Engineers' Week 2020
This week, we celebrate Engineers' Week 2020 ("EWeek" for short), a week "dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers." EWeek is sponsored by the National Society of Professional Engineers, which founded the event in 1951.
Eweek is scheduled each year to include George Washington's birthday. Many know that Washington was a farmer and surveyor, but he was also an inventor credited with the creation of a novel plow and construction of a unique building for threshing grain. Washington's sixteen-sided barn was a two-story structure in which horses would walk a circular path over cut stalks of grain on the second story (accessed by an earthen ramp) so the loosened grain could fall through slats in the floor to the level below. A replica of the structure can be seen at Mount Vernon today.
Washington is also credited with starting the U.S. patent system, but he wasn't the only U.S. President with engineering in his blood. Thomas Jefferson invented a swivel chair and a macaroni machine; James Madison created a walking stick with an enclosed microscope, Herbert Hoover was a mining engineer and Jimmy Carter was a nuclear engineer who worked on submarine propulsion systems. Abe Lincoln has the distinction of being the only president to hold a patent, for a ship with bellows on its hull to help unstick it from the sandy shoals of the Mississippi River.
One of my engineering heroes is Dr. John Lienhard, Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering and History at the University of Houston. In addition to his many technical accomplishments, he is the founding author of the The Engines of Our Ingenuity radio program that airs daily on KUHF and on other public radio stations around the country. Over 3200 episodes have been broadcast dedicated to celebrating "the machines that make our civilization run, and the people whose ingenuity created them."
In Episode 1556, Lienhard laments the demise of the "manual arts" and says, "I don't believe that anyone who has never handled tools can call himself or herself educated. Our culture rests upon manufactured things -- beds, chairs, TVs, cars, thermostats, window panes -- books. The idea that we can serve our society, that we can vote, that we can expand our culture without such elemental knowledge is wrong. For one thing, we wind up talking about things we don't understand. But we also lose a basic dimension of abstract thinking."
He continues, "We need to remember that Thomas Jefferson loved to work with his hands. He was a fine draftsman. Ben Franklin constantly designed and built things. Jimmy Carter and Barry Goldwater both spent their lives working with their hands. George Washington worked as a surveyor. The young Teddy Roosevelt worked as a rancher. Herbert Hoover was once America's leading mining engineer," and finally, "We need to remember that manual skills really have shaped America."
Look around, and everywhere we see that the application of science, technology and mathematics by engineers has shaped the world we take for granted.
This article was published in the February 18, 2020 issue of the RED Weekly E&P Update Newsletter
About the Author:
Steve Hendrickson is the President of Ralph E. Davis Associates, an Opportune LLP company. Steve has over 30 years of professional leadership experience in the energy industry with a proven track record of adding value through acquisitions, development and operations. In addition, Steve possesses extensive knowledge of petroleum economics, energy finance, reserves reporting and data management, and has deep expertise in reservoir engineering, production engineering and technical evaluations. Steve is a licensed professional engineer in the state of Texas, and holds an M.S. in Finance from the University of Houston and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. He currently serves as a board member of the Society of Petroleum Evaluation Engineers and is a registered FINRA representative.