By the time this issue hits your inbox, Engineers Week, celebrated around the world from February 17 to 23, will be less than a month away. Although I'm no longer a practicing engineer, I thought it would still be worthwhile to review the planned activities for this year's weeklong celebration. I guess you can take the engineer out of an engineering job, but you can't take the inquisitive nature out of the ex-engineer. So what did I learn from my research? There's a lot of great people out there doing all they can to expose kids of all ages to the exciting world of engineering. Here's just a small sampling of some of the impressive events planned during this important week.
On February 16th, IBM will launch a 3D virtual world game called PowerUp. Visitors to this world will power the planet to generate clean energy and race to save the planet from ecological disaster. In conjunction with the game, classroom lesson plans associated with the energy transformation topics and an interactive module on the value of 3D technologies will also be made available. Hmm… maybe I should design and create the next great superhero/action figure. I'll call him Captain Green!
Now in its 16th year, seventh- and eighth-grade students will take part in the Future City Competition, a fun and exciting educational engineering program that combines a stimulating technical challenge with a hands-on application. Student teams work with teachers and volunteer engineers to envision the city of the future through video game software (SimCity 3000) and large tabletop models. This year's theme asks students to describe how nanotechnology will monitor their city's structures and keep its infrastructure healthy. I must say I was shocked to learn that 12-year-olds are really studying nanotechnology. More than 30,000 students from 1,111 schools in 40 regions are participating in this year's competition. One team of students at a middle school in my part of town are using their fellow Kansans in Greensburg for the basis of their future city. Last May, a Category 5 tornado destroyed 95% of the town and killed 11 people. The kids are taking what was left of the city and building it into the future. First place teams from qualifying regional competitions win a trip to Washington, D.C., for the finals, which take place February 18 to 20.
February 21 has been designated as Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. A note on the Engineers Week Web site mentions that thousands of women engineers and their male counterparts directly mentor more than one million girls and young women through firsthand experiences in engineering. In conjunction with Girl Day 2008, a new campaign and coalition — Engineer Your Life — will launch February 20. This program hopes to make a national impact on the way engineering careers are presented to high school girls. The Engineer Your Life Web site tells young women how to make it happen, how to find their dream job, and introduces them to inspiring women in the engineering field.
After looking into this year's events, I was inspired to see what wonderful work is being done to educate our children on the merits of engineering. I believe these types of direct and hands-on experiences have to be among the most successful routes to acquainting young people with a future career in this important field. I encourage all of you practicing electrical engineers out there to take a moment and think how you might join these caring volunteers in pumping up excitement for your profession. With an estimated 25% of the U.S. engineering and sciences workforce older than age 50, and the number of Generation X workers (ages 26 to 41) being 30% to 40% smaller, there's never been a better time to help guide a new wave of young engineers into the engineering ranks.