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40 SMT Magazine • June 2016 to advanced engineering mathematics to quan- tum mechanics (I minored in physics). Perhaps the incident that best illustrates this naivety occurred at that same point in time—winter, 1972. The break between the fall and spring semester, which we used to call the Christmas break, was a time of family activity. For me, it was my dad packing up the Oldsmo- bile on Christmas day, my mom taking an in- sufferable amount of time "getting ready," and then, the six of us off to church, followed by the hour drive (at least) to "Gram's" in Brooklyn, then another hour drive (at least) to the other "Gram" in New Jersey (Turnpike, Exit 11, for those of you Jerseyites). My dad was the oldest of five children that spanned 30 years! I am the oldest of four. So, my dad's youngest sibling, my Uncle Joe, is only 10 years older than me; he was more like a brother than an uncle as I was growing up. He became comptroller of a wire and cable company in Jer- sey and took an interest in my engineering edu- cation since he worked with engineers. So here's the point: That Christmas, just a few months from graduation and my bursting forth into the real world, my Uncle Joe says to me, "Tom, I guess it's all about specs, right?" "What?" I said. "Say that again, Uncle Joe." "I said, I always hear the engineers in the office talking about meeting specs. I guess that's what engineering is all about, right?" I said, "yeah," but, I didn't know what he was talking about. Spec, what's a spec? In school I had never heard that word before! So in 1972, academia met the real world for me. This brings us to this month's topic: The Production Engineering Student as Customer. As a customer, I know when I get a good haircut and when I get a bad haircut. The mir- ror I am looking into as the haircut process pro- ceeds, either provides a feeling of reassurance or a progressively deepening sinking feeling. As educators in the manufacturing sciences, do we treat the student as the customer? The student doesn't have the ability to look in a mirror as the educational process proceeds toward gradu- ation. Let me start by making a bold prediction: production, industrial, process, manufacturing engineering (choose any of the above) will nev- er be successfully taught on-line. Other academic disciplines have geared up to create a virtual classroom for the subject matter they have traditionally taught in a space created by brick and mortar. Most of us in the electronic high-tech "building" business realize that cyberspace cannot be used as a substitute for learning in the real world of a production operation (i.e., getting up to your elbows in sol- der paste, or watching the metal chips being produced from a CNC milling machine or plas- ma cleaning a circuit board prior to wire bond- ing a chip scale package. In fact, I would suggest that even a physical classroom with desks in an orderly matrix configuration surrounded by white—or, as I prefer chalk—boards results in dismal failure when attempting to teach prod- uct production. I would submit as evidence the U.S. track record in globally competing in build- ing electronic products. The educational preparation problem runs deeper than this and is multi-faceted. At its base, however, is this: Who is doing the prepa- ration, what real world experience do they have to complement their academic achievement, what are the preparers' motivations and objec- tives, and what metrics are used for judging the effectiveness of the preparation? I like to compare an individual's educa- tional process to moving through a pipeline. When we are about five years old we all enter the state-administered pipeline. However, we leave the pipeline at different points. The state (taxpayers) will fund the trip through the pri- mary (elementary/middle) and secondary (high THE PRODUCTION ENGINEERING STUDENT AS CUSTOMER " That Christmas, just a few months from graduation and my bursting forth into the real world, my Uncle Joe says to me, "Tom, I guess it's all about specs, right?" "

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