Engineering Stories – Book Preface


(I began posting individual Engineering Stories last summer. Since that time there have been over 6000 blog views and an estimated 1000 stories read from beginning to end. I have received many favorable comments from readers. Since the stories can be freely shared, the exact number of reads cannot be determined. I am pleased with the initial response to Engineering Stories. To support those persons who would prefer an actual book to read, I have been preparing a paperback version with seven stories to be available soon for purchase on Amazon.com. Here is the full Preface to the book. Thank you for your encouragement.)

Engineering Stories are Realistic Fiction, short story dramatizations allowing the reader, through narration, description, dialogue, and thought to experience the challenges and satisfaction of being an engineer, inventor, or scientist.  Stories are very plausible, being a composition of author experience and the experiences of his peers. Herein, the reader is able to listen into the mind of an engineer, see how they think, observe how they might behave, understand what makes them tick. The objective is to encourage students to consider or continue careers in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM), show what it may be like, dispel a myth or two, and encourage creativity, problem solving, and the confidence to make the world a better place.

Engineering has been a good profession for me. Growing up, I didn’t know what engineering was. I knew that my grandfather was a machinist in the aerospace industry, and that my father used machines in his cabinet making work, but I didn’t know who designed and made the machines. Working in my father’s shop, I was okay at making wood products, but I was much more fascinated by the machines, than the furniture.

In my first serious semester of college, I toured the university talking to professors asking about careers in communications, construction, industrial design, and engineering. As soon as I learned what engineers do, I knew it was for me. Mechanical Engineering was described to me as the activity of converting energy from one form to another, converting raw materials into useful products, solving problems to make the world a better place; I was excited.

On more that one occasion through my life I have heard the troubling phrase, “I hate math.” This pronouncement or plea usually came from youth, and sometimes would be followed by, “I could never be an engineer.” Considering most of the kids I have met, I don’t believe either of these claims. I believe that a youth comes to hate math because they got behind in their understanding of math principles and processes, sat in frustration in their school desk or in tears around the dining room table because their teacher, day after day, was moving on whether they understood it or not. Often, the student’s parents were not able to help. This sequence of events led the student to give up on math  exclaiming, “What am I ever going to use this for anyway.”

Engineering Stories is not a math book, but it is my attempt to give the wondering student application for math and science, and the wandering student vision to see what it may be like to be an engineer or technologist. In my opinion, professionals should give something in return for what they have received in their career. Engineering Stories is my attempt to give something back to youth who deserve opportunities to live life fully, and make satisfying contributions to the world. I encourage all professionals to do the same.

If there is anything selfish in the creation of this book, it is my desire to learn, in this case, learn how to write better. Can you believe it, an engineer who wants to write better? Throughout my career I have met many engineers and students who do not like to write, and yet writing is one of the fundamental communication methods we have to convey our ideas and designs. Perhaps one of these stories will encourage one youth or engineering student somewhere in the world to think more favorably about writing.

Another powerful communication method is drawing, illustrating, or sketching. It has been my observation that the person in the conference room or cubicle who can sketch their thinking is the one who drives or moves the project forward. Sketch! Even if you don’t think you can. Learn. Continue to learn. Don’t be afraid to learn.

Seven realistic stories are included in this volume. They are fictionalized compositions based on a lifetime of career experiences. The focus in this volume is engineering product development which involves the activities of developing a product to satisfy the needs and desires of a customer. The customer could be a company, a work group, or an individual. The product could be a method of transportation, fabrication, or medical utility. These stories illustrate how customer needs are gathered, how product requirements are refined, and how creativity is used to determine good potential solutions to the product requirements. Examples are included showing the process by which options are evaluated, selected, designed, built, tested, and put to work for the customer.

Like any good story, Engineering Stories show character development, how individuals work on their own and in teams to tackle challenges and build better products. Engineers travel, engineers learn, engineers struggle, engineers grow, and engineers feel joy in what they accomplish.

This book can be used as supplemental material for the classroom. At the end of each story, mentor notes and exercises have been included to emphasize engineering ideas and encourage critical thinking, a very important engineering quality. The teacher is encouraged to assign this material to the student or use these questions for class discussion, and the student is encouraged to write responses to the questions.

Finally, enjoy these stories. Encourage others to read them. If you can relate to these protagonists, these engineers, and find yourself improving upon what they have done, then you are probably an engineer, or should be.

 

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