Amazing Kids! Magazine

Engineers – One Career Critical to the City of the Future

By Sean Traynor, Editor-in-Chief

Editor’s Note: A special thank you to Bob Johnson for inspiring me to write this article and for providing pictures.

What one career can change the face of the city of the future? The “City of the Future” will be designed and constructed by engineers. No, we’re not talking about a train engineer, although that is the most familiar type of engineer that kids know. We are talking about engineers that play a major role in the design, planning, construction, testing, and maintenance of buildings and other construction requirements such as bridges, canals, water systems and roads. You don’t see them in movies or in the news, but they run a large portion of our infrastructure. Some famous engineers include: James Dyson, the inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaners who now consults with Britain’s Prime Minister on how to accelerate Britain’s development of new technology and build up its manufacturing and export skills, President Jimmy Carter, who is a mechanical engineer, Karl Benz, who was a German mechanical engineer who invented the first gasoline-powered automobile, Henry Bessemer, who was a prolific inventor but known chiefly for the Bessemer process for the manufacture of steel, and Neil Armstrong, who is an aeronautic engineer. Additionally, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, Leonardo Da Vinci was a military architect and engineer.

Engineering is something you might want to do in the future. When asking teens the most important aspect in their career choices, they answered “interesting work” and “making a difference.” Engineers make a difference. They are creative problem-solvers that help shape the future. Having engineers in the future is essential to the health, happiness and safety of our world. The things engineers are involved in are all around you: video games, iPods, computers, cell phones, amusement parks and much more.

Although many may believe the contrary, science is very different from engineering. Science is about understanding the origins, nature, and behavior of the universe and all it contains, and engineering is about solving problems by rearranging the stuff of the world to make new things. As Albert Einstein said, “Scientists investigate that which already is; engineers create that which has never been.”

So where are we going to get these future engineers? Kids today will be the designers and builders of the future. According to a recent survey by Bayer, 60% of people in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs became interested in science by the time they were 11 years old. Science teachers played the major role in stimulating and sustaining that interest. If we don’t support the needed growth in these fields, the basic quality of life in the world may decline. Teachers need to provide more hands-on learning and experiments. Every kid would love to learn about the laws of motion by launching rockets, but exciting activities like this cost money. With cutbacks to school funding, experiential learning is the first area to be cut from the budget. After the Sputnik race to put a man on the moon, there was a wave of young students who went into science and engineering. This main event, and the government’s involvement and support of it, inspired the country to pursue better things. France has supported big engineering projects such as nuclear power and high-speed trains, and now graduates some of the top engineering students in the world. With proper support from everyone in our communities, we can get kids interested in engineering to support our “City of the Future.”

Engineering involves problem solving, systems thinking and teamwork. It utilizes design and a problem-solving process. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics instruction is referred to as “STEM education.” Studies show that the engineering component is often missing in education, even more so than the other three areas. While engineering education opportunities in K-12 schools have increased considerably in the last 17 years, there is still room for improvement in providing education for teachers, connecting science inquiry and math reasoning to engineering design and developing models for implementing engineering education in schools. President Obama’s administration has implemented an “Educate to Innovate” campaign to help move America to the top of the pack in math and science education. However, a recent study by the American Society for Quality shows that 63 percent of youth say their teachers are not doing a good job of talking to them about engineering careers and 42 percent feel their teachers aren’t good at showing them how science can be used in a career. Teachers are doing a great job of getting kids excited about science and engineering, but they could be doing more to encourage students to explore engineering and science careers.

The National Academy of Engineering has dedicated a web site to encourage high school and middle school students to consider engineering as a career. See www.engineergirl.org. Encouraging students by offering awards for achievements in STEM areas will also encourage students to continue in these paths. Some large competitions that do just that include FIRST, which sponsors robotic competitions.

iLego which promotes engineering design through building Lego cities.

Future City is a project where students design a city of the future, using recyclable materials and supporting clean initiatives such as alternative energy sources, recycling, efficient building designs and clean transportation systems.

Science Fairs provide an avenue where students can demonstrate their knowledge of material and receive acknowledgement, prizes and scholarships for their work.

Supporting interest in engineering is critical to international achievement. As President Obama said, “The key to improving our health and well being, to harnessing clean energy, to protecting our security and succeeding in the global economy will be to reaffirm and strengthen America’s role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation. Our leadership in these fields in the world of tomorrow depends on how well we educate our students today, especially in the areas that hold the promise of producing future innovations and innovators.” Don’t you want to make your mark on the world’s “City of the Future?” Look to engineering as a path to greatness!