Metaphors, Rulers, and Persuasion with Engineering

Times, they are a-changing at Engineering Schools.

“Our model is a music school with engineering as a performance art, and the studio time that students spend with each other an enormous part of their education,” says Miller . . .

Engineering as a music school and performance art with studio time. That’s using a metaphor to measure when you’ve got a slide rule in your hand. That’s persuasion, certainly not science, and maybe not as much engineering either, but we’ll let the lawyers settle that.

The U is jumping into persuasion as if there really is any competition. The U owns a monopoly on the printing press called Diploma and kids and their parents will load up more debt on school loans than credit cards just to try, much less, get one. And yet engineering schools – engineering! – feel the need to persuade parents and students.

“I’m a bit of an idealist, I’ve always wanted to help people,” says Duke University engineering student Kathryn Latham, 21. “I think if more students pursued jobs that made a difference, the world would be a better place.” Latham’s idealism took her to Bolivia this summer, leading a team of Duke engineering students building a 213-foot-long steel pedestrian bridge “by hand,” she notes, to link two impoverished villages long separated by a deep gorge.

Geez, and I thought the 1960s were all about Relevance. Didn’t we solve That back then?

But, Relevance sells engineering applications at least at Olin. Sure hope they keep the math. All the math. I still drive over bridges and visit tall buildings. I don’t particularly care if the engineers had a Relevant University Experience as long as they get the load bearing equations right.

P.S. Blue Devils building bridges in Bolivia . . . wonder if Duke is building banks in Bolivia, too?