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How many Modellers Are Engineers?

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i12fly05/08/2010 21:19:43
632 forum posts
22 photos
You can usually recognise an engineer -he/she can't spell or they talk alot of bull.... Having mastered one or two basic principles they always think they're right as well. Incidentally, why do so many people think the Spitfire was so good? it had carbs when even the trainers in the opposition camp had injection, it placed the fuel tank right in front of the pilots face, it took several times longer to make than the opposition fighters, was expensive, difficult to repair, was lightly armed compared with the opposition, performance only kept up didn't lead. The pilots were brave indeed! Shall I go on? But they do look and sound beautiful. Yes I'm an engineer too BSc mech eng and a heating engineer too with more ticks in boxes than you can shake an spiece of spruce at -and if you think that isn't a proper engineer, take a look at the regs and standards  I need to know when I come and condemn your dangerous heating system and leave you in the cold.... Yes I fit the mould too but my spelling is perfekt. I'm off now to hide from the flak. Get a bit grumpy towards the weekend  as I need a flying fix.
Erfolg05/08/2010 21:54:08
11701 forum posts
1309 photos
I think the suggestion of engineers having no practical experience, is a sweeping generalization. Most of the engineers I knew, had worked at a practical level. As major engineering companies incorporated practical work, prior to commencing the studies and during the holidays. Also the institutions required proof of practical training/experience.
As to knowing all the answers, I think the majority of Professional engineers are acutely aware of how much they do not know. Ignorance is bliss. It is often reducing the unqualified issues to an acceptable level and looking for the unexpected and non programmed issues that cases the stress.
Of course the UK is one of the countries where engineers can be replaced by any one, it is so easy.
It does not suprise me that engineers are often modellers, it is fun, with our own dead lines, we set our own goals, control all aspects of the programme, decide the budget. No re submission if any aspect of the project is changed. . Yep easy and fun compared to engineering
Biggles' Elder Brother - Moderator05/08/2010 22:52:20
15748 forum posts
1460 photos
Its been really interesting to see just how many modellers are engineers/technologists etc. But like Erfolg perhaps I don't find it so surprising. A lot of people who went into engineering did so because they have an interest in things "technical" so I suppose its not so surprising that they select a very technically orientated hobby.
Its also interesting, along the way, to see how many engineers "did it the hard way". Reading what Gemma writes sounds very similar in some ways to my own background. I was brought up on a council estate in Liverpool - and believe me you haven't lived if you didn't experience Liverpool council estates in the seventies As I said above I started out as an apprentice tool maker - and it was generally considered a "plum" opportunity. Those were the days when it was still just true that the skilled working class were considered something of an "elite" in those circles! So my parents were very happy. My father was a fitter - and a hugely gifted "natural engineer" - sadly, being a working class youngster in Liverpool in the 1930's further education simply wasn't even a dream for him! He left school at 14. He was enormously inventive and skillful and if there was an "inspiration" which led me into engineering it was him. Like Gemma's dad he taught me basic skills, woodworking, soldering, simple metal work etc at an early age. Sadly he died when I was 18 - just as I was being transferred from "the tools" to the drawing office. He would have been very proud of that!
So there me were, my Mum, my younger sister and I. Like you Lee there seemed no chance for me to go to University - I was the breadwinner! But I was lucky I suppose. I was doing an ONC and got good results and  my employer offered to sponsor me through University. I say I was lucky - I think that's true in terms of the opportunity being available - but I feel quite strongly that I earned the right to use the opportunity. I suppose I then became the classic "working class over-achiever" Going on to a PhD etc.
I know I'm not alone in following this type of route. Being the first in my family to go to University and making the most of opportunities as they presented themselves, moving from "the tools" onto university.
Regarding the question "what exactly is an engineer?" I don't think its to do with "bits of paper. I agree with what I think Ackers said above that all qulaifications can do is open doors - put your foot on the first rung of the ladder. To achieve Chartered Engineer status you need a lot more than a degree - in fact you can become a Chartered Engineer without a degree - but its quite unusual these days - but not impossible.
For me whether someone is an Engineer or not depends fundementally on what they do - not what qualifications they have. If you run projects, control resources (both budget and manpower), if you make strategic and fundamental decisions on what technology will be used to solve a given problem, if at the end of the day its your neck on the line if it goes over budget, is delivered late or fails to perform to spec, Then in my book you're an engineer - whatever your qualifications say! But if you largely impliment other people's plans, if when it goes wrong you can say "I did it that way because s/he told me too", if you don't decide and control the resources, then your probably a Technician in my view - not an Engineer.
Does it matter? Is one "more important" than the other? I don't believe so. Most big projects can't be delievered without both sets of skills, the engineer's knowledge to plan and design the solution, the technician's skills to adapt and realise the design in practice. The two need each other and in the best projects there is a real mutual respect from each for the knowledge and skills of the other.
Just my views and experience.
Reno Racer06/08/2010 08:12:23
1138 forum posts
168 photos

Thank you all for your posts; in the main it seems that many of you have an engineering background or an interest in technology. There also appears to be good across all engineering disciplines and across all levels of engineering, from Chartered Engineer to technicians and shop floor mechanics. What a wealth of experience this brings to the hobby and makes a forum like this so useful and informative.

It is also clear I think that, sadly, the UK misunderstanding of the word Engineer, is still out there.  the word 'Engineer', which is an internationally recognised 'status' (probably the wrong word, but you get my drift) term, yet in the UK has been allowed to proliferate across all levels of engineering; people that are fantastic tradesman, mechanics, technicians etc, are not engineers (not my opinion, see the UK Engineering Council website). This in no way means they are bad at their job or that they don't understand their area of engineering. 

At work, we are legislatively governed by the professional standards of the Engineering Council (BTW, this governs all engineering institutions and bodies) and as such , my 12+year time served specialist mechanic or electro-optical technician meet the criteria for registration as an Engineering Technician. My graduate trainee engineers and engineering department managers/shop floor supervisors can be an Incorporated Engineer (as BEB suggests this is the guy who applies current technologies and methods). The Chief Engineer is a Chartered Engineer. In an organisation of 450, there is only 4 qualified (by experience, competence and qualifications) Chartered Engineers. They operate at the strategic level and with novel and future technologies and direct the output required of the shop floor. 

That's why I suggest even a fantastic domestic heating repair man is not an 'Engineer', he/she should be a 'Engineering Technician', if using he correct legislative terminology.

Of course, these are simply words and have no effect on our ability to be professionals in the engineering disciplines, at whatever level. more importantly, they generally seem to make no difference to our abilities as builders, modellers and flyers. 

Edited By Christian Ackroyd on 06/08/2010 08:26:53

Lee Smalley06/08/2010 11:33:52
2125 forum posts
68 photos
2 articles
a couple of points
re the spitfire, yes it was hard to manufacture and repair and all the faults we know it had but remember this it was the only aircraft to fly throughout the war and be continously upgraded with serious degredation in its manouvrability and performance, the later marks of 109 were described as positively dangerous by luftwaffe pilots and whilst some marks were faster it was never able to match the spitfires manouverability something that good was never going to be easy to make the hurricane whilst much easier to make was never able to be upgraded and indeed by end 1940 it was positively outdated.
re Engineers its sad that there are virtually no companies now that invest in their staff to a degree level anymore it seems unless you are wealthy (relatively)and can pay your way through uni or are in the forces then your gonna struggle, apprentiships  sadly seem to be a thing of the past, what a shame !
Biggles' Elder Brother - Moderator06/08/2010 12:04:06
15748 forum posts
1460 photos
Can't disagree with either of those points Lee.
Reno Racer06/08/2010 12:15:10
1138 forum posts
168 photos


Tend to agree mate, I think at all levels, from degrees to 'proper' apprenticeships, we (UK Plc) are sadly loosing out due to lack of investment in UK engineering.

Did you see the program on jets by Jez Clarkson last night - he covered Whittle's idea and how we let our jet engineering prowess slip away to the US (after giving them the info in exchange for ammunition and trucks in WW2). He also suggested that because the 'establishment' shunned Frank Whittle's ideas in the 30s, which led him to patent the jet engine, his ideas became public info, which the German's picked up.

I suspect there is a degree of truth in that; not much seems to have changed in 70 years! 

A.A. Barry06/08/2010 12:44:04
1922 forum posts
186 photos
Lee, the last point you addressed also happened here in Aus.
1960> I started my mechanical apprent. in 1963, the govnt of the day had a scheme to promote companies to employ lads into the trades, 1/2 of the wages where met by the employer and 1/2 was met by the govnt.
I started a 5 yr term, but ended up having it reduced to 4, anyway, a lot of young guys where employed in all sorts of trades under this, Aus didn't need to have overseas people from the 3rd world countries (THEN), most send their $'s home, because we could train our own, UNTIL......
A change in policies........1980
Local companys refused to take on new apprent's because of the cost $$$$$, so for many yrs, we where lacking in young men taking up a metal trades, except for the "forces and  very large company's
 2005, the Govt decide "OH, WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO", today there is a 1/2"baked scheme" under a government assisted apprentice labour companys,
 But I should be lucky, because now all us old farts are being kept on, asked not to leave, and well paid.
That's govenments for you

Edited By A.A. Barry on 06/08/2010 12:47:09

Lee Smalley06/08/2010 12:56:04
2125 forum posts
68 photos
2 articles
i dont think the germans picked up too much from whittles ideas as they went down the axial route rather than  the centrifugal  and whilst its hard to prove as pre war records have been destroyed, there is good evidence that the geremans were running jet engines as early as 1933 they first flew a jet powerd aircraft in 1938 henshel i think it was and these were all axial since the 80s the goverments here in uk seemed to have deemed engineers not that important and financial bods far more important, well look where that got us !!
Erfolg06/08/2010 16:35:11
11701 forum posts
1309 photos
I do not know where the jet engine content has come from, though you are certainly correct in much of your beliefs, Lee.
It appears that Whittle no more invented the jet engine than Dyson the cyclone.
It is certain that he built one of the earliest effective jet engines, for aircraft,
An English Church Minister (John Barber) filed the first patent for the concept back in the 1800s i think.
The first self sustaining gas turbine was built by a Norwegian engineer (Elling) in about 1900. Still exists today.
A French man, Guilliane, filed a patent to use an axial flow engine for aircraft flight in approx 1920.
Griffith wrote a paper before Whittle at the RAE in about 1930.
The number of ground running gas turbines and hybrid types predating Whittle is breathtaking.
Metallurgy and economy appeared to be a major issue, for all these that predate Whittle.
None the less, just like Dyson, Whittle built a device that could be used in an aircraft.  Ohain (the German) can be considered a contemporary.
As to who was first depends on your criteria, nationality and above all patriotism during a war. The" truth is the first casualty in war" and the long story does not fit to well with boosting national pride, resolve and national moral.. Particularly when it was apparent that German jet aircraft were operational.
I suspect that not trying to enforce the Whittle patent (was it just for a single stage centrifugal jet?, like our model jets) was as much a device to avoid arguments regarding axial flow issues, and multi staged compressors (high compression ratios) as to having a patent that was enforceable.
Like many things, little is truly new and unique.
Erfolg06/08/2010 18:20:09
11701 forum posts
1309 photos
I was reflecting on the biographies of the training of many of the engineers in this thread.
What appears tangibly different, from present day generations of youth is how much work we all did.
We all seemed to compete to get employer sponsorship for our education. We all accepted that we would work in the workshops, when not actually training. Long hours of study were the norm, for all.
The other aspect, which is not I suspect to myself, was continuous training. Learning programming, computing theory, modelling techniques concepts. All after obtaining qualifications.  Being prepared to learn about codes for pressure vessels. Relearning that CAD use was more relevant than theory in earning a crust. Coming to terms with Relational databases and on and on.
I also guess like most engineers I have worked in many industries, turbines, aircraft, printing, nuclear, anything to earn a living. In the past it seems engineers would and could do anything, you just studied a bit more if necessary, it is all engineering.
I guess that was and is the challenge of engineering, all seems similar, but is actually evolving and us with it.
I compare that with a very few current students I have spoken to and a 60 hour week of work and study would be outrageous and unfair. The thought that you actually got peanuts, I now assume my employer received my grant? Never questioned it then.
I studied with a HK Chinese lad called Pek, no amount of work was to much for him, I suspect the same is true today, for many in Asia.

Edited By Erfolg on 06/08/2010 18:26:09

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