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2010-06, 365, 366, Book Reviews, Chris Nicholls

‘Engineering Extras 101’ by Ron Ward

(Project Action Pty Ltd) Frenchs Forest, Australia 2008

HAVING BEEN allotted the request for a review I should point out in fairness to the author that I am hardly qualified to make professional assessments of the quality of engineering information that this short volume offers. I am not a professional engineer. Nevertheless having read through 90% of the book I have attempted to offer some broad ‘lay’ commentary on the content and some suggestions with regard to layout and structure. These are made with the object of improving the usefulness to early engineers by one who has never aspired to the ranks of academia but has experienced 43 years involved in industries as diverse as iron founding, machine tool manufacturing, aluminium extrusion and rolling, IT business machines and telecommunications; undertaking roles in industrial engineering, asset management and corporate real estate. From that perspective I can attest to the value of this book.

I enjoyed reading through the many anecdotes acquired from broad experience in so many facets of the engineering profession. They are simply and straightforwardly presented and assisted where appropriate by necessary definitions and valuable discussion of the points raised. There can be little doubt that taken overall, this short volume is a handy compendium of many of the day to day issues engineers will face in their professional lives and a valuable addition to the supplementary education of an engineer.

In that sense it provides a range of anecdotal dialogue on the many selected topics of relevance. A question arising is how well the structure of the book services the reader’s desire to check back and cross-reference these topics.

In commenting more specifically on the content, some of the references regarding the adventure of engineering in the prologue relate to Ron’s youth and seem to beg the question ‘would youth today be as likely to acquire their interest from similar* avenues’ or ‘are there more recent examples of these?’. Towards the end of the book Ron Ward changes style from that closely focused on the engineer’s learning curve to one whereby he seeks to utilise the detective fiction of a number of authors of the genre in an attempt to analyse what the engineer may gain from detective methodology in thinking through problems to a solution. He suggests that his analysis shows that there are reasons for accepting the hypothesis that similarities exist between an engineer’s work and a detective solving a crime. In the conclusion he admits that the analysis only goes some way towards proof of the hypothesis. Will youth today be enthused by such an hypothesis? Perhaps the point could be dealt with more succinctly, see note 3. below.

Any future edition would benefit in terms of improved readability and reference from some modification to structure and layout among which the following would recommend themselves:

1. The addition of an index. This would be of great assistance in finding the many anecdotes and the topics they illustrate if carefully managed in providing some cross-referencing.

2. Navigation through the book could be improved if the chapter headings could replace the author’s name at the top right page.

3. Chapter 12 and the Epilogue could probably be consolidated and shortened to provide a more direct synopsis of the main points of the book.

4. The regular use of comments aside in brackets is chatty but somewhat overdone; particularly when arriving at pages 197-198 one is confronted with ‗(but who’s counting?)‘ twice within 26 lines . . . I confess I was!

* i.e. Biggles, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon

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