How to Think Like an Engineer

How to Think Like an Engineer

  1. 1
    Pay attention to how things work. This is a forerunner of most engineering practice, having lots of knowledge of how different mechanisms work in relation to one another makes it easier to think about things in engineering terms. Any time someone explains to you how things work, take an interest and don't be scared to ask questions.
  2. 2
    Visualise wireframes of things. Wireframes help people to visualise what the finished machine will look like; being able therefore to visualise a wireframe or superimpose it mentally onto an object allows you to plan all of the working parts within it.
  3. 3
    Pay attention to what things are used for. What is the purpose of the machine? Yes it must work, but even if a machine works it is pointless if it does not have a use. Being able to identify potential uses for machines allows you to both repurpose old machines to new tasks and think of upgrades to existing machines.
  4. 4
    Visualise things in three dimensional space. This is similar to visualising wireframes except here you are visualising the matter of the subject - which involves all three solids liquids and gasses. the easier it is for you to visualise these things the easier it will be to create them in real life.
  5. 5
    Learn how simple mechanisms work. Most complex mechanisms are nothing more than a collection of simple mechanisms all working together, and so understanding how the simple mechanisms work makes it easier to think about complex mechanisms.
  6. 6
    Do the math. Engineering is one of the few places where mathematics such as algebra is often seeing at work. By learning the equations for things and why they are in that way you can better understand how the mechanism relates to itself and how exactly it is accomplishing its task, as well as what it is doing along every step of the way. Learning even basic math is wholly beneficial.
  7. 7
    Think of how to upgrade machines by finding ways to increase the limits of things. If there is a car that can do 180mph, think of ways you can make it do 280mph. If there is an aeroplane that can fly across the atlantic using  (x) amount of fuel, think on ways you can make it fly across the atlantic using (>x) amount of fuel. This is where it is very useful to know the numerical limits of things.
  8. 8
    Think of tasks that need accomplishing. Da Vinci, in his time, sought to accomplish self powered cars and in turn he produced a viable concept based on storing energy in powerful springs - the cars were not very efficient due to his creative insights being limited by the technology at the time, but his designs were by far the most high tech thoughts of that period. Think what tasks need accomplishing today that can be done so with technology and begin working out concepts using your creative thinking to complete that task.
  9. 9
    Stay up to date with technological innovation. Drone technology, the chemical compound graphene, quantum computers; these things will provide both inspiration and technology for the construction of even greater technological innovation. By keeping up to date, you allow yourself to be close to the forefront of discovery.
  10. 10
    Look at nature. Nature is often thought of as having the simplest and most direct designs, The insights an engineer could deduce from looking at the muscles of a tiger or the wings of a bird, or the legs of an insect could perhaps advance the human race tremendously in a short period of time. All it takes is for an engineer to turn a natural form into a mechanical one.
  11. 11
    Don't knock study. Studying engineering books can show you that others are both interested in the same things as you and also that people have discovered knowledge which may prove very beneficial to you in what you design and build.
  12. 12
    Know your materials. Having a knowledge of the materials available to you both elemental and compound can provide you with what you need to build what you want to build. Sometimes a problem that would be difficult to solve in a mechanical way can be solved by nothing more than changing one of the materials used to either lower the weight, conduct more electricity or provide the necessary density to make the machine function.
  13. 13
    Analyse the structures of things. Everything from buildings to cars to natural forms in nature, by observing the structures you see which parts are taking the load and which parts are aesthetic only. This helps in your ability to manufacture mechanism housing and even manufacture new materials by applying your insights at a more microscopic level.


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