Redneck Engineering – Reader Commentary

Engineering is often considered one of the more prestigious career options, with challenging courses, logic building exercises and extensive safety protocol and regulations. At the end of the day though, do these items really identify what is properly “engineered” and what is not? Is our perception skewed of what a good engineer is? It is my belief that someone who uses the items they have at their disposal to create something functional and safe can be considered to have engineered something.

Redneck engineering is typically regarding as unsafe and “just plain dumb”, when in reality some of the most useful engineered items come from simple back woods roots. In many cases, the redneck designs perform their intended function very well, but lack the pleasing form factor desired in today’s society. Therein lies the problem with the majority of things designed and engineered by rednecks. People only see the rough outside of the ideas rather than the incredible complexity of the designs. It is therefore imperative to remove the stigma associated with redneck engineering!

As a recent graduate of an engineering program, I like to think I have the required skills and knowledge to design and build anything, but in reality I lack cold hard experience. This is somewhat opposite of redneck engineers where they may have the experience to make a functional design, but are unable to incorporate any concrete logic behind said design. Parts are made by trial and error rather than considered calculations, and this can result in the typical redneck engineered systems. During my custom motorcycle project I was fortunate to be able to experience both styles of design.

After purchasing what could only be described as a “piece-of-junk-motorcycle” during my last year of high school, I knew that I wanted to fix it up to a point where I could be proud of it. The problems came when I initially began engineering and designing parts for it. Due to lack of education and experience, some of the first things I did on the bike could easily be considered hard-core redneck engineering. From mounting crucial components with zip-ties to making rushed Band-Aid fixes, the early works of this engineering student can only be considered an embarrassment. However, with all the failures happening on the bike, and classes being taken at school, I could feel myself becoming a bit less of a redneck, and more of a professional.
Over time, the rushed and scrappy designs became carefully considered engineering projects, with safety being the number one concern. Angle grinders and screws turned to precision mills and welds. Paper templates turned into extensive 3D models using computer software. Rattle can paint jobs turned into highly detailed works of art. I began to grow as a person and as an engineering student, and it showed in my bike. Now I look at what I have created and I can see how my past decisions have influenced my current designs.

So while many redneck engineering projects may seem ridiculous to the point of unsafe, just remember that the only way for a person to grow is to experience it personally. Sometimes it takes an unsafe design to make you realize the importance of a safe and reliable one. A good engineer can only build a better design by having a worse design to start from, and therein lies the beauty of redneck engineering; it is a stepping stone to something greater. 

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