101 Things I Learned in Engineering School
by John Kuprenas with Matthew Frederick
Engineering involves the application of mathematics, physics, and chemistry, but “the heart of engineering isn’t calculation; it’s problem solving,” writes John Kuprenas, a civil engineer. Here is a sampling of his insights.
“Accuracy is the absence of error; precision is the level of detail. Effective problem solving requires always be accurate, but being only as precise as is helpful at a given stage of problem solving. Early in the problem solving process, accurate but imprecise methods, rather than very exact methods, will allow consideration of all reasonable approaches and minimize the tracking of needlessly detailed data.”
“There’s always a trade-off. Lightness versus strength, response time versus noise, quality versus cost, responsive handling versus soft ride, speed of measurement versus accuracy of measurement, design time versus design quality… It is impossible to maximize the response to every design consideration. Good design is not maximization of every response nor even compromise among them; it’s optimization among alternatives.”