I agree with your editorial on engineering Masters’ degrees versus MBAs (“What good is an MS?” Oct. 11), but I think you missed a bigger picture.
Engineering as a profession is not looked upon with much respect by our society. Having practiced for over 30 years as a Registered Professional Engineer with a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (but no MBA), I find engineers are their own worst enemies in regards to the value of the profession. Engineering is one of the few professions around that does not actually require practitioners be licensed. You can’t be a bookkeeper or hairdresser if you’re not licensed. And if you don’t pass the Bar exam, you are a paralegal not an attorney. But you don’t even need a degree to be called an engineer.
The engineering degree has less worth because industry and the profession’s standards are woefully low. If we do not hold the profession in high regard, why should others? If the standard to be called an engineer was higher, and it was a crime to engineer without a license, the profession would be looked on with much greater respect.
A handful of top-flight business schools have taken a page from their own teachings and marketed their product extremely well, making the MBA much more fashionable. And a rising tide lifts all ships; Even MBAs from “Backwater U” are now more valuable (and available). Engineering could use a heavy dose of marketing to improve its image, and a strong lobby group to raise its standards.
Show me the details
I would like to know some of the details behind the article “Design files don’t always fly (as CFD models)” (Sept. 27, News). Specifically, I would like to know what CAD system was used, including version, and whether the X-38 was machined from CAD models or drawings. We have been evaluating the risks of going to a paperless (drawing-less) product definition system (ASME Y14.41-2003) and this information maybe relevant.
Roy T. Gosline
We were the firm that used 3D laser scanners (Faro) to capture the shape of the airplane and create an accurate CAD model from this data. Your question about the software we used is difficult to answer easily. We used several software packages including Poly- Works, Imageware, and Solid- Works for different aspects of the project. In the end, the plane was modeled to reside in SolidWorks. As for downstream processing, it was not machined but it could be from the resulting data, or it could be rapid prototyped. In our case, the model is being used for computational fluid-dynamic analysis of airflows around the shapes. It is obviously much cheaper to run computer simulations than fly the actual plane under those conditions. — Michael Raphael, President & Chief Engineer, Direct Dimensions Inc.
We need real engineers
I’ve just read Jeffrey Bee’s response to a letter saying engineering was a dead end (Letters, August 23). He touched on some points I thought were solely mine. The main one is that engineers need to be grown, not just taught.
I’m at least a third-generation mechanical engineer. Coming from such a hands-on background, I was shocked that other students in engineering school didn’t get their hands dirty actually making anything. Then when I hi t the f ield, I heard how frustrated machinists were after dealing with engineers who didn’t understand or appreciate how something is made. I never understood why someone would chose engineering, especially mechanical engineering, if they did not enjoy working steel. I didn’t know how you could design something without understanding how it is to be made. The advent of CAD has worsened the situation. With hand sketches, it is easy to make a concept work. But when you start scaling it, problems get identified. CAD gives you the scale directly and lets you draw anything. These “clean-hand” engineers never ask if their solution makes sense. They don’t have a feel for scale, but it looks great on the screen.
There are two types of engineers: The decreasing-in-numbers “old-school” variety and the “Wow, great starting salary” pretenders. The second kind usually end up saying engineering school is tough. Of course it is, if you don’t have the aptitude. Eventually, they move into upper management so they can lead people doing things they themselves can’t understand.
In the field I have worked, engineering entails managing paperwork. We are handed piles of procedures and requirements written so that anyone can do the job because all of the steps are documented, even the creative process. We are trying to make everyone indistinguishable , so that management doesn’t have to (since they can’t) do their job.
Let’s get the right people into engineering before it is too late.
More goofy tools
You had some amusing definitions of tools in the Sept. 13 edition, here are some more; Hammer: Nail bender. Power Nailer: Wood splitter. Planer: Gouger. Drill/driver: Instant screw-head deformer. Skill saw: Saw that requires more skill than you possess. Trouble light: Troublesome light.
And here’s a question; Why is the tool missing from a tool set always the one you need?