I had a dream (was I just thinking about stuff as I fell asleep?) about doing a research paper. It would center on the perceived rift, which mostly exists in my mind but has been somewhat substantiated by others, between the school of engineering and the school of technology.

I would hand out little surveys to technology majors and engineering majors to weigh their perceptions and opinions on the Technology/Engineering rift. I even was planning out a series of questions to normalize the experience that students may have had in either major.

Perhaps I should clarify some things :)

In case you aren’t aware, the school of technology duplicates a few of the disciplines in the engineering school with some major differences. We offer Mechanical Engineering Technology, Electrical Engineering Technology, Computer Engineering Technology, and Industrial Technology. You might be able to argue that Building Construction Technology is some sort of parallel to Civil Engineering, but I won’t even go there ;).

For one the school of technology trains technicians (or technologists?). People who are very skilled in their area of expertise. Many times when people think about what an engineer does in their job they are really imagining what a technician does. Designing things, implementing things, testing things. Graduates from the school of technology in some cases are even allowed to take professional engineering exams to become certified. This varies from state to state, with different waiting times and things that must be done to qualify.

I think that if I were to sum up what the school of technology teaches, I would have to say that the school teaches you how to do stuff. Sure we get into the technical details to a point. Laplace, VLSM, Fourier, Circuit Network Analysis, Assembler, Discrete Electronics, etc. But you won’t catch a technologist taking a course named Electric And Magnetic Fields , Data Structures , or Discrete Mathematics For Computer Engineering. Those are topics that the Engineers will take. Engineers are very much interested in getting into the sub-technical details of the entire process. Depending on the courses they take, they might understand the tiniest nuance of a process down to the atomic level, and that’s awesome. People love doing that and people get joy from that and are very good at what they’re doing.

Its not to say that and Engineer can’t do a technician’s job, or a technician can’t do an Engineer’s job (heck we all know how haphazardly the term ‘engineer’ is thrown around these days), the disciplines overlap a great deal and you cannot classify someone solely by their major.

However, I think that many people in both majors have some sort of preconception about the other. I spent a year in freshman engineering so I got to know a few people who were on their way up in engineering and I also got to hear a lot of the first-year-rhetoric that professors lay thick on new students.

I think (and this is just what I perceive) that some engineering students think that the technical majors are a cop out. I believe that some engineers see the technology majors as diluted and brain dead versions of their major. It might seem that way. I’m told (and this is probably just a lot of professor rhetoric again) that much of the first two years of an engineer’s time is done learning theoretical and abstract details about the field. Whereas in the school of technology we dive right into the nitty-gritty and learn the details along the way.

We don’t take nearly as much math as the engineering majors and we certainly have no equivalent courses to Probabilistic Methods In Electrical and Computer Engineering or Spray Application And Theory. This might lead to the assumption that technology students are dumb, hate math, and only have a superficial understanding of things. I can vouch for some of my fellow students that they are probably not Math gurus. However, I’d wager that on the whole, technology students are above average with their math skills. I’d also like to point out that the depth to which a student understands a topic is many times based on the willingness of the student to go above and beyond their coursework and seek out information and knowledge. This is not unique to any major and it really one of the most important things you can do as a student anywhere.

From the other side of the fence, I think that some technology students perceive engineering students to be snobby, elitist, and not able to do much more than solve equations and wax theoretical. The first two are pretty easy to take care of. Would you think highly of yourself as an engineering student at one of the top engineering universities in the world? I certainly would. However, I don’t think all engineering students wake up every morning ready to rub your nose in it :)

The last two are simply stereotypes. Much like the dumb technologist, the theoretical engineer is simply some sort of image that people have built up from professor propaganda and whatnot.

In any case, thats my little rant and my understanding of things. If anyone reading this has anything they’d care to add, clarify, or rebuke just leave some comments and I’ll respond accordingly.

Next week: Music Majors vs. Computer Science Majors in an all-out BATTLE to the death. Who will win? … BE THERE.