What is an Engineer?
I personally believe that some engineers are simply born with an ability. I am not saying that engineers come from the womb calculating and creating, but I do believe that some have leanings from early childhood that others do not. For lack of a better word, some simply call it “The Knack.” Whether the knack is real or imagined, some people gravitate toward engineering because of a natural love and understanding of the practice, and others chose engineering because it can afford them a good stable income for life. After watching this short educational video you may also agree.
I was born in 1950. My generation was far from what we see today in our youth. We had no video games, no computers, and not much television. So what did we do with our time? Many went out into the yard, yes that grassy area surrounding the house, and built something, took something apart, or simply tinkered. Often times, we tried to mimic things that we had seen adults do with tools. This seems to be lacking in our youth. In my laboratory work at LSUS, I often find students that don’t know how to use a screwdriver.
I had a very unusual maternal grandmother, born in 1894, she was never happy with the typical female endeavors of her generation, but opted to build and create like many of the men. Perhaps I have her genes for engineering, but one thing is for sure; I spent many hours watching her do carpentry, plumbing, foundation work, roofing, brick laying, and many other types of work related to her personal projects.
One thing I learned from my grandmother was that if you want something, build it. She was virtually never deterred by any project, large or small. She would tackle it with the tenacity of a bulldog. When I was around 5 years old, I learned to drive nails and I was off and running! When I was 13, I learned to use a oxyacetylene torch for welding and cutting steel, and I ascended to a new plateau. At 15 I started arc welding and at that point, I saw no limits. I simply had it in me, and I had to express my desires to create much the same as a painter needs to express his thoughts and feelings on canvas.
Perhaps my history gave me my knack, but perhaps it’s something simply inherited. Can one learn the knack? I do not know the answer to that question, but many learn engineering no sooner than college, and do quite well in the profession.
My advice for students contemplating any profession, including engineering, is straightforward; go into a field that you enjoy, and never chose a profession based solely on income. If you want to be a doctor, don’t do it for the money. Do it for the love of the profession. If you want to be an engineer, do it likewise for the same reasons. You can have the greatest career in the world, make excellent money, but if you hate what you are doing, you are going to be an unhappy person.
My engineering work spans both personal efforts, such as my submarine and robots, but also academic work such as my research at LSUS. If you are interested, please take the time and view the different sections of my site for a partial view of my own versions of engineering.