What you need to know about engineering and technology

Below is a compilation of things that my students feel that the general population should understand about engineering and technology. The list was compiled by an Honors Inquiry course at Utah State University.

The questions...

What are engineering design flaws?
What are the dangers of nuclear technology?

Their answers ...

What are engineering design flaws?

            First of all the general public should realize that everyone is human and that no one is perfect.  This should bring to attention the fact that the things that imperfect people design are going to be imperfect.  There is no possible way to think through every scenario.  There are infinitely many possibilities of what may happen to make something fail or weaken.  It is good to have high expectations for something to always work, but the general public must realize that there is that one in a million chance that something unexpected is going to happen.  The public should be shown the statistics dealing with failure and see how slim the chances are that the product will fail.  It is kind of compared to getting struck by a bolt of lighting; not many people are. 

            People that see failures are quick to judge the person responsible without even questioning whether that person designed and tested the product to his or her fullest, but the problem lies in an undetectable flaw.  The public should know that projects with adequate funding and time go through major testing before the product goes to market.  As a matter of fact the product is tested by several different people from several different angles or maybe even several different companies.  The public should also question themselves as to whether they would be able to catch all the things that could go wrong before it actually does.  People should know that manufacturers want there product to be of good safe quality and that they strive their hardest to achieve that in every product that they produce by designing, testing, and redesigning over and over again.  People should be reminded of the vast technological improvements that have come about over the years to show them how much safer things are now compared to what they were.

Chris Hall, John Pratt, and Cody Santos

How do I use the Microsoft Office?

            One of the most important tasks that someone in the engineering field can master, is the use of Microsoft Office or a similar program such as Open Office.  The advantages of such programs are many.  For instance, when you need to write up a technical paper or even organize your thoughts into a single place, using a computer based typing program can save you a lot of time.  If the person knows how to type, it is infinitely faster than writing things down on paper the traditional way.  Also, it becomes much neater when it is typed on a computer.  As we all know, many engineers haven't exactly mastered the fine art of penmanship, so by using a computer to type out their thoughts or findings they can alleviate this problem of communication.  Another advantage of the Office-type programs is that they also offer a myriad of other programs that can be used to great advantage by a savvy engineer.  For instance, instead of writing down specific results for an experiment with many different variables, an engineer could instead enter all the specific data into a nicely organized spreadsheet.  With proper labelling, exact data entry, and usage of the programs internal features such as charts, graphs, etc..., presentations can be greatly enhanced.  To be able to directly compare different results for different products at the same time in one single program is a great accomplishment.  It allows the engineer to decide which set of variables offer the best performance while still being practical in cost and development difficulty.  The Power Point or other similar slide-show programs can use these graphs and charts from excel to create a visually captivating presentation that salesman and company heads can use to get their products advatages across.  In summary, with proper usage of the Office suite, a knowledgable engineer can greatly improve on the old system of jotting down notes in a notebook and making rudimentary result graphs by simply learning how to utilize the Office suites many integrated tools.


What are the limits of technology and how do I deal with them?

            It is unrealistic to expect all the technological advances that are possible to occur instantaneously.  At the present time, there are several limitations in all fields of engineering.  Granted some fields are moving faster than others, but none are without bounds.  Take, for instance, our current automobile situation.

Similar types of limitations must be expected in all fields of technology.  Though we can expect to overcome many limitations over time, we must understand that there will always be more limitations to our technological advancements.  As more improvements are made, old limitations are overcome and new ones, in turn, created.  We must understand that progress takes time.

Devan Shields, Nick Oldham, and Eric Burnett

n Leonard