There is an interesting Facebook post that typically shows up annually in ‘honor’ of National Engineers Week. It encourages folks to ‘Hug an Engineer Today – they may not like it, but do it anyway’.
Many engineers that I know probably are just fine without the hugs. Engineers often just want to be left alone to wrestle with the technical challenges of solving difficult problems. We pretty much gain our satisfaction from successfully creating solutions that will provide for the health, welfare and safety of the public. Hold the applause.
A recent international survey from the United Kingdom provides some interesting findings related to the engineering profession. They polled 10,000 people from ten countries, including Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States. (Civil Engineering magazine, February 2016) The findings were interesting.
The survey asked respondents their thoughts about the role of engineering today. Topping the list were the traditional items: inspire innovation, improve quality of lives, grow the economy, solve the country’s problems, etc. At number seven on the list was “solve the world’s problems”.
When those surveyed were asked to evaluate the role of engineering in the next 20 years, “solve the world’s problems” jumped to the top of the list. Wow – no pressure!
More than 80 percent of respondents used the following words to describe engineers: intelligent, creative, logical, fact-based and adept at math. Okay, now I’m blushing.
These rankings support the opinion that the public generally views engineers in a positive way. They believe we value contributions before profit and are committed to improving society.
As professional consulting engineers, we have the privilege to be ‘the point of the spear’ in creating the technological solutions for opportunities that appear to loom on the horizon. The domestic electrical generation portfolio is undergoing a dramatic shift from coal and nuclear to renewable sources, such as wind and solar. These changes will impact the transmission and distribution grids. Energy storage, when perfected, will play a large new role in the electric grid. Computer technology continues to evolve and innovate, and is playing an increasing role in nearly all aspects of our lives. You know this to be true when your refrigerator has internet. With increasing cyber-attack realities, engineers will be called upon for security and resiliency solutions.
If you have read the recent ASCE infrastructure report cards, you know that domestic infrastructure requires unprecedented investment to maintain and upgrade highways, railroads, communications, water and wastewater facilities, et al. Solutions to these challenges will largely fall on the shoulders of engineers. No pressure.
Engineers Week 2016 had the theme: “Discover e – Let’s Make a Difference”. Given the challenges outlined above, this charge has never been more relevant.
The previously mentioned survey provides encouragement to all engineers to better engage the public and inspire new engineers. To this end, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), along with the presenting sponsor Bechtel Corporation, has created an IMAX movie entitled “Dream Big: Engineering Wonders of the World”. This big-screen film will show how engineers have contributed to society and encourage youth to consider making engineering a career.
Now I have to find a theater that plans to show this epic movie. No pressure.