Engineer's Week 2015 draws to a close and I hope you took the time to celebrate. This week was started by the National Society of Professional Engineers in 1951 to celebrate the contributions of engineers to society as well as draw attention to the importance of science, technology, and math education. The real fun for me is the chance to go back to my alma mater, Bucknell University, as part of the Engineering Alumni Association Board of Directors and celebrate with the College. It's a great chance to go back in time and remember why I got excited about this field in the first place.
During this particular visit, we were able to watch a design competition play out. It was just like old times - heading to the engineering building late at night on a Friday to find it filled with other engineers in the making. Except these folks were having a much better time than I remember. They were challenged to build a working hovercraft in a matter of five days given only a few pieces and parts and limited guidance (mostly about safety). That was it. It wasn't part of a class. They were just having fun.
An engineer at Bucknell today covers all the technical ground that anyone could ask but that's just the beginning. He or she will also be a member of a student chapter of a professional society. They willspend their spring break on a service project somewhere, and maybe a summer taking an interdisciplinary international course in London, Brazil, or China. They'll minor in music or get an additional degree in management and participate in undergraduate research with a professor of their choice while figuring out how to prepare for an internship before their senior year. I can't imagine having fit that much into four short years but I see them doing it each time I visit Lewisburg.
We have amazing opportunities today in the engineering sciences - some of which are laid out very crisply by the National Academy of Engineering. The "Grand Challenges" represent the Academy's view of the most important problems that engineering needs to address. I encourage you to look them up. They include things such as making solar energy economical, providing energy from fusion, providing access to clean water, creating better medicines, and many more.
Aggressive? Absolutely. They're supposed to be - and the solutions to each of these challenges will profoundly affect the way we live our lives. So who among us is up to it? They are the ones I met at my weekend at Bucknell. Passionate about discovery, learning, creativity, and challenge, they understand that their work will affect people and politics. They appreciate the need to be good stewards of the
resources needed to implement solutions. And they know that they will work across the world's cultures to answer the call of the Grand Challenges.
That's why we need more of them. We need more young people passionate about engineering, who have a vision beyond their books, who will study and prepare themselves for this meaningful work. Because someone who spends all night building hovercrafts out of nothing is the kind
of person who will say "I can do it" to the world's impossible problems. I can't wait to see what they do next.
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