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Mechanical Engineering SGC 2015 jan 2015.indd 1 18/11/2014 16: 11
the November 2014 issue struck several
chords, or notes at least, and refreshed my
concerns based on some anecdotal evidence
from my past.
I have three degrees in mechanical
engineering and have been regarded by
colleagues over the years as a pretty good
engineer. For years, however, many people
who do not know my background have
questioned whether I really am an engineer.
Why? Because I am able to communicate
and talk about things other than engineering
(I minored in history). And I am able to write
When I suggest corrections to other
people’s work, however, I am frequently met
with the same reactions that Mr. Vanek has
received. Not from my children, however. They
frequently asked for my help in polishing their
writing throughout their school years, including graduate school, because I was adding
value to the skills they learned in school.
In another career, as a lecturer in
mechanics at the university level, I have
encountered a number of students whose
basic geometry and trigonometry skills
were woefully inadequate because they
had been rushed through those courses in
high school so that they could “move on” to
calculus. This university has high entrance
standards; the entering students tend to be
at the top of their secondary school classes,
yet they lacked functional math skills.
When one has to recommend the
purchase of books such as Trigonometry for
Dummies and Geometry for Dummies (no
disparagement of those books is intended)
to acquire those skills in the middle of
studying college level engineering, I feel
that something is terribly wrong with our
We need both sets of abilities, language
and science, to succeed and our educa-
tional systems need to realize both of those
skills in our students to the best of their
ability. And our students need to under-
stand why both are important.
As I tell my engineering classes, if you
can’t communicate the results of your
work effectively, it has lost a great deal of
its value. Poorly written material is a real
turnoff and tends to diminish the per-ceived value of the content. As Mr. Vanek
says, “We can do better.”
Charles Innis, Life Member, Paxton, Mass.
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