The Nebraska Blueprint -- September 1930
The College of Engineering
By DEAN 0. J. FERGUSON
Engineering is a difficult word to define. Its meanings have expanded enormously in recent decades. Its branches have increased in number until we scarcely recognize some of its variations. Its implications are legion. Yet, back of them all lies the fixed idea of productive, economic, constructive direction of natural forces or use of natural forces or use of natural resources.
The significance of the term is felt, when we talk of "engineering" this or "engineering" that. We have made a verb of it, and "to engineer" any process or event carries the implication of bringing it to successful issue. Results have been produced.
A bit of romance attaches to the word. So potent, so cogent a force has engineering been in establishing the present plane of industrial life and activity, and in bringing into every-day affairs products and services of inestimable value to us, that it has become a sort of magic word, a touchstone, which may be invoked when our rampant imaginations create some new desire. Surely, the work of the engineer has given us almost unthinkable conveniences and luxuries. Our romantic minds, therefore, make the engineer a magician. We dare not say "He cannot do it." We cautiously admit, "He hasn't done it, yet." The engineer—no one knows what he may do!
And is it to this field that we welcome you newly registered men in the College of Engineering?
Yes, it is, and to none of these inspiriting ideas do we take exception. But these rosy features do not give us the complete picture. There are some things in it besides blue sky, fleecy clouds, waving branches and running brooks. There are more fundamental things than the glories of engineering. And we welcome you to these things also.
But what are they?
Well, the most concrete element is hard work. Of that we have a-plenty. Of that there cannot be too much for success, and it begins immediately with school days. Our courses are heavy and our subjects require both mental and manual skill. A student undertaking engineering should have a sound mathematical sense, a conception of number relations, of quantity, of measurements, and variations in them. Algebra and geometry should have definite appeal to him, as studies that he likes. Originals in mathematics should be peculiarly enjoyable.
He should also have a great curiosity regarding scientific facts, bases and relations. Of particular significance in relations, is the ability to grasp inter-relations of facts, especially fundamental relations—those of far-reaching effects. High school physics and chemistry give him an opportunity to evaluate himself in this regard. Can be clarify his ideas and arrange them in logical order, discarding unnecessary or unreliable information? Can he construct a bare skeleton which will articulate?
And again, is his English clear, concise and effective? Can he express his ideas without confusion or ambiguity? Only simple, direct language is permissible in writing specifications. Can he use his English with force and clarity?
Of the various branches of engineering, I shall not speak. They are discussed in articles by other men. But, I would draw attention to the fact that our alumni are active in nearly every engineering field which may be named. My mailing list includes addresses scattered pretty well over the entire world. Would you follow in their footsteps?
Then train yourself in the fundamentals of science and
economics, and exercise your judgment in the application of these principles
to practice. You may become an engineer by learning and doing.
We cordially welcome you to the college, with the knowledge that you have
come for a purposeful life.