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The Engineer: Create, Imagine, Dare to be Different

Posted By Andre Roos and Prof Leonard Masu, Monday, 13 November 2017

Engineering is generally recognised as a profession, along with other professions such as medicine, dentistry, law, ministry, architecture, and education. A profession which is an occupation is generally characterised by: intellectual effort, creative thinking and the desire for service. Engineering seeks to “employ knowledge” to create what never was or improve what already exists.


The distinguishing educational objective in engineering is design. Design is at the heart of engineering.Engineers design new things such as improved airplanes or appliances or materials or things that do not even exist as yet. To be creative, to imagine, to take risks, to “dare to be different” but not to endanger safety of course. Engineering creations must comply with the principles of science and that is the engineering challenge: to be creative but within the constraints inherent in a specific project.


The majority of engineers work for industry or government and only a small, but important, percentage is in direct contact with the public as consulting engineers. It is important that engineering professionals, technicians and technologists should be well trained, should be well aware of the demands of their activities and always act responsibly with the public’s safety in mind.


Challenges and anomalies

The environment within which engineering is practised is not perfectly designed though to allow for the engineer to follow a logical and structured approach and thus perform optimally. Rather the engineer is presented with challenges and anomalies, most often introduced by the employer or client, requiring the utmost professional conduct from the engineer, to arrive at a safe, economical solution.


Notwithstanding this, we do succeed in designing solutions which benefit our economy in a very major way. According to many commentators, growth in the areas of science, engineering and technology are a major catalyst for job creation, social upliftment and economic development.


Easy examples are the benefits to our economy of a good infrastructure including road, rail, harbours, airports, energy, communication, banking system, water, sanitation etc, all made possible by engineering. Unquestionably South Africa benefits from a good infrastructure, allowing efficient, cheap communication, freight and transport.


Standard of living

While our engineering accomplishments in South Africa have contributed greatly to our economic development, social upliftment and job creation, the need for increased economic growth demands ever more engineering contributions, also requiring an increase in the number of technically skilled artisans, technicians and engineers.


We have the engineering capability in South Africa to meet with most demands for engineering expertise and most probably the only constraint engineering faces in South Africa is a lack of development projects and funding. Due to our knowledge of local conditions, we are also well positioned to serve other African countries.


Engineering has been vital in addressing basic human needs, improving the quality and standard of living as well as providing opportunities for sustainable development in South Africa and has the potential to do the same for Africa.


We (engineers) have in the past and should continue in the future to focus on developing solutions to meet the needs of our local industry and population.


Article by: Andre Roos, Vice President SAIMechE (and Director: Megchem), and

Professor Leonard Masu, Vaal Branch Chairman (and Lecturer: VUT)


As posted in the SA Mechanical Engineer, October 2017 issue

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