Friday, 31 October 2014
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A call to arms

As the magazine’s nominated man on the workshop floor (as it were) I would like to take this opportunity put out a call to arms. Why? Because, my Brothers and Sisters, we find ourselves surrounded by indolence and aggressors on all sides. Well I say that “enough is enough” and we should start kicking back.

What do we get from our government? A few fine words that subsequently disappear without trace, promises of help that are then withdrawn due to political expedience and finally the utter gall to suggest that problems in recruiting (whether in the wider terms of sheer numbers or more specifically in opening up the potential of “non-traditional” demographics) are down to the image we ourselves project!

Ruling elite, Bourgeoisie, Proletariat; all seem blissfully oblivious to the fact that our hard work has provided them with their current lifestyle.

If that isn’t enough to get you constructing exquisitely elegant and structurally sound barricades (with a safety factor of at least 2) and then standing astride them singing the Dambuster’s March whilst preparing Health and Safety compliant petrol bombs, I don’t know what is.

That wouldn’t be so bad - after all what else do we expect of the self-serving, short-termist jumped up professional expense-claimers – but it would also appear that the wider public couldn’t give a fig. Ruling elite, Bourgeoisie, Proletariat; all seem blissfully oblivious to the fact that our hard work has provided them with their current lifestyle. They seem to think that an engineer is either someone who cleans the rollers in the photocopier or an exotic creature that died out when Tweed stopped being fashionable. Thus are we shunned and metaphorically shackled.

Well, no more I say! I put it to you my friends that we need to forget the current middle aged generation, for they are sadly beyond redemption. Instead we should go after the children and we should be devious in our means. Through such dedicated long term strategy we shall eventually strike when all is in place and thus usher in a new golden age of engineering.

If you have a child, grandchild, niece, etc then buy them a couple of Lego sets for Christmas, empty the contents onto the floor and burn the instructions and packaging in front of them

A comrade recently remarked that his (bright) children like getting Lego sets for Christmas. However, once these have been built exactly as per the instructions they are left like that forevermore. My nephew, a generally well rounded and pleasant young man, spends all his time “gaming” online instead of rebuilding knackered old cars or constructing his own wind tunnel. This is where we find our revolutionary army and this is where we start. If you have a child, grandchild, niece, etc then buy them a couple of Lego sets for Christmas, empty the contents onto the floor and burn the instructions and packaging in front of them. This is probably best done:

a)     Outside for the burning bit.

b)     With other people’s children so that you don’t have to worry about the mess.

 If you have a youth then dismantle their games console whilst they are asleep, sometime between 4am and 3pm should be fine, leaving just a set of tools and an enigmatic calling card from “The Phantom Engineer.” Who’s with me?……..oh, and Merry Christmas.


Readers' comments (10)

  • I wondered whether our Secret Blogger had actually visited the homes of several of my grand-children: because the situations he describes are demonstrated to me daily.

    What particularly I notice is a complete lack of interest in taking 'things' to pieces: perhaps because there is so little now available within the ordinary household that is not encased in a 'sealed' box. Yes, lego and meccano are available for youngsters to construct things from scratch, and they do: but these so often are merely clones of items seen on TV, and other media.

    Did our later Victorian (there they are again) ancestors bemoan the fact that their children did not spend their time 'cutting' goose quills (with their pen knives) because fountain pens had become available? I recall a conversation with a somewhat 'crusty' old professor (at one of the several universities where I had the privilege of teaching engineering to students) he bemoaning that fact that students could not write 'a decent essay?' and my pointing out that their skills at presenting their work by screen and small seminar was substantially better than his! I also invited him to sent a text message which would encapsulate a 50 minute lecture in 100 characters. He had to admit such was a skill where again the students were way ahead of those of a later generation.

    I live in hopes that we will recognise the importance of enquiry, touch, feel, spatial awareness, and that play -even on a screen- is vital to this.
    Best
    Mike b

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  • I could not agree more -- the number of young engineers!!! I see who could not change a tap washer is quite concerning.
    The computer and all the software is excellent, but the grass roots of handling materails and actually making things is essential. My own granchildren spend far too much time on the computer, but advice is ignored.
    The schools and colleges must do more to impress upon the young that the computer is a tool that should be used to enhance their thoughts and actions not to control them.
    Unfortunately those teaching seem to lack the ability to show or impress.

    Happy Christmas all readers.

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  • Dear Santa, I have been a very good professor this year. So please drop off a Meccano set, a microprocessor, electronics, a box of tools and a garden shed at every little bedside this Christmas. And wave a magic wand so that parents, grandparents and teachers - heads too - support those lucky kids in making stuff, taking stuff apart, getting a feel for stuff, engineering new stuff. Kids are engineers at aged 5 or 10, and we then beat it all out of them. Lets keep them engineering until they are grown up !

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  • A meccano set or a Trix set would be my choice as they inspired me to dabble with all kinds of gadgets some that worked and some that didn't: thats not to say that my subsequent working life as an engineer was an easy one though - but it's good to look back on.

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  • Meccano sets.....whatever happened to them? 11 yrs old (41yrs ago) so no XBox, internet or mobile phone to distract me...I was mortified to find my mother, I suspect, had thrown the instructions out with the general Xmas wrapping paper?! Best thing she could have done.....happy days and an engineering apprenticeship (Machine Tools) after leaving school!!

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  • Why is lego and meccano now sold to make specific items? In my youth meccano was a kit of standard parts from which one could build almost anything, although never as complicated as the picture on the outside of the box, which stimulated imagination and developed basic design techniques.

    Roger Strine

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  • Motion seconded Secret Engineer Brother!

    I bought own Son all of the Lego Technic sets and he did exactly what you say - built the main model then just put it on a shelf. Even though I tried to show him how to put gears and motors together he just wasn't interested.
    It's possibly my fault, I should never have bought him a laptop...mind you he knows much more about Internet Explorer than me now!

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  • how about taking an apprentice. how about the old men and women back on the floor adding an apprentice or two. a 12 year old intern at a robot maker in the sf bay, did what a phd would take two or three weeks in two days, more so was able to speak with aformentioned phds on an equal basis. England is one of the best places for invention along with the states however australia is even better so get off Ur fundaments and get the web educated kids together with the old men and women (younger r also encouraged) in qpprentices two or three.
    GET TO IT

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  • Funny you should say that. We were about to buy our kids a PS4 for Christmas, but after banging on to them that they spend too much time on their PS3, we decided instead to buy a self assembly off-road go-kart kit! GULP! Wish us luck!

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  • Okay all you ancients like me.....LISTEN UP!
    Sure kids don't take things apart anymore....have you tried taking an iPod to bits? I did then realised there was little point! The most constructive you can get these days is building your own computer from individual parts so where is the impetus for youngsters to do what we did??
    There are many fine young people who are interested in making and designing things so the real aim is to get an interest going at school age and help to show them engineering is not a "hard" subject but hugely interesting.
    So.....off the bums and into schools and tell them what its all about!

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