Can I do engineering only with math?

Mathematics is a language - if you want, you can learn it

Created by Joachim Kläschen

For almost 30 years, Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Alois Schaffarczyk in the mechanical engineering department. He knows that engineering courses are not possible without knowledge of mathematics and physics. But he also wants to take away the fear of those interested in studying, prematurely rejecting the desire to train as an engineer due to a supposed lack of knowledge.

Alois Schaffarczyk cannot give a clear answer to the question of why some students find it difficult to deal with mathematics and physics. Perhaps it is the way knowledge is imparted, perhaps it is also the abstract nature of the subject, perhaps a lack of reference to everyday life. For him, however, 'math' is much more than a school subject like any other, but a school of thought that can be used in many areas of life. “If you look, math is all over the world,” is how he sums up his attitude. “Anyone who develops an understanding of the mathematical way of thinking opens up valuable skills that help to understand a lot and to solve problems. Accordingly, I think it's a shame when people on talk shows applaud guests who pride themselves on having no idea about math. "

Schaffarczyk admits that you cannot become an engineer without a certain knowledge of mathematics. But he adds: “At the Kiel University of Applied Sciences, we train engineers, not mathematicians.” Using a simple example, he makes it clear why mathematics is essential for mechanical engineers, for example: “Engineers have neither the time nor the means to building a machine on a blue haze, then realizing that it doesn't work, and then building new machines until one of them finally works. Instead, they calculate the requirements in advance and design a viable solution in order to avoid many unnecessary failures. "

Even if training and the diverse professional fields for engineers are becoming more and more digital and electronics are playing an increasingly important role, that does not mean that the importance of mathematics and physics decreases during training. “An electric motor is also a machine. To understand them, certain knowledge is essential. For engineers, mathematics is like a language, ”explains Schaffarczyk. "To some, the required knowledge appears to be a hurdle, but it is not a sieve or an end in itself, it is actually needed in studies and at work."

For Schaffarczyk, being afraid of math and being guided by this fear is a mistake. "Anyone who can cope with the four core subjects of 'Technical Drawing', 'Machine Elements,' Technical Mechanics' and 'Production Technology' in mechanical engineering will not fail at math," he assures us.

In addition, the department offers everyone the help they need to acquire the knowledge they need, Schaffarczyk knows: “In the first few weeks of their studies, students learn in small working groups of up to twelve students. They solve tasks, discuss their problems and finally understand the solutions. The prior knowledge is less important than the will and willingness of the students. If the will is there, everyone has a chance. I also see math as a brain teaser, and like any other sport, you have to train to get better. We do not do body building at the university, but brain building. For some it is easier, others have to work harder. It is important to have the goal of wanting to become an engineer in mind and to keep it in view. "

Schaffarczyk sees less 'math talent' than the willingness to organize with others in a team as a particularly important prerequisite for becoming an engineer: “Studying at Kiel University of Applied Sciences is a social thing and only if you do Working with fellow students can be a success. The students help each other, but this also includes the willingness to openly address weaknesses and deficits and, above all, the ability to accept help from others and not see this as a weakness. Anyone who thinks they can go through with a degree alone is making life unnecessarily difficult. "

Schaffarczyk is aware that math is not for everyone. But he is sure that anyone who wants to can understand mathematics to the extent taught here. In his view, this is not only useful in studies or at work, but also in everyday life: “In life, you don't have to understand mathematics any more than you have to have read Goethe's Faust, play an instrument or be able to speak a second foreign language. But if you are interested in a lot and strive for a broad and universal education, you have a differentiated view and recognize connections that remain hidden to others. So math doesn't do any harm. "

© Kiel University of Applied Sciences