Frequently Asked Questions

We are often asked about the title of the book.  We thought we’d take a minute and explain what this means, to each of us.  Our responses are included in alphabetical order.

For me, thinking like an engineer is about creatively finding a solution to some problem.  In my pre-college days, I was very excited about music.  I began my musical pursuits by learning the fundamentals of music theory by playing in middle school band and eventually worked my way into different bands in high school (orchestra, marching band, jazz band) and branching off into teaching myself how to play guitar.  I love playing and listening to music because it gives me a creative outlet to create and discover art.  I pursued engineering for the same reason-- as an engineer, you work in a creative field that creates or improves designs or processes.  For me, thinking like an engineer is exactly like thinking like a musician-- through my fundamentals, I'm able to be creative, yet methodical in my solutions to problems. 

D. Bowman, Computer Engr

Thinking like an engineer is about solving problems with whatever resources are most available—fixing something that has broken with materials that are just lying around. Sometimes it’s about thinking ahead and realizing what’s going to happen before something breaks or someone gets hurt—particularly in thinking about what it means to fail safe—to design how something will fail when it fails. Thinking like an engineer is figuring out how to communicate technical issues in a way that anyone can understand. It’s about developing an instinct to protect the public trust – an integrity that emerges automatically.

M. Ohland, Civil Engr

To me, understanding the way things work is the foundation upon which all engineering is based. Although most engineers focus on technical topics related to their specific discipline, this understanding is not restricted to any specific field, but applies to everything! One never knows when some seemingly random bit of knowledge, or some pattern discerned in a completely disparate field of inquiry may prove critical in solving an engineering problem. Whether the field of investigation is Fourier analysis, orbital mechanics, Hebert boxes, personality types, the Chinese language, the life cycle of mycetozoans, or the evolution of the music of Western civilization, the more you understand about things, the more effective engineer you can be. Thus, for me, thinking like an engineer is intimately, inextricably, and inexorably intertwined with the Quest for Knowledge. Besides, the world is a truly fascinating place if one bothers to take the time to investigate it.

W. Park, Electrical Engr

Engineering is a bit like the game of golf. No two shots are ever exactly the same. In engineering, no two problems or designs are ever exactly the same. To be successful, engineers need a bag of clubs (math, chemistry, physics, English, social studies) and then need to have the training to be able to select the right combination of clubs to move from the tee to the green and make a par (or if we are lucky, a birdie). This text aims to prepare the embryonic engineer with the proper use of the clubs which they are given in other courses. In short, engineers need to be taught to THINK.

B. Sill, Aerospace Engr

I like to refer to engineering as the color grey.  Many students enter engineering because they are “good at math and science.”  I like to refer to these disciplines as black and white – there is one way to integrate an equation, one way to balance a chemical reaction.  Engineering is grey, a blend of math and science that does not necessarily have one clear answer.  The answer can change, depending on the criteria of the problem.  Thinking like an engineer is about training your mind to conduct the methodical process of problem solving.  It is examining a problem from many different angles, considering the good, the bad, and the ugly in every process or product.  It is thinking creatively to discover ways of solving problems, or preventing issues from becoming problems.  It’s about finding a solution in the grey and presenting it in black and white. 

E.  Stephan, Chemical Engr   

In the General Engineering Program at Clemson, we have adopted the basic methodology of the Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs (SCALE-UP) learning environment in our classrooms.  All of our classrooms comprise circular tables, whiteboards for every table, and multiple projectors so that there is no "front" to any of our classrooms.

Our lectures to the students are short and provide adequate scaffolding for the active learning activities we have planned for any given day.  This allows the instructor to take on more of a "coaching" position, where we continually walk throughout the classroom and engage each student or team with various Guided Inquiry questions.  After the first month of the first semester, students are accustomed to owning their learning space and will often get up at the whiteboards to work problems or explain a topic to their table.  By the second semester, students understand what we expect and will often seek out a whiteboard before calling us over to help. 

During each class, we encourage students to bring specific questions to class that they developed during the reading, and many of the examples and topics we cover in class are student requested.  We sometimes assign simpler questions from the In Class Activities or Review questions for students to complete before we actually cover the topic in class.  This can (a) set the stage for your lecture and (b) allow students to understand why they need to pay attention to your lecture.  If they have struggled with a question before listening to you, they are suddenly much more interested in hearing what you have to say.  After either reviewing the previous assigned work or lecturing to review the highlights of the reading ~ this is no longer than 15 minutes ~ we assign other In Class Activities (ICAs) to work on the remainder of the class.

For further information on SCALEUP, please visit:

We teach three classes from this single textbook. Descriptions can be found on the FAQ page about our course syllabi.

Below you will find sample syllabus and schedules for the courses we teach at Clemson University. For all our courses, we use one main syllabus (GE Syllabus 2010 - 2011) to cover the basic policies for all courses we teach. In addition to this document, we outline the policies specific to each course in a course specific syllabus (such as CES 102 Sample Syllabus). 

CES 102 Engineering Disciplines and Skills: 2 credits (contact hours: 1 lecture, 2 lab)

Provides solid foundation of skills to solve engineering problems. Students demonstrate problem solving techniques with spreadsheets, dimensions and units; use modeling techniques and interpret validity of experimental results. Students design projects on multi-discipline teams. Introduces professional and societal issues appropriate to engineering. Various forms of technical communication are emphasized. Coreq: MTHSC 104 or 106.

ENGR 130 Engineering Fundamentals: 2 credits (contact hours: 1 lecture, 2 lab)

Students formulate and solve engineering problems using advanced spreadsheet applications, dimensional analysis, graphical representation of various physical phenomena, mathematical models and statistics. Various forms of technical communication are emphasized. Credit toward a degree will be given for only one of ENGR 130 or 141. Preq: C E S 102; Coreq: MTHSC 106 or 107.

ENGR 141 Programming and Problem Solving: 3 credits (contact hours: 2 lecture, 2 lab)

Students formulate and solve engineering problems using MATLAB; estimate answers for comparison to computed solutions; read, interpret and write programs, instructions and output; iterate, evaluate conditional statements; and debug. Various forms of technical communication are emphasized. Credit toward a degree will be given for only one of ENGR 130 or 141. Preq: C E S 102; Coreq: MTHSC 106 or 107.

CES 102 Sample Syllabus.pdf33.97 KB
ENGR 130 Sample Syllabus.pdf33.64 KB
ENGR 141 Sample Syllabus.pdf38.47 KB
General Engineering Syllabus 2010 - 2011.pdf268.63 KB

The electronic material for Thinking Like an Engineer is contained in three main pages:

For everyone – The author's website [picture] [link] (this page)

  • Book errata
  • Archive of frequently asked questions
  • Blog

For the Instructor – Pearson Higher Education's Thinking Like an Engineer Instructor Resource Center
On the main Pearson Higher Education page for the book [picture] [link], click the Instructor Resource Center (IRC) button and select the Resources tab on the IRC page [picture].

  • Instructor manual
  • Instructor slides and in-class demos
  • Review games
  • Sample exams
  • Solutions – In class activities
  • Solutions – End of section review questions
  • Umbrella projects
  • TestGen testbank file

For the Student (and the Instructor) - Pearson Higher Education's Thinking Like an Engineer page [picture] [link]
Pearson's Thinking Like an Engineer page contains two main areas of interest for the students-- the Pearson eText [picture] and the main listing [picture] of all downloadable files in the book.  Note that the Pearson eText includes embedded links to the ancillary files referenced below:

  • Narrated PowerPoint slides
  • Video screencasts and demonstrations
  • Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint starting files and templates
  • Appendix materials, including starting Excel files