The Essence of Teamwork from Engineering Education to Engineering Practice
It's Thanksgiving time. And so, let me go straight to point. I thank God for the opportunity to be at Union University to teach engineering and to do so with a special team of colleagues and professors, particularly, the engineering professors. Not only were they trained academically at the very best schools in the nation, they also came uniquely equipped—each with a devoted heart to specialize in teaching. I thank God that they instilled in me a culture of specializing in students as well. What a team at work and at pray! For that I am sincerely grateful going into this year’s Thanksgiving. Let me sign out now, right here, not to be of few words but to share with you another more interesting aspect of engineering teamwork from a graduating senior.
Don Van, Ph.D.
Professor of Engineering and Director of Accreditation
Every child in school is told that teamwork is important. It is reinforced through sports, group projects, and even student government organizations. However, it is easy to come to consider an emphasis on teamwork as trite sentimentality. In the past week, though, I have realized just how important teamwork and good coordination can be. The engineering current events seminar on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 brought this to my attention.
In the seminar, a representative from NASA discussed his research and work with launch systems for rockets. At several points he mentioned aspects that relied heavily on teamwork or communication. Specifically, he mentioned that historically, Leonardo Da Vinci did not contribute to modern aerodynamics, because he did not communicate his research to anyone. Without communication, advances in science are slow and painful!
He also discussed the necessity for communication and teamwork in the design process. He illustrated this with a design interaction diagram. Each portion of a design must be constantly integrated with the other portions. A change in a control systems design or new navigation device could cause structural changes that would in turn affect aerodynamics. Without coordination and teamwork, a successful design is simply not possible.
Finally, he mentioned that communication and teamwork between nations is also necessary. As part of the launch process, parts of the rocket are ejected. However, these will not land always in U.S. waters. This requires teamwork and communication with other nations and authorities there to ensure that the landing area for those pieces is clear of people. They also need teamwork to then collect pieces that fall.
While it may be a basic concept, teamwork and communication is essential to an effective design. From research to design to retrieval, many different people have to work together and be in constant communication for the project to be considered a success. That will be an important lesson to learn now, while we have the time to practice. Personally, I can see that it will likely have an effect on our senior design project!
Graduating Senior, Class of 2014