September 15, 2023EducationEngineeringReflectionsAcorn

The essence of engineering

Engineering is a mindset that anyone can cultivate...even without an engineering degree.

Welcome to Nitin Pai’s cyberspace. You are in the structured section of my domain where I have my blog posts, newspaper columns, updates on my teaching and research, and other things you had always been warned about.

On Engineer’s Day and the 20th anniversary of this blog: A guide for engineering freshies, engineering middies, engineering oldies and indeed for the general public.

According to me, Nitin Pai, Electrical (Communications) Engineer , Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

  1. Engineering is primarily the application of all domains of human knowledge to solve practical problems. A good enough real solution is better than an elegant non-existent one
  2. There are always trade-offs.
  3. Trial & error and successive approximation are a good way to do things.
  4. In real life, there are often more variables than there are equations. Model the world, but remember that the model is a model and not the world.
  5. Watch out for the edge cases but don’t let them discourage you from the main case

According to Amod Malviya, Electrical Engineer, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur

  1. Engineering is about building things - if you’re not building (e.g. just reading), you’re not doing engineering.
  2. In general, priority of importance is why” > what” > how”. Breaking this rule has its place, but requires a high bar of deliberate reason.
  3. Your tool of choice doesn’t define you as an engineer. It’s your mastery that does.
  4. Ability to learn a new tech/tool/skill is your superpower. And that comes only with strong foundations.
  5. Largest value lies at the conjunction of domains, and exploring the limits of existing tech. Either place is a great place to be, and often has overlaps with the other.
According to G K Ananthasuresh, Mechanical Engineer, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras

His talk at ISSS Hyderabad on engineering temper” is highly recommended.

  1. Disquiet about inadequacies that can be improved.
  2. Fortitude to solve problems by finding viable solutions.
  3. Ability to apply and extend scientific concepts.
  4. Reliance on one’s endeavours and not ineffective prior solutions.

According to Saurabh Chandra, Mechanical Engineer, Indian Institute of Technology, Benares Hindu University, Varanasi

  1. Developing mathematical models is important. Math is the basis of engineering. Don’t mistake tinkering for deeper engineering. One can be a tinkerer, inventor also but math will give you the edge.
  2. Designing test setups is under rated. Prototyping need not run in real situations. Big reason for wright brothers success was their use of wind tunnels. More you sweat in tests, less you bleed in the real world.
  3. Constraints make for engineering. Otherwise it is art. Some constraints we get: physics for example. But many constraints can be chosen. This is linked to trade offs below but I find choosing of constraints a useful mental model.

An addendum from Pranay Kotasthane, Electrical and Communications Engineer, National Institute of Technology, Surathkal

  1. To solve a problem is to resolve the trade-offs as they exist at a particular time, and then resolving them again as the trade-offs change.

And finally, something I realised doing projects as an engineering undergrad

To read about more things like this, you can check out my published raw notes and my massive archives.

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