The Highlight of the Project

    The goal of this project is to investigate the success and failure of 20th century engineering. The categories investigated were limited to Aerospace, Civil, Electrical, and Mechanical engineering. In addition there is a miscellaneous category which contains a few designs that sparked interest and fit the criteria. Within each discipline certain engineering designs were selected as success or failure and studied, based on the information obtained.

    Navigating through each discipline, you will notice the engineering perspective that made the design a success or a failure. The common thread linking the successful designs in the last century can be divided into two branches. Take for instance Computers or Television; success can be measured from its survival and dominant role in everyday life. W. M Cox, and R Alm, produced a [chart] in The Economy at Light Speed: Technology and Growth in the Information Age and Beyond in the 1996 Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas annual report. The chart depicts the success of a design by measuring the percent ownership (per-household) since it was invented. The chart indicates the sharper the rise in slope, the more successful the product is, as in the case of television and computers.

    Where as the Wright Flyer or Hoover Dam, the features that made these designs successes, is the fact that they had the technology readily available they needed in completing the task. In addition, it was not necessarily in one discipline where technology emerged from but a sharing of ideas and components from the different disciplines that made the designs a success. For the Wright Flyer it was the small lightweight motor from the mechanical division that delivered the thrust necessary for human powered flight. For Hoover Dam it was the superior structural designs that made it a dam of its time. The more readily the technology became available the greater was the demand for the design, hence its success.

    On the other hand, the common thread that linked the failures in each discipline was the quite the opposite. Some of the common threads that can be seen in each were: the unavailability of technology, poor engineering practices were utilized, workers and technicians were misused, or cost might have become an issue and certain parameters of the design suffered as a result. Take for instance Apollo-I, Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Electrical Transformers, Automobiles Recalls or the Patriot Missile Radar System failure. The common thread link these designs stems from one or more reasons as exactly as mention above. In some cases like Tacoma Narrows Bridge, a lack of funds had originally troubled the company in building the bridge, as a result the necessary research and testing was neglected. It wasn’t until after the disaster that companies made the new methods of testing the design integrity a mandatory action before construction.

    From these investigations, we have learned the reasons why designs succeeded or failed in the 20th century. As practicing engineers of the new millennium it is pertinent to learn from the past mistakes and prevent them from occurring again. The process of going through a few disciplines and investigating each from an engineering standpoint was informative. Recognizing the signs early might be the key in our own field of work and lead us into more success than failures in time to come.