What is Engineering: A Graphic Novel of Tech and Philosophy

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What is engineering? A quick search on-line provides a few hints. A simple definition is stated as: “the branch of science and technology concerned with the design, building, and use of engines, machines, and structures.” Wikipedia offers up a little more detail with this: “Engineering is the application of scientific, economic, social, and practical knowledge in order to design, build, and maintain structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes.”

And, a little more digging will reveal a wealth of more “experts” in the area promoting engineering as a rigorous program studying calculus, physics, mechanics, and electronics. But is that really accurate? Does this really make me want to become an engineer - much less identify as one?

This past spring, a friend of mine shared with me an absolute brilliantly created graphic novel from one of her fellow Olin College graduates. After reading this - neither of the descriptors “graphic novel” or “comic” really do this piece adequate justice. What it is, in my opinion, is a masterfully crafted artwork that captures so many aspects of engineering that are often overlooked.

For starters, this piece paints a very human-centric perspective of engineering. Engineering is more than just hard math and science. Ultimately, we are humans, and engineering carries a wide variety of definitions based on the “glasses” we wear. We each view engineering from our own perspective, experiences, and education - whether this is in the form of bridges, robots, computers, electronics, arts, music, entertainment… Quite honestly, this list is endless! Our whole world is filled with engineers and engineering - each subject or area is simply a different “media” with which people practice engineering.

Personally, I constantly remind myself that engineering is about more than transistors, circuits, robots, LEDs, bridges, or motors. Real engineering is problem-solving at a fundamental level. Ultimately, engineers seek to solve problems - with the ultimate goal to make our lives better (period). Engineers take messy situations and find ways to clean-up, simplify, and communicate solutions.

I really love the way that this piece shows the human at the center of this title, “E N G I N E E R.” The author summarizes it really well by saying, “Engineering is a way of seeing the world - how things can change, how you can do it.” What a powerful, and impactful way of viewing this profession and field.

Check out the full graphic novel below:

The author, creator, and artist behind this is Mel Chua. She calls herself a “Hacker. Writer. Researcher. Teacher. Human jumper cable.” Currently Mel is working on her PhD dissertation “at” Purdue University while she travels the world, learning languages, and presenting at conferences.

What is Engineering by Mel Chua

And, check out Mel’s other amazing papers, articles, and more graphic novels on Scribd here

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