Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Knowing your stuff

Today I'm posting an article that I read last week about people who try to do their own home repairs and remodeling. Here's an excerpt (for those who really don't want to read the article)

With low interest rates allowing more young adults to buy property in recent years, many inexperienced homeowners are desperate for advice when the furnace goes out, the roof leaks or when a home project that seemed like a no-brainer goes terribly wrong.

"They know they've got to buy real estate; they know it's a good investment. But that doesn't help you when you swing a hammer and hit a pipe in the wall," says Lou Manfredini, a Chicago hardware store owner who gives do-it-yourself advice on local radio and nationally online and on TV. "Unfortunately, homes don't come with an instruction manual."

Contractors say it's not unusual for them to get frantic calls from young do-it-yourselfers who get in over their heads.

I've thought about this, and I really don't believe the situation is necessarily as bad as the article would have us believe. There are people of every generation who do not know how to do basic tasks. Still, this is an interesting possibility to ponder.

I probably wouldn't pay so much attention to this if it weren't for an experience I had during my senior year of college. After my group had constructed what I thought was a fairly simple test stand, my advisor commented to me that he did not think most of our engineering students could have constructed the test stand on their own.

I was dumbfounded. If it's true that many students weren't prepared to build simple devices themselves it would mean that they were expected to design things they had no idea how to make. This isn't just an example of a scientist and a non scientific question* but a case of people not knowing the basic principles of their work.

To be fair, there were many engineers in my class who were capable of both designing and creating impressive devices, so I don't want to portray the school in a negative light. I just think it's worrysome when it's possible to get a degree without having at least a basic set of skills that should be considered vital to what you do.

If you're an engineer, learn how to make what you design. If you're an accountant learn to manage your own finances and keep your math skills sharp. Journalists, learn to understand news, not just report it. And of course, homeonwners learn to take care of your home!

(Now, I'm stepping down from the soapbox.)

*I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.
Richard Feynman


At 10:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If you're an accountant learn to manage your own finances and keep your math skills sharp."

THANK YOU! Holy crap, someone seems to get the idea. BTW, business-people seem to be among the worst at handling money.

At 10:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way again, anonymous above was from me, who happens to be Steve :)

At 5:08 AM, Blogger Mr. Engineering Johnson said...

business-people seem to be among the worst at handling money

And plenty of engineers can't change the oil in their own car. Guess we could all stand to shape up a little.

Thanks Steve!


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