Archive for April, 2012


Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Communication is paramount for engineers. Grading reports from my freshmen students has proves to me that young engineers think they don’t have to write well or communicate at all. I know that I was completely against all English and communication classes when I was a young undergrad. I actually went into engineering for the simple fact that I would never have to take another English class again. When I get right down to it though, writing is all I do. From writing this blog (not a typical engineering thing to do) to writing memos and project reports, most of my time during the day is spent on writing. If I am not writing I am trying to explain to someone verbally what it is I am going to do. The actual calculations and analysis I do is not nearly as time consuming as my communicating throughout the day.

This is why I feel engineers should take more (technical) writing and communication courses. While attending a presentation from one of the top Civil Engineers of the day (Leslie Roberts), he said communication is the biggest drawback of hiring newer engineers, not their technical abilities! I only took a single verbal communication class and a single technical writing class. Some engineers get away with even less! This is not enough. I will be the first one to say that my weakest skill is verbal communication. I wish there was some way to get engineers to take more of these classes. But we already take a very large number of credit hours and many of us do not graduate within the four years (I took 4.5 years).

For this reason I will be implementing as much technical communication into my classes as possible. I can implement little things like requiring memos/letters of transmittal to each homework assignment or required essays about “back of the envelope” problems and solutions (see previous blog entry). I can ask students to give short impromptu presentations on engineering topics or group presentations.

Communication is merely a skill to be learned and it just takes effort and practice and with more practice it becomes less effort. Without instilling these little skills into young engineers we will be doing our students a disservice.