September, 1932



Just Around the Corner

By 0. J. Ferguson

FOR many months past we have had disappointing experiences with this phrase, "Just around the corner" proved to be a will-o-the-wisp. Or. to change the illustration. I am reminded of one of the little experience I had this summer, on my automobile trip to the west coast. We were breaking-thru the Sierra Nevada mountains, by way of Lake Tahoe. Our descent began, and long, heavy grades persisted. We lost our sense of gradients until we were never sure that a lighter grade didn't mean an up-turn. In fact, many times we saw a "rise" ahead, which proved to be only a less precipitous descent. We rounded sharp turns to right and to left, and as we looked down the valley, with our roadway always weaving out of sight, the feeling became almost an obsession that when we had made those two or three more turns which we could see we must surely be at the bottom of the hill. Certainly, nothing could go below the next three, or at the most, the next time. Anything lower than that must be a hole in the ground. And we rounded the several sharp turns only to find more and more steep road ahead of us.

May the figure continue! For it was our experience that when we had given up guessing as to the ultimate bottom to be reached, we suddenly ran out into the open. Where level road looked forward to our next climbs. It had been "just around the corner"—but, oh, so many corners! But, now we were on level road, with beautiful country before us, and rising hills in the not far distance. Where we found well-made and well-maintained roads that were a delight as well as a challenge.

Have we gotten around the last corner? Who knows?

Have we good roads ahead, even though they be steep? Who knows?

But I would speak of the roads, and their making. We may have something to do with that even if we can't wholly control the grades. What are some of the things which may make our new roads easier to negotiate?

Engineering schooling, if it has any one outstanding characteristic, evidences training in the ability to analyze situations, processes, relations, and facts. Every successive day's work in mathematics presents new problems, and new types of solutions must be found. Every step in physics brings one face to face with new scientific relations, the constructive application of which is an engineering task. Every structural relation studied must be understood by thorough analysis into its parts. Every problem in alternating currents, thermodynamics or hydraulics has to be most effectively separated into its elements, with the interrelations then recognized, before the basic facts become a part of the engineer's own building material to be used in his own practice.

Second perhaps to analytical training, comes the ability to evaluate—to establish relative values among parts, to know what to discard, to know what to save. Experience is the great teacher of this and the engineer knows that he must be baldly honest in dealing with facts and with values. He cannot argue with Fate if he has left out a tie rod. He will not attempt to "get by" with a false value.

American Engineering Council is assisting the National Department of Commerce in ferreting out the names of such engineering firms and individuals as have had peculiar and extended experiences in the solution of knotty industrial problems. Why?

It is believed that much constructive good can come from having available such a list of expert analysts and advisers, for the use of concerns which are in trouble now (and who is not?), and who have no staff members competent to review their problems understandingly. Even firms with excellent organizations and officers may find their people too near to the job to see broadly and discern the bare facts that are fundamentally troublesome, and must be corrected.

Who, better than the engineer, can furnish this service? It must be of the constructive type to be of permanent value. New projects, new products, new types of service must be worked out. The mere stealing of customers from competitors will not benefit industry.

There never was a time when any industry had greater need of research workers, investigators along technical lines, along economic lines, along management. For recovery will be the most rapid and most soundly far-reaching for he who develops to practical form new ideas based on clear analyses of opportunities and accurate establishment of relative values.

And, we need more engineers for these tasks.

"Just around the corner?" That's where "Recovery" is, but that is where she will stay, unless we first put to work her ready sister "Discovery".