Vol. 5
March Issue
Year 2004

MFN Trainer Column

in Vol. 5 - March Issue - Year 2004
Engineering becomes a Science...

Dr. Chris A Rodopoulos

This column is a regular feature and will be authored by one of our MFN trainers. Readers are invited to send comments or questions to info@mfn.li. For more information about the trainers, see www.mfn.li link workshops. by Shlomo D. Ramati of IAI, Israel Aircraft Industries

by Dr. Chris A Rodopoulos

It’s been over four months since I accepted the invitation to join the MFN Team as a scientific adviser. To be absolutely truthful with the readers of this column, in the beginning I had numerous reservations. However, my reservations were gone when I started talking with the rest of the MFN people and collected a better view of MFN’s policies. The above reasons were also the ones that convinced me to accept the Team’s offer to participate as an official MFN Trainer in the next Workshop in Coventry.
One of my first responsibilities as an MFN Trainer was to write the article that you hold in your hands and try to argue on the issue of engineering responsibility. However before I try to address such a complex issue we need to understand that engineering and responsibility were not always linked. Engineering as we know it, in our modern “man-made world” has its origins back in the 17th century.  At the time engineering products were the result of successful curiosities or successful failures. Of course it is easy to realize that at that time countless failures, loss of life and loss of funds were not key issues. The same scenario continued in the 18th century where engineering was being shaped by the systematisation of discovery and industrialisation. In this same period we first acknowledged the craftsman. Again failures and catastrophes were not an issue but rather a usual and expected result. Yet, it is the first time that society accepted the fact that invention means sacrifice. Things dramatically changed in the 19th century with the introduction of engineering science as a solution to  craftsmanship or for others as an evolution towards technology. From that point on, engineering becomes a science, an art, a philosophy and for many the foundation of our modern world. A world where engineers are the shareholders of our welfare, of our economy and of our need to dream of a more exciting world ahead. However, things are now different, our society demands responsibility. Today, we constantly have to echo responsibility in the same virtue as the physicians, the lawyers, the public servants. Can we? The answers contradict: Yes, we can, if we have the right education, the right support and the right character. We can if we stop seeking money for nothing, if we accept our limitations both natural and technological, if we share knowledge on the basis of good will. And No, We can not if we overestimate our knowledge, our technologies and we start taking uncalculated risks.
Like in any other engineering practice, people involved in surface engineering treatments fall within the “we can” or “we cannot” categories. The “we can” category knows where to stop, knows to acknowledge helplessness to deliver. The “we cannot” category does not care or, they say it is not my problem if shot peening for example does not work. The wrong stuff is these people who believe that surface engineering is for the 18th century craftsmen who bear no responsibility due to ignorance. Well, ladies and gentlemen ignorance will not save you any more.
I have to say that in the MFN Team we believe that ignorance is trainable and believe me when I say that we have both the mental and the educational capabilities to support our beliefs.

See you in Coventry, Dr. Chris A Rodopoulos

Author: Dr. Chris A Rodopoulos