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Can ideological engineering save the day?

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EREBUS0
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re: Can ideological engineering save the day?
EREBUS0   9/25/2012 7:32:50 PM
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Engineering is a demanding profession. I do not see many more of the current and future generation who would be willing to go through the effort. Especially given the current educational phobia about math and science. We are doomed to see engineering skills leave this country and I see very little we can do about it. Just my opinion.

Bert22306
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re: Can ideological engineering save the day?
Bert22306   9/25/2012 8:20:07 PM
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Quite frankly, Sylvie, I think that fluff is a distraction. Yes, maybe some people will appear more interested when you fill a curriculum with "ideology," but that aspect of the curriculum won't make them better engineers. If they squeak by based on their "ideology" scores, I'd give them a pass as an employer. And I'm not implying that ideology doesn't matter! I'm merely saying that ideology should not distract from the rigorous course work, during the critical college and grad school years. Ideology will be part of the equation regardless. The other thing is, I have no clue how any student would not understand the value of engineering to society, especially these days. Adding fluff to make engineering more pleasing is a questionable approach. What is needed to get more kids into engineering, I believe, is more job prospects upon graduation. With all of the outsourcing frenzy in the daily news, it's hardly surprising that the less passionate are dissuaded. I don't think the "brightest minds" will be convinced with fluff, is my main point.

Duane Benson
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re: Can ideological engineering save the day?
Duane Benson   9/26/2012 6:23:18 AM
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I don't know that this generation is any more idealistic than most others. Folks coming of age in the 60's wanted to save the world. Those coming of age in the 70's seem to have suffered more from malaise than most, but this brand new universe of technology was exploding into society. The 80's, while clothes and hair were pretty weird, were full of people that wanted to use this new technology to create a better world. Extrapolate backward and forward and I think that idealism will be found in almost any generation.

Steve5678
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re: Can ideological engineering save the day?
Steve5678   9/26/2012 10:55:13 AM
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So long as companies continue to treat engineers as fungible assets, and until companies start showing that they really, truly believe the mantra repeated by the HR department that "our people are our most valuable resource", talented young people are going to continue to stay away from a career in engineering.

torfa
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re: Can ideological engineering save the day?
torfa   9/26/2012 12:49:02 PM
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It is not the math itself that you can't gloss over, but the mental discipline of going through the problem solving process, that has always been part of the engineering education. A precise statement of the problem - is there really a problem. What info do I have? What info is missing? How can I test my guesses? Etc, etc, etc? You cannot eliminate the hours per week of doing the homework, solving the (made up) problems. I cannot work the calc problems now, and don't really need to, but as a pretty good problem solver and troubleshooter, I know the learning of the calc and other higher level math, made me what I am today. Back in the 50s and 60s my idealism was anti-communism and the cold war. We were in a race with the Russians. But that is not the reason I wanted to be an engineer. Most good engineers (and they know who they are), were born to be that way. I am not sure you can make them from an artificial premise. Still working in my 70s.

JonD9
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re: Can ideological engineering save the day?
JonD9   9/26/2012 4:51:35 PM
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I think part of the problem is compensation; broadly speaking you can get paid much better with a JD or MBA than with a MS in engineering. This is a broad problem with how society "values" the contribution of a class of workers and isn't restricted to engineering (for instance schoolteachers are grossly under-compensated IMHO).

Code Monkey
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re: Can ideological engineering save the day?
Code Monkey   9/26/2012 4:56:58 PM
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The Apollo space program, politically motivated as it was, fired up an entire generation of engineers. Even if it was a sham it was valuable for that reason alone. Green tech and needs-driven engineering may be the new Apollo program.

RTewell
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re: Can ideological engineering save the day?
RTewell   9/26/2012 9:02:34 PM
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Green tech and needs-driven engineering will never be the new Apollo program. It does not in any way have the capacity to motivate a "tipping point" of engineers. The new Apollo program will be a manned mission to Mars. Period. Interestingly enough, a related article at EETimes recently put NASA as the number one choice for engineering students. I don't think they want to work for NASA to send up robots or create solar panel farms - unless the goal is terraforming Mars or a return mission to the Moon. Just my two cents. Perhaps, however, the two can be intertwined somehow. It will be clear that green tech will be required for future manned space missions - unless nuclear power will be the foregone conclusion there.

torfa
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re: Can ideological engineering save the day?
torfa   9/26/2012 9:17:09 PM
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Let me elaborate (my version) on needs driven engineering. I have always fully believed that what got us out of the great depression was the technology developed during WW2. We initially got in over our heads, but this nation got its act together. We met the need and kicked butt. After the war there was much new technology just waiting to be commercialized. The gov paid the vets to go to school, and made money available to entrepreneurs. The best and longest economic growth in this country's history took place for the next 20-30 years. The economists may still be scratching their heads about it. It is not in their texts. But the one big difference from today - we had it all to ourselves.

C VanDorne
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re: Can ideological engineering save the day?
C VanDorne   10/1/2012 1:40:36 PM
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These are excellent points from one of the venerable amongst us, Torfa. I really appreciate the long-view perspective and agree that the lasting effect of WW2 on our economy can't be understated. And if I may add some levity - you might like this one which came from a good friend and fellow EE while summing up our Cold War success: "Our German scientists were better then their German scientists".

AlPothoof
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re: Can ideological engineering save the day?
AlPothoof   9/27/2012 2:09:23 PM
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I'm with Bert, Steve and JonD. For the past decade or so, I have been of the opinion that we are asking the wrong question of the wrong end of the food chain. The question isn't why young people aren't interested in science and engineering; clearly humans are interested in these things. The question should be why companies can't get people to have careers in these areas. The answers are really quite simple: the pay is mediocre, the jobs are unstable, they don't get a lot of respect (at the companies or in general) and, increasingly, they don't get a chance to do anything except shuffle paper. Seems like an awful lot of work for not a lot of reward.

Charles J Gervasi
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re: Can ideological engineering save the day?
Charles J Gervasi   9/29/2012 10:37:35 PM
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I think this may be a case of poor choice of a word: "ideological". It sounds like what they're talking about is showing people that engineering solves human problems, in other words they're explaining the definition of engineering. That has nothing to do with an ideology. Ideology deals with questions like to what extent property rights should be respected. Engineering is a different discipline from that.

C VanDorne
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re: Can ideological engineering save the day?
C VanDorne   10/1/2012 2:23:17 PM
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Charles, you are on to something here but I would say that what is too idealogical is this discussion. Playing the role as this forum's cynic can be tiring but it's appropraite here. All one needs to know about what is going on here is in this sentence: "The program, sponsored by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, is designed to prepare students to solve the Grand Challenges facing society." I would encourage the forum to mull over that specific, telling statement and ask the appropriate questions thereof.

Quickbadger
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re: Can ideological engineering save the day?
Quickbadger   10/3/2012 5:03:29 PM
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You mean that specific, vague statment. I doubt this forum (or any other) could even agree to what the "Grand Challenges facing society" really are.

torfa
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re: Can ideological engineering save the day?
torfa   10/2/2012 9:37:28 PM
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Maybe the word should be altruistic - devoting oneself to a worthy cause. Maybe there should be an engineering peace corp. But I don't think you are going to get too many people to put up with the rigors of eng school for 4-5 years just to be a nice guy (or gal). Medical Drs go thru quite an lengthy ordeal until they can actually practice, but they know in the long run they will be well rewarded.

ayeshaa
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re: Can ideological engineering save the day?
ayeshaa   10/2/2012 7:21:46 AM
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ayeshaa
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re: Can ideological engineering save the day?
ayeshaa   10/2/2012 7:25:15 AM
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Quickbadger
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re: Can ideological engineering save the day?
Quickbadger   10/3/2012 4:58:05 PM
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It sounds as though you are presuming what the students' ideology is. None of your ideas sounds appealing to me nor would they to many of the young people I know. Helping people is not a universal ideal. What needs to happen to get more interest in engineering is to remove ideology so the students can follow their own. Also, reform primary education back to the basics (reading, writing, and math). Engineering would be less daunting if the students were better qualified coming out of high school.

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