Thursday, January 27, 2011

Progress Report #1: Malta – Becoming a Scientist/Engineer in Malta

Progress Report #1

Brig Bagley

Malta – Becoming a Scientist/Engineer in Malta, Historical and contemporary pattern, roles and status

Malta is a small country in the Mediterranean that has actually had quite an interesting and unique history—despite the little to no attention US history and education gives it. Although it is one of the smallest countries in the world, it is one of the most densely populated countries… about four hundred thousand in 121 square miles. Because Malta is such a compact country, as well as it being in a strategic location in the Mediterranean, architecture and defense are two early-developed and mastered scientific or engineering areas.

First as a colony of Great Britain, then eventually as an independent republic, there are many similarities and differences between engineering in Britain.

The education system follows that of Great Britain, with primary and secondary schools. The primary level has an examination that determines religious or state schools. After secondary school, the students have the option to opt out of further work or to take the O-level exam and continue into a system similar to a Junior College. Following this, students take a matriculation exam (A-level exam) to determine if the student can enter into an undergraduate program at the University of Malta. Because Malta is similar to Britain in education, there is less pressure and more difficulty to enter into higher level education into areas such as science and engineering. However, Malta does not share the craftsmanship and apprenticeship history that Britain does, and therefore did not view science and engineering as a lesser profession like Britain did.

Malta has a long history of architecture, dating back into the BC era with primitive Neolithic temples. There is also a lot of influence by the Romans, and most recently, Britain. There is history with engineers in the mid 1500s at Fort St. Michael and Mdina during the Siege of Malta, where engineers were part of construction and destruction of architecture as a result of the siege. One of the most well-know engineers at about that time was Francesco Laparelli de Carotona, who designed the original City Gate, known as Prota San Giorgio. It was later replaced by the Maltese engineer Tommaso Dingli. When Britain was in control of Malta, another group of engineers built a new gate.

The basis of my project will focus on how the history of Malta has greatly affected its state, recognition, and use of engineering and science. The outside world has had a large influence on Malta and its current relationship with engineering. Although Britain has shaped its structure and educational path, other countries and necessity has encouraged growth and respect of many other areas of engineering, such as the military and architecture. In order to protect the state and compensate for the limited land and resources available, engineers had to conquer scientific battles. I will do more research in these areas to pin point what it is that has really formed the patterns, roles, and status of engineers.

“Siege of Malta. ” Wikipedia. . 27 January 2011.

“Malta.” Wikipedia. . 27 January 2011.

“Valletta.” Wikipedia. . 27 January 2011.

Progress Report #1: industrialization, natural resources, technology

The focus of my report will be on the historical and current emphases of industrialization, natural resource use, and development in technology in Malta. I am curious to see how the changes in the city through industrialization lead to improvements in technology, and vice versa.
The natural resources available to the people of Malta are limestone, salt, and arable land. Thus, mining and agriculture are important parts of industry. However, one of the most socially and culturally important industries provides an almost negligible economic contribution; the Maltese fishing industry has been a significant part of the Maltese industry and culture. The beautiful weather found on the island of Malta is also a resource. Through the expansion of tourism, and Malta's accession to the EU in 2004, tourism has blossomed. This relates to the fishing industry, as local fresh seafood is a pride to local restaurants targeted towards tourists.
I believe the expanding tourist site has additionally affected both industrialization and technology. Tourism brings big changes to countries, especially small ones like Malta. There have been many cultural changes, as well as social “improvements,” better defined as changes. The mentality of a country changes with the tourism industry.
Malta first encountered statistical machines in 1950, when it purchased punched-card machines. This was the first time the government was able to take accurate statistics on the sectors of Malta's economy. This sparked an attention to improving technology, and upgrading of machines. More recently, Malta has been taking part in world wide telecommunications, establishing a large source of employment and revenue. The technology boom has been prevelent there, and “Malta is growing in the areas of customer service, support, IT development and sales and marketing” (Knights, 2008). This industry is popular as an export for other countries, because though it is more expensive than outsourcing to Africa, it is still much cheaper than paying people from other countries in Europe.
These are just snippets of information I have found about Malta's technological history, and industrialization expansion. However, I am struggling to draw the line between industrialization and historical facts, as well as technological improvements and industrialization. The lines have blurred with these subjects, providing me with an abundance of insightful facts.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Progress Report #1: Contemporary Controversies in Malta

As a member of the ICEX team my project will focus on Malta. I choose to research contemporary challenges and opportunities specifically related to the environment, power production, social/political controversies, role in European Nations (EU), role in counter-terrorism, and Malta’s vision of itself today.

Preliminary research has yielded some information that should make this project very interesting. While I have found many interesting facts and articles relating to my topic, most of them only scratch the surface of the issues and do not go into the depth of detail that I would like to see. Finding detailed information on the topics introduced above is proving to be quite a difficult task for a small country like Malta.

It is commonly said that Malta’s only natural resources are people and the sun. The people are the one and a half million tourists that travel to Malta each year, and the sun because it is sunny most of the year. I find this very odd because with sun as one of your only natural resources one would think that Malta would have an interest in renewable energy (such as solar power). However, Malta only produces 0.2 percent of its energy with renewable resources while the rest is produced with fossil fuels. Additionally, as part of the EU Malta is required to produce ten percent of its energy with renewable resources by the year 2020 - they do not seem to be making much progress. With limited natural resources, Malta should use what it has to its advantage and harness the power of the sun.

On a separate note, Malta became the smallest member of the EU in May 2004 which was a major partisan controversy at the time as the Nationalist party was in complete support while the Malta Labour Party opposed it. Since its admission to the EU, Malta has been enthusiastically involved with the EU and its decisions (except maybe renewable energy). In addition they have been quite involved in counter terrorism. With its strategic location in the Mediterranean Sea, Malta is a desired operating location for terrorists and counter terrorists alike. But, in 2005 Malta and the United States committed over six million dollars to secure Malta’s borders and general security. Malta also allowed the United States use its land and harbors to repair equipment and for use in emergency situations. This increased the United States effectiveness in fighting the terrorists because they had repair facilities and headquarters close to the action.

Above was a quick overview of what I have found interesting so far. As I move forward with my research I would like to learn more about what actions Malta is taking to create green energy sources to comply with the EU, and hopefully find some interesting current economic and political controversies.

Following is a list of facts that I found interesting and related to my topic (United States demographic statistic in parenthesis): Malta has the densest population in Europe with about 3400 people per square mile (55), is 98 percent Roman Catholic (22%), has two official languages, growth rate of .42 percent (.87%), 94 percent living in urban areas (82%), and an immigration rate of 2.03 migrants per 1000 citizens (2.92). I do not know how these demographics affect the politics, policies, and other aspects of society in Malta, but I feel that they may be an important key to understanding the internal and international affairs and controversies of Malta.

Progress Report #1: Education in Malta

My research will focus on primary and secondary education in Malta. I initially thought this would be a difficult area to do research on, but a quick Google search has shown that not to be the case. I was even able to find a report on the transition from primary schools to secondary schools, which also had some information on the structure of the primary and secondary education systems in Malta.
Some preliminary information: There are three sectors of compulsory education in Malta. The first, and largest, is the state school system. Primary schools (ages 5-10) are co-ed while the secondary (ages 11-16) schools are strictly single-sex. While schools that continue on from primary to secondary education, called “continuous schools”, exist in Malta, none of the state schools are continuous. Like many European countries, Malta has more than one level of secondary education. The highest is the Junior Lyceum to which admittance is granted based on an entrance examination. Those who do not pass the Junior Lyceum entrance examination are admitted to the more general secondary school known as a Area Secondary school. For students whose “levels of attainment” are still considered very low after primary education are sent to special schools.

The second largest sector is the Church sector. Education provided by the Church sector is free. Unlike State schools, primary schools are mostly single-sex, with some co-ed exceptions. All secondary schools are single-sex with most girls' schools being continuous and boys' schools being non-continuous. Admittance into non-continuous secondary schools is based on a Common Entrance (CE) exam and available vacancies.

The last sector is the Independent. These are private schools that charge a fee. The private sector offers both co-ed and single-sex as well as continuous and non-continuous schools. The non-continuous schools in the Independent sector are all primary schools and students must take examinations to enroll in either a State school or a Church school when they are ready to transition from their primary school. Since the Independent schools are fee-based, their admissions are not competitive.

Some of the subjects that are tested in secondary entrance examinations are Maltese, English, Mathematics, and Social Studies. Students are also tested on Religious Knowledge if their parents do not object.

The preliminary search for information on Maltese education has gone well but there is plenty more I would like to learn. For instance, there was a mention of “catchment areas” in regards to the Junior Lyceums without any explanation as to what they are or how they affect the rest of a student's education. Also, since students are educated in both Maltese and English, it would be nice to find a sample or preparatory exam as an example of what students are required to learn and study before entering secondary school.

Grima, Grace. Transition from Primary to Secondary Schools in Malta: A Review. 2008.
Malta?! A Guide to Education and Vocational Training. 2008. Ministry of Education, Malta.

Research Progress Report #1: Jennifer Batryn - Shipwrecks & Maritime Malta

I will be focusing my research on shipwrecks in Malta, and more specifically the archeological significance of the shipwreck site we will be investigating on the ICEX trip. I want to understand the history behind the ship and the events leading up to its demise. What does it say about Maltese relations with other countries and the technology of the time? I also want to get an understanding of how it ties in with present day Maltese culture and the significance of it today.
So far, I have not been very successful with my research. I know from talking with Chris Clark that the shipwreck we will be investigating is at a depth of approximately 100m, which is too deep for the Iver2 to go, but given the clear water and general good visibility, we are hoping that we can still get a good look at it from above. In addition, we will have ROVs that we can potentially use to aid in the investigation. When looking up shipwrecks in Malta online, the only thing that really comes up is information about the Apostle Paul’s shipwreck on Malta from biblical times. It is believed that he ended up near Malta and there seems to be a lot of meteorological and historical data that supports Luke’s narrative. That could be an interesting component to investigate further, but it is also not really the focus of what we will be looking at in Malta in relation to the ICEX project.

I also investigated WWII shipwrecks in the Mediterranean, but that returned a rather broad set of data (not may actually being directly associated with Malta) and most of the ships had very little information about them. In addition, I tried looking up information about shipwrecks that you can dive to. These were more related to Malta, but there was only very limited information available about the ships themselves (and more about the associated dives).

I am still waiting to get the exact name of the ship we will be investigating. I think that once I have the name, it will be easier to locate some relevant information. I also plan to try expanding my search in terms of where I am looking for information. I would like to try getting a hold of our archeological contact whom we will be working with there and seeing if I can some more information from him about the shipwreck. If those approaches are still not sufficient in obtaining relevant information, I think it might be helpful to expand my area of research to also include more about shipping in general in Malta and the importance and relation of the shipping industry with other countries.

White, Jefferson. "The Apostle Paul's Shipwreck on Malta." Evidence and Paul's Journeys - History, Missionary Journeys, and Life of the Apostle Paul. 2004. Web. 23 Jan. 2011. .

Malta Research Progress Report #1 - Billy McVicker

Since I am an ICEX student, my country-based research project is focused on Malta and more specifically focused on the Archaeological Knowledge about Cisterns and Water Management. My research started out online reading through papers that I found on Google Scholar about water management and irrigation techniques in Malta. Most of these papers were about current events in the last 100 years and only a very brief sentence or two about the history of the water crisis. A reference in one of the papers led to me to library to skim through the book The Building of Malta 1530-1795 by Quentin Hughes. This book covers the architecture of Malta and the history of how the country was built. It also contains some history about cisterns. There were other books that I stumbled across that contained more information about the cisterns and other means of water management in Malta during the early development of the country. (Refer to the references of the names and authors of these books). I would definitely recommend my ICEX peers to check these books out due to the extensive knowledge in all areas about Malta. It was however difficult to find extensive research on cisterns and the development of them. Most of the books and essays that I read just mentioned that they were used and also mentioned the popular ones that were discovered.
A little history on Malta’s water crisis starts as far back as history records human activity on the island. This is estimated to be around 3,000 BC. I found that recordings state that Malta had a higher percentage of fresh water during this time, but about this time is when the supply of fresh water began to disintegrate due to the habitation of humans. Basically, humans began to remove vegetation in order to build communities. This change in terrain slowly caused the movement of soil during the rainy season, which is from August till March, creating a rockier landscape. With a rockier terrain, water was not easily absorbed by the earth and resulted in run-offs into the ocean versus absorption of the fresh water in the earth to fill up springs and natural underwater wells. It was about this time that the Maltese began to collect water through cisterns or tanks.

One of the popular discoveries of water supplies was the Misqa Tanks. These tanks were found to be about 200 meters inland from the Mnajdra temples. In the book The Building of Malta 1530-1795 by Quentin Hughes, it states that these tanks are a system of dug out water cisterns used to capture rainwater and transport it underground to the Mnajdra temples by solely using gravity. It is unknown when these cisterns were built because their construction is unlike other cisterns that fall in the categories Bronze Age, Roman, medieval, or modern. These tanks were designed to fill quickly by surface run-off during the raining season (Trump 1972).

Other cisterns have been found on the island of Malta and are described to be bell-shaped. Specifically, a series of cisterns in Luqu village were found and measured up to 3.4 meters in diameter and 4 meters deep. Two of the series of cisterns found contained Bronze Age pottery and Malta’s prehistoric vegetation (Trump 1972). Another example of how cisterns were used to manage the water crisis was a discovery of tanks that were found in the basement of houses. Each of these houses had a special channel that directed water from the roof to an underground cistern (Hughes 1956).

D. H. Trump (1972). Malta: An Archaeological Guide (Archaeological Guides).
     London: Faber and Faber
Hughes J. Quentin (1956). The building of Malta during the period of the
     knights of St. John of Jerusalem 1530-1795. London: Alec Tiranti Ltd.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Research Progress Report #1 - Joseph White

I will be researching the areas of gender and race differences in Malta. This will focus on positions of these demographics in both professional and households fields as well as in, specifically, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. One note: in the household environment, I have found that domestic violence is exceedingly prevalent. It seems that this fact may give a sign as to where the rest of these topics currently lie. These topics will also include historical as well as contemporary patterns of these statuses.

I am currently focused on various papers which include topics such as slavery (historical) and SAIL, a multicultural engineering project initiative (contemporary) to name just a couple. Other papers I have found do not focus directly on these topics, but I hope to find useful information within them such as specific breakdowns by year of things including population, or gender and age of political offices. This data is given for many consecutive years; therefore, I hope to see some kind of pattern or maybe see a drastic change in women’s or other civil rights as time progresses, possibly even correlating with times of other civil rights movements around the world. Interestingly, Malta did not grant women suffrage until the late 1940’s (compare this to the 1921 granting of women’s suffrage in the US). Women also did not have equal right in family law until the 1990s. It will be interesting to see how these comparatively late movements for women play into their current place in the professional fields. In regards to this, I have found that at the very least, women are extremely under-represented in management positions.

It is a bit difficult to find data due to a small amount of research done on these topics in Malta. Another challenge is looking specifically for STEM areas of interest when they concern women or people of color. This is due to the fact that most papers or sources of information simply talk about the field and the research done, rather than who is performing the research: making it difficult to identify how significant a role women and people of color played in these fields.

Concepts and themes I am focusing on include whether or not there is a significant segregation in the workforce based upon gender or ethnicity (especially in STEM fields). The approach I have found (and believe will be) most successful is not to look for articles relating to STEM and see if they touch on the subjects I am focused on: this is unrealistic. But rather look for articles focusing on women and people of color in Malta, and STEM fields will be a bonus.

I have also found a prevalence of contemporary articles as opposed to historical articles. This, I believe is for 2 reasons. One, research from Malta is somewhat rare and most research has occurred in the recent past. Second, there is more of a focus now than ever on STEM fields which promotes further publications of such topics.

I hope to narrow down my searching and specify what I should be concentrating on based on knowledge I gain from some of the articles I have. A lot of the (somewhat) historical data has given me a better idea of what to look for in regards to these topics.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Reading Response #1 - Tyler Smith

I believe the article, The Life-Styles of the Victorian Engineers, did a remarkable job of creating an insightful look into the mind and body of what it took to be a 19th century engineer in Britain. Buchanan was very straight-forward in noting that these observations of Britain’s engineers could only come from the few and far-between that stood out as Britain’s best. I find it very difficult to summarize the ideals of an entire profession (if it may even be called that according to previous readings) based on a small sample size of engineers who were probably atypical; however, giving the circumstances and lack of documentation of every engineer that has walked this earth, I think Buchanan was able to make very reasonable conclusions of the common engineer of that time period. One overlying theme of this article was the diligent work ethic of British engineers and many examples were given to show that indeed these engineers worked grueling hours and under harsh conditions. What I found interesting in his argument was the depth of his understanding of what makes these engineers work so hard. Not once did Buchanan mention the pay of these engineers or money at all within the paper. Comparatively, an engineering career today is highly regarded for its comparable pay as well as its stress on a strong work ethic. One point I would like to stress from this article comes from the following excerpt, “Most important of all, the reason for the chronic hard work of the engineers, however, was the attitude towards their jobs generated by the successful members of the profession: stated simply, the engineers enjoyed their work and preferred it to most other activities.” I find this statement to be very profound because it embodies the ideals of British Engineers during that time period that is still true in many ways to engineers from The United States. Another reading added a detail to this stating that the Engineers of that time period were held in low regard compared to the typical professions of philosophy, law and medicine. With that being said it would appear very strange today to see a career held in such low esteem yet on the other hand known for having hard-working and dedicated workers. Personally, this embodies my idea of what a global engineer should be, in terms of hard work, dedication, and enjoying your profession without the need of being so highly revered in society. I agree with Buchanan on the motivational reasoning behind being an engineer and I find it very interesting how different the process of becoming an engineer is and also the perception of what an engineer is from a country that many would say is similar to the US in many ways but clearly not from an engineering standpoint. I would like to dive deeper into the daily life and culture of the British population to see why there are so many difference compared to engineers today in both Britain and The United States respectively.

Another reading I found to be very interesting was the article by Adam Smith about classical economics. An excerpt from The Wealth of Nations about laissez-faire economics and the “invisible hand” that I found very intriguing states, “By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.” The reason this is true today in economics, as well as many other aspects of society is because this creates a strong sense of competition between individuals and groups. This competition, sometimes very intense I might add, is the source of brilliant creativity and resourcefulness all in the selfish aims of being the best. Some might argue that by pursuing your own interest you may tend to work more diligently and thus create a better product (or whatever the goal might be). However, I respectfully disagree with Adam Smith by comparing his work to John Forbes Nash, a fellow Economist and Nobel Prize winner in Economics. What is now referred to as Nash Equilibrium, states almost the opposite of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” ideology. Simply put, Nash Equilibrium means that by working together and incorporating each other’s decisions as a group, each person in a group would make the best decision possible taking into account the other member’s decision. The difference between Smith and Nash’s ideologies is taking into consideration the other members decisions and using those decisions as a way of helping each other rather than attempting to “beat” the other person. Although in the grand scheme of things Adam Smith’s laissez-faire principles reign supreme, on the contrary in highly organized businesses and notably on executive boards Nash equilibrium is quite common. Looking at the core of these two economics principles shows a strong characteristic in trusting people. The main argument I see for the laissez-faire rationale is that nobody trusts anyone and as a result, instead of working together for a common goal, selfish aims take over and the invisible hand economics becomes dominant. When a goal can solely be achieved by cooperation between individuals do you see a trend in Nash’s equilibrium and trust being negotiated or instilled in the relationships. Although these two individuals were famously known in their fields of economics, these principles follow us in our day-to-day life and have personally changed the way I view society and a macro and microscopic level.

After comparing and contrasting the readings as well as comparing my own life experiences with these intriguing findings, I can already see a change in my perspective on what it means to be a global engineer as well as removing the black and white notions of right vs. wrong when designing and building. I think I have noticed a wall created by my own ignorance that caused me to be closed minded based on the formal education that I have received. I have always thought that a formal education was needed for becoming an engineer and only through rigorous learning of theory would I ever be useful in industry and the British clearly disproved this. In conclusion I found that I am heavily influenced by my own culture, specifically in the discipline of engineering, in ways that I had never fathomed and there is much more to becoming a global engineer than I anticipated but it is well worth the challenge.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Ecosystem of Culture – Reading Response #1

Culture is an ever changing, ever growing and developing system, much like that of an ecosystem. Ecosystems are described by the balance that is maintained to support them; the ever changing relationships between species, the global “catastrophes” such as earthquakes or tsunamis, and the impact from a dominant species are all triggers of change. The delicate balance of an ecosystem can be easily upset, and sometimes with what is thought to be a small impact can cause some of the largest changes within the ecosystem. Culture can be described as an ecosystem: it continues to change and adapt to these impacts, both good and bad. Hess supports this ever changing ideology when he states “It is therefore unlikely that the world is becoming “more homogeneous”: there are both centripetal and centrifugal tendencies, merging cultures and emergent cultures.” Many ecosystems have been misunderstood and misinterpreted by us humans. We expect a strength and stability that is not always present – and are surprised when the ecosystem begins to fall apart. How is this any different than the human expectation of a stable cultural environment?

According to the second law of thermodynamics, entropy (the chaos of a system) is always increasing – meaning that the overall trend of the world is toward chaos. Hess continues to support the idea of change and chaos when he states, “the phenomena of overlap and miscegenation will likely lead to such radical changes in the classification system that the very concepts of ethnic majority and minority are likely to undergo radical changes as well.” So many people expect and work towards cultural and social change, but the impacts they introduce to the cultures “break” the ecosystem of that culture causing a result not anticipated. It can be hard to understand how something as pesky as an aphid can have such an impact on an entire ecosystem. Consider a field-type ecosystem: if we removed the aphids from these fields, our goal being to remove them in order to allow the plant life to flourish (as the aphids continue to destroy the plant life – suppressing its growth), what would happen to the ladybugs who eat the aphids? Their source of food would be gone, their positive impact on the ecosystem removed. Next, the small birds and lizards would suffer, without a food source, they too would die out. As these smaller species continue to die, the plant life is taking over the landscape, this time however, the weeds have begun to flourish and are killing the beautiful flowers we had set out to save. Weeds are more durable and require less water and less transfer of seeds – they are tough. By now the entire ecosystem has changed, and for the worse. By trying to eliminate a small “problem” we undermined our own efforts. And in reality, were the aphids really such a problem? It is a matter of perspective, by looking at them and respecting the role they play in the existing ecosystem we can see their value.

The efforts to change social and cultural norms can be thought of in the same regard. Everything plays a role in the dynamics of culture, by making one small change, such as removing a well as a water source and providing running water in homes, as we discussed in class, the entire dynamic of the culture has changed – both for the better and the worse – and it cannot be changed back. Once a habit is learned, it is hard to loose that habit. Such as having the convenience of running water – imagine having to shower with a bucket. Buchanan touches on the idea of learned characteristics that build a culture. He discusses the culture of British Engineers, “Many of the engineers came from social and family backgrounds in which hard work was a prerequisite of survival, and the habit, once formed, lasted a professional lifetime.” These learned traits stayed with the young engineers their entire lives – and were the reason that the engineering culture in Britain is the way it is today – a unique ecosystem of its own.

Quotes from:

Hess “Culture and Society” + “Power and Politics”

Buchanan “The Life-Style of the Victorian Engineers”

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Reading Reaction #1: Billy McVicker

When I think of engineering the three words that come to mind are technology, creativity, and innovation. These characteristics define what engineers strive to pattern their work life after.In the essay “The Life-Style of the Victorian Engineers,” Dr. Buchanan describes his findings of British engineers as hard-working, ethical craftsmen. British engineers in the early 19th century were passionate about developing practical technology to help progress society. Buchanan focuses on the life-style of these engineers and the roles they played in the educational system.It is interesting to me how British engineers were so involved in training and mentoring the next generation of engineers through apprenticeships. I find this type of leadership and involvement in educating new professionals unique in other fields, such as the political field where competition for some position is very cut-throat. Buchanan goes on discussing the lack of British engineers’ willingness to incorporate theoretical knowledge and university training into the development of engineers’ training, yet I think this mindset comes from those that were raised in a society where this type of formal training is heavily pressed. I believe that the British engineers’ idea of training was developed from the thought that Cal Poly so eminently advertises, “learn by doing.” It is through this exposure to getting your hands on tools and building something that helps young professionals understand how things work that one can further understand the theoretical concepts of engineering. If you only read in a book about how a bicycle works, then you will be less capable of creating a better design. It is those that have ridden a bicycle and know the weak points of the design that can create new technology to solve problems to make bicycles better.British engineers founded many professional engineering institutions that contributed through papers to the theoretical base of engineering. When discussing the way engineers met and presented papers on their work, Buchanan states, “While this mass of readily available experience could not, any more than the traditional techniques of apprenticeship, impart new theoretical information, it did provide a very substantial foundation for the continuing education of British engineers…” I my experience at Cal Poly, I have found that working in the lab helps me understand the theoretical concepts taught in class. It is usually not until after I use the theoretical concepts in a practical hands-on setting that the theory becomes clear.

In the essay by Smith & Walley, “Engineers in Britain: A Study in Persistence,” it is stated, “In particular, the low status of British engineering and the relative lack of scientific and technical training have been held responsible for the state of Britain’s poor economic performance for over a hundred years.” I find this statement hard to believe because it was the craftsman that built the steam engine and the textile machinery during the early 19th century. If these craftsmen could not quote the three laws of thermodynamics, then how could they build these machines that encapsulate the very concepts of basic physics? If one can understand what the problem is and knows what needs to be solved, then they are better equipped with the knowledge of how to use physics and chemistry to solve the problem. British engineers were very successful at creating new technology that drove the economy in the Industrial Revolution because of their passion, ability to collaborate with other engineers, and their ability to leave politics out of the picture to think logically about their situation.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reading Response #1

Brig Bagley

Reading Response #1

Engineering in the United States has a very distinct image: white collar, male, smart, technology, and innovation are all terms that often go synonymously with the term engineering. The process of engineering also has a well defined sequence of actions: see a problem or need in society or in an item, find a better solution, test the solution and throw it out into the public, repeat. To those of us in the United States, it is almost accepted that all of these terms and sequences are true for the majority of engineers and engineering in general. Few, if any, realize that engineering does not mean the same thing around the world. In fact the different views of engineers across the world differ so much that some may not even consider the other view to be engineering at all. Because of the differing perspectives of engineering, it is imperative that engineers are aware of the conflicts between cultures to be successful. In addition, engineering must not be labeled or categorized for certain types of people, backgrounds, or even defined as one distinct and particular process.

Engineering has a very bare minimum of universal ground. Although the perspectives may be different, engineers in near all countries are looking to better the world. Needless to say, nearly all professions hope to better the world. This makes engineering seem as uniform as the countries of the world. But it is true. According to the article, “The Globally Competent Engineer: Working Effectively with People Who Define Problems Differently,” by Downey and others, “engaging ways of thinking and understanding that differ from your own can refer either to ways of solving or of defining problem” (2). The very core of engineering depends on how people define problems and identify solutions to those problems. If engineers of differing cultures cannot agree on whether a problem is a problem, or determine if a solution is a solution, how can we expect any progress? Engineers must be aware of certain cultural differences to maintain common ground as well as respect the differing needs within that culture.

Society (especially in the United States) often labels every part of life and puts images on top of all aspects of the world. Women are refined and classy. Men are strong and dominant. Nurses are female assistants to doctors. Engineers are white-collar men. We as human beings are very aware of their social status and where they lie in all of these labels. We are also aware of where we fit into these patterns, and where we do not. As expected, we tend to move towards the labels that society associates with us. According to Lucena, “dominant images create expectations about how individuals in that location are supposed to act or behave” (5). Why would someone try to swim against the current? It’s much easier to go along with the direction things are going. Because of this mindset, the diversity and individuality that could benefit all of these different aspects of life is lost. To overcome this loss, it is imperative that people, (and in our case specifically, engineers), remove the social labels and barriers that confine the possibilities within the realm of engineering.

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