Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A friend of mine, Reuben, wrote me the following:

...I was talking with a friend..his neighbor designed power dams, etc. They had a problem with some huge gates that would not close. As dozens of engineers stood by, one worked on closing them. Over the radio, someone asked "How much further do they need to go?" The engineer said "2 inches and 3 lines."

The same guy said all these engineers at a tool company in VT were called in as one of their machines broke down. While they talked about how to get a replacement part made, one older guy went downstairs and made the part. He came back up in an hour or so and said "Will this do the trick?" Too many theoretical folks...not enough hands-on folks...
I will repeat something that I've mentioned earlier in the blog: Manual training was started in American schools by Runkle at MIT and Woodward at Washington University because engineers of that day and age were lacking in basic skills...measuring, and spatial visualization. That was in 1870. It is amazing how much we think things change when in reality things are so much the same. We just keep growing fresh crops.

My fifth and sixth grade students could have told the engineer that those were 3 sixteenths, not "lines." And I'm not sure about Reuben's distinction between theoretical folks and hands-on folks. What would happen if "theoretical folks" had some real hands-on experience like Runkle and Woodward intended? Occasionally someone makes it through the engineering profession with enough hands-on experience to illuminate the world. Tomorrow, I'll try to find time to tell about Bunny Lawrence.

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