When is a person an engineer? Officially, a PE license helps. Educationally, a BS in engineering will do. But, an engineer is frequently an engineer beginning at a young age. Make that a very young age.

I recently got talking to the wife of an engineer in the town I live. She said that when he was very young, under 10, I believe, he loved to take things apart and put them back together, but especially put things back together. He was going to be an engineer, whether he knew the the term or not.

His grandmother used to prepare for his visits by taking apart various things around the house – lamps, furniture, kitchen appliances – and “ask” him to help by putting them back together. It may have been when he was in his 30’s or 40’s when he finally found out that those things didn’t just fall apart by themselves, or his grandmother didn’t take them apart because they weren’t working, but she actually saw the engineer in him at that early age, and, well, encouraged it.

His wife said that he still puts things back together, but that she doesn’t take them apart for him. He has to do that himself. And he does.