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December 4, 2022

 

How Engineering is as much of an Art as it is a Science

As fall approaches, seniors at high schools begin thinking about what interests and careers they want to pursue as they chose what they are going to do once they graduate high school. For some, they find themselves at an impasse, trying to make the decision of whether they will pursue a liberal art or a more scientific path. I was one of these people; I enjoy the freedom of expression that many more artistic fields may offer: the freedom to express one’s creativity and perhaps show off a bit. But, there are problems. Depending on what branch someone follows, there may be very little structure to build on. You can be thrown into the lions, so to speak. If you are someone who can get lost without on some guiding principle, a compass, to direct your work, then often you may struggle, finding yourself sailing in completely uncharted waters more often than not. On the other hand, the pure, sterile nature of some sciences can be outright suffocating. It’s not a place that I would be able to thrive because there’s no leeway or creativity, often it feels that the answer is either a yes or a no.

Engineering is the art and the science of solving problems in the real world. Whether that be developing a more efficient pump for water to creating a revolutionary new way of generating electricity. The art half comes from creativity, it takes thinking outside the box. Problem-solving is inherently a creative process, and having a creative mind is essential if you are pushing the boundaries of what is possible and paving your own road. Taking a look at aerospace, one of the corporations who are perhaps defining the term “pushing the boundaries” is SpaceX, infamous for their capability of launching and landing an entire rocket so it can be reused. While rocket science is infamously objective, (for good reasons too), there are parts of the process that require the help of creativity that art could lend. In an interview, CEO Elon Musk says that “There is almost an art-form to it,” (Dodd) referring to the process that is used to create, modify, and enhance their technologies. Musk elaborates that, when hiring new talent to hire, the so-called hard skills, that being absolute knowledge in a field, is actually second to critical thinking and creative skills. 

An interesting argument against the collision of science and art primarily has to do with the goals of the two subjects. Julio M. Ottino, Dean at the McCormick School of Engineering, says that “Technology is about invention; science is about discovery. Art need not be driven by a purpose” (Ottino). According to Ottino, the goals of the fields do not intersect, with art being aimless wandering in some regard, perhaps purposeless. I have to disagree with them; modern engineering is the direct result of the collision of art and science, and cannot exist without either. I still believe that engineering is a lot more subjective than Ottino claims. Still, Ottino goes on to say that “At a high level of abstraction the differences between artists, scientists, and engineers blur. [They all have] the ability to enjoy the process of creation for its own sake.” Despite the massive differences between the fields of work goals, Ottino notes that this trait of the desire to create supersedes the lines drawn between.

There are plenty of situations where engineering inadvertently brushes up with art, but what about when it is done by definition? There are several subfields of engineering that the two blatantly work hand in hand, whether it be architecture and product design to name a few. Even in situations where art and looks is a primary component, there are still plenty of products where we can appreciate the talent and creativity of the designers. There is a reason why, for instance, the Hoover Dam is a feat of engineering. But something as small and “simple” as a car engine can be considered art, at least to me. There is something beautiful about a thousand tiny pieces beating the odds and being able to work in perfect sync with each other constantly and without failure. I would have no problem hanging an engine on the wall, putting a frame on it and calling it “art”. On the actual developmental side of engineering, I am willing to wager that a car engine is the product of perhaps one of the greatest group projects of all time, the efforts of thousands of engineers and scientists from around the world over the last century. 

There is something incredibly beautiful about that level of coordination.


Dodd, Tim. Starbase Tour with Elon Musk. 2021. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t705r8ICkRw.

Ottino, Julio. “How Engineers Think.” Northwestern Engineering, https://www.mccormick.northwestern.edu/about/art-engineering-learn-from-each-other.html.

Header Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/spacex/25254688767/


Introduction into Engineering

At first I did not really have a understanding of what Genetic Engineering was but after the watching  Introduction to Genetic Engineering I have a better understanding then I had before. I know that many tools are used when you are working with things.  I have a understanding that you use the DNA from a organism and put it to pass on a trait. I did not know that you can also use genetic Engineering on food and also on things that can help people with diabetes. My gut reaction to watching the videos is that it’s awesome that you can do so many things with the DNA of humans and food anything. Technology is important becuase many things can come from using different tools and materials.


Carbon Fibre Composites in Bicycle Construction

File: ResearchEssay

My aim in this research was to discover the benefits of carbon fibre over other metals such as aluminum alloys in bicycle construction. I found that carbon fibre bicycle frames are more aerodynamic, lighter and stronger than those of aluminum alloy. The misconception that carbon fibre is extremely weak and fragile comes from people using the material in years past without proper knowledge of its load-bearing characteristics. Although carbon fibre is still relatively expensive, its price should drop to cost as much as  metal used in bicycle construction as long as consumer demand continues to increase at the same rate as its predicted trend.

Photo by Mission Bicycle


Carbon Fibre vs. Aluminum Online Research

There are various types of bikes for different styles of biking, such as mountain, road, downhill and BMX. I already know a lot about mountain biking because I’ve been doing it for most of my life. I also know a little about BMX biking because I owned one when I was younger. However, I don’t know much about road and downhill biking. I would like to learn more about the bikes specific to these styles particularly because I want to join a downhill biking team this summer.

 

According to Dirt, a biking magazine, the best material to use for a mountain bike frame is either aluminum or carbon. Aluminum alloys have been used for a longer time in history. A certain type of alloy called 6061 is specifically used because it is easy to weld. Carbon fibre is easier to mold into shapes. In the past, carbon fibre was very delicate, easily broken, and was very expensive. Although these characteristics still hold true to a certain degree today, companies are putting in great effort to better the quality and lower the cost of carbon fibre bikes.
According to Bicyclebluebook.com, it isn’t necessary to own a carbon fibre bike unless someone is racing in a competition. In recent years, the price of carbon fibre composites has lessened, but it still more expensive than aluminum and steel bikes. Metal alloys are more durable and give better impact resistance, but if the bikes were to become damaged, it is generally less expensive to repair a carbon fibre frame.


Fracture Toughness EBSCO Research

To ensure quality resources with usable information, I used an online database called EBSCO to do some of my resource. One source I found was the study of strength and fracture behavior of different types of carbon composites. A number of composites were studied, but I was most interested in comparing longitudinal oriented fibres with transversal oriented fibres.  After looking at some graphs, I found that longitudinal-oriented fibres can bear a maximum of 2.5 kN/mm compared to approximately 0.8 kN/mm that transversal-oriented fibres can bear before breaking. The longitudinal fibres also have 23 times more fracture toughness than the transversal fibres, meaning it is far less likely to fracture if it has a crack.

I found another study that looked at the differences of fracture resistance between different types of aluminum alloys. The study found that the prefered alloy for bikes, AA6061, had an inferior response to fracture resistance compared to AA5083. However, AA6061 had a higher fracture resistance compared to a commercially pure aluminum. AA5083 is an alloy composed of the combined metals aluminum and magnesium, whereas AA6061 is composed of a mix of aluminum, magnesium, and silicon.

Photo by Mizrak

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