Jumping Off the Bandwagon: The Production Engineering Student as Customer


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It was the winter of 1972, between autumn and spring semesters. I was finishing my senior year at university and totally immersed in my quest to graduate with my B.S. degree in engineering in June—the end of the spring semester. This took on greater significance when I was continually reminded that I had managed to squeeze a four-year program into six years! In fairness, the learning disabilities with which I suffered and those that had plagued me since I was 11 years old showed no sign of abating. I had learned that dealing with this condition required laser beam focus on my studies. Back then, science had no fancy terms for the two syndromes I struggled and wrestled with. Today, collectively, they are known as GARAR Syndrome: Girls And Rock And Roll.

It is now humorous and comforting for me to reminisce about this pivotal period in my life— ironic considering the angst that enveloped my existence at the time. The other thing that is astounding as I look back is how little practical understanding my classmates and I had concerning the relevance and value this education would have for us in our soon to be brave new real world. We would soon be attempting to blaze a path to make our mark in that real world after graduation, and we had no clue! How prepared would we be? The unwritten pact with our schools was, “If you want to be an engineer, do what we tell you, work hard, and get good grades.” Maybe the beckoning, rich job market at that time with almost unlimited opportunity deadened the din of the uncertainty—life was good! We were, however, the easiest marks to hit the scene since the farmer from Iowa was drawn to the three-card Monte table while walking through Times Square! It turns out that for me, I wouldn’t change my academic experience for anything—the professors in the front of the classrooms were all first rate in their areas of academic specialty—from, structural analysis to advanced engineering mathematics to quantum mechanics (I minored in physics).

Perhaps the incident that best illustrates this naivety occurred at that same point in time—winter, 1972. The break between the fall and spring semester, which we used to call the Christmas break, was a time of family activity. For me, it was my dad packing up the Oldsmobile on Christmas day, my mom taking an insufferable amount of time “getting ready,” and then, the six of us off to church, followed by the hour drive (at least) to “Gram’s” in Brooklyn, then another hour drive (at least) to the other “Gram” in New Jersey (Turnpike, Exit 11, for those of you Jerseyites).

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Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of SMT Magazine.

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