The Secret Engineer
The current sporting jamboree makes our anonymous blogger wonder whether we should return to the much-missed format of the cutaway design to inform and educate people about the contribution of engineering towards buildings, machinery and other aspects of everyday life
Cutting to the core of that running, jumping, sporty thing
There is a certain event going on as I type this that certain commercial entities would prefer me not to name, refer to slyly through a prescribed set of words or infer by naming the host city and this year – but I’m sure you know what it is. Anyway, let’s just call it the ‘The Glorified Sports Day ‘, shall we? It’s all rather jolly and, with the help of our ever dwindling armed forces to cover a well-publicised private sector shortfall, it seems to be going rather well.
However the notable engineering contributions seem woefully underplayed within the general saturation coverage. We do have Clare Balding and the like referring to the ‘beautiful’ or even sometimes ‘wonderful’ buildings, but it’s only us engineers, with access to articles like the ones in The Engineer, who get to see the true wonder of the fruits of our profession. What keeps one building cool, or indeed stops the roof of another from falling in and spoiling some golden hopeful’s big day.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is not another ‘wasn’t everything so much better in the past?’ piece. But I do think a look at how the Festival of Britain etc were covered can help lead us forward in gaining the due recognition for our profession today and – who knows – perhaps entice some youngsters into joining us? Both are, after all, regularly cited concerns within our profession. The main thing that struck me is that 50 years ago there would, at the very least, be a series of cutaway illustrations of buildings, bikes and boats. I am fortunate in that I have an original Ashwell Wood on the wall: surely the acme of the art of the cutaway design?
One would have thought that there would be a similarly semi-technical set of illustrations available related to the current “Sports Day”? I can’t even find such a thing on-line, let alone recall seeing any in print outside of the specialist press over the past year and a half during the build up to the – erm – “event.” It strikes me that what makes them so effective is they lead people into having a more than superficial feel for how something works and also promotes them into learning even more.
Print is better than on-line for this as the medium more readily enables the images to be pored over, kept and revisited allowing a deeper insight into the process of design and manufacture. In addition children can ask adults about specific details or conversely adults can use the illustrations to explain basic principles. In short it engages and educates by stealth. What can we do about it? Well perhaps our Institutes’ funds would be better spent on printing a set of cutaways to give away in schools or with newspapers rather than on lobbying MPs? After all, why bother with the middle -men when we can reach the public directly?