Monday, January 18, 2010

To Be An Engineer or Not to Be...That Is the Question

I have been studying a bit in preparation for the PE exam that I have mentioned taking here previously. The test is schedule for April. Although I haven't been officially accepted yet, I figured I better start studying anyway. In 10 years working in a very specialized field I have forgotten much more engineering than I still know.

I have purchased an enormous book filled with every bit of engineering knowledge known to man as a reference for the test. The book is actually written for the sole purpose of being a reference for this test.  As I sit here reading through all the insane equations that govern the motions and reactions of practically everything on earth I am forced to consider the insanity of my profession.

Engineers are a weird bunch. On one hand our tools are the same mathematics and sciences that define the nerds. So we are somewhat nerdy. On the other hand our rules describe the operation of many of the manliest of things such as cars and power tools.  Sometimes we have trouble thinking outside the box because of all the aforementioned rules.  Unlike accounting our rules don't change from year to year. They are fixed forever. Engineers draw comfort from these absolutes.  Certain things in life should not be in question even in our homes, just like my friend Homer explains at the end of the clip below.



All this studying has caused me to wonder if Braden will be drawn to engineering some day because that is what his Dad does? More importantly, if he is drawn to engineering will I encourage that or try and point him in another direction?

I have no idea how I will respond to Braden's potential interest. You certainly won't get rich from engineering. That is a common misconception. You can, however, make a nice living without going to your own specialized schools like those big shot doctors and lawyers. Learning how things work is another potential plus of being an engineer if that is your thing. On the other hand I don't want to encourage my son to discuss the Von-Mises failure theory or the longitudinal stress in thin wall pressure vessels with the other children. That type of behavior would probably get him banned from normal childhood shenanigans.

Certainly all of this is far in the future, but this is what I do. I wonder. Of course, I want Braden to do whatever he wants when he grows up, as long as it is legal.  Engineering just seems so strange sometimes. At those times I wonder if I maybe I should tell my son I am an astronaut or a turnip farmer.

I think I can probably just stick to the engineering without to much trouble as long as I don't become one of those dads who strictly enforces the laws of thermodynamics.

10 comments:

Jack said...

This post reminds me of an old joke: Is Hell Endothermic or Exothermic?

My oldest and I talk a lot about what he is going to be when he is older. At the moment he plans on being an engineer, a "Lego" engineer.

Very curious to see what happens when he gets older. He is 9 now so I have watched this evolve a bit.

I am sure you'll have a lot of fun watching Braden grow. You never what they'll come up with.

CaJoh said...

Engineer is a big word. It also is very broad. I remember wanting to be an electronics engineer when I was in Jr. High, but now I guess I am just a software engineer (at least that is what part of my title is).

I certainly am not what my dad was (a business accountant). So my best advice is to just encourage him no matter what he gravitates towards.

PJ Mullen said...

Growing up I always wanted to be an engineer because both my father and uncle were engineers (plastics, eletricial).

First I wanted to design cars, then electrical equipment. I'm not exactly sure how that morphed into a degree in finance and law.

Like you, I'm not sure what I'd do if my son wanted to follow in my footsteps career wise. I think I'd probably tell him to do what his mother did.

Brian Miller said...

at this point i think my oldest is going to be a superhero and my youngest an Xgame participant. i dunno. at least i will be entertained. smiles.

WeaselMomma said...

Good luck on the test. Engineering is fairly weird, but extremely necessary. Braden will figure out what he wants to do this world sooner or later. Don't bother losing sleep over it.

Brandy said...

so i found my notebook from my last semester in college. I was an accounting major and my notebook was scribbled with things like "i hate accounting" and "bonds blow" good times.

Katherine said...

I know more than a few engineers. They're pretty cool. But, hey, I'm super dorky when it comes to writing, so I don't really have much room to talk.

I wonder, too, if Ethan will be a writer like his mom and dad. I think we just have to let them find their own way...although turnip farmer sounds interesting!

SurprisedMom said...

Mine have grown up, well almost, and I still don't know what they are going to be. I think the oldest is going to be a music therapist and the youngest? According to her classmates in grade school, a politician. I just think of it as a fantastic journey. I'm just along for the ride. I mean, what can I say? I became a journalist. . . .

Mike said...

Was your dad an engineer? Did you fall into it because he was? Usually doesn't work that way. The only thing my kids picked up from me is my love of reading and writing. All three are going in different directions.....

Tom said...

At one point, when my daughters heard that daddy is an engineer, they asked me where my striped hat was, and whether they could blow the whistle on the train some time. I kid you not.

Encourage his imagination. He might find a good way to break the laws of thermodynamics without running afoul of the physics police.