Discussion of the Method: Conducting the Engineer's Approach to Problem Solving

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Citation: Billy Vaughn Koen (2003) Discussion of the Method: Conducting the Engineer's Approach to Problem Solving.

Download: http://www.amazon.com/Discussion-Method-Conducting-Engineering-Technology/dp/B000F6Z96Y

Tagged: Philosophy (RSS) engineering education (RSS), engineering philosophy (RSS), problem solving (RSS), design methodology (RSS)


This selection is a discussion what engineering is, addressed by a discussion on the sorts of qualities and constraints make a problem an "engineering problem," and the different ways and characteristics that would make somebody say they're solving that problem with "engineering" or "the engineering way." (Implicit but not exactly stated in this reading is that engineering involves the solution of problems, and that those who solve engineering problems via engineering are engineers.)

Theoretical and practical relevance:

Quote, p 8: "Most people think of the engineer in terms of his artifacts rather than his art." This ties back to Gieryn's concept of engineering as a black box; messy world goes in, magic happens, and things come out.

Engineers cause change.

Engineers are constrained by available resources.

Quote, p 16: "To exist is to be some engineer's notion of best."

Quote, p 25: "If you, as with all humans since the birth of humankind, desire change: if the system you want to change is complex and poorly understood; if the change you will accept must be the best available as you balance often conflicting criteria; and if it is constrained by limited resources, then you are in the presence of an engineering problem. If you cause this change using the strategy described next, then you are an engineer." This was a huge point of contention during my reading group as we argued about the boundaries of who was and wasn't an engineer -- could we say a little kid was an engineer or doing engineering (and is there a difference between the two?) Would we call the same little kid in a junior football league "a football player who is playing football"? Why or why not?