As I approach my final year of college in the mechanical engineering department, I can’t help but be filled with wonder at how quickly these years have gone by, elation I am almost to the end, fear of the future and of the unknown, and relief to finally, at long last, be done. And I am filled with such emotions mainly as a result of my time as an engineering student. I began college with high aspirations and expectations of what studying mechanical engineering might hold for me; at the time, I was captivated and fascinated by the idea of nuclear technology and energy. With youth came naiveté, and I had the idea in my silly mind that I could be the one to solve the world’s energy problem. But as college wore on and I was exposed to new and different things, both inside the engineering world and not, my mind became a rather skewed version of what it once was. As I took more classes in engineering, and outside of engineering, in addition to working an internship with a local medical manufacturing company, I found myself becoming more and more upset, jaded, and frustrated with engineering as a field of thought and practice. Through both conversation with my peers or coworkers, as well as being proven in practice, I came to the conclusion that engineering is just far too rigid a field to foster any sense of creativity, and often times, in my own experience, I found my own sense of creativity towards projects being stifled entirely. The philosophy amongst my peers, professors, and most of all, coworkers seemed to be, “it doesn’t matter how it’s done, just as long as it’s done,” which to me was a rather bleak and unfortunate way to go through life as an engineer. It was not about form and function, form was left in the dust long ago, and function had been reigning supreme for eons.
It was around the same time that these feelings started to manifest that I found the TAM program and the ATLAS institute; a program and an institution which both seemed to be practicing exactly what I had been preaching for months: it isn’t form or function, there was no choice, it is form AND function, working together in concert to create a final product which is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also functions magnificently. I do understand that there are some limitations to this concept, mainly in the realm of budgets, time, and resource constraints (I suppose a budget and time could both be classified as resources), but the question I keep asking myself whenever there is an engineering design problem proposed to me is, “Why is this a question of favoring either engineering OR design factors? Why cannot it not be both? Why can’t your engineers also be designers? Your designers not engineers?” The only conclusion I am able to come to in reference to these questions lies in the education structure, as well as the current corporate structure of the engineering world.
And so, as I approach my anticipated graduation date of Fall 2016, I will not leave with my diploma in search of a high-paying engineering job I do not care about with a company I care even less about. Instead, I aspire to try something completely different from what I’ve been doing the last four years of my life: maybe I’ll become a baker’s apprentice, or learn proper coffee roasting techniques, or practice freelance carpentry, or work a menial job and go to grad school to learn more about web, graphic, and/or product design. My most complex and outlandish desire is to change the minds of people in regards to design and engineering, form and function. I hope, that through my own actions, I am able to create a small, but meaningful paradigm shift in the minds of those who have for so long been preaching and practicing design and engineering as two separate entities; and in that same way, form and function as being two halves of a Venn diagram, in a sense. One such Venn diagram where the overlap is so minimal that the two ideologies are hardly ever used in canon. I would truly love to start a company or an organization with a group of likeminded people, because this aspiration is not something that I could ever achieve on my own. Regardless, the traditional engineering path is not an aspiration of mine, and I do not see it being one anytime soon.