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SPIE Professional July 2009

Should Engineering Be Re-Engineered?

The engineering profession and the institutions that prepare future engineers need to be re-invented to keep pace with advancements in science and technology and the resulting benefits to society, according to retired Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine.

Symposium chair Ray Johnson of Lockheed Martin (left) and co-chair Michael Eismann of the U.S. Air Force Research Lab (right) with Norman Augustine. Augustine was recently named chair of a NASA review committee on human space flight.

Speaking on "Re-Engineering Engineering" at SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing Symposium in April, Augustine laid out 16 points where engineers could improve their preparedness for the future.

"The creation of new, quality jobs in today's world is disproportionally dependent upon advancements in the fields of science and engineering," Augustine said. Yet, he argued, engineering education hasn't changed much in many years.

Augustine told more than 1000 attendees at his keynote talk that engineers should receive a broad, interdisciplinary education, taking courses in ethics, politics, and biology, and even a healthy dose of instruction on writing and communication before embarking on their careers. Lifelong learning is also essential for engineers, he said.

"The modern practitioners of technology who stop learning when they get out of college will be professionally middle aged 10 years later," the author of Augustine's Laws and Augustine's Travels said.

Augustine, whose career as an aerospace engineer, researcher, administrator, and business leader has spanned more than 40 years, also emphasized the importance of learning from previous engineers' mistakes. "I've never ceased to be amazed at how we learn the same lessons over and over," he said.

An audio podcast of his plenary session talk and a video interview conducted afterwards is available in the SPIE Newsroom: spie.orAugustinene

Have a question or comment about this article? Write to us at spieprofessional@spie.org. 

DOI: 10.1117/2.4200907.03

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