Last month, fellow EETimes editor Susan Rambo shared some common experiences when living with an engineer parent. I would like to follow up with a glimpse into the life of a parent of a natural engineer. Here I outline a few tips for parents who may find themselves in a similar situation.
All parents can identify with being subjected to relentless and unyielding questioning by their child. Often the inquisition begins with simple questions such as "What is rain?" but quickly spirals out of control until you can no longer bear to hear the words "But why?" anymore. Some of you, however, also may identify with the unique and interesting experience of having a natural engineer as a child.
Young Spock as he appeared in the 2009 movie.
I have two sons. Both extremely bright, witty, and dare I say handsome. One was born an engineer, the other an artist. This is EE Times after all, so I'm going to focus on the engineer.
You may be wondering to yourself, "How do I know if my child is an engineer?" I believe you can break it down into these three categories: Connections, Obsession, and Destruction.
Lets start with Connections.
A perfect example of this would be with the popular toy K'Nex. In this hypothetical situation, I hand a few K'nex parts to each of my boys.
He would immediately cram two long pieces in his mouth, exclaim he was a sabre-toothed tiger, and charge out of the room. I would like to point out that he skipped over the obvious choice of the walrus. Within a few hours he would find new and interesting ways to connect the pieces, pointing out what they looked like, as though they were clouds in the sky. He may become frustrated with them at some point due to their limited combinations and boring, homogeneous results.
He would inspect the parts closely. He would stare at them for quite some time, noting how they fit together. Then he would ask, "Why do the long ones have ridges?" In a few hours he will have built a structure as tall as he can manage. Either he has run out of pieces, or it is no longer able to hold its own weight.
Next, the connections come into play. The two boys may be watching How It's Made or some simliar show -- it could be weeks later. Maybe they're watching an episode on steel girders. The engineer sees that the steel is made in an I-beam shape to make it stronger. He jumps up, runs to me, and exclaims, eyes wide with an even wider smile: "For structural integrity!"
At this moment the parental figure will generally have no idea what the child is talking about. I advise you to stay calm and ask what the topic of this observation is. The deluge of data that will follow will surely squelch any curiousity you had on the topic. You see, the question of the ridges had been swimming around in his mind, unanswered until that moment when he was capable of connecting that design method to the question. That connection was significant. From this point forward, that child understands that design method's uses beyond just iron girders.