A Potential Engineer’s View of Laundry

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Engineers are engineers from a very early age. One non-engineer wife of an engineer put it this way. “He was an engineer long before he got the degree.”  Very few engineers weren’t “engineers” when they were pre-teens. And some who don’t end up being engineers may show engineering tendencies and worry his or her parents.

A number of years ago, my daughter gave me quite a scare. I was commenting, possibly complaining, about all the laundry that builds up so quickly in our home. My 9-year-old daughter stopped me and did a very engineering analysis of the situation by running the numbers. She explained that with five people, each wearing a shirt, pants, underwear, and socks for each day of the week (with the possible exception of her older brother), that would mean:

5 x (1+1+1+2) x 7 = 175 articles of clothes per week

I stopped her before she went through the explanation of towels, sheets and kitchen articles that should be estimated and added to this total, not to mention days when more than one shirt or one pair of socks are worn. I definitely stopped her before she got to translating this number to volume.

Is engineering in her future? At this point, it doesn’t look like it, but she gave me a huge cause for concern for a while.

Call in the Engineer

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For the most part, the entertainment industry is against engineers. We will cover this in other posts.

But how are engineers themselves portrayed? For the most part, engineers are admired, as they should be. Sure, there is the bad example at the beginning of MI3, where spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is at his engagement party and is explaining his cover job as a transportation engineer, then after he walks away, the guy in the group he was talking to pretends to fall asleep. A jab at engineers for sure. (Side note: When Ethan leaves the group, after the guy feigns sleep, the women all agree that they would marry him, even with his “boring” job. Of course, it is Tom Cruise.)

However, in movies when a person has the name engineer attached to his character, like on a team – good or bad – the audience knows one thing. This person gets things done. Yes, the engineer is the person they give the difficult, technical job to. If there is a bomb that needs diffused, an underground wall that needs breached, a computer security system that needs overriden, or an alien spaceship that needs destroyed, what do they do? Call in the engineer. The engineer will get it done.

First Date

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I recently talked to a wife of an engineer, an NE (non-engineer), who freely told me about the first date she had with her the man who eventually became her husband. They went to a picnic for her work. It was at a park on the other side of town. Without directions, and knowing generally where it was, they found their way there in a roundabout way. I say roundabout way because they went through many roundabouts on the way there.

When they arrived, she told colleagues about how they seemed lost and went through a number of roundabouts. But, “Ryan” (as we will call him), a transportation engineer, enhanced the conversation even more with an explanation of the design features of the roundabouts and statistics about how roundabouts reduce severe crashes by 80 or 90 percent – a lot of good engineering stuff. I think he did it to impress her. Well, from the way she still talks of it, she was impressed, although maybe not the way he intended.

Ryan was standing there as she told this story and I still get the idea that he is thinking, “Oh, yeah, I impressed her with those statistics.”

She continued to date him, and eventually got married. So maybe it did work.

You Might Be an Engineer If…

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– you have ever taken a date to a great view of a landmark bridge, not to make out, but to impress her by pointing out and explaining the structural elements included in the design.

70

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This number, 70, is very important to any engineer that wants, or, dare I say, needs to get their PE license. It has caused untold angst to many an engineer down through the decades. The reason is that 70 is the number that represents a passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam. Well, sort of.

From reading a fair amount about the scoring process of the PE exam, 70 at least used to be the scaled score that an engineer would have to get to pass. I remember being told this and reading this when I took the PE exam. Now, with equating, the different structure of the exam, the differing approaches of the states that designate passing scores, and numerous other reasons, one thing is extremely clear – no one knows what passing really is and what that 70 represents any more.

So, while an engineer may take the PE exam and desire to score at least a 70, that might mean that the engineer has passed the exam, or it might not. To confuse matters more, the 70 does not necessarily represent 70%, as many might think. With typically 80 points, that would mean getting at least 56 correct to pass the exam, but again, though many believe this to be the case, it is apparently not. The score one receives on the PE exam is a scaled number that is derived, from best accounts of it, by a group of experts locking themselves in a room with the exam and challenging each other to feats of engineering. I’ve never seen it, but I don’t think it is for the faint of heart.

Remember that 70 is the number. What it means, what it represents, how it is derived – who cares? As long the number in the end is at least – 70. Or possibly higher. When success on the PE exam is obtained, then the engineer can then achieve the life-long ambition of seeing one’s own name immortalized on a rubber stamp.

To an engineer, the closest thing to a perfect number is 70. Even if it doesn’t mean 70 any more.

Brain Analysis

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For a person who just happens to fall for an engineer, with all that love stuff involved, it is helpful to realize the following graph that depicts where on the left-brained/right-brained continuum engineers tend to fall.

Engineer                                      left     center     right

←—————————————————————————→

One can see that the engineer would be considered left-brained he was more emotional. Put another way, Spock was too emotional to be an engineer.

If a person has hung around an engineer long, this is likely a known fact. However, it is always good to recall the truism for engineers: Engineers don’t feel, they think.

So, remember the continuum. This will help a great deal when interactions are necessary or desired.

A Wonderful Expert to Follow

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EngineeringDaze is all about fun, but at times, we will also inform.

If you are not following the work of David Pogue, you are missing a fun, informative, and imaginative take on all thing technology. Engineers will love Pogue as he educates on the newest gadgets, latest tech trends, and whackiest technology around. His writing and videos will definitely satisfy the techno-geek side of any engineer.

Pogue writes the tech column for the New York Times, a somewhat respectable newspaper on the east coast somewhere. He also has done a miniseries for PBS, writes for Scientific American, and does a weekly video for CNBC. His is all about fun and information – much like we are. Therefore, the recommendation is to check out David Pogue.

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