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understanding of the principles of algebra, geometry, mechanics, etc.
H. WADE HIBBARD called attention to the value of a knowledge of graphics in explaining engineering work to uneducated persons, particularly employers.
PROFESSOR W. RITTER (a pupil and the successor of Culmann, Zurich) said that graphical statics were probably held in higher regard in Switzerland than anywhere else in Europe. He recommended that the teaching of graphical statics be under the direction of the instructor in bridges. He thought graphical statics very valuable to the engineer, but confessed that the subject was not as highly valued in Europe as twenty years ago it was hoped it would be.
PROFESSOR D. C. HUMPHREYS referred to the extended use of graphics in the work of the Mississippi and Missouri River Commissions, for which purpose it had entirely taken the place of algebraic work.
PROFESSOR R. S. WOODWARD thought there was a strong tendency to over-estimate the importance of graphical processes, although he had no intention to disparage the graphical side. Many engineers are poor computers because they have not been taught arithmetic properly, and that is the reason so many prefer graphical methods. The graphical process is frequently compared with a much more exact algebraic method, or with a needlessly laborious one, and the conclusion drawn that the graphical is the best method of calculation. The graphical process has limitations which are frequently overlooked. He thought it should be taught by itself and particular attention be paid to its limitations.
ON ORIGINAL RESEARCH BY STUDENTS IN UNDER
GRADUATE COURSES IN ENGINEERING, ESPEC-
BY CHARLES D. MARX,
Professor of Civil Engineering, Leland Stanford, Jr., l'niversity, Palo
In the attempt to present the topic under discussion in a condensed form one is met by a serious difficulty, namely, a lack of unanimity in the use of the word "original.” One debater, holding to one meaning of the word, may declare himself in favor of original work in the undergraduate courses; another attaching a different meaning to the word, may argue strenuously against such an introduction. The difficulty of classification has not been lessened by the fact that the same difference in the use of the word "original" also exists in lines of work other than our own.
Webster defines original as: first,“not copied, imitated; or translated; new, fresh, genuine;” second, as "before unused or unknown.” If the definition of group one be adopted, calling original something that is not copied,” we can readily come to an understanding, as it will be shown that work of this kind is absolutely essential for the training of our men. If, however, original in our minds, stands for something before unused or unknown,” there will probably be a difference of opinion as to the value of the introduction of such work in the undergraduate courses of engineering schools.
Recurring again to the first definition, it will be apparent at once that all of the engineering schools in this country, which pretend to give their men any training at all, insist on their students doing such "original” work. In the various lines of study, specific problems are given and solved. In surveying, for instance, over and above a mere rudimentary knowledge of the handling of instruments, students should and are called upon to use their knowledge in the solution of larger practical problems. Topographic, hydrographic and even geodetic surveys, extending over limited territories of course, serve to give the men facility in solving the problems of actual practice, which sometimes differ from those attempted in the college only in scope. Again, in the designing of structures, a hypothetical case is given to the student, and he is called upon to embody the solution in a design which, in his opinion, will best meet the stated requirements. Of course, it is not claimed, nor is it expected, that such a design will be in every instance a thoroughly practical one. It is original in the sense given above, and it will undoubtedly have served the purpose of bringing before the mind of the student many of the difficulties which arise in the solution of such problems. It will have set him thinking to find methods for overcoming these difficulties, and in bringing him right up against the difficulties and in setting him to thinking, the object of the course is being accomplished. The student's powers are developed, not brought to fruition.
The college course will start the blossoms, but practical experience must ripen the fruit. It is true that the opinion has been held by a few that investigation and criticism of existing structures, for instance, should take the place of actual attempts at design by students. The holders of that opinion seem to forget that the investigation of the completed structure does not impress the student's mind in the same manner with the difficulties that were overcome in its erection as would the overcoming of some of his own minor difficulties. Again, it must be said, if the student is not deemed competent to attempt the design of even a small structure, how much less competent must he necessarily be to pass intelligent criticism on the solution of a large and complicated problem. A student is justified in making a poor design, if he but do the best he is capable of; he is not justified in passing criticism on a design unless he possesses ability to judge clearly of all the attending difficulties and practical points influencing the designer. These latter do not always show in the completed work, nor can a complete record of them be often kept. Excellent monographs on completed engineering structures, such as those by Morison, Boller, Hutton, and others are the exception rather than the rule in this country. The student, therefore, cannot get the data for forming an intelligent criticism even if his college course would enable him to form one. The right to criticize must be based on the ability to do, and hence the training should tend to develop the latter first.
One might go on to specify every subject taught in our under-graduate courses and show the vivifying effect of such "original” work or research, both upon the student and the teacher. But in such an assemblage as this it would almost seem like carrying coals to Newcastle. We are perhaps all agreed that original work or research as outlined above forms at the present time the backbone of our under-graduate curriculum. It is the laboratory method of teaching which has so largely supplanted the text book.
But if we now pass to a consideration of "original research” as a part of the college curriculum for undergraduate students in engineering, using for the meaning of the word "original” our second definition, namely, something "before unused or unknown,” we may probably find ourselves arrayed on two different sides. I will try to state as briefly and as fairly as possible the arguments which can be advanced on both sides and leave it to the discussion by the introduction of new material to determine to which arguments the greater weight should be given.
From the standpoint of the opponent of original research, the following objections may be raised. Owing to the comparatively low entrance requirements of technical schools in this country and the shortness of courses,
all the time available is needed to give the men what can be called only a fair grounding in the essential studies underlying the profession. Justified complaints exist as to lack of general culture training on the part of many engineering graduates. These complaints we must remove. We must train our men so that they