No, it does not take a university degree to become one! No, you don’t have to be an engineer! You don’t even have to be involved in technology or be interested in it. You can be male or female, old or young – actually - you don’t even have to be human! Apes are known to use small sticks to fish for ants, or larger sticks, to drop fruits from trees. Building towers from toy wooden blocks is probably the first engineering design of every young boy or girl. I saw my wife spending time and mental effort to make the best arrangement of her kitchenware in the drawers. Why do I categorize these activities under “engineering design”? Because they are! Simple as they may appear, they have features in common with every engineering design project. First, there is the need. Be it the limited space in the kitchen drawers, or the wish to build the tallest possible construction from the wooden blocks. Next, there are the resources available. In the drawers, space is at a premium and kitchenware is not. With the block tower, you have the quantity available and no more. Both projects require considerable mental effort, geometrical understanding, and even abstract thinking and some mathematical skills. Finally, both projects are subject to testing in real life. A success for my wife means having no pots or pans left on the kitchen floor. A success for the little boy or girl requires the wooden blocks tower to stand tall and not fall down - perhaps after using all the available blocks.
Of all the engineering design projects made by non-professionals, I love best a toy cart that I saw in the desert of Sinai some 45 years ago. It was made by a Beduin boy, about 10 years old, from the materials that were available to him in his surroundings, very creatively. I loved most the way he made the wheels out of bottle stoppers, but indeed, every bit of it was ingenuous.
Let us summarize:
Everybody is a designer.
Design is the answer to a need.
The designer uses available resources to solve the need.
The test of the design is its success in meeting the need.
If you have ever done these things, then you are a designer!
Short biography. Adam Rubinstein was born in Israel, studied Mechanical engineering in Technion, specialized in mechanical design and particularly mechano-optics. He has over 50 years experience as a design engineer, and about 24 of them as an independent consultant. Mr. Rubinstein is partially retired from teaching mechano-optical design at Ben-Gurion University in Beer-Sheva, Israel. He is interested in photography and classical choir singing.