I have posted previously about the need for mentors and teachers in the gear trade. Once a year the National Society of Professional Engineers designates a National Engineers Week when they encourage members to put on programs in schools on science and engineering. We are right in the middle of the 2014 edition, and to be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t have known it but for a helpful reminder from the Gear Technology staff.
When my children were in elementary school in the early 1990s, I took Engineers Week far more seriously and visited their classrooms to present some NSPE-produced experiments. My wonderful wife and I had a great time; our children were somewhat embarrassed, and hopefully some interest in engineering and science careers was created. We moved away shortly afterwards, so I can’t say for sure whether any of those children went on to technical careers.
I am pretty certain, however, that kids won’t get the engineering bug if they don’t get exposed to it at an early age. Not every child who tests well in math and science is cut out to be an engineer. Far too many get sent that way in high school by well-meaning guidance counselors who check the test scores and point out the good starting salaries. We also hear too much from politicians on our need for more advanced degrees in the sciences. Most of the engineers I respect entered the trade because it best fit their interests and aptitude; they honestly feel they were born to do this work and would not have been happy doing anything else. Tough classes in school, long hours at work, and even lagging appreciation from management couldn’t keep them from getting a twinkle in their eyes when discussing a technical challenge overcome.
So I don’t put on wind energy demonstrations for third graders anymore. Nor do I lead fifth graders through simulated oil spill cleanups. But I do take calls from college engineering students looking for guidance on their projects. And I try to answer e-mails looking for help understanding our sometimes baffling terminology. If you can, please visit those grade school classrooms and stir up some interest. At the very least, try to be patient with your younger colleagues and help them learn a little more each day.