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How I celebrate National Engineers Week

Eweek-03062015I love math. I liked it when I was younger. I still like it. I probably will always like it. In my next life I joke that I want to be a junior high math teacher.

I do not like calculus or differential equations. Don’t judge.

The annual National Engineers Week (EWeek) concluded February 28. Each year the local chapter of the Iowa Engineering Society hosts an annual Career Guidance Conference. Approximately 400 area high school students participated. I talked to about 75 of them about “Engineering Renewable Energy.” I assume they like math. Some also like getting free stuff from exhibitors and a free lunch. Don’t judge.

I encouraged them to consider engineering as a course of study after high school and then as a career. We looked at many amazing ways engineers contribute to the electric utility grid and, specifically, renewable energy. They were a very receptive audience. They also asked very good questions about utilities and renewable (wind) energy.

One of my slides showed a photo of Mount Rushmore, and asked the question, “Which of these dead presidents was NOT a surveyor?” (Roosevelt, by the way.) Did you know George Washington was a surveyor? Why is that relevant? I’m glad you asked.

EWeek was started in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). It is observed annually to coincide with George Washington’s birthday on February 22. He is considered to be one of the nation’s first engineers, specifically for his surveying work. EWeek calls attention to the contributions engineers make to society. It also supports and encourages STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education.

Eweek-students-032015Engineering, specifically the licensed practice of engineering, is recognized as a profession, along with law, medicine and divinity. A profession is defined as a vocation founded upon specialized educational training, the purpose of which is to supply objective counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain.

Engineering, as the others, became a recognized profession through a common, recognized process. It started as a full-time occupation. Engineering training schools then appeared and eventually evolved into university programs. Engineers then organized local and national associations. The next step was establishing a code of ethics which became a recognized standard of practice. Finally, the engineering profession regulated licensed practice through state licensing laws.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) states the engineer’s responsibility very well: “…a profession that plans, designs, constructs, and operates society’s economic and social engine – the built environment – while protecting and restoring the natural environment.”

That is a lofty responsibility, and exactly why my career in engineering has been so rewarding. We do things that make a difference in meaningful ways for society.

I work for a firm that recognizes this important role, as stated in Ulteig’s vision: “Improving lives by providing the services that create more reliable connections throughout North America.”

EWeek recognizes and celebrates our profession. Yet, it is different from other celebrations. Mothers and fathers? One day. Valentines? One day. Dead presidents? One day. Veterans? One day. Grandparents? One day. St. Patrick? One day. Engineers? A whole week!

Now if we could talk Hallmark into promoting and selling cards that the adoring public could give us, along with an official day-off holiday…well that would be something special!

I have to go now. Some high school math students I met last week are having a “Big Bang Theory” watch party at the bowling alley. It sounds like fun.

About the author

Marlon is our account executive in the Power market. He has more than 35 years of experience with all aspects of planning, design and construction of 12.5 kV-345 kV distribution and transmission systems, including right-of-way, design, regulatory coordination, public information meetings, public testimony and project management. With an extensive background in power transmission and distribution, Marlon brings a wide variety of knowledge in discussing the energy industry and the issues it faces. From education of future engineers to critical infrastructure analysis, he offers a unique perspective on the industry and where it's headed.