The practical side of engineering design
Editor: Anja Maier, Stanko Škec, Harrison Kim, Michael Kokkolaras, Josef Oehmen, Georges Fadel, Filippo Salustri, Mike Van der Loos
Author: Winkelman, Paul Martin
Institution: The University of British Columbia, Canada
Section: Human Behaviour in Design
In the minds of many, including engineers themselves, engineers are considered to be “practical”. But what is “practical” and what values does it promote? Building on a simple search in engineering design literature, “practical” is shown to represent five values: ethical (consideration of needs and a call to action), non-cognitive (knowledge which is difficult to articulate), real (vs contrived, such as the world of education), deliberation (stressing the importance of context and the difficulty of choosing the best solution) and alignment (seeking a short, direct pathway from problem to solution based on what has gone before). The problem with alignment is that it necessarily leaves things out and, if politics and history are left out, engineers will likely find themselves working on projects in keeping with historical trends and dominant political values. And these values may not coincide with their own.