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©2000 Zhan Huan Zhou
Updated Jan-01-2000

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Engineering is Good, Part II

©1999 Zhan Huan Zhou, Spring 1998, Issue 5

In part I of this article, I examined how engineering has benefited society since the beginnings of humanity. In part 2, the conclusion to the article, I will examine how studying engineering is a benefit to the student.

You are all studying engineering here at Waterloo for one reason or another. Some of you may be here because of the money, others because this really is what you want to do. While these two reasons may be the case for some individuals, a significant portion of students in engineering are here because they don't know what they want in the future. What but they do know, however, is that engineering is good. But what makes engineering so attractive to these students?

Engineering is a unique programme in that it focuses heavily on both theory and practice. All of the skills learned in engineering at Waterloo are transferable. It is not a matter of what you know, but how you learn and apply your knowledge. All of the engineering programmes put an emphasis on learning and independent thinking. These two skills, above all others, are perhaps the most important factor in your future career. Employers don't care if you can remember thermodynamics equations, anyone can look them up in a book. What they do care about is if you can apply your knowledge to the problem at hand. The laboratory studies offered in each department is an opportunity for the student to gain practical knowledge of the theoretical material learned in class. In these labs, you find that the methods you learned only work in very special cases, or perhaps, do not work at all. The relationship between theoretical and real world considerations is another important skill learned in engineering. Everything the engineer creates must be practical. Even though it works on paper, it may not stand the test of the real world. Recall that an engineer creates things that "are made useful to people."

Quite often graduates of engineering programmes end up with higher degrees in a non-engineering field such as business or medicine. Very few other programmes allow such dramatic changes. This is because the analytical approach of engineering allows such jumps in professional careers.

Practical thinking and learning are the most important skills you learn in engineering. Once you master these two skills, the world in your hands. You can do whatever your dreams desire.

And this concludes my column for this term. Good luck to all you on your work term. Remember, even though engineering is not everything, engineering is good. Zhou for now!