You might have heard of Aron Ralston somewhere on the internet as “the guy who got his hand stuck under a boulder and had to cut off his hand with a dull knife.” Since then he’s become a famous motivational speaker. Because, you know, he’s brave for doing what he had to in order to survive, when a lot of others would have been stuck forever.
There’s a 2010 movie based on his story, called 127 Hours, which is pretty interesting.
In any case, there’s something a little less-known about Ralston: he’s a mechanical engineer.
Ralston has said that he was an Engineer before he ever went to school or it. And that makes sense, because good engineering is not just about the knowledge, but the problem solving mindset.
Think of it this way: If you were stuck 65 feet up, with your arm stuck under a boulder, what would you do? Hate to say it, but a lot of people wouldn’t be able to do much. Ralston did a few things. Besides rationing his water to delay the inevitable, he also had to come up with a swift way to bandage his arm, once he amputated it (with a dull knife which he describes as “what you’d get if you bought a $15 flashlight and got a free multi-use tool.” On top of that, he had to come up with a way to rappel down the 65 foot sheer wall. If bandaging a stump of an arm and rappelling down a 65 foot cliff face—all one-handed, and while being weakened from 127 hours of starvation, dehydration, and blood loss—doesn’t take good problem solving, not much does.
Even though he quit his engineering job at Intel a few years before the accident, so he could dedicate his life to mountain climbing, that didn’t change anything: this man is still a problem solver and an engineer at heart. Just look at the picture up above—a prosthetic limb, specifically engineered so he could continue mountain climbing with one arm.