The topic “professions” is what my son is working on in school right now. He is eight years old and is in second grade. The kids learn a little about all classical professions like teachers, doctors, pilots, cleaners and so on.
During the last meeting they held for us parents, my son’s teacher mentioned that they would love to get a visit from parents who could talk a little about their own profession. I thought this is an excellent opportunity to introduce the kids to engineering, since I believe it is important to do it early in life.
So, I grabbed the opportunity and now I have started to prepare for my visit. I asked my son’s teacher to give the kids in the class a paper where they would write down: What is an engineer and what do they do?
I received 27 answers. This is what they have written:
Note: I have translated the answers from Swedish to English, so the words are not exactly what the kids wrote.
I think I can tell which kids that were sitting next to each other, since some answers are exactly the same. As I thought, many kids don’t have a clue of what en engineer is and what do they do. However, I found two answers that I think really are on the right track. Take a look at number #9: “I think there are a lot of different kinds of engineers. They work with a lot of different stuff”, and number #23: “I think they help people. :-p”.
So, I checked what Wikipedia says:
Engineers are people who invent, design, analyze, build and test machines, systems, structures and materials to fulfill objectives and requirements while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, regulation, safety, and cost. The word engineer (Latiningeniator) is derived from the Latin words ingeniare (“to contrive, devise”) and ingenium(“cleverness”). The foundation education of an engineer is typically a 4-year bachelor’s degree in an engineering discipline or in some countries, a master’s degree in an engineering discipline plus 4–6 years of peer-reviewed professional practice culminating in a project report, thesis, or engineering board’s examinations.
The work of engineers forms the link between scientific discoveries and their subsequent applications to human and business needs and quality of life.
That description makes you go to sleep, right? 😉 If you would tell that to your kids, they would think engineering sounds really boring, or? So, what would be a better way to describe an engineer then?
To be able to solve a puzzle completely, you’ll need all the pieces and an idea of how it will look like when it is finished. All the different pieces need to fit with each other, and put in the right position. The way to solve a puzzle is to add one piece to the other, one by one, until all pieces are in place and the puzzle is done.
When you understand how technical systems work, you soon realize that just to assume how something functions is not sufficient. To be able to work with technical systems, it is important to understand, that every single part of the solution is a piece of a puzzle. To be able to put all pieces together to a working system they need to fit and be in the right place. And here is where the magic happens, there can be several solutions that fit and are in the right place, and therefore the result can be totally different. Then it is up to the users to decide which result is the most desirable.
If we take a look at different technical systems, no matter if they are very complex or not, you will find mathematics in the background, which people use to control the systems with. A strive is basically to make our lives less complicated and more comfortable. All technical systems are made by people with the intention to solve some sort of problem.
The entire world is connected by different types of natural, technical and social systems, or a mixture of all. This is why there are so many different kinds of engineers. Which kind of problems an engineer works with, depends on the education they have. As an example, I have studied the field of mechatronics which is a combination of computer, mechanical and electrical science. I work with cars, which are mechatronic products. The problems I and my colleagues work to solve are things like, how can we improve an already existing, or a new function, to make the user experience of the systems even better.
My statement is that an engineer is a puzzle master who works together with other engineers to create new and modified technical systems, which can be used to solve problems with already existing technical systems or other types of natural, technical or social systems. There are a lot of different kinds of problems to be solved around the world and that is why there are so many different types of engineers.
I would say that an engineer plays, in a structured and playful way, to find solutions for problems that can be solved with technical systems. The purpose with these technical systems is to make our lives less complicated and more comfortable.
Do you agree or not? Just leave a comment below and tell me what you think!