March 17, 2011


It’s really interesting those things you remember.  If I crawled into Mr. Peabody’s “Way back Machine” and traveled back to one spring day in 1965, I might be sitting in my senior level machine design class.  This class was taught by one Mr. Robert J. Maxwell.  Bob Maxwell, an Irishman, stood about five feet-two inches tall, on his tallest day, but he was an absolute giant in the class room.  He was a remarkably gifted teacher who knew his subject “cold” and knew how to teach it. Hands down, one of the very best teachers at the university.  A student really wanted to do well for Robert Maxwell.

OK, we are sitting there and “big” Bob says the following:

Do you know the half-life of and engineer?  Well, at the present rate of technology, it’s about six years.  Six years and at least one-half of every thing you have learned will be down the drain-and unless you keep up and stay educated, you may be there with it.”

He went on to explain that, if we continued as engineers, a good portion of what we know would be obsolete in one-half a decade.  Startling information when you are a graduating senior and feel you know it all.  Now please keep in mind that this was before cell phones, Game Boy, Wii, i-Pod, i-Pad, bar codes, RFID, etc.  You get the picture.  He knew that for many professions, education would be a life-long necessity, engineering certainly one.

As I moved into professional life as a “blue-collar” engineer, I acknowledged the need to continue my education but had great difficulty in finding the time.  (There were also three kids in the mix.)  This was before the desktop PC and Al Gore had not invented the Internet as yet.  On-line courses were two decades away.  We are much more fortunate today and the possibilities for course-work are really extraordinary.   There is a depth and breadth of information available on a wide range of subjects.    There are several excellent organizations offering course work required to fulfill needed RPE requirements towards continued certification.  These coursed provide a tremendous service if you need the credits or just “bone up” relative to a particular subject.  I write for and publish through PDHonline.org and can certainly recommend them to you as being a resource for continued education.  Find a resource that is accredited and has ties with professional organizations.  I feel that’s a must.

In our country today, there are thirty-six states that require continuing education and most specify between twelve and fifteen CEU hours per year.  Fourteen states do not require annual participation but I do suspect they have their own education process.  I have a partial list of states vs. their requirements, given below:

Tennessee   24 hours biannually

Illinois          30 hours biannually

Texas             15 annually

Florida           8 biannually

Alaska         24 biannually

New York   36 triannually

Pennsylvania   24 biannually

Indiana       30 biannually

Ohio              15 annually

New Mexico  30 biannually

Minnesota      24 biannually

Bob Maxwell was correct, if you can breath, you need to stay engaged.  To do that, go read a book—take a course—join a technical society.  Information is out there and just waiting on you to take notice.  The great thing about on-line courses, you can take them at your speed and no commute to class.

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