One possible result of the maker movement is that the growing ability of nearly anyone to create a functioning MCU-based design will devalue the role of the professional engineer. If all you see and evaluate is the surface functionality, the professional offers no apparent advantage over the hobbyist. So, hire creative people who know the application space rather than people who know design.
Another possible result is that professionals will devolve to a kind of “cleanup crew.” A creative bartender puts together a robotic drink mixing system. The engineering team is then to take that design and reduce production costs and enhance reliability to make the design product-ready.
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How can someone working at home compete against a professional who has more experience and works in MCU’s as a full time job? If anything, the professional will outshine the local hobby individual.
My first reaction is “pfft, no.” We’ve had waves of hobby movements and they have never undermined large scale production. My mom grew tomatoes in the back yard. That did not put any farmer out of business.
At a second level though, we can see why my mom or the garage designer doesn’t impact industry. The hobbyist burns cognitive or labor surplus. The kind of project you choose for surplus is fluff. You don’t need to spend 300 hours building an automated brewing system when each brew only takes 3 hours of attention. You do it because you have surplus, and it’s fun.
If, on the other hand, you package a brewing controller for the market, then you aren’t a maker undermining a professional. You are a nascent professional.
In my blog post I was simply trying to wonder aloud if the relative ease with which folks can create MCU-based designs might cause them or other people to think if all such design was easy. That belief might, in turn, lead to the idea that engineers aren’t really needed. So, I thought it was worth asking the question. BTW, I do point out in my blog that the opposite might equally be true: that the experience people get creating their own designs will give them a greater appreciation for what engineers do for a living.
My personal belief? I think that getting this technology out to the wider world will trigger a great boost in creative problem solving and result in some really neat ideas. I’m glad to see it happening. And I hope it stimulates greater interest in engineering as a career choice.