I am not an engineer. My training is in microbiology – I’m a scientist. However, I work with a number of engineers, and don’t tell them I said this, but I have great respect for them! To be an engineer you should be good at math – which was not my strong suit. I remember in one math class I worked so hard I got a calculus on my finger! Of course, there was always the option to be the other type of engineer – and drive trains, but although that may be the dream of lots of other children, I just never really looked good in a pinstripe cap. Still, there was the allure of adventure, meeting new people, and, of course machines.
Today, countless boys and girls also say, “I want to be an engineer!” But now they have traded in that train cap for a hard hat! The term “engineer” now has a broader understanding including civil, chemical, mechanical and more. But the reasons driving the answer of today’s youth is quite similar with those of the Casey Jones dreamer of decades ago: engineering is still an opportunity for adventure, to meet new people, to help build America, and to work in the exciting field of machines, technology, and innovation.
I share these thoughts at the start of DiscoverE’s Engineers Week (February 19-25), because nurturing this excitement for engineering careers is what the week, and the DiscoverE mission, is all about. The week aims to heighten the awareness of the vital importance of engineers and to celebrate the impact they make in our world. Engineering has helped make possible everything from the Hoover Dam, Panama Canal and Empire State Building to snowboards, amusement parks and water slides… not to mention the clean water, power and transportation options we rely on every day… there is little question of their impact.
Engineers Week also aims to demonstrate the growing demand for engineers across the 40+ engineering specialties and support those who work—from educators and governments, to parents and other influencers of young people—to foster paths in engineering. This year’s theme, Dream Big, taps into the origins of the word “engineering” itself, rooted in the Latin for cleverness, to devise, as a means of capturing the imagination of youth and adults alike. DiscoverE has also released the film Dream Big for Imax and giant-screen theaters. This amazing film illuminates how important engineering is to our lives. It was created to start a conversation about how one person’s “cleverness” and desire to push the boundaries can help change the world and to nurture excitement for engineering careers.
Since the first Engineers Week in 1951, this initiative has given great momentum to the interest and growth in engineering. Today, more than 280,000 women and men in the U.S. are employed in civil engineer jobs alone. Still, as the world demands for better, healthier and more connected lives, let’s tip our hats (pin stripped, hard, or other) to the engineers that will help make it happen!