Chad Jackson

Let’s Play A Guessing Game: Who’s this Engineer?

December 19, 2011

Here at engineering-matters, we’ve taken on some serious topics. And rightfully so. There’s a lot going on with the engineering profession. But as we approach the holiday season, I feel like we should maybe lighten the mood a little bit. I still want to take on a serious topic but have some fun along the …

Let’s Play A Guessing Game: Who’s this Engineer? Read More »

Let’s Play A Guessing Game: Who’s this Engineer?

Here at engineering-matters, we’ve taken on some serious topics. And rightfully so. There’s a lot going on with the engineering profession. But as we approach the holiday season, I feel like we should maybe lighten the mood a little bit. I still want to take on a serious topic but have some fun along the way.

So, let’s play a game. In fact, let’s play a guessing game.

Ready, Set…

OK. Here’s how we’ll play. I have someone in mind related to engineering. You probably don’t think of them outright as an engineer, but as you’ll see, they fit the bill. I’m going to give you five hints that describes them. Your job is to guess the answer before I give it to you.

Ready? Here comes the first hint.

Hint #1: Their Role in the Community: Like any many engineers, this person’s job is to improve the quality of life of those around them and the productivity of the community they live in. Furthermore, this person gets rations and does not get paid monetarily.

Of course, that’s not enough to begin to guess. Although I am sure some of you are piqued because of the last bit. Let’s move on to the next hint!

Hint #2: An Engineering Talent that Includes Sketching, Drawing and Planning: While this person does not have an engineering degree, they do have a natural talent or affinity for engineering. They experiment and iterate with different aspects for their designs. They plan out their designs by sketching and dimensioning their ideas. The form and fit of their designs are oftentimes driven by performing calculations that include geometric characteristics.

Curious now? Something working in the back of your mind? Let’s get to the next hint.

Hint #3: Proving Things Out in the Prototype Lab: This person uses what you could call a test lab. They build prototypes. They run tests to see if it works as intended. It’s essentially where they prove out their plans and designs. If things work out correctly, they often scale production to create many of the same designs to be used in their community.

Got it a guess yet? Now don’t blurt it out. Keep it to yourself for now.

Hint #4: Reverse Engineering from Existing Parts: This person doesn’t just act like an engineer, they act like an old-school engineer. Most of their designs come from existing parts that might be used in completely new applications. A large part of their plans come from looking at existing products, figuring out how it works and then applying those concepts elsewhere.

Were getting close now. Just one more hint. Will see if this one completely gives it away.

Hint #5: Reinvented: This person is a Disney animated character. In fact, the concept of this character was originally conceived way back in 1954. In the past few years, this character has been revisited and, to an extend, reinvented. There have been a number of recent movies released where this person is the main character.

Well, that’s all the hints. Have you figured it out yet? Take a look below and see if you’re right. The old school mechanical engineer is…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tinkerbell

Were you right?

I’ll explain all of the hints at the end of the post. But before we go there, I bet you’re still wondering about a couple of things.

How Do I Know So Much About Tinkerbell?

I have two daughters. The Tinkerbell franchise is huge right now. I’m inundated. I guess mixing that and engineering is a way for me to stay sane.

On a side note, can someone save me? Please?

How Is Tinkerbell Related to a Serious Engineering Issue?

Well, it all relates back to women in engineering. I know. I know. STEM issues in education have been talked about a lot. And the dearth of women in engineering has gotten a lot of coverage as well. But I got some inspiration for this post fairly recently. In March of this year, a new study titled Stemming The Tide: Why Women Leave Engineering was published by Nadya Fouad and Romila Singh from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. It’s a well done study that looks at why female graduate engineers have left the profession, why they may have never gone in to the profession and why some students drop the pursuit of an engineering degree altogether. Some of the findings startling me. Here are some of the highlights.

Now I’m no expert on this topic. And likewise, I won’t pretend that I have good answers on how to solve it. Experts like Nadya Fouad, Romila Singh and others are smarter than I in that regard. But I do believe that, based on the findings in this study and others, that one of the major underlying issues here is cultural. And I believe that positive female engineering role models, like Tinkerbell, is some part of the solution. I hope for the sake of the profession, as well as my two daughters, that we can find a way to make women feel more accepted, more excited and proud to be part of an engineering organizations.

Answers to the Hints

Here’s some explanation to the hints.

Hint #1: Their Role in the Community: Like any many engineers, this person’s job is to improve the quality of life of those around them and the productivity of the community they live in. Furthermore, this person gets rations and does not get paid monetarily.

Tinkerbell, and all the fairies in that little world, get “paid” a ration of fairy dust. She and the entire group of “Tinker Fairies” fix stuff around Pixie Hollow. There are various different types of fairies. In the movie of course. Don’t be weird.

Hint #2: An Engineering Talent that Includes Sketching, Drawing and Planning: While this person does not have an engineering degree, they do have a natural talent or affinity for engineering. They experiment and iterate with different aspects for their designs. They plan out their designs by sketching and dimensioning their ideas. The form and fit of their designs are oftentimes driven by performing calculations that include geometric characteristics.

Every fairy apparently has a talent. That’s how they get placed into a specific group or type of fairies. Tinkerbell’s talent is tinkering. There are a number of occasions where Tinkerbell sat down at a desk, sketched concepts out on paper, dimensioned them and made them to scale as well as wrote out calculations based on all sorts of characteristics of her designs.

Hint #3: Proving Things Out in the Prototype Lab: This person uses what you could call a test lab. They build prototypes. They run tests to see if it works as intended. It’s essentially where they prove out their plans and designs. If things work out correctly, they often scale production to create many of the same designs to be used in their community.

Let me say this: Tinkerbell’s never heard of digital prototyping. She’s a hands-on type of fairy. In that regard, she does remind me of old-school engineers where they’d constantly be in the shop, experimenting and trying different iterations on a physical prototype.

Hint #4: Reverse Engineering from Existing Parts: This person doesn’t just act like an engineer, they act like an old-school engineer. Most of their designs come from existing parts that might be used in completely new applications. A large part of their plans come from looking at existing products, figuring out how it works and then applying those concepts elsewhere.

Tinkerbell engineers most of her stuff from “Lost Things.” Basically those are parts and other stuff that washes up onshore on Neverland. In fact, when she comes across some of that stuff, it seems as if she can’t help but try to put it back together again and make it work. Does someone have an engineering compulsion? Hmmm?

Hint #6: Reinvented: This person is a Disney animated character. In fact, the concept of this character was originally conceived way back in 1954. In the past few years, this character has been revisited and, to an extend, reinvented. There have been a number of recent movies released where this person is the main character.

Peter Pan, the original, was released way back in 1954. That’s when we first saw Tinkerbell. But they really have reinvented her in this new incarnation. They really brought the engineer out in her. And I, for one, am very glad Disney did that.

Make It Your Own

Want to do something interesting with this? Got a subversive engineering agenda for your kids? Try this.

Get a whole bunch of recycled materials (lost things), sit down with your kids and tinker. Use Tinkerbell as the context. See what inventions they come up with. If they have seen the movies, you can suggest that they recreate stuff from there. Or, they could make up their own stuff. Fairy wings optional.

Conclusions and Questions

Well, I hope you enjoyed our little guessing game here. Thanks for playing along.

Let’s see. What’s a good question? How about we continue the game? Who are other notable characters that are engineers or engineer-like? Use the comments to play your own guessing game. Game on!

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading.

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