Every February, engineers worldwide seize on Engineers Week to engage with grade-school students and help them envision careers in the profession.
This year has provided even more reason for excitement with the foundation DiscoverE’s official 2017 theme, Engineers Dream Big, linked to the release of ASCE’s inspiring, giant-screen movie Dream Big: Engineering Our World. ASCE is co-chair of 2017 Engineers Week.
Society members jumped into Engineers Week 2017 activities across the country.
National Capital Section members came out in full force to help kick off the week Feb. 18 at DiscoverE’s Engineering Family Day, held at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC.
“Studies have shown that talking to children as they get into the middle-school ages, when they’re making those decisions about what they want to do in college and their life, and exposing them to engineering this young gets them thinking about it early and helps encourage them to pursue it later on,” said Emily Dean, P.E., M.ASCE, Section treasurer and an ASCE organizer for Family Day the last eight years.
“This is one of our most popular volunteer events throughout the year, and of course this year is very important because of Dream Big. People are excited about it, and they’re happy to help out.”
Section members, aided by volunteers from Bechtel, helped children work on an activity featured in Dream Big, the Windy City Tower, in which the young engineer must design and build a tower out of paper that can resist the wind power of a box fan. From the looks of it, the children loved the challenge.
“We have found over the years that kids love to see failure,” Dean said. “They love seeing how high they can build something or how strong they can build something until it all falls down. They think, ‘Well, maybe if I do this, it will hold more.’ That process is really exciting for them.”
Meanwhile across the Building Museum, families viewed educational Dream Big web videos and had the chance to talk with some of the engineers featured in the film.
Tyler Welsh, one of the Bridges 2 Prosperity engineers in a memorable sequence on building a bridge in Haiti, came to Family Day to talk about his civil engineering experiences.
“It’s really exciting,” Welsh said of the event. “I’m here with my girlfriend, who’s from Haiti, and one thing she keeps commenting on is how amazed she is to see this sort of thing. This type of environment for children is something that is not available in a country like Haiti. So this type of environment, getting children – our young minds – thinking about the physical world around us, asking ‘What is engineering? How do these things exist?’ … to be a part of that, it’s really cool, it’s fun.”
Another of the featured civil engineers in Dream Big, Menzer Pehlivan, P.E., M.ASCE, was in demand at a variety of events around Washington – in addition to Family Day, she attended the Future City finals, and headlined a special screening of Dream Big on Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.
Together with ASCE 2017 President Norma Jean Mattei, Ph.D., P.E., F.SEI, F.ASCE, Pehlivan conducted a question-and-answer session with a group of elementary-age girls after the movie, at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.
The movie made students eager with queries, from “How many years do engineers have to go to school?” to “What’s the hardest project you’ve ever worked on?” to “Are you afraid of heights?”
“I was actually really inspired by it,” said Emily Frost, a sixth-grade student at St. Theresa School in Ashburn, VA. “I thought I would have to do all kinds of math stuff, but now I know it’s more than math and science.
“Engineering’s really fun.”