Degrees, certificates and institutional reputation attempt to summarize the quality of educational knowledge for 3rd parties, but experience is not so easily summarized or abstracted. I see a lot of projects staffed by engineers with 0-3 years experience. They're bright and hardworking, but they still have a lot of mistakes to make and they may not even have completed a product yet!
The problem stems from upper management's ignorance about what a software engineer is. A programmer is defined by what languages he knows. A software engineer is defined by his overall knowledge of hardware/software, algorithms, signal processing, different hardware and software architectures, design patterns, etc....and most importantly, the ability to pick up a new technology and be an expert in it very quickly.
Upper management sees an engineer as an engineer and they are all the same so the cheaper you can get them, the more productive your company will be.....NOT TRUE. Outsourcing core competency has ended more than a few companies. I was a part of such a company. The company had to increase spending to manage the outsourced people. The engineers in china (where they outsourced to) tended to not have as broad an education and were mostly just out of school. The turnaround rate was above 70%, and those people went to their competitors and had no honor about keeping company secrets. There are no laws to control that across borders. Ultimately it cost similar prices to work with outsourced engineering, due to management costs, increased travelling, rehiring and incentives to keep employees, and paying more taxes to support the new awareness in these companies towards pollution and the emerging class differences being created by western countries.
Bottom line, the great designers are currently laid off and cannot find work in the US as they are considered too old (45+).
They don't really exist in the developing countries as engineers with 20+ years experience have immigrated to the US.
I have had both great and terrible professors, the main difference being whether they could convey the real world concepts behind the theory. Likewise, too many newer engineers simulate a solution and think it is "good to go". It seems that they never had the experience of comparing simulations to real devices, there are always trade-offs made with models and simulators. Experience is needed to understand the pitfalls of a simulation and experience requires some hands on work. I would encourage new engineers, engineering students, and professionals to combine both theory and real world. This is the best of both worlds: ease of simulation/lower cost versus real device operation/time and cost. It can be a lot of fun as well!
Recently, top ranked students entering college in the state of Tamil Nadu have chosen ECE over Computer Science (http://www.c2clive.com/latestnewsdetail.php?id=1594). This seems to be the trend in India now. I feel this is perhaps due to the better availability of tools and the steady transition of hardware design from a schematics capture process towards a process more similar to software design (HDL, scripting etc). Interestingly Mechanical Engg (3rd choice) is not too far behind Computer Science (2nd choice of students). So I believe Mechanical Engg will follow suit just like ECE is doing now.
Better tools generate more interest in students. However, they need to understand the role of tools. Tools are aids and only help if your fundamentals (core principles) are good. They cannot replace knowledge of core principles. And I believe they do realize that. I know of ECE students who finish at the top of the class, but still take up a job at a software firm - perhaps from the learning that electronics design is more than just mastering the tools. How such students top the class is a separate topic.
Bottomline: Good engineers know how to get things done and realize that tools can only aid them, not solve the problems for them. And, I am a firm believer of market economy - if there are more mechanical engineers needed, they will be generated.
Although there may have been more of a focus on software and IT, it seems that hardware design is becoming much more prevalent in India. There seems to be no problem with core principles in electronics, so why is it different for machine design? Could it be primarily a supply and demand issue, such that fewer Indian engineering students are attracted to mechanical engineering because there are fewer career opportunities for them with that field of study?
Thanks for this article. There is a very serious problem if the professors do not possess the educational background or the real-world hands-on training to teach engineering courses. We cannot blame today’s young people for following college curriculum that is not properly designed, nor have educators that are thoroughly prepared. On the other side, I strongly agree, there are students that are attractive to software; but this doesn’t mean that today’s students are not interested in machine design. Software attractiveness is due to the job market demand for students to be able to use software tools, such as ProE and other engineering software. There are a lot of bright and talented young students who are interested in learning new engineering skills as well as learning the old engineering concepts and principles. I have had the honor of overseeing an engineering program at a community college , and during my tenure, many local employees were very interested in students that had hands-on engineering software training like ProE. To improve this process, there should be communication between the local colleges and universities and the real-world engineers. So, if there’s anyone to blame, we need to blame India’s leaders in the engineering community and the educators that are not prepared to educator tomorrow’s future engineers.
I have no problem with that definition but I notice that modern design has become so complex, particularly of say ICs, that very few engineers, almost none, have the complete overview.
The result is that there are many teams working in interlocking cells that take the arcane inputs from one set of colleagues, do the collation and transformation of those inputs using their own process and then send another set of arcane outputs on....that is the reality.
We, the engineers, claim that engineering is all about know-how. In my view, this term 'know-how' has been misunderstood by many young engineers of the modern generation.
In my view, "Know-how" does not mean as in 'I know-how to use the tool-X to convert this design from from-P to form-Q and then I know-how to use tool-Y to perform operation-A followed by operation-B to reach the simulation model.......' Nope, it does not mean that.
"Know-how", in my eyes, would rather mean 'As an engineer, I know-how to solve this problem, such that the solution that I implement full-fills the requirements, in such a way so as to make these users happy'. These is a clear-cut difference between the two motives.
I have heard the commonly quoted definition of an engineer: "An ingenious man capable of designing new things for the advancement of human race". I wonder how and where a CAD-designer would fit the bill?
I think that a carreer should begin in the workshop.
I would never be trust a design performed by a "theoretical" engineer.
Maybe they draw very beautiful components, get realistic images and simulate very complex structures but when they are to be built... the real world is quite different.
On the other hand, a design that fits the best in India would not be applicable in South America because the cost of materials, transport and other compoments of production are not the same for each country.
NASA's Orion Flight Software Production Systems Manager Darrel G. Raines joins Planet Analog Editor Steve Taranovich and Embedded.com Editor Max Maxfield to talk about embedded flight software used in Orion Spacecraft, part of NASA's Mars mission. Live radio show and live chat. Get your questions ready.
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