

Oh and to be technical, having a PhD in Computer Science doesn't make you an engineer either. Becoming a member of a society Professional Engineers does (In most states and provinces). By taking that oath, you're taking on a huge ethical responsibility. This is a large distinction.

You may be on a path to becoming a fine engineer, but you still have a bit of time before you can call yourself one. You're eagnerness and enthusiasm is certainly admirable, but remember it's a long road.

Venkatesh
07-28-2004, 08:12 AM
"I have learned that engineering is not just creativity. It is not just tinkering with ideas, but rather, a system by which a professional product can be created and documented."

That comes from the esteemed Dr.Christoe's (aka Dr.Poe) PoE class. To those of you who know what Project Lead the Way is, you know what PoE is. Dr.Poe spent 23 years in engineering at Bell Labs, and before that he was a weapons engineer for a number of years.

At any rate, I can't call anyone without a degree an engineer. I can't even call some people with degrees engineers, as they would more properly fall into the categories of tinkerers and inventors. As Mr.Baker pointed out earlier, a lot of his time is spent in procedures supporting his inventing, not his inventing alone. I won't say that the video game guy down the street is incompetent. He might have incredible talents with, say programming. He might have drafted up parts of the Linux kernel. None of that is impossible or even unheard of. Or if you follow Slashdot, recently they ran a story on a 60-odd year old Afghan man, who had invented many, many things to help people around him. He had no formal training, and yet was able to design radios. I would be very impressed to meet him, but I still woundn't call him an engineer. I guess it all depends on how you define an "engineer".

Before I started studying to become an EMT, I had very little respect for the area. Not because I thought that their work was so easy. Because I didn't know the scope of the field. Now it is a completely different matter. I now realize how little I know. I know now that (in NJ) most of what I can do is, "oxygen and transport, oxygen and transport". I realize that Paramedics are awesome, for their heart rhythm monitoring, intubation, and narcane. (In NJ, we don't have any levels in between EMT-B and EMT-P).

Engineering is a professional field. Tinkering is a hobbyist one. Many FIRST teams I know of are engaged in the business of tinkering, not engineering. I don't say that that is a bad thing or a good thing. Its just that they are separate. One can lead into the other, a master mechanical tinkerer might become a mechanical engineer through schooling/training. But they are separated by the vast abyss of obtuse and painful subjects, like Rigid Body Dynamics, Mechatronic Systems, Lagrangian Dynamics, Ballistics, and other complex fields.

The one thing I always loved about computers was the fact that one guy in the corner of his basement could *theoretically* write programs just as well as a full professional team. After learning more of PHP and perl, and meeting a monster called PHPTAL, I discarded those notions. I can write programs, but I am by no means a programmer. I can use a sledgehammer, but I am by no means a carpenter.

Elgin Clock
07-28-2004, 08:23 AM
...and personally, I would be VERY scared if I knew a building, car, or airplane had been designed by an "engineer" who possesses no degree, or has ever had formal training, and was "self taught".

$0.02

CorySo, I have to pull out the white rabbit from this hat.
Would you trust your life to the heart dialisys machine Dean invented when he was about 20?

He has had no formal degree - (Dropped out of WPI remember), other than honorary ones. I know that is a stretch, but there are exeptions to every rule.

I mean no disrespect towards Dean either by mentioning that he has no degree, but you can be an engineer with no degree.
edit:I have to ask the question now. Do you consider Dean an Engineer or a spokesperson for engineering related fields?

Unfortunately in this world, if you are to work for a company and not become an independently wealthy individul from your abilities like Dean has, they do care about that piece of paper from your college...

I do agree with Paul that if you are in HS or your first years of college then you are not considered an engineer..
I mean I have been going to college for 7 years on and off now for an engineering related degree, and while I am very proficient in my skills as a CAD Draftsperson I am not by any means an engineer. I suck at math, and sometimes wonder why I am in the engineering field, but I do great things with CAD so that's what keeps my hope alive.

Ok, anyways.. I'm done ranting now.

For all of those HS students that plan on going into some sort of Engineering field, I wish you luck and hope that you achieve that goal and can be called an Engineer someday and have the respect and admiration that comes with that wonderful profession.

JVN
07-28-2004, 08:27 AM
By the way; if you are in high school or in your first few years of College (studying engeineering), in my eyes you are not an engineer. I wish I could be more PC, but it is black and white to me.It's black and white to pretty much everyone.

Watching ER on TV does not a doctor make you.
All these "kids" who think they're engineers because they do FIRST, just need to realize they don't know "crap" yet.

Let's consider:
Step 1 - Think back 5 years, did you "know everything" back then?
Step 1.5 - Did you think you "knew everything" back then?
Step 2 - Think about now... do you "know everything" now?
Step 3 - What do you think you'll know in 5 years? What will you think about yourself NOW, in 5 years?

My typical Answers:
1. Wow, I didn't know anything back then.
1.5. Ohh yeah... I thought I was the man back then.
2. Heck yes I know everything! I'm the man!
3. Hmm... I guess in 5 years, I'll realize I didn't know anything right now.

It's a humbling process. ;)


I've been in FIRST for 5 seasons. I've finished 3/4 of a degree in Mechanical Engineering. I learn something new everyday. I am NOT an engineer yet. I may work as one, but until I get that degree... I'm not.


Back to the real topic of this thread--
I'm majoring in mechanical engineering for several reasons.
Mainly because, mechanisms and machines are cool. Seriously.

I'm the type of person that will be (and has been) highly amused by an egg-beater.
(Seriously, check one out sometime, cool/simple little mechanism).

I have actually sat up at night, thinking about designs I'm doing at work, unable to sleep until I figure out the problem in front of me.

Go MechE... it's fun.

Adam Y.
07-28-2004, 09:03 AM
Let's consider:
Step 1 - Think back 5 years, did you "know everything" back then?
Step 1.5 - Did you think you "knew everything" back then?
Step 2 - Think about now... do you "know everything" now?
Step 3 - What do you think you'll know in 5 years? What will you think about yourself NOW, in 5 years?

My typical Answers:
1. Wow, I didn't know anything back then.
1.5. Ohh yeah... I thought I was the man back then.
2. Heck yes I know everything! I'm the man!
3. Hmm... I guess in 5 years, I'll realize I didn't know anything right now.
Unfortunately, the same could be said for engineers with degrees. The feilds themselves are changing so much that you really need to constantly refresh yourself. So much so that I know to keep an engineering liscence in New York you have to prove that you are taking seminiars or collge courses. Also by the second year of college I will be working as an engineer. Im not sure what I'm going to be doing but I will be working.:)

JVN
07-28-2004, 09:20 AM
Also by the second year of college I will be working as an engineer. Im not sure what I'm going to be doing but I will be working.:)
Yep...
I was working as an engineer (or at least, working very closely with one) when I was a Junior in High School.
I wasn't an engineer. I'm still not.

There is a distinction to make.

Amanda Morrison
07-28-2004, 09:25 AM
While the boundaries of being/not being an engineer are kind of fuzzy, here's a great way to describe, in my opinion.

You have a degree: The university is giving you a piece of paper that says, "We've taught you a formal background in _______, therefore you can say you have the knowledge of many professors, other students, mentors, etc. Go out and use it wisely." Afterward, as is true with all professions, you will learn more real-world applications and the tricks of the trade.

You don't have a degree: You have no person or institution backing what you may or may not have learned. Your projects and examples are not as credible. While you may work with others and gain some experience, or may work in the position of what you'd like to be, you will not have the same benefits that one with a degree might have, especially if you have taught yourself.

I'm sorry. You are not an engineer.

Madison
07-28-2004, 09:25 AM
So, I have to pull out the white rabbit from this hat.
Would you trust your life to the heart dialisys machine Dean invented when he was about 20?

Of course, you understand that it's not as if Dean started a little assembly line in his dorm room and hospitals started handing the machine out at the door when he first came up with the idea, right? Dean may have designed the machine, but it was still the responsibility of professional engineers to evaluate the design to ensure its safety and functionality. Dean is a smart man, but by no means is he a one ring circus.

Adam Y.
07-28-2004, 09:54 AM
Ooo I give up. The stupid computer logged me out. I will have a job working as an engineer by the end of my sophmore year. It is a program that alternates between work and schooling. There are at least two colleges that I know of that do this. These are real paying jobs and by the end of my college education I will have eighteen mothes of work experience.

Andy Baker
07-28-2004, 10:49 AM
I will have a job working as an engineer by the end of my sophmore year. It is a program that alternates between work and schooling. There are at least two colleges that I know of that do this. These are real paying jobs and by the end of my college education I will have eighteen mothes of work experience.

This is a great experience. Most, if not all, engineering schools have similar placement programs for current students to have co-op jobs or internships at companies. Even the small engineering school I attended had a good co-op program. Not only do you get good money, but you also aquire marketable experience while figuring out what sort of engineer you want to be.

For any student who is getting an engineering degree, I suggest you get an internship or co-op* job. Both are very valuable when the time comes when you are looking for a full-time position.

* Traditionally, in engineering fields, internships are jobs worked during the summer months while co-op jobs are for students who alternate between work and school each semester.

Andy B.

phrontist
07-28-2004, 11:03 AM
I would say that you are not an engineer until you've both obtained the aforementioned peice of paper AND done something with your tumescent engineers forebrain. :D

That said I do think that there are a few exceptions to the rule, Dean Kamen for instance. Another good one is Bill Gates who, if I'm not mistaken, dropped out of college to start microsoft. I'd consider him a software engineer. Not a GOOD software engineer but... ;)

Astronouth: You've just become some sort of pariah in the FIRST community. I'd apologize, a lot, fast.

Dave Flowerday
07-28-2004, 11:24 AM
If I were an employer, I would hire the guy with a degree. But how much of it can be self-taught and/or mentored? I have 0 formal schooling in what I do, but as a software engineer I am capable and becoming more so every day. I may not measure up to the guy with a PhD in Computer Science, but I'm doing pretty well, I think.
Well, it looks like you've taken some heat for this quote. Whether or not you agree with the other responses, many of us mentors on these forums who have earned degrees in engineering (me: BSE, Computer Engineering, University of Michigan) do get offended when we see students call themselves engineers. I thought I'd give you my personal reasons for why I feel that high school students are not engineers, with a heavy emphasis on the software engineering perspective.

Software engineering is an interesting field because almost anyone with a PC at home can learn some of the skills required by it. Students interested in software engineering can sit at home, learn programming languages, write code, and perhaps even release products to others, with little more than a $1000 computer that most people probably already have anyway. Contrast this to mechanical engineering where you can probably design a part at home on your PC but it's much more difficult (and expensive) to actually produce that part or sell it to others. I noticed this theme in college quite a bit: even in our freshman computer engineering courses we were writing real programs, compiling, and testing them. Most other disciplines were primarily working with equations and story problems for the first year or two. This is both a good thing and a bad thing at the same time. What this means is that the world of software is very tinkerer and hobbiest friendly, because the cost of entry is so low. This causes a lot of people who know how to tinker with computers and how to program to think they are software engineers, but they're not.

I know this is getting long already, but I have a little more to say, so bear with me. There is a distinct difference between a software engineer and a programmer. I've seen people in many places (even on ChiefDelphi) claim that people who write software for a living are not engineers because programming is really not an engineering discipline. At first, I'm offended. When I think about it for a second, though, I realize I mostly agree. Programming is not necessarily an engineering discipline, but it can be.

The reason that I do not hesitate to call myself a software engineer is simple: our software development process is just like any other engineering discipline. When we are ready to create a new software product, we do not just start hacking on code (like many programming hobbiests do). We start by gathering customer requirements. We break these customer requriements down into various product requirements. We break those requirements down into software subsystem requirements. And we keep going until we have requirements that tell us exactly what each piece of software needs to do. Once that's done, we move into an architecture phase. Architecture is where you determine which functions or classes will be used and what they will do (or, "How do I effectively organize my code to implement the stated requirements?"). Next is design, where you add more detail to the architecture. Arguments for each function & method are determined, class attributes are determined, etc. Only after all that is any code written. Many software engineering projects run for months or even years before anyone even begins to write any code. Then, after the code is written, there's lots of testing. We do unit tests (which is just testing the piece of software we wrote), integration tests (verify that your stuff still works when combined with other people's stuff), box test (verifying that the entire product does what it's supposed to do), and system test (verifying that every product in the system works correctly with all the other products).

This software development process is (I believe) very similar to the processes used in other forms of engineering. And, even in college they didn't really do a great job of teaching us all of that. It was only after I started my job that I really learned what "software engineering" (versus programming) was all about. I probably only spend 10% of my time as a software engineer actually writing code. The majority of my time is all the other stuff I mentioned, which is also the stuff that 99% of the hobbiest and moonlight programmers usually don't know anything about. If you do happen to follow all those steps when you develop your projects, then great: you're definitely ahead of the game, and it will benefit you. But I can tell you that most companies like Motorola are not going to hire someone to write software without a formal degree, because it's pretty difficult to verify someone's abilities like that. At least when they hire someone with a degree the odds are better (though still not 100%) that they will know what they are doing.

Bottom line: hobbiests, hackers, and tinkerers can fiddle with something and make it work. Engineers are people who engineer solutions to problems.

Joe Matt
07-28-2004, 11:28 AM
Well, it looks like you've taken some heat for this quote. Whether or not you agree with the other responses, many of us mentors on these forums who have earned degrees in engineering (me: BSE, Computer Engineering, University of Michigan) do get offended when we see students call themselves engineers. I thought I'd give you my personal reasons for why I feel that high school students are not engineers, with a heavy emphasis on the software engineering perspective.

Software engineering is an interesting field because almost anyone with a PC at home can learn some of the skills required by it. Students interested in software engineering can sit at home, learn programming languages, write code, and perhaps even release products to others, with little more than a $1000 computer that most people probably already have anyway. Contrast this to mechanical engineering where you can probably design a part at home on your PC but it's much more difficult (and expensive) to actually produce that part or sell it to others. I noticed this theme in college quite a bit: even in our freshman computer engineering courses we were writing real programs, compiling, and testing them. Most other disciplines were primarily working with equations and story problems for the first year or two. This is both a good thing and a bad thing at the same time. What this means is that the world of software is very tinkerer and hobbiest friendly, because the cost of entry is so low. This causes a lot of people who know how to tinker with computers and how to program to think they are software engineers, but they're not.

I know this is getting long already, but I have a little more to say, so bear with me. There is a distinct difference between a software engineer and a programmer. I've seen people in many places (even on ChiefDelphi) claim that people who write software for a living are not engineers because programming is really not an engineering discipline. At first, I'm offended. When I think about it for a second, though, I realize I mostly agree. Programming is not necessarily an engineering discipline, but it can be.

The reason that I do not hesitate to call myself a software engineer is simple: our software development process is just like any other engineering discipline. When we are ready to create a new software product, we do not just start hacking on code (like many programming hobbiests do). We start by gathering customer requirements. We break these customer requriements down into various product requirements. We break those requirements down into software subsystem requirements. And we keep going until we have requirements that tell us exactly what each piece of software needs to do. Once that's done, we move into an architecture phase. Architecture is where you determine which functions or classes will be used and what they will do (or, "How do I effectively organize my code to implement the stated requirements?"). Next is design, where you add more detail to the architecture. Arguments for each function & method are determined, class attributes are determined, etc. Only after all that is any code written. Many software engineering projects run for months or even years before anyone even begins to write any code. Then, after the code is written, there's lots of testing. We do unit tests (which is just testing the piece of software we wrote), integration tests (verify that your stuff still works when combined with other people's stuff), box test (verifying that the entire product does what it's supposed to do), and system test (verifying that every product in the system works correctly with all the other products).

This software development process is (I believe) very similar to the processes used in other forms of engineering. And, even in college they didn't really do a great job of teaching us all of that. It was only after I started my job that I really learned what "software engineering" (versus programming) was all about. I probably only spend 10% of my time as a software engineer actually writing code. The majority of my time is all the other stuff I mentioned, which is also the stuff that 99% of the hobbiest and moonlight programmers usually don't know anything about. If you do happen to follow all those steps when you develop your projects, then great: you're definitely ahead of the game, and it will benefit you. But I can tell you that most companies like Motorola are not going to hire someone to write software without a formal degree, because it's pretty difficult to verify someone's abilities like that. At least when they hire someone with a degree the odds are better (though still not 100%) that they will know what they are doing.

Bottom line: hobbiests, hackers, and tinkerers can fiddle with something and make it work. Engineers are people who engineer solutions to problems.

So, to sum it all up, if I'm correct, the guy who writes the code for the robot is a programmer, but the guy who writes the code for the program that the robot programmer uses is a software engineer. They don't just make it work; they make it work with efficiency.

As for being called an engineer without a degree, etc, lets put it this way. If you can place a band-aid over a cut, it doesn’t make you a doctor. If you plug in your new computer and get it running, you are not an electrician, and if you build a PVC instrument you aren’t a plumber Why? Because while you can USE the tools for the job and CREATE something, you don't have the fundamental principals down. You need to know about the human body, current, and water flow (respectfully) to ever START to master those professions. And just because you build a robot for 6 weeks and fix it for 3-6 days a year doesn’t mean you are an engineer. You can design the robot and build it, but you still don't know the principals behind it.

ChrisH
07-28-2004, 11:36 AM
First to answer the question that started the thread:

I a mechanical because I always was fascinated by machines. I still am. I got my degree from the Univertsity of California, Irvine. I also was fortunate to work one summer as an intern for Rockwell Int'l on the B-1 program. After I graduated I started working here at Northrop Grumman. At the time I figured I would stay four or five years and then get out of aerospace. Somehow I'm still here, twenty two years later. I work doing the process tweaks that Andy Baker hates. But often these involve designing new tooling so I get to design stuff too.

Now to address the other topic that has come up:

In all fifty states to advertise your services as an engineer to the general public, you must have a Professional Engineer's license in the discipline you are practicing. As a Mechanical PE I can design an air conditioning system for a building, but I cannot design the building itself. That's a civil job and requires different expertise.

It is possible to become a PE without going to college. To do so you must first pass the Fundimentals of Engineering exam. I took it in my junior year in college and passed. Back then it was called the EIT (Engineer in Training) exam, but they cover pretty much the same stuff. All disciplines take the same FE exam. After passing the FE, you need to work under the supervision of a licensed engineer for four or six years. Four with an engineering degree and six without. Then you need to get references from several other engineers familiar with your work. At least one or two of these should be PEs. After all this you get to take an eight hour exam. If you pass, then you can legally call yourself an engineer. The exams are very broad. It is unlikely that a person who is just working someplace and trying to pass based on their experience would be able to do so. The questions generally cover all the corners of a good engineering curriculum.

So what about all these guys running around working at companies and calling themselves "engineers"? Most never bother to take the PE so how can they do that? First of all, their services are not marketed directly to the public. Their company develops products that are in turn sold to others. The company operstes under a "corporate license". Somebody there will be a PE and have "responsible charge" over the design of the products. If there is a liability issue with the product, that person will be on the stand in court and they'd better have some good answers.

As long as the "engineer" title is only used internally, it is acceptable for non-PEs to be called engineers by the company they work for. Sometimes the "supervision" can be pretty tenuous. There are three or four levels between me and the "chief engineer" on the programs I work. But then I can sign off on stuff myself if I want :D

Call yourself anything you want, but the Engineer title has a price tag. You can earn it through study and hard work, or you can just hang out a shingle. But the later will probably earn you at least a fine and possibly jail time.

ChrisH

Gary Dillard
07-28-2004, 12:39 PM
Oh I can see this reply will take at least my lunch break....

I have Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering degrees in Mechanical Engineering. My dad was a Civil Engineer and he enjoyed his work so I leaned toward engineering; in high school I decided I wanted to pursue Solar Energy and most of that work was in mechanical. University of Florida had the premier Solar Energy research program so I went there; interestingly, the only course I ever took in solar energy was taught in EE (Solar Electrics).

I have my PE license but have never "officially" signed anything off as a PE.

My father was a PE, but he didn't have a degree (that's no longer possible to do, at least in Florida). He couldn't afford to finish college, so he took engineering correspondence courses while working as a draftsman to learn the material; he eventually made partner in his engineering firm. He had the education but not the diploma.

My personal belief is that either a state license or a diploma from an accredited engineering program at a university/college makes you an engineer. I work with alot of pretty smart people who are not engineers, some of whom can do certain engineering functions better than me. I'm not necessarily better or smarter than any of them - I've just been blessed with the opportunity to go to college and get a formal education so that gives me several advantages. The biggest distinction is the range of my capabilities, which is what I thinks distinguishes an engineer - the ability to use the scientific method to solve any problem.

When I graduated from college I worked for TVA at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant directing field modifications to make sure they were in accordance with code. I went from there to McDonnell Douglas Astronautics (now Boeing) in Huntsville designing structures for Spacelab. I came back to Florida to work at Pratt & Whitney designing and building advanced gas turbine engine components (afterburners, nozzles), and I ended up at Perry Technologies designing and analyzing underwater vehicles. One week I'm detailing a mechanism in ProE, the next week I'm performing structural analysis in Nastran or developing my own code for shock loading, the next week I'm doing heat transfer analysis to keep electronics cool. Each time I went to a new job there were designers with tons of experience doing the same thing; if you design pumps for 25 years you'll get pretty good at it, but if that's the limit of your knowledge then that's all you'll be able to do. If something major changes that's outside your experience, you need to understand the "whys" and not just the "whats". I can usually tell who has a degree and who doesn't by the questions they ask.

Dean is no doubt very smart, very gifted, and very good at what he does. I'm sure he educates himself as necessary to make the right decisions. I wouldn't consider him an engineer, but I'd probably hire him anyway ;) The best person for a particular job may not be an engineer.

Collin Fultz
07-28-2004, 12:46 PM
so i'm thinking maybe we need a new title for this thread...or a new thread all together...i like this discussion...just not under this title

much love

-Collin "I'm not an engineer but I play on a robotics team" Fultz

indieFan
07-28-2004, 12:52 PM
A few things sparked by this thread.

1. To those who talked about the PE license: Thank you for the information.

2. For those who have multiple master's degrees: a) why do you and b) what are the benefits, if any?

3. Do you treat graduates of an accredited engineering school differently than a non-accredited? I know a student who wanted to transfer from a non-accredited school to an accredited one only to find that the classes wouldn't be counted since they were taken at a non-accredited school.

4. To reiterate what JVN said:

I had a prof. that had a PhD. He told the class the following one day.

"You get a bachelor's and think you know everything. You get a master's and realize you don't know everything. You get a PhD and realize you know nothing."

5. I am in my last year of attaining a bachelor's in Manufacturing Systems Engineering and Management. (All one major.) I ended up here in a very round-about way, but I am finding that the classes in Lean Manufacturing and CAD were the most fun for me to this point. I have will get all of my automation classes this coming year, but I expect that they will be great fun since I love machining, a touch of programming (doing CNC code from scratch), and designing components for FIRST Robots.

My ideal job would be to either: 1) work in automation/robotics or 2) combine my love of manufacturing with my love of food. I can even envision using a CNC and an Inkjet Technology Rapid Prototyper to carve or build things using chocolate.

My dream if I won the lottery: Open a bakery that was run by robots from baking to cashiering!

indieFan

Billfred
07-28-2004, 01:08 PM
engineer n. One who is trained or professionally engaged in a branch of engineering. engineer tr. v. to contrive or plan out usually with more or less subtle skill and craft. engineering n. 2 a : the application of science and mathematics by which the properties of matter and the sources of energy in nature are made useful to people The way I read these definitions, every FIRST team there's ever been has engineered (verb). However, very few of us on this board are engineers (noun).

As for the whole credentials thing, let me try things this way. I have no problem with a person engineering (verb) with the oversight of an engineer (noun). Somewhere in the process, I want to see someone with that purdy piece of paper give the bridge I'm driving on their stamp of approval. It tells me that someone who's gone through the whole process has looked at it and declared it safe to the point that I can send my CR-V going over it at sixty miles an hour without fearing that I'm going into the drink within reason.

I'll take that back to FIRST. I've stood around a FIRST field long enough to trust such an arrangement. Of course, such robots are given the twice-over by inspectors, which one could argue are engineers in the field of FIRST robot engineering.

I don't mean to trivially create a new field of engineering with that thought, but when you consider that engineers have to look at a problem and make a solution that is both safe to the general public and environment (how many times did you and your team have to file something while being inspected so that you wouldn't pop balls?) and fit within the time, money, and size constraints, you see the parallels.

I hope that got my point across right...if it didn't, please refrain from throwing rocks at me. :)

Paul Copioli
07-28-2004, 03:39 PM
2. For those who have multiple master's degrees: a) why do you and b) what are the benefits, if any?

I have multiple Master's degrees because my Aerospace degree was mostly pointed at fluid dynamics and controls of dynamic systems. I wanted more out of my education so I also went mechanical to get more mechanism design and thermodynamics (aero had some in my track, but not all that I wanted). When it was all said and done I had enough graduate credits to attain both degrees.

The benefits to me are priceless. I work on industrial robots, specifically automotive paint robots. Many mechanisms, lots of closed loop control and the paint delivery stuff has electrostatics, fliud dynamics and thermodynamics (run solventborne paint over hot surfaces .. lots o' fun). I feel that anyone desiring to be a mechanical engineer at a robotics company would benefit greatly from controls engineering (closed loop systems, non-linear control, etc.).

-Paul


P.S. - Chris H., I respectfully disagree with your assesment of the PE and its relation to calling a person an engineer.

Max Lobovsky
07-28-2004, 05:15 PM
Let me start by saying that I had a similar discussion via PMs with Ken Wittlief a few months ago about how its bad to trivialize the title engineer and I completely agreed with him. I am also the son of a PE and I think I have a pretty good grasp of the work involved in reaching that status.

I think two slightly different meanings of "engineer" are being discussed. One who engineers, and one whose profession is engineering. As stated by engineers in this thread, many people "engineer" and do not have the honor of being engineers by profession or title. It would be imporper to call them an engineer because that is not their trade. In the US, it can be your trade only if you are certified. I don't think there is anything wrong with saying someone did engineering work even if they aren't certified.

Though Astronouth is guilty of the same trivializing that I was, I'd like to point out that he never actually called himself an engineer, and all the righteous "if a 15 year old bla bla bla" is a bit out of place. I think the most important thing you can gather from his post is that he does respect the degree and the work an engineer has to go through because as he said, he realizes that that usually makes the more qualified person for the job.

Because I know some people will take this the wrong way, I ask you to please read this post in its entirety if you care to reply.

-Max (aspiring engineer/physicist)

Chris Fultz
07-29-2004, 07:54 AM
Wow - this thread certainly took off!

Regarding engineers and engineering education - my view is the most important part of an engineering education is that you learn to think and learn to solve problems. You answer one question and find another.

A professor once told our class: "You don't know what you don't know - and that’s what will bite you in the a**". The more you learn, the more you realize you don't know. Every answer has two more questions.

An engineering degree opens doors. It is a requirement in many companies and many disciplines. Where the degree is from may also be a factor – some companies only recruit from the top schools because of the costs of recruiting. After a few years out of school, your performance and demonstrated knowledge begin to outweigh the value of the institution that granted the degree.

**
Regarding the initial reason for the thread – my info is below. A little long, but my career path has been somewhere different from most of the others in this post.

BS Mechanical Technology, Purdue @ Indianapolis
MBA Finance and Marketing, Indiana University
MS Program Management, Penn State (complete mid-2005)
I hold 1 US Patent for a Valve Lock Design

I have a Mechanical Technology (best described as more application oriented and less theory oriented than pure engineering) degree from Purdue at Indianapolis. I was a Co-Op at a small metallurgical company. Exceptional opportunity. I graduated with about 2 years of ‘real world’ experience. I began life at Allison Gas Turbine (now Rolls-Royce) as a Reliability Engineer, focusing on field problems and analyzing trends in failures. This helped identify where engineering resources should be applied to fix field issues.

I moved into project engineering where I was responsible for the development and certification of a new model of helicopter engine. I defined test plans, coordinated with the customer and the FAA, wrote summary and compliance papers and got more into the integration and management of the program (cost and schedule). I had to learn a little about a lot, instead of a lot about a little.

About 5 years ago, I became a Program Manager. My current role is Program Manager for the Model 250 engine line – the engine that powers most light helicopters you see flying around (Bell, MD – like the news and police helicopters that were at the IRI if you saw them). I am responsible for determining budgets, agreeing on what engineering work will be funded, making sure engine and spare parts schedules are met and coordinating with aircraft & helicopters manufacturers. I am becoming more of a “business person” and less of an “engineer” everyday, but it is still important that I know and understand the engineering issues and technical challenges to make safe and sound business decisions for a very technical product.

An engineering education can open many, many doors to other areas of a business. If you look at the leaders of many major corporations (especially manufacturing, aerospace, hi-tech), you will see a lot of engineers at the top. The skills you learn are transferable across businesses.

Hope this helps ----

Elgin Clock
07-29-2004, 08:00 AM
Wow.. All I have to say is wow..
Look at all this expertise we have within FIRST. If anyone ever needs a job and posted what they do in this thread, you can just e-mail potential employers a link to this thread. :)

Seems to me like a lot of posts from the true "engineers" are turning into resume type posts

I wish I had all the (many, many) years of combined knowledge you all have accumulated on your road to becoming engineers.

petek
07-29-2004, 11:52 AM
Engineers are people who engineer solutions to problems.
I have to go along with Dave's definition. Is it really all that important how one acquires the knowledge needed to engineer solutions, as long as the problem gets solved?

As for me, I'm:
a) Electronics technologist by degree (AAS in Electronics, Delaware Tech, eons ago);
b) Sr. Project Manager by title (which means squat, but sounds nice);
c) A mix of electrical, mechanical and chemical engineer by job function (which still doesn't mean I'm a real engineer);
d) Responsible for coming up with technical solutions to real problems encountered in drug discovery every day. I lead a small group of engineers and technicians, and am the only one in the company who can do electro-mechanical design engineering and project management.

Okay, I don't have a BS degree, and I don't claim to be able to do a lot of the more technical aspects of engineering, but I have a pretty good track record of developing effective solutions to real problems. In my current job I replaced a person with an MS in mechanical engineering - a fellow who, in my opinion, never produced a single effective solution to anyone's problem in the eight years I knew him. So who is the "engineer" here?

As to why I am doing what I do: I get to work with a bunch of very talented scientists, learn new things every day, work with leading-edge laboratory automation and analytical instrumentation, occasionally get to invent something, and get paid for it! Besides solving problems, I get a lot of satisfaction from helping the people in my group develop their skills and expand their capabilities.

Right now I'm working on projects to:
- automate testing of drug candidates in an assay which models the human gut;
- manage a project to build an instrument which can dispense 500 nanoliter droplets (too small to see) at 80 drops per second with better than 7% accuracy in a dispensed sample population of over 60,000 drops;
- replicate a robotic work cell (which my group developed) that separates really nasty (very acidic) organic solutions containing high value chemicals in solution.

How much more fun could a person have?!

Max Lobovsky
07-29-2004, 04:00 PM
Petek, that is exactly the kind of job I'd like. Dealing with a wide range of technical fields and coming up with original solutions. Actually, it sounds a lot like what a lot of people do as part of FIRST. Because it is like a small version of the real engineering world, people can work on much more complete systems and don't have to stay in their specific field. I think you are really lucky to have a job that gives you so much freedom.

petek
07-29-2004, 06:48 PM
I think you are really lucky to have a job that gives you so much freedom.

How right you are, Max! And luck certainly played its part a few times for me to get where I am now without a BS! That, and hard work, determination not to settle for the easy path and believing what I was once told: "you aren't given responsibility - you have to earn it". Okay, some are given it, but it sure means a lot more when you know you've earned it!

For those who think the kind of work I described sounds interesting, my advise is go for the BS degree, take extra credits in chemistry, biochemistry and (especially) physics, and while you're there see if you can get work maintaining their lab equipment and assisting in labs. Then, look for internships and jobs at scientific equipment manufacturers, biotech, small pharmaceutical or biomedical companies. Once upon a time there were a lot of lab engineering jobs in big pharmaceutical and chemical co's, but these days they've closed or outsourced most of it.

Another area, which doesn't usually pay as well but is rewarding in other ways, is agrotech. Sometimes called "working on the farm", for an engineer this means working with molecular biologists, botanists and biochemists to develop less invasive pesticides, stronger crops and assure that there will be enough food to go around 50 years from now. You may get more fresh air on the job, too!

Be forewarned that few lab engineering jobs are "9 to 5" (9-10 hrs a day is pretty typical), and that many scientist-run organizations don't understand (or value) engineering as much as "real" science (meaning chemistry and biology).

patrickrd
07-31-2004, 06:50 PM
I think that to be an engineer, you need to have gone through an accredited four-year college program. I consider myself an engineer, my job title says so. I am a very, very young engineer. I do not yet have a lot of experience. But I've been through an engineering program. Engineering programs in college are rigorous. You learn a lot of things in a short amount of time. You absolutely can not get everything out of a book. One of the most important things I got out of my engineering program is the importance of actually being an engineer. You ask "What does that mean?" A bad calculation can equate to losses of lives. Inaccurately communicating something as a fact can do the same. Even though I am young, I have gone through an engineering program, I recognize the importance of what I am doing, and know when to ask for help and when I can handle something on my own.

The bottom line is that I feel engineering is a very powerful profession. Because of the nature of the work and the ramifications of what engineers do, it's got to be taken seriously and carried out carefully. I took a Science & Technology course where technology is referred to as a golem, or a bumbling giant. Huge. Powerful. Growing. The giant is capable of accomplishing great things, or great distruction. I feel engineers are the ones who sit at the steering wheel, controlling the giant.

Mike Ciance
08-20-2004, 06:55 PM
But the fact remains that until you hold your degree in your hot little hand, you *are not* a real engineer. I totally agree with Andy. To see 15 year old kids going around the forums calling themselves engineers (Im not trying to pick on you or single you out) is pretty ridiculous in my opinion, and really does degrade all the work that they did to get where they are.

Heck, I know CPR and basic first aid, but I dont go around telling people I'm an EMT.

and personally, I would be VERY scared if I knew a building, car, or airplane had been designed by an "engineer" who possesses no degree, or has ever had formal training, and was "self taught".

$0.02

Coryand if that poorly engineered car crashed, we would want a real EMT, and not cory :D

of course, i'd rather have cory than somebody who knows nothing about first aid, just as i would rather have astronouth7303 than somebody who knows nothing about engineering

Marc P.
08-20-2004, 11:29 PM
My opinions:

Reading through this thread I see multiple definitions of the word "engineer." I see the term defined as a profession, a hobby, and of course, the literal dictionary meaning. I think it's important to differentiate the use of the word with regards to a title or label. Unfortunately, (as the case may be with other words in the English language as well,) Engineer can be used in many different forms of context, some of which may be offensive to others.

I see an Engineer, as one who works in the profession of engineering (be it electrical, mechanical, aerospace, or what have you). No doubt respected individuals, in accomplishment and education, as well as spirit and passion for what they do. A professional engineer performs (or performed at one time,) engineering related tasks: designing, manufacturing, testing, tweaking, fabricating, etc. as part of an every day, full time job.

I also see hobbyist engineers, or those who perform engineering tasks on occasion, on their own time. In this instance the term is synonymous with other activity-related titles, like a kid who plays on a little-league baseball team is a baseball player. Someone who plays the piano in their spare time is a pianist. Not by profession, but by actively involving themselves in some aspect of the function. So kids involved in FIRST can call themselves engineers, although that's not to say they are professional engineers. That is still a very important distinction. But again, because the term "engineer" can be used multiple ways, it can still indicate someone who spends time engineering something, even it not professionally. Just like a little league player is not a professional baseball player, it does not mean they aren't any less of a baseball player in general.

And of course, the literal definition, which supports both of my arguments-

The first entry for "engineer" from dictionary.com-

"One who is trained or professionally engaged in a branch of engineering."

But further down the page, as one of the alternate definitions-

"A person who uses scientific knowledge to solve practical problems."

The first definition supports the professional nature of the term, and the second seems to include students involved in the engineering aspects of FIRST, as indeed, any FIRST student capable of designing and building any mechanism would fall into the category of "using scientific knowledge to solve practical problems."

Multiple meanings- just one of those nice little features of the English language :ahh:

Erin Rapacki
08-23-2004, 08:52 AM
Hello,

I just recently switched from Mechanical Engineering to Industrial Engineering. Why?? Well, lets just say that through my continuing participation in FIRST... I'm still learning about myself and what I'd like to do. When in High School, my thought was that "robots are cool, I'll try Mechanical!" Then over the past year, my involvement took a very unique twist that opened my eyes a lot...

I have a year's worth of Engineering experience: two summer internships at Hamilton Sundstrand and six months at DEKA. The two summers were spent helping the Project Engineers, and the six months were spend doing Quality work as a test technician on the iBOT. Everyone knew I was a ME student, but for some reason (particularly noticable at DEKA), I never really had a natural inclination or curiosity as to what the MEs were doing. Instead, I liked what my managers were doing with their problems of money/time/people. I watched them very closely.

I helped with two FIRST events where I learned how to event coordinate, plan, and manage large projects. I loved doing it. I loved taking those kinds of ideas & problems... and turning them into a reality. So it hit me! I could get an ME degree and be hired as project or quality anyway (which happens to the people who may not be very competitive at design... like me, nobody knows me in FIRST for robot design because I haven't done any in the past three years), or I could go get that IE degree and be even more competitive in project & quality. My aim is to get an MBA afterwards.

So there it is, my goal is to be a project-manager and it seems that Industrial Engineering (in NU terms that is) is probably the best Business undergrad degree you can get.

Life is starting to make sense :)



ByE


erin

Al Skierkiewicz
08-30-2004, 05:39 AM
Erin,
Many people have revelations throughout their college career. Remember a person who loves what they are doing never has to work a day in their life.

Pat Roche
09-21-2004, 02:06 PM
Software. It's what my dad does, and it's my hobby (and probably career too).

Who said you needed a degree (or even get paid) to be an engineer?
IMHO, it's the achievement.

I'm going to quote a Clarkson University Professor. This comes from the meeting for each major.
"The difference between and engineer and an inventor is that an engineer creates a product through scientific investigation and theoretical anaylses."
(I may have boched that pretty bad...it was over a month ago..)
Point being is that an engineer goes through large amounts of schooling just to learn the sciences involved in design.
As a first year college student and a fifth year member of FIRST I can safely safe that I am *B]NOT[/B] * an engineer by any means yet. I am studying to become a Mechanical Engineer. I chose this major because I fell in love designing and building mechanical systems and had very good mentors through FIRST.

Just and inquiry,
Pat

Jay TenBrink
10-03-2004, 02:02 PM
I am a mechanical engineer with a BSME from Michigan State University in 1983.

I wanted to be an inventor when I grew up. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I learned what an engineer was. Suffering from low self esteem and mediocre grades, I didn’t think I could ever make it into the College of Engineering. My undergraduate advisor didn’t think so either. Fortunately there were a few people in my life that did believe in me and through many years of hard work I became a mechanical engineer. It was the biggest achievement in my life and changed my life forever. Thus, I take the title of engineer very seriously.

I’ve been at Chrysler (now DaimlerChrysler) since1983 and have had a number of different engineering jobs. I have worked on sheet metal, body hardware and chassis. I have worked in design, development, test labs, and at assembly plants in resident engineering. I have also worked in a staff position doing budgets. I have supervised engineers and designers for a many years. I am currently a manager in chassis engineering.

I manage engineers as they design and develop new products and resolve technical and non-technical issues. My engineers are responsible to know everything as it relates to their product: what the customers’ requirements are, how it is designed, tested, manufactured, assembled, serviced, packaged, etc. They are responsible for formulating test plans, time lines, ordering parts, visiting suppliers, resolving issues, etc. It’s very demanding work.

A large part of my job is managing engineers and technical problem solving teams. This requires strong root cause analysis skills as well as many of those disciplines engineers learn in school: physics, chemistry, strength of materials, statics, dynamics, heat transfer, fluid dynamics, and more. I can honestly say one could not learn all the skills “on the job” to function in this environment. You can be expected to remember everything, but it’s amazing how much this stuff will come back to you even after many years.

Peter Matteson
10-08-2004, 07:02 AM
To start off I am an Engineer in training in the State of CT. I have not been praticing long enough to sit for the PE exam, need about another year. My father and my uncle are both PEs and have been working in nuclear power where they need their licsences for over 30 years. As such I never felt comfortable calling myself an engineer until I had a degree in hand. Many times when I have pointed out to others that legally you are not an engineer without a liscnce even degreed engineers are offended. With a licsense you obtain the right to be recognized by a court of law as an expert and will not be recognized as engineer without one.

Now to answer the original question:
I am a Mechanical engineer. I got my degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in 2001. I went for an ME degree becauseI have always been good with mechanical systems. Taking things apart to see how they worked and putting them back together. However like Andy electricity and I don't get along, getting through "Volts for Dolts" was painful to me.

After two years of school my brain was fried and I was frustrated. Engineering schools can do this to you. My basic feelings about engineering had not changed but life can get in the way as many of the other mentors know. For this reason I took a semester off from school to co-op. This was the best thing that I could have done for myself. I worked at Pratt & Whitney, aircraft engine manufacturer for those who don't know, where what I learned in eight months eclipsed two years of college. I got to see every make and model of commercial and military engine while done investigation work there. That refocused me and made the remaining two years of my education breeze by because I knew where it would get me in the end. I'm sharing this part with you in high school or college who at one point feel the same way.

When I graduated I took took a job at International Fuel Cells where I had interned before my senior year in college and another division of the same company where I co-oped. The name switched UTC Fuel Cells my first day of work, I soon learned name changes were a common thing in this business. I have worked as a design engineer on fuel cell power plants. I have been a manufacturing engineer on fuel cell stacks and prototype power plants. Most recently I am a mechanical components engineer. I select and test mechanical components for use in CHP (combined heat and power systems) power plants for the UTC Power side of the company. I wear many hats here because I get moved where the work is. Nothing however has been more humbling than having to be the manufaturing engineer on my own design. That is where you learn a lot.

Pete

Squirrelrock
12-08-2004, 07:26 PM
But the fact remains that until you hold your degree in your hot little hand, you *are not* a real engineer. I totally agree with Andy. To see 15 year old kids going around the forums calling themselves engineers (Im not trying to pick on you or single you out) is pretty ridiculous in my opinion, and really does degrade all the work that they did to get where they are.

I agree, but there are a small (very small) few of us who are in a High School Specialty Center for Engineering. I go to the CFE(HS)^2 [Center for Engineering (http://www.henrico.k12.va.us/HS/HighSprHS/esc/cfe.htm) @ Highland Springs High School] in Henrico Co. near Richmond, Va, and I believe that we should at least be able to call ourselves "engineers in training" at the least.

my 2 pennies

Squirrel

telkanuru
12-13-2004, 06:49 PM
I'm in my sophmore year at UMass Amherst, and it's ME all the way for me. However, we have a 'build your own major' thingee here, and I was thinking about incorperating some CS and EE and creating 'Robotics'. Better that 'Ultimate Frisbee Aerodynamics', although that guy went and made the aerobee.

And when/weather you call youself an engineer depends on if you see it as a profession or a calling. I'm an engineer (even without my degree) because what I do is build stuff and solve problems associated with engineering.

Adam Y.
12-14-2004, 01:00 PM
I'm in my sophmore year at UMass Amherst, and it's ME all the way for me. However, we have a 'build your own major' thingee here, and I was thinking about incorperating some CS and EE and creating 'Robotics'. Better that 'Ultimate Frisbee Aerodynamics', although that guy went and made the aerobee.
Actually there all ready is a robotics major in Carnegie Mellon. Last I knew you didn't even have to be an engineer to get into the program.
In the US, it can be your trade only if you are certified. I don't think there is anything wrong with saying someone did engineering work even if they aren't certified.
What???? What type of certification are you talking about?? The only ceritification that I know of is the PE but you don't actually need it to work as an engineer. The proffesional engineeirng license from what I can tell gives you more responisibility.

telkanuru
12-15-2004, 05:31 PM
Actually there all ready is a robotics major in Carnegie Mellon. Last I knew you didn't even have to be an engineer to get into the program.


Never said there wasn't, just that there wasn't here. Thanks for the info, though.

JamesCH95
12-15-2004, 08:09 PM
en·gi·neer http://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/JPG/pron.jpg (https://secure.reference.com/premium/login.html?rd=2&u=http%3A%2F%2Fdictionary.reference.com%2Fsearch%3 Fq%3Dengineer%26r%3D67) ( P ) Pronunciation Key (http://dictionary.reference.com/help/ahd4/pronkey.html) (http://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/ebreve.gifnhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/lprime.gifjhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/schwa.gif-nîrhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/prime.gif)
n.


One who is trained or professionally engaged in a branch of engineering.
http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=engineer&r=67

Apparently as long as you are professionally engaged (being paid to engineer stuff) OR have been trained ("degree in hand") you are not an engineer as this thread is referring to it.

That being said, I'm going into ME, it's just too addicting to design an idea and watch it take shape.

tcj103
02-07-2005, 09:16 PM
I'm an Aerospace Engineer by degree, but work more in software / electrical engineering, however on an aircraft flight control system. My emerging specialty is becoming hardware-software integration. What that means is I'm getting deep into the operation of motors and actuators by our software system, and keeping them working together.

Ted

sharperpe
03-27-2005, 07:10 PM
I am now a Control Systems Engineer - I conceive, engineer, design, install, and startup digital control systems for large industrial process to run the process in a safe and efficient manner. My degrees are BSEE and MBA. I just "knew" that I wanted to be an engineer since junior high school.

As a note: in all States in the United States (I believe) one is required to be license by the State to use the title "Engineer". Some States allow individuals who run trains also be titled "Engineer". This means that is not legal to have business cards printed that say "Control Systems Engineer" unless you have a P.E. I understand Europe has something similar. If you have an Engineering degree, you can call yourself a "Degreed Engineer". In theory, you are not allowed to practice engineering if it will affect public safety unless you are 1.) a P.E. or 2.)are working under the direction of a P.E. The most States do not enforce these laws, however. To some extent is like the licensing of lawyers - you cannot practice law without passing the Bar Exam - which you can't take without going to law school. It’s just that lawyers like going to court more, so they enforce the law against unlicensed lawyers more. Yes, I am a P.E. and it a sore point with me.
Having said all that, if you have an interest in making things work and dealing with trade-offs, then engineering is the way to go. If you want to understand how things work and make new discoverys, become a scientist.

Ceal Craig
03-28-2005, 01:03 AM
To answer the question ….
B.S. Mech. Engr.(1974). The Ohio State University
M.S. Engr (Mech.) 1978. Cal State University at Fullerton
Work towards a Dr. in Engr. Management, S. Methodist University
~50% work towards a Single Subject Teaching Credential, National University

The above doesn’t really answer your question though…I began my career as a Quality & Product Engineer at Rockwell Int’l in Anaheim CA. Within six months, I was moved into management and for the next 26 years, I only left management for one year. I grew up to be a Director in Manufacturing and Operations after seven companies, three moves (two states) in Fortune 100 companies, managing from 3-140 people at different times, mostly as a direct manager, sometimes as a project manager. My last gig was with Siemens as Director of Operations responsible for facilities and real estate for one of Siemens’ operating companies.

In early 2000, I decided to change careers (it’s tough closing over five manufacturing plants) and took up teaching high school math full-time for a year. Didn’t want to continue that full time for various reasons unrelated to this thread. Now, I teach math and project management online for the largest online university in the world, tutor locally, and volunteer….

Leading to ….when I graduated in 1974, only about 830 women graduated with a BS in Engineering throughout the US. By 1985, ~15% of the BS-level graduates were women! Cool. But, unfortunately, that percentage has not changed much at all. To help change this record, I do what I can. I teach for Johns Hopkins University in the summers (fifth and sixth grade classes in Science and Engineering) and volunteer my time in many ways, all with the purpose of encouraging more young girls to consider engineering as an educational track and as a career.

Because, I believe, admitting a *strong* bias, engineering is THE EDUCATION to earn. You can do anything (almost) with an engineering degree. I’ve managed groups that were non-technical as well as technical ones; I have over a million miles with American Airlines, primarily on business travel; I teach bird-watching for our local National Wildlife Refuge; I teach math (even though math in college was challenging for me); I’m treasurer for an orchestra; and I coach, with my husband, a FIRST team. **All of these adventures have been and are possible because of those engineering degrees.** Engineering taught me how to solve problems, of almost any kind.

I’ll let my husband describe his own engineering background. We met in college, so given that I told you when I graduated, you know we’ve been together a long time. <G> When I was in school, very few men were comfortable with a woman who was an engineer, who wanted a career, and had some intelligence. He was one of those few good men. Things have changed, hopefully more and more every day. Engineering is a great education and career.

So, to sum up: engineer by education, technology manager by career, engineering educator today. My biggest dream: 30% of graduating engineers being woman by the time I pass on.

It was great to see more girls on the teams this year. I hope to see more every year. If you are at the Las Vegas Regional this coming week, stop by and say hello (though I might be in the stands scouting!).

And, if you ever have a question about life in engineering, then or now, don’t forget to write!

Ceal

kaszeta
03-28-2005, 07:57 AM
To weigh in myself...

I'm a Mechanical Engineer (BS from Michigan State, MS and PhD from University of Minnesota), and I've rather enjoyed my career so far (I work as an R+D engineer for a small consulting company (http://www.creare.com).

I chose mechanical engineering because I really liked the mechanical and thermal aspects of physics and chemistry, and thought that fluid mechanics, heat transfer, control theory, and vibrations would be interesting to study (and, in fact, they were). That, and I've always had a natural talent for the sort of math and analytical skills that are used heavily in engineering. I also grew up as the sort of kid who spent half his spare time helping my father eek a few extra years out of our family's beat-up cars...

Note that there is a lot of overlap between types of engineers, especially at the undergraduate level. When I was getting my BS degree, the classes that interested me the most (heat transfer and fluid mechanics) were taught almost identically in the Chemical Engineering and Civil Engineering departments, and most of the other classes had similar versions in other departments (Controls taught in both EE and ME, for example, although the applications were much different). Part of being a good engineer is being flexible and having a wide variety of useful analytical skills, so this shouldn't be surprising (and note that, unless they've changed things, some of the tests like the EIT/FE exam aren't discipline specific, so it helps to be broad in your choice of classes).

As far as the value of a degree, I work with a number of engineers, with backgrounds spanning from no degree up to PhDs, and I can say that to a large extent education does matter, but so is experience, and neither can really substitute for the other. There are few substitutes for the learning that accompanies dedicating a few years of your life to a PhD (which, for me and most of my colleagues was easily a 16-hour-a-day job for a few years). And there are few substitutes for having 5 years of experience in the Real World[tm] tucked under your belt. But they are different, and try not to underestimate either one

A lot of people ask me about why I got a PhD; indeed, getting degrees beyond the Masters for an engineer doesn't usually turn into immediate increase in compensation, indeed, after getting my PhD I got fewer job offers than I did when I finished my MS, and the salary wasn't much different than what I would've been making had I been working those years, but the quality and type of job offers were better (i.e. the work was more interesting, and job advancement possibilities seem a bit better).

kaszeta
03-28-2005, 08:07 AM
As a note: in all States in the United States (I believe) one is required to be license by the State to use the title "Engineer".


This is not correct in general, and varies state-by-state. Texas is the one good example I know of a state that is that way; in Texas you have to be a PE to use the title of "Engineer", IIRC. And in my current state, "Engineer" and "Engineering" aren't regulated except in their use in company names.

Indeed, I know one specific counterexample, a good friend of mine is an "Engineer" with no degree. He drives a train. :)

Also, few engineers these days actually bother with become a licensed PE. There isn't that much demand (most jobs that need a PE only need a handful of them to sign off on work), and only 20% or so of engineers bother going through the whole licensing thing. It's been 10 years since I passed the EIT/FE exam, and five years of working doing PE-level work (I was in grad school in the meantime), and there hasn't been much need for me to do the exam (although doing this work this long, the practice exams are pretty easy...). The PE exam is most important for civil engineers, since they have to sign off on buildings, bridges and the like. (Note that I'm just giving the reality of the situation, not commenting on how it should be...)

But in most states, it's actually a pretty diluted title. In Minnesota, I was teaching elementary school students about career choices, and had to explain to them that I wasn't a janitor (that's what their janitorial/maintenance staff was called).

Peter Matteson
03-28-2005, 08:22 AM
Part of being a good engineer is being flexible and having a wide variety of useful analytical skills, so this shouldn't be surprising (and note that, unless they've changed things, some of the tests like the EIT/FE exam aren't discipline specific, so it helps to be broad in your choice of classes).

Just to throw in the information from some one who more recently took the FE/EIT exam. The morning session is a general engineering section, and for the the afternoon session you have a choice of general or discipline specific. I for instance took the mechanical test in the afternoon, However my EIT certificate does not reflect anything differently.

Pete

mechanicalbrain
08-23-2005, 03:44 AM
I saw this thread and since the last post TOO old i figured i would try and give it a try because i think that it truly is a good thread and i would like to try to shed some of my own brand of light on this.

Frankly I'm not an engineer, i don't have the knowledge, skill, or gall to claim to be one, I'm mostly an artist (no i don't have a degree in that). I got to thinking about what allows someone to say they are something like an engineer. I realized its a mix of knowledge and experience but not necessarily a degree (though that tends to give you both). No an engineer with a degree is a professional engineer. Frankly I know lots of people with no degrees who i would say can definitely be considered an engineer. It doesn't mean i would trust them to build a bridge or something along those lines but i think that at some point what you do defines who you are. Its just that saying some people aren't engineers is like saying Frank Lloyd Wright wasn't an architect (who never got a degree in college either). Or the Wright brothers.

I mean i recently read a story about a man who invented a completely revolutioniary type of aircraft and this man is a icecream refrigerator repair man. I would not hesitate in compairing him and his invention to Mr.Kamen and his Segway. I consider them both great engineers.

I saw a lot of talk about not belittling engineers and i agree! Anybody who can get a degree as an engineer fully deserves to be called one but also the title is not exclusive. The word engineer comes from the Latin root ingenium which translates into ability. Anyone with the ability to make advancements in a specific technical field and fully understand all the concepts of such field is in my opinion (if not yours) an engineer and deserves my respect as such. Everyone can throw around this dictionary version of what a engineer is but i think we miss the core of it.

I know this may not be the most accepted opinion and doubtlessly I will hear a couple reasons clearly define why I'm wrong but i want to make it clear that i don't intend to deceive you with the illusion that I'm right. I'm expressing an opinion based on my experience (as limited as it may be). Just read my post and keep an open mind and an open eye to the past (before they handed out engineering degrees :) ) Darn it why am i only serious when talking about a controversial and philosophical dilemma? :rolleyes: I guess their is nothing i love more than a good challenge on my birthday

John Neun
08-23-2005, 09:30 AM
I'm not sure what just sucked me into reading this thread, but it is very interesting. I am a Mechanical Engineer (BSME '76 and MEngME '77, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) and have been a registered PE in NY since '81. I'm a mechanical engineer because it is so much fun to work with mechanical systems and machines. I have been lucky enough to work with a wide array of them: large artillery, nuclear reactors, submarines, paper machines, tanks, gas turbines, and a host of others. My master's studies concentrated on mechanisms, but interestingly, I have been happiest working with existing machinery, trying to understand it and usually how to fix it. I think this is in contrast to what Andy Baker and Paul Capioli described as their passions. My secret is that, especially compared to my son JVN, I am a lousy designer but a better problem solver. I tend to be a linear thinker more than a creative one.

What makes an engineer an engineer? August participants in this thread have pointed out the black-and-white things. There are defined requirements and tests to legally use the title, required for public safety. I hope I am one and I know I want to be one and have for a long time, since I was in high school. That's why I became a PE. I never needed a license for my career. I needed it for me, as a personal accomplishment in a field I have chosen to be my life's work.

I knew in high school where I was going because of the Physics and Math. I actually enjoyed calculus! Mechanical Engineering sorted itself out as the logical path because of what I found to be exciting (structures, dynamics), and what I found to be difficult (circuits, chemistry). If I have anything to contribute to this thread, maybe that's it: don't worry about if you can call yourself an Engineer or not. Is what you are doing or studying fun? Is it exciting? Are you ever passionate about it? Follow your nose to what interests you. We are lucky in this profession because there is generally a living to be made in what excites us. My favorite thing about FIRST is watching the the enthusiasm and passion with which students become involved. It isn't all students, but there are always a few that it captivates.

On a personal note: John, GET YOUR LICENSE!

sciguy125
08-23-2005, 09:59 AM
After wasting the first part of the morning of the last day before I go back to engineer training to read this entire thread, I feel that I must comment on it.

I think that the person who started this thread intended to ask professional engineers (people who work as engineers in the real world) why they are in their field. I disagree, however, with those who say that "engineers" are people with engineering degrees and seem to take offense to those who think otherwise. I feel that anyone who "engineers" (verb) has the right to call themselves an engineer. Meaning that they can in the proper situations, of course. I don't mean to say that FIRST high school students should put down "engineer" on a job application. However, I don't think that they should have to say that they aren't engineers when someone asks them why they are in engineering.

One more thing: what's this PE deal? I'm starting my third year of college and I've heard nothing of this. I flipped through my Intro to Engineering book again and I don't see any mention of it. I think you're all lying to me...

MikeDubreuil
08-23-2005, 11:01 AM
I'll make this my coming out thread...
After 6 years in FIRST, 3 in high school and 3 in college - I am now an engineer. I will also officially change my status on the forum ;)

I graduated on August 20th, 2005 from Wentworth Institute of Technology with a degree in Computer Engineering Technology. Today, I work as an Associate Software Engineer at Textron Systems (http://www.systems.textron.com/). I chose software engineering because I love the software aspect of control systems.


One more thing: what's this PE deal? I'm starting my third year of college and I've heard nothing of this. I flipped through my Intro to Engineering book again and I don't see any mention of it. I think you're all lying to me...
PE is an acronym for Professional Engineer. It's a license than you can get to certify yourself in a particular state as a qualified engineer.

Al Skierkiewicz
08-23-2005, 02:38 PM
After wasting the first part of the morning of the last day before I go back to engineer training to read this entire thread, I feel that I must comment on it.

I think that the person who started this thread intended to ask professional engineers (people who work as engineers in the real world) why they are in their field. I disagree, however, with those who say that "engineers" are people with engineering degrees and seem to take offense to those who think otherwise. I feel that anyone who "engineers" (verb) has the right to call themselves an engineer. Meaning that they can in the proper situations, of course. I don't mean to say that FIRST high school students should put down "engineer" on a job application. However, I don't think that they should have to say that they aren't engineers when someone asks them why they are in engineering.

One more thing: what's this PE deal? I'm starting my third year of college and I've heard nothing of this. I flipped through my Intro to Engineering book again and I don't see any mention of it. I think you're all lying to me...

Phil,
Just because you do engineering work does not make you an engineer, Calling yourself an engineer gives others the wrong impression of your capabilities. There are a variety of disciplines that give a degree that shows that your field of study was engineering. A college student or someone that has taken engineering classes without the final piece of paper is an engineering student. The Professional Engineer is someone who not only has enough school credit to be given the piece of paper but is able to take a lengthy test demonstrating your ability to put engineering principles to work.(taken in the final year of school in many cases) The final step in most states is a minimum employment period where you perform engineering work, (Illinois is 2 years) and then take another proficiency test. The PE title allows you to perform engineering duties that non-PE engineers perform. (much of this work involves design that affects people or large financial investment in a project.) Even accoustic engineers need a PE for certain design and testing so as to be able to defend a product in a court of law. When a member of CD signs on as "engineer" but is really a high school student whose team title happens to be "engineer" many of the nearly 9000 members will take their opinion as gospel. This could be harmful to teams who need a firm and accurate answer from a knowledgeable source. Although many students know the correct answer, the first one to post may not be right. Anyone who posts here with a question directed at a engineer should get an engineer's response.
As always, (and to follow up one of Andy Baker's posts) a real name, a real birthday and a real occupation in your signature line goes a long way for communication to the masses.

Ken Leung
08-23-2005, 02:51 PM
Phil,
Just because you do engineering work does not make you an engineer, Calling yourself an engineer gives others the wrong impression of your capabilities.

Indulge me for a second as I draw the example of becoming a doctor.

Becoming a doctor take many years. It is a long, arduous, expensive process that can only be accomplished with great dedication. Without going into full details let's take a look at the major obstacles:

1. High School -> college applications
2. College, pre-Med major -> Med school application/interview, MCAT
3. Medical school -> USMLE (part 1 taken in the 2nd year, part 2 taken in the 4th year)
4. Residency (internship) -> USMLE (part 3 taken in the first year of residency)
5. Medical License approved by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.

Boy, just looking at the list give me a chill on my back. Also makes me pray my kids won't want to be a doctor...

It takes years of dedication for someone to become a doctor, in addition to the numerous tests and application processes. If some students come up to me and say, "I know how to cure a cold, I am a doctor now!", I would say, "Sorry kid, you have a long way to go."

Granted, human lives are at stake if you become a doctor, but isn't it the same for engineers? Depending on what our professions are, we may be responsible in building an apartment building, a car, a bridge, a satellite, a tank, or a computer. Many of our accomplishments involve protecting/improving human lives just like doctors. If we screw up, lives can be at stake.

I've always believed to gain a title, you have to earn it. Being an engineer tell us and the rest of the world that you've gone through the hardship to become one. It shows your dedication and expertise in the field you are in.

Does becoming an engineer means you know all there is to know about being one? No. Learning is a life long journey. There is never a point where you say, "I know enough. I don't need to learn anymore." There are times when you will be the first person to encounter a problem never faced by any human beings before. Do you call yourself an engineer after you know everything about that problem?

Becoming an engineer is a process. In the continuum between wanting to be one and finally becoming one is a point when we gain the title. A point that cannot be solely defined by how much you know, how smart you are, or how much experience you have.

Perhaps it can only be defined by the following incident:

During your engineering school, a spark suddenly lit off in your head, and you gain an epiphany of the grant scheme of engineering, it might be an equation or a philosophy, that enables you to solve any problems you may encounter in the future. Maybe that’s when people gain the invisible light bulb on top of their head. Or maybe that’s when your glasses reach a certain thickness .

Or maybe the truth is, during engineering school, you’ve memorized enough equation, finished enough labs, passed enough tests, read enough books, and understood enough theories when you finally:

1. Understood what it takes to become an engineer,
2. Learn enough from school to start your own journey of learning and enlightenment,
3. Gained enough tools under your belt to get you started in the industry of your choice.

In order words, maybe you become an engineer when you no longer have to be babysitted any more…


Or maybe there is a Wiseman on top of a mountain, and every year you climb the mountain and ask him, “Am I an engineer yet?” and he says “No.” and you go back to school and visit him every year until he finally says “Yes.” Fortunately, there are a lot of "Wiseman" in this forum already, so there's no need to climb any mountains anymore.

sciguy125
08-23-2005, 03:25 PM
This could be harmful to teams who need a firm and accurate answer from a knowledgeable source. Although many students know the correct answer, the first one to post may not be right. Anyone who posts here with a question directed at a engineer should get an engineer's response.

That's what I was going for. If someone is seeking professional advice, non-professionals should either say nothing or make it clear that they aren't professionals.

I do some photography and, on occasion, people talk to me about it. To Average Joe, the equipment I carry around looks pro. I say that I am a photographer. If they start asking questions about professional photographers, I make it clear that it's just a hobby for me. While being a pro photographer doesn't come with the same responsibility as a pro engineer or doctor, there is some training involved. Actually, I think that being a good pro photographer (or many other forms of art) may require a creativity that can't be taught. I'm sure that they would also take offense to amateurs posing as pros as the engineers here seem to be.

My point is that I don't see any problem with people calling themselves engineers as long as they are not posing as professionals when professional advice is sought.

Al Skierkiewicz
08-23-2005, 03:55 PM
My point is that I don't see any problem with people calling themselves engineers as long as they are not posing as professionals when professional advice is sought.
Isn't that confusing? That is like a favorite saying in our business... When an individual is giving a medical opinion and someone asks "Are you a doctor?" the answer is "No, but I play one on TV!". There is no way to know when a person's signature is "engineer" whether they are practicing engineers or not. I would prefer the signature to be student/robot engineer or simply robot engineer or student engineer. Any of these titles will garner my respect for your point of view. Signing engineer when you are a student leaves me with a much different opinion when I find that you are in fact a student giving engineering responses. I would think that other students would be more in awe of a student or robot engineer that answers accurately and like myself would hold a vastly different opinion of someone who signs "engineer" but is not and gives an inaccurate response to a desperate team who is looking for immediate help.

JVN
08-23-2005, 03:56 PM
My point is that I don't see any problem with people calling themselves engineers as long as they are not posing as professionals when professional advice is sought.

But...
To call yourself an engineer, you imply professionalism that isn't there and your words carry that implied credibility that comes with the title. Especially when there is no opportunity for a disclaimer.

The example that Al mentioned is an example of this: the 8th grader who's words have more weight simply because he refers to himself as an "engineer" in his title.

The argument could be made of course... that everyone should just make their own judgments and ignore any supposed, possibly self-granted "titles".
(Nah! ;))


Personal note to my father:
Talk to me in four years. (http://www.tbpe.state.tx.us/lic_basic.htm)

sciguy125
08-23-2005, 04:24 PM
To call yourself an engineer, you imply professionalism that isn't there and your words carry that implied credibility that comes with the title.

I understand where you're coming from, but I'm not sure if I'm willing to concede my position just yet.

The argument could be made of course... that everyone should just make their own judgments and ignore any supposed, possibly self-granted "titles".
(Nah! ;))

I'm not trying to make a case for my above comment, but people should always scrutinize information no matter where it comes from. Everyone is liable to make mistakes. The fact that I've seen an episode of Modern Marvels titled "Engineering Disasters 16" shows that even professionals aren't immune. You also can't expect people to know everything. I'm sure that for years to come, science teachers will teach that the Milky Way is a spiral galaxy, but they're wrong (http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/08/17/1440203&tid=160&tid=14).

mechanicalbrain
08-23-2005, 04:33 PM
You know, i think i said all i can on the other page. i think if Sciguy or anyone else can look at that criteria and say they are engineers then they are entitled to because who am i to lay out the facts of life. However anyone who claims to be a true engineer must take responsibility for the anything that happens as a result. I really think the last post really said allot and recommend anybody who posts on this thread reads it.

Al Skierkiewicz
08-23-2005, 04:56 PM
Whoa dudes!
First, people can't be expected to be allowed to call themselves engineers and have everyone accept that. If that was allowed you would be referencing "Engineering Disasters XXXXXXXXXXX" where the number would equal the number of hamburgers sold at McDs.
Second, the spiral galaxy position you point to should be second guessed by the fact it is signed by "TacoMan". It references another article quoted here..."A barred spiral galaxy is a spiral galaxy with a band of bright stars emerging from the center and running across the middle of the galaxy. Spiral arms appear to emerge from the ends of the "bar" in these galaxies, whereas they appear to emerge directly from the core in ordinary spiral galaxies." Note in the first sentence that a "barred galaxy" is a "spiral galaxy". Kinda shoots holes in the reference doesn't it?
As to the remaining question, what responsibility will any individual bear when he tells a team to connect a power connector to a PWM output? The answer is none. His self imposed title will not prevent the damage or replace the defective unit or help advance the understanding of electrical fundamentals. Although there is no insurance that a working engineer will give the correct response, the odds are weighted in his favor of being correct. Even I am not infallible and will make mistakes from time to time but I will tell you when I don't know or can't remember. That is a call to another engineer to step in and accurately answer the question. Luckily, there are an abundance of individuals who post here who can be trusted for their answers. The signature tells a great deal, I sign as an engineer/mentor, born in 1951, and rookie in 1996. You can derive a lot of pertinent data from those three statements. Contrasted with engineer, born in BLANK, rookie 2005.
Now guys, I hope you don't think I am beating up on you, I am passionate about this particular issue because I have seen damage done by those who call themselves engineers who are not. I want everyone who asks a question to get an accurate answer the first time, and will know that forevermore, they can ask a question and believe in the answer.

mechanicalbrain
08-23-2005, 05:05 PM
Actualy they can. This is where you see a diference between engineer and professional engineer. Also I wouldn't trust an engineer to connect a power connector to a pwm any more than anyone else unless they have some experience (infact i have run into that EXACT problem) unless they have experience with the electrical system.

sciguy125
08-23-2005, 05:11 PM
First, people can't be expected to be allowed to call themselves engineers and have everyone accept that. If that was allowed you would be referencing "Engineering Disasters XXXXXXXXXXX" where the number would equal the number of hamburgers sold at McDs.

I think you misunderstood me there. I was just trying to make a general statement which has nothing to do with my position on engineer titles.

RogerR
08-23-2005, 05:32 PM
Actualy they can. This is where you see a diference between engineer and professional engineer. Also I wouldn't trust an engineer to connect a power connector to a pwm any more than anyone else unless they have some experience (infact i have run into that EXACT problem) unless they have experience with the electrical system.

as its been pointed out before, an engineer is someone who's graduated from an accredited engineering program. a professional engineer is one who has met a set of standards, usually involving a set number of years in the field (4 in florida), passing an exam, and graduating from an accredited engineering program. both require that you graduate from an accredited engineering program. otherwise, you aren't an engineer.

this is not to say you haven't engineered. to borrow a quote from one of my books, "To Engineer Is Human". but just 'cause you've engineered, doesn't make you an engineer. there's a set of standards that dictate that.

sciguy125
08-23-2005, 06:10 PM
It looks like we’ve stalemated again. We’re just running around in circles because everyone views the world in their own way and everyone wants to use certain words in certain ways. Even if we find a way to standardize our definitions, people still aren’t willing to drop their own perceptions of the world.

In this thread, we can’t agree on whether an engineer is someone who engineers, or someone who holds an engineering degree. Which came first? The engineer or the engineering degree?

In the mentor-run vs student-run (http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?t=39337) teams discussion, we couldn’t agree on exactly what FIRST is about. Whether FIRST is about learning or inspireing... Whether inspiration comes from watching or doing...

In our discussion of life on other planets (http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?t=38951), we couldn’t agree on how probable (or improbable) something has to be before we can consider it possible.

Any discussion/debate that delves into the philosophy of life will ultimately end this way. And, as we’ve seen, starting out as a scientific discussion doesn’t mean that it won’t turn philosophical toward the end.

mechanicalbrain
08-23-2005, 06:16 PM
Thats why i like philosophical debates! Nobody is right and nobody is wrong just a free exchange of ideology. Is great to see how people with vastly different opinions will stand steadfast behind their own ideas and how they react to differing opinions.

Madison
08-23-2005, 06:27 PM
Somebody is always right and somebody is always wrong in all subjects wherein there exist opposing viewpoints. What most people like, it seems, is not that there's 'no right answer,' but that there's little likelihood they'll be proven wrong.

sciguy125
08-23-2005, 06:40 PM
Somebody is always right and somebody is always wrong in all subjects wherein there exist opposing viewpoints.

I'm tempted to go after this one. :) I'm too busy watching the Stargate Atlantis marathon to write up a long post though.

Christina
08-23-2005, 08:10 PM
As a recently graduated college student, I must say that I hadn't considered myself to be an engineer until I was actually graduated. I had never said I was an engineer while I was a student and I have definitely done engineering things before May 20th. The first time I said I was an engineer was last month and it felt weird being able to say that I am, in fact, an engineer. I feel that having the title of engineer is something that is earned through college and a degree. It's an accomplishment and I feel that it is a testament to your achievements. I understand that there are many things I don't know how to do even though I am an engineer. But college isn't just about learning how to engineer. It may seem that the knowledge you possess is enough to be called an engineer...but there is more to it. It's the process of learning how to learn that college gives you that also goes along with the title. It's not just about doing engineering things, but the way to think about problems, how to attack them, how to explain them, how to teach them, and so on and so forth that makes you an engineer.

Also, the way I've seen it is: when you put your job title down on your taxes, you put "student" when you're in school and "engineer" once you graduate. That pretty much summed it up for me.

Just my $0.02.

MikeDubreuil
08-24-2005, 02:17 AM
I feel that having the title of engineer is something that is earned through college and a degree. It's an accomplishment and I feel that it is a testament to your achievements.
I feel exactly the same way. I have been working for the past year as a "Co-Op Software Engineer." I waited until I graduated and got a full time engineering job before I listed myself as an Engineer on Chief Delphi. Quite honestly, it's borderline disrespectful to all the true Engineers everywhere to call yourself an engineer if you're only a high school or college student. I'm going to agree with Roger on what he previously said, just because you engineer does not grant you the title Engineer.

John Wanninger
08-24-2005, 11:27 PM
Although I'm a degreed mechanical engineer, I'm pretty much a mongrel, because it's fun (ok, maybe not like jvn's fun job but..) I've been working for a small engineering/mfg company, Titan Inc. (http://www.titansystems.com) since 1987. I get to design and program production test stands and special machines, primarily for the off-highway, truck and fluid power industries(we do Harley too!). It's a great job, and I get to wear a lot of hats (mechanical, electrical, and hydraulic design plus writing software, from concept to debug/runoff/update). Almost every project we do is a new 'animal', plus I get to learn about all the components, sub-assemblies, systems or vehicles our systems test or assemble. I'm especially proud of the fact that, except for some heat treating, and large machine frames, almost everything is done in-house. Best thing about it though is the people I get to work with.
[/TITAN commercial]

Ken Leung
08-25-2005, 12:52 AM
It looks like we’ve stalemated again. We’re just running around in circles because everyone views the world in their own way and everyone wants to use certain words in certain ways. Even if we find a way to standardize our definitions, people still aren’t willing to drop their own perceptions of the world.

In this thread, we can’t agree on whether an engineer is someone who engineers, or someone who holds an engineering degree. Which came first? The engineer or the engineering degree?

You know, I spent a lot of time today trying to write a long post to argue, but I thought better of it and decided to drop the whole thing. Oh well.

I just want to point out that I don’t think it is a stalemate, not even close. A majority of the Engineers in this thread are expressing a consistent view toward the title “Engineer”, and that’s enough to convince me (and I think most of the readers) who is right and who is wrong. If you continue to stick by your position, that’s your right and we can’t do anything about that. Just don’t expect us to feel responsible to educate you further about this.

Frankly, I think that it should be hard for someone to become an Engineer. It should be so tough that it take us years of learning, thinking, studying, and practicing before we become a good Engineer. I think it should be so hard that when we finally earn the degree and title it is going to be sweet.

Because anything else will degrade the integrity and prestige so many Engineers worked so hard to put into the title. Because anything else will confuse people to think that anyone can be an Engineer, when in fact the title “Engineer” only belong to those who spent years and years practicing the philosophy of Engineering and proved to the world that he/she really is a great Engineer. Because anything else will compromise the standard, and that standard is the only thing that guarantees the quality and dedication of an Engineer. Because that’s the pride of a true Engineer, and I wouldn’t work so hard if it means anything less.

This program is about inspiration. Especially, inspiration through interaction with the mentors. Mentors like Al, Andy, Dave are trying very hard to share their views with us, views full of experience and truth, things many of us don’t have. So, for god’s sake, learn from them already! If I can smack you on the head, I will, because this is a chance of a life time, and you can argue or you can listen.

Good luck ;-).

mechanicalbrain
08-25-2005, 01:01 AM
I just want to point out that I don’t think it is a stalemate, not even close. A majority of the Engineers in this thread are expressing a consistent view toward the title “Engineer”, and that’s enough to convince me (and I think most of the readers) who is right and who is wrong. If you continue to stick by your position, that’s your right and we can’t do anything about that. Just don’t expect us to feel responsible to educate you further about this.

Frankly, I think that it should be hard for someone to become an Engineer. It should be so tough that it take us years of learning, thinking, studying, and practicing before we become a good Engineer. I think it should be so hard that when we finally earn the degree and title it is going to be sweet.

Because anything else will degrade the integrity and prestige so many Engineers worked so hard to put into the title. Because anything else will confuse people to think that anyone can be an Engineer, when in fact the title “Engineer” only belong to those who spent years and years practicing the philosophy of Engineering and proved to the world that he/she really is a great Engineer. Because anything else will compromise the standard, and that standard is the only thing that guarantees the quality and dedication of an Engineer. Because that’s the pride of a true Engineer, and I wouldn’t work so hard if it means anything less.

This program is about inspiration. Especially, inspiration through interaction with the mentors. Mentors like Al, Andy, Dave are trying very hard to share their views with us, views full of experience and truth, things many of us don’t have. So, for god’s sake, learn from them already! If I can smack you on the head, I will, because this is a chance of a life time, and you can argue or you can listen.

Good luck ;-).

I don't think he or I ever questioned any of that. I know for me I agrree but I think you can not get a degree in engineering and still qualify everything you just said. Essentially a degree isn't the only way to become an engineer just the only way to become a legal one.

Philip W.
08-25-2005, 10:25 AM
I just want to point out that I don’t think it is a stalemate, not even close. A majority of the Engineers in this thread are expressing a consistent view toward the title “Engineer”, and that’s enough to convince me (and I think most of the readers) who is right and who is wrong.There is no right or wrong, it is only wrong to think that there is either. To be technical, we're all wrong according to the dictionary, but of course, our personal opinions will override the definition from that book. Threads like this one has become are only displays of our opinions, and to not be considerate of that in the ChiefDelphi community is actually quite disappointing. This has already been mentioned, but I'm sure the high school student that called himself an engineer didn't mean to offend the professional engineers that worked hard to earn that title and should be forgiven (if you haven't yet already). His view on the title of Engineer was different from the general opinion, and by everyone else expressing their views probably has changed his.

Because anything else will degrade the integrity and prestige so many Engineers worked so hard to put into the title. Because anything else will confuse people to think that anyone can be an Engineer, when in fact the title “Engineer” only belong to those who spent years and years practicing the philosophy of Engineering and proved to the world that he/she really is a great Engineer. Because anything else will compromise the standard, and that standard is the only thing that guarantees the quality and dedication of an Engineer. Because that’s the pride of a true Engineer, and I wouldn’t work so hard if it means anything less. According to this, the only ones with the right to call themselves an engineer are great engineers with "years and years of practising the philosophy of engineering", and that the recent engineering major graduates that immediately changed their CD "Team Role" to Engineer are wrong. To deprive engineers that are lesser than great of their title, I believe, is wrong. As for the standard of engineers, that duty belongs to the colleges, they accept potential engineers and shape them into professional engineers.

Frankly, I think that it should be hard for someone to become an Engineer. It should be so tough that it take us years of learning, thinking, studying, and practicing before we become a good Engineer. I think it should be so hard that when we finally earn the degree and title it is going to be sweet.Let's face it, not everyone will work the hardest to become an engineer. If someone graduated from JoeSchmoe College in an engineering major, that person has technically earned the title of Engineer even if little effort was put into it. Now, you may be thinking "HAH! Of course not! That person can't call them self an Engineer." Are you? Take a second to think.

- - -

If that's the case, your criteria of the title Engineer includes one's character, probably that an engineer must be hard-working, creative, and extremely passionate of the field. It sure is my criteria that I judge upon, but when I do call someone an engineer from this criteria, I don't mean it absolutely seriously. This system of mine doesn't apply only to engineers, but simply any profession. If I see a high school student (or anyone) passionate, skilled in a field, and bound to be successful in the field, I will call them that profession, whether it be doctor, lawyer, or writer. Keep in mind, I do this with a very informal attitude. Are the people I title real engineers, doctors, and etc? Nope, but I'll continue to use this system as a confidence/determination booster and it's fun (for lack of a better phrase). In no way do I mean to offend those who have worked hard to earn the respective professional title.

Here goes it. I am in the eleventh grade, and I am an Engineer. I love constructing things, I love to design, I love to succeed, and I love FIRST. I am an engineer by character, but in no way am I a professional engineer, I have at least 6 years ahead of me until I earn that illustrious title.

sciguy125
08-25-2005, 10:54 AM
I'd like to make one final post before I retire from the discussion. I'm not trying to argue anything else, I just want to clarify my position.

I haven't been arguing that people that hold engineering degrees didn't work hard, or that they should not be respected, but rather that a degree isn't what makes you an engineer. I remind you of the question I posed earlier: Which came first, the engineer or the engineering degree? Gates droped out of college. Does that mean that he wasn't an engineer (I don't want to argue that a programmer isn't an engineer, if that's what you're thinking...just go with me for a second)? What about the engineers that were around before there were engineering degrees? Is it the degree that makes the engineer? Or is it that the engineer seeks the engineering degree?

(By making the following comments I am in no way trying to deemphasize the achievements that are also represented in the pieces of paper.) An engineering degree is a piece of paper that tells the state that you are an engineer. I don't see why you need a piece of paper to tell you that you are an engineer. Take a marriage certificate for example. It tells the state that you are married and that you can be held responsible for all the responsibilites that come with the title. Do you need a piece of paper to tell you and your spouse that you are married? I thought marriage was about making a commitment to be there for each other. If two (maybe more - I don't want to argue this point though) people say that they are married, but don't have this special piece of paper, I will respect their marriage as any other. What if they have a religious ceremony (or whatever their religion requires) but don't bother to get a state certificate? If they made the commitment to each other, I don't see why they need state approval. While they are not legally married (and thus don't get the legal benefits that come with the title), aren't they still married?

I feel that engineering is the same way. If you uphold the "philosophy" of "engineering", why do you need a piece of paper to say that you are an engineer? I'm not saying that you should have the same respect as a degree holder (they worked hard for that), but why can't you say that you are an engineer?

(In the following statments, I am not trying to hide or ignore the inherent dangers that come with the situation. I am also not saying that this specific situation is plausible or even a good idea. I just want to pose a thought experiment.) Let's say that you find yourself a doctor. He treats you of your ailments and you feel great afterwards. You later find that he does not hold a medical degree. Will that make you lose your trust in him? He did his job as a "doctor", didn't he? If you feel better, he obviously did a good job of it too. Does he really need the special piece of paper to say he is a doctor if he can do his job?

Again, I am trying to say that you don't need to have a degree to be an engineer. You may need a degree to be a professional engineer (as in an a person who works as an engineer, not necessarily a person with PE certification), but an engineer is someone who engineers. A person who programs is a programmer. A person who cooks is a chef. A person who takes pictures is a photographer. A person who delivers mail is a mail carrier. A person who engineers is an engineer. Unless you hold proper training/certification (or whatever else your field requires), however, you are not a professional in the field.

I'd like to sit here and refine myself a little more, but this library computer is going to kick me off in a few mintues and I have class soon. I hope that I have made myself clear in what I have been able to say in the last hour though.

I understand what all of you are trying to tell me, but I don't completely agree. I don't expect you to agree with me either, just understand where I am coming from. I ask you one final time to wrap up my points: Which came first? The engineer or the engineering degree?

Ken Leung
08-25-2005, 11:11 AM
Here goes it. I am in the eleventh grade, and I am an Engineer. I love constructing things, I love to design, I love to succeed, and I love FIRST. I am an engineer by character, but in no way am I a professional engineer, I have at least 6 years ahead of me until I earn that illustrious title.

Nope, sorry. But good luck becoming a true Engineer ;-).

I ask you one final time to wrap up my points: Which came first? The engineer or the engineering degree?

To this question, I will have to say, you will need both of them in this society.

Dave Flowerday
08-25-2005, 11:13 AM
Let's say that you find yourself a doctor. He treats you of your ailments and you feel great afterwards. You later find that he does not hold a medical degree. Will that make you lose your trust in him?
ABSOLUTELY!!!
Does he really need the special piece of paper to say he is a doctor if he can do his job?
He most certainly does.

Al Skierkiewicz
08-25-2005, 11:22 AM
Hello,
I would like to point out that students (including engineering majors in post high school education) frequently decide to change their field of study to something other than engineering. So as you have pointed out, you wish to study to be an engineer but the path has not been completed.
To point back to Ken's post, it is hard to become an engineer, very hard. It is hard whether you attend U of I, Bradley, MIT or Berkley( add the Alma Mater of your choice). The curriculum's are driven by the need for trained individuals with the tools needed to accomplish the tasks and be creative. Even a painter needs brushes and paint and an understanding of how to mix them into colors before he can put anything on canvas.
To quote a famous movie line..."Of course it's hard. If it wasn't hard everyone would be doing it. It is the hard that makes it great." (Tom Hanks, A League of Their Own) That is why engineers want you to become an engineer. It is hard so not everyone can do it, but we know you can do it. It is great and that is why we want you to be part of it.

Ken Leung
08-26-2005, 03:03 AM
I've been regretting it ever since I posted my last reply in this thread. In all the talks about inspiration and tolerance I let my emotions got better of me. I think we should let the argument end here and that's the end of that. There are only two more things I want to mention.

You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but the Engineers in this thread have been through a lot, and their view is one full of experiences that you and I have not had a chance to have. While your own experience have convinced you otherwise, I urge you to keep your mind open and not let what you know limit who you will be. Learning from the scientific method, our theories are only as good as the data we collect. If we continue to keep our eyes open and recognize when new data comes in, then our theories will only be more precise and beneficial. So, who knows. You might change your mind later when you've seen enough. Either way, I encourage you to challenge your own believes as often as you can, and only accept them after putting them through the harshest test you can think of. Because that’s the best way to learn and grow.

The other thing is, there is no name, no title, no test result, no degree, no action, no skill that can truly define who an engineer really is. But you will recognize one when you see one. It is in this kind of dilemma when I truly recognize how limiting words are. The more important thing is the idea behind the name "Engineer", and that's where I think we differ. While you have your version of what an Engineer is, so do others in this thread.

You are entitled to your opinion, but I am more inclined to agree with others who think becoming an Engineer should be hard, not because it makes the name more important, but because it is a better image to show to the students in FIRST. They should know that it should be hard to become an Engineer, that you can't just learn one skill, pass one test, or finish one course and become one. They should want to earn it, and push hard to achieve the title, instead of thinking they became one just because they joined FIRST and built a robot. Because when and only when that happen will they work so hard that they are guaranteed to become a great Engineer one day. Because that's the kind of Engineers our world really needs.


Anyway... I think we should point the discussion toward a more positive direction, so, let's go back to the original topic. While we are at it, I want to start another thread to discuss more about Engineering (While I have some free time to do so). It just feels so good when I am learning ;-).

VEN
04-11-2006, 07:46 PM
I want to become and aeronautics engineer. Maybe in the Canadian Air Force.

Ken Leung
06-10-2006, 04:03 PM
[It's graduation day from Thomas Kuhn, the structure of scientific revolutions!]

Ever since this debate last year, I've given a lot of thought into this topic. Part of it is because even until now, I felt I was arguing for my position irrationally, from emotional responds more than anything else. I've regret that position as soon as I pressed the "submit" button, and I've been looking for a more rational answer since then.

I've finally found part of the answers from a book that talks about the nature of science and scientific practioners. I will attempt to shed some light on this discussion from that perspective, a perspective entirely different from the ones we've used.

I will let you be the judge of whether that perspective is justified or not.

Quoted from the text of "The structure of scientific revolutions" by Thomas S. Kuhn:

"In this essay, 'normal science' means research firmly based upon one or more past scientific achievements, achievements that some particular scientific community acknowledge for a time as supplying the foundation for its further practice.

These achievements I shall henceforth refer to as 'paradigms'. By choosing it, I meant to suggest that some accepted examples of actual scientific practice- examples which include law, theory, application, and instrumentation that together- provide models from which spring particular coherent traditions of scientific research. These are traditions which the historian describes under such rubrics as 'Copernican astronomy', Newtonian dynamics', and so on.

The study of paradigms, including many that are far more specialized than those named illustratively above, is what mainly prepares the student for membership in the particular scientific community with which he will late practice. Because he there joins men who learned the bases of their field from the same concrete models, his subsequent practice will seldom evoke overt disagreement over fundamentals. Men whose research is based on shared paradigm are committed to the same rules and standards for scientific practice. That commitment and the apparent consensus it produces are prerequisites for normal science, i.e., for the genesis and continuation of a particular research tradition.

Science students accept theories on the authority of teacher and text, not because of evidence. What alternatives have they, or what competence? The applications given in texts are not there as evidence but because learning them is part of learning the paradigm at the base of current practice.

No natural history can be interpreted in the absence of at least some implicit body of intertwined theoretical and methodological belief that permits selection, evaluation, and criticism."


If you buy the picture describe by Kuhn that scientists work together as a communities governed by 'paradigms', or bodies of theory, law, application, and instrumentations that provide models from which spring the traditions of scientific research, then perhaps it make sense that an Engineer have to receive a degree before they can officially become an Engineer.

Engineers work together as a community very much like scientists, in the sense that we also practice Engineering on shared paradigms, and are committed to the same rules and standards for that practice.

The shared commitment is a good thing because we don't have to waste time discussing the fundamentals. It's also good thing because we don't have to waste time arguing the definitions of things like "energy", "power", "current", "heat", and we can spend more time in the articulation of paradigms and trying to bring facts and theories closer and closer to agreements.

And in order to become a part of this community, students of engineering have to study these community governing paradigms, and particularly, the examples provide by the textbooks, because they allow us to learn the paradigm at the base of current practice. In engineering school, we learn which engineering theories are used to describe which part of the real world, we learn about how these theories are applied to real life by studying various applications, and we learn about the kind of instruments that have given us these theories and applications.

Ultimately, in engineering schools, we learn the standards that engineers base their practice on.


In other words, we have to go through all that because engineering schools provide us with the means to join the engineering community, not in title, but by teaching us shared standards and practices currently employed by that community. We go through engineering school because it also gives us access to the paradigm that currently governs the same engineering community, because once we are all on the same page, at least in terms of practice, standards, philosophy, or beliefs, we can go right into the profession of engineering and continue the work started by engineers who came before us.

We need an Engineer degree, or a piece of paper as some of you call it, because it proves that we've gone through the process of learning from institutions the shared standards, practices, philosophies, beliefs, and most importantly, the shared paradigms that the community is using.


Yes, it is true that you could learn about engineering without ever going to school. You could even learn the methods, applications, and solutions without ever though through school and getting a degree.

But, I would argue that if you don't go through engineering school to get a degree, you are missing out on chances to:

1. learn the complete standards and practices of the community of engineering,
2. learn to communicate effectively in the language employed by the engineering community,
3. learn about engineering effectively when other people, whether they are engineering students or teachers, challenge you and your knowledge and you challenge them back, and in the process, learn to apply and articulate the knowledge you gained about engineering,

I would also argue that going through engineering school also give you access to place you otherwise wouldn't have access to, such as
1. the academic environment, where new generations of engineers are being trained,
2. the higher researches not just in the field of engineering, but also in the field of science, mathematics, among other things (Philosophy, psychology, etc),
3. and in general, the community of students, faculty, and professionals who strive succeed in the academic environment.


Granted, you can learn about engineering, even how to become an engineer without ever going to school and getting a degree. Ultimately, you will be the one tp decide what you want out of life. You don't have to get an engineering degree, or become part of the community of engineers, to do what engineers do.

But considering Engineering is a practice of a community, there are many reasons that compels you to go through school, and get that engineering degree.


I can't justify any ultimate reason why you must get an engineering degree, so I will leave you with this final thought by repeating what Kuhn said earlier:

" The study of paradigms, including many that are far more specialized than those named illustratively above, is what mainly prepares the student for membership in the particular scientific community with which he will late practice. Because he there joins men who learned the bases of their field from the same concrete models, his subsequent practice will seldom evoke overt disagreement over fundamentals. Men whose research is based on shared paradigm are committed to the same rules and standards for scientific practice. That commitment and the apparent consensus it produces are prerequisites for normal science, i.e., for the genesis and continuation of a particular research tradition."

and this quote that keep coming up in my mind as I thought about this:

"No man is an island, entirely of itself…" - John Donne

Eugenia Gabrielov
06-10-2006, 04:26 PM
Sometimes, for old times sake, I go back and read those controversial threads. I noticed this one had replies today, and as I read it, I thought again about the question of what Engineers do.

Like Ken, my thoughts since I first read this thread have changed. Last time I read it, I chose not to bother replying, because it was a war zone that had deviated from topic. After applying to college, being accepted to a few excellent Biomedical Engineering programs, and reading this again, I realize the significance of the certificate, the time put into researching the solution to the problem, and how easy and wrong it is to just say "oh, I've done this already..." when it's truly not the case.

With that said...any Biomedical Engineers out there want to share their stories? Not Biomedical Engineering majors (unless you just want to give class advice, that rocks too), not HS students that plan to major in Biomedical Engineering, but the people who inspired me to choose this major though I'll be attending graduate school for Medical practice.

Richard Wallace
06-10-2006, 06:02 PM
Most of what I believe on the subject of 'who is an engineer' was well covered by others in this thread, many months ago.

I have been an engineer in training for about thirty years now. Timeline:

1972-1976 HS nerd in South Carolina (when nerds weren't cool)
1976-1977 freshman at Furman University (where there was no engineering department)
1977-1983 co-op student at Georgia Tech (during this period I worked as a 'co-op student engineer' for a total of 27 months)
1983 Bachelor of Electrical Engineering, Georgia Tech
1983-1985 member of technical staff, TRW Defense Systems, Redondo Beach (never mind what I did during this period)
1985-1990 graduate student at Georgia Tech (during this period I taught classes in electromagnetism and electric machinery, completed an NSF-funded research project under direction of my thesis advisor, and published three articles in refereed engineering journals)
1990 Ph.D. Electrical Engineering, Georgia Tech
1991-1995 Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, University of Missouri (during this period I taught classes in electric machinery and power electronics, co-directed a research center in power electronics, and advised and supervised eleven graduate students through their MS degrees)
1995-2006 Chief Engineer, Emerson Motor Technologies (during this period I have originated, managed, and reviewed the electrical and mechanical design of new electronically controlled motor products for a variety of applications, including several for automotive components; I have also been an engineering mentor for FRC teams in 1996-1997 and 2002-2006)

Along this path I've encountered many difficult problems, and more often than not, my attempts to solve those problems have forced me to learn things about engineering that I didn't know before.

As Al wrote earlier in this thread, ... a person who loves what they are doing never has to work a day in their life.I have yet to work a day as an engineer.

Brian C
06-11-2006, 10:44 PM
WOW!

An interesting exchange of ideas and viewpoints.

I have mixed feelings on this subject. While I most definitely feel that you are not an engineer without a degree and society, as a whole recognizes this as well.

I also have to say that in my experience, some of the best engineers/designers I have ever known do not have degrees. While these folks are not working as professional engineers they do have the "know how" and the ability to apply it to do whatever is required to improve a process or make something better. (and safely too I might add)

I guess my true feelings are this: The best engineers are people that can combine common sense and education and apply both to their work. Education without common sense is like a load of books on the back of a mule.

Oh, and don't forget, Dean never actually graduated from his college (WPI) with an engineering degree. Yes, I know that he has received honorary degrees but technically ;) those don't count.

I'm not looking to bash anyone or anything here, just want to offer another point of view. Sometimes an open mind is the most important thing you can have.

tcj103
04-05-2007, 10:59 AM
I agree, book smarts only get you so far.

As for me, BS in Aerospace Engineering, minor in Engineering Mechanics, from Penn State.

But my work is more software related, but on a fly by wire flight control system on a rotorcraft. While I don't do code directly, I work at the system integration level, looking at logic diagrams and addressing software/hardware integration.

Basically this means we have a computer flying the airplane, and the software that does that and detects faults is in my area, along with the components and how they perform. Failures are logged, and troubleshooting performed.

I've awlways had the aviation bug, was a pilot for 15 years, and always enjoyed playing with machines and computers. As a mentor, FIRST has always been a source of inspiration for me, since you see results so quickly. I constantly remind the students of what they're learning.

Ted

MrForbes
04-05-2007, 11:28 AM
I have a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. Mechanical things always interested me....I recall fixing the transmission in a toy Jeep I had when I was about 7 years old, and when I was a little kid I always used to (and still do) stare intently at junk cars I see when driving around. My brothers got into electronics when I was about 10, I did a bit too, but never really understood the magic of transistors...instead I preferred to build model cars. When I was 14 I took apart the engine in an old car we had, and rebuilt it. All through high school I worked on the neighbor's cars, from minor stuff to engine and transmission overhauls, and did an engine swap in my truck when I was a senior. Since I had always been good at math and science, it seemed natural to go into engineering school after high school...and I had part time jobs at a salvage yard, then a transmission shop, to help pay my way.

After I graduated I ended up working at Ft Huachuca as an "electronics engineer", which involved a lot more paperwork than engineering (although I did get to have fun travelling around getting the SATCOM equipment working). When I finally got promoted to first level management, it became not fun at all, so I quit (my wife is also an engineer, and supports us). Since then I've worked on cars and raised the kids...and the only work I've done that approaches "real" engineering in that time, has been helping the robot team design and build a robot this year!

As a side note, my brothers both dropped out of engineering school before completing their degrees, and both are very knowledgeable and skilled electrical engineers--I call them that even though they don't have the paper, they really do know what they're doing, math and theory and all.

SuperJake
04-05-2007, 12:10 PM
So here is my two cents:

I am a Mechanical Engineer - graduated from Drexel University with my BS. I was recruited by Foster-Miller though a connection my Senior Design adviser had. Now I work on the TALON family of robots in the Future Robotics team. I do everything from field and production support to designing the next-generation robots. I chose mechanical because I really like figuring out how things work together. I like to be able to see things, hold them in my hand, and demonstrate how they work. It is this logical thinking that gives me the ability to understand computer logic, but I can't for the life of me learn how to talk computer. As far as I can concerned: as long as the magic smoke stays inside the electronics, my job is done. My day is just like any other typical engineer, but since I don't smoke, I spend my "smoke breaks" driving robots over our obstacle courses.

<edit>
So in casual conversation, one of my co-workers and I were talking about book smarts compared to engineering common sense. He said something that I thought interesting: "If you ask someone with a lot of book smarts how to solve a problem, you're probably going to get an answer that looks like the one in the book." Take from that what you will.
</edit>

Tazlikesrobots
04-05-2007, 01:38 PM
Jack of all trades...Master of none! :D