A couple weeks ago I shared talked about a neighbor kid stopping by to borrow a scientific calculator for a science final exam. I didn’t have to get one of my kids’ calculators, but, of course, had one on hand to lend him.

So, he brings it back and, unfortunately, I wasn’t here. He left it with my wife or one of my kids. I have it now. But, what I don’t have is information. How did he do on his science final? Did the calculator help? What equations did he use? What functions did he use? Did he use the calculator later to determine the gas mileage of the family car, or figure out the area of their irregular yard, or to help him derive an equation that will determine how much pizza to order with his friends if a number of them go out to eat together and want to order different sized pizzas and he determined the square inches for different combinations of pizza sizes and compared them to the number of people times the average number of square inches of pizza each person would eat? Did he run the calculations of the height-to-weight ratio of all his family members? Did he calculate the angle of trajectory to throw a baseball to optimize the opportunity of hitting the window of the neighbor nobody likes?

If it weren’t for the fact that most engineers don’t like to, want to, or are the least willing to talk that much, they would be asking all those, too. Most engineers would probably just say, “Hey, the calculator do OK?” which sums up all the above questions.

A lent calculator can be a wonderful conversation starter.