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To be a practice-ready engineer, you must write professional emails!

October 24, 2017

 When asked to write a story for our newsletter Dr. Castaneda was more than happy to contribute. He’s email’ final signature quote sparked this collaboration. “To be a practice-ready engineer, you must write professional emails! Learn more about professional writing and emails by visiting http://www.cewriting.org/ and clicking on Materials for Courses & Independent Study.”

An engineer uses math and physics to solve real-world problems, but civil engineering is a much broader field where other skills are equally, if not more, valuable. Within civil engineering, we need effective communicators, we need leaders who can manage teams of people, we need creative thinkers who draw inspiration from outside the engineering box, and we need compassionate individuals who will seed changes in how engineering engages our communities and environment. Engineers who solely rely on their academic skills, who overly focus on earning the highest GPA, or who avoid opportunities in extracurricular work do not emerge as leaders within engineering. They are simply not practice-ready.

 

A practice-ready engineer is more often someone who earns their grades through hard work and reaches out to others for help when they need it. Whether they are going to office hours for help or finding help in study groups where they are building life-long friendships with their classmates, they are learning broader skills in identifying their weaknesses and bettering themselves. Writing and drawing clear schematics in homework and project assignments are powerful tools for communication, as is orally conveying technical information in presentations. In either of these forums of communication, there is an exchange of ideas about how to best solve open-ended, difficult problems. This is exactly how engineers actually practice engineering – they share ideas with each other and communicate and justify the best approach to solve a problem via writing and professional presentations! Sometimes, the answers to these technical problems can be answered from inter-disciplinary dialogue with the arts and sciences.  Those disciplines can be more greatly attuned into nature and natural systems and greatly inform engineers on how to overcome challenges.  For example, civil engineers have drawn knowledge from biologists who study trees in order to better inform and optimize load path and structural design of engineering materials. Real-life engineering is never simply a textbook solution, and those students who challenge themselves to think outside the engineering box – not just finding the “right answer” – are those who are practice-ready.

 

There are many ways that Angelo State engineering students (or Ramgineers as we like to say) can become practice-ready. In engineering classes, students can engage and befriend their classmates in study and social groups. They can also join student organizations like the Civil Engineering Council or the Steel Bridge Team. Students must also learn to communicate and grow their own character by becoming tolerant of differences and disagreements. These are, after all, your future colleagues! Ramgineers should realize that they will have strong influence to change the way that engineering is conducted with regards to vulnerable communities and the environment. Social injustices manifested themselves, like the construction of hazardous chemical facilities near low-income homes,  when engineers refused to recognize the consequences of their actions on low-income communities or the environment. Engineering is rapidly changing with a more diverse workforce so Ramgineers will be joining an industry that is more mindful of the technocentric consequences of engineering to communities and the environment.

 

“There’s never been a better time to become a civil engineer, and the engineering programs at Angelo State are being built from the ground-up for our students to become practice-ready engineers and the engineering leaders of the 21st Century.”

 

-Dr. Daniel I. Castaneda

 

Dr. Daniel I. Castaneda, Assistant Professor of the David L. Hirschfeld Department of Engineering Daniel.Castaneda@angelo.eduDr. Daniel I. Castaneda