Are the best engineers born or made? [Design World]

engineer with signs of "born" or "made"
August 27, 2018

by Leland Teschler

"YOU MIGHT THINK the way to make better engineers is to improve engineering education. Although there may be something to that idea, it is becoming apparent that factors outside the formal learning process may outweigh anything done on a campus.

For example, it increasingly looks as though the engineering mindset is a function of preschool experiences. Consider this fun fact: For every 15 minutes of play, kids tend to use a third of that time learning about mathematical, spatial, and architectural principles. Thus the new wave of thinking is that the best engineers are those who were allowed to play unsupervised much of the time.

Studies by M.I.T. professor Laura Schulz reinforce this idea. She ran tests on four-year-olds wherein one group was formally instructed in how a squeaky toy worked, while the other was shown the feature “accidentally.” When both groups of kids were left alone to play with the toy, the group that “discovered” the squeaky feature played with the toy longer. That group of kids also uncovered hidden features at which the instructor hadn’t hinted..."

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