This week I want to know how valuable you feel work experience is for new engineers, and whether trying your hand at some "ideological" engineering might offer a boost to both your job prospects and morale.
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"We have done a miserable job, by and large, of explaining just how engineering is essential and can change the world," said National Academy of Engineering (NAE) chief Charles Vest, in a recent interview in USA Today.
Vest and others are now recommending that young engineers spend less time in a classroom and more time in the field tackling real-world problems like delivering energy, food, clean air and water to the world's billions.
"This is an idealistic generation, despite everything going on in the economy, and they want to help people," Vest said. "We have to get them out of the lecture hall and show them how engineers do just that," he added.
Currently, just 4.5 percent of U.S. college graduates are engineers, with Europe posting a slightly higher 12 percent and Asia turning out 21 percent.
The NAE believes it could boost the number of engineering graduates by leveraging Generation Yís ideology, and has launched the Grand Challenges Scholars Program to appeal to the spirit of todayís youth.
The program, sponsored by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, is designed to prepare students to solve the Grand Challenges facing society. It identifies 14 subject areas requiring immediate engineering attention, ranging from "preventing nuclear terror" to "reverse-engineering the human brain."
The projectís goals are defined as "enhancing student interest in engineering and science, increasing the visibility and importance of engineering and science to society, underscoring the importance of recognizing that engineering education must be coupled to policy/business/law and must be student-focused."
The NAE is also hoping that the program will enhance student interest in engineering, science, and technology entrepreneurship while fomenting future collaborations of interested scientists, engineers, policy makers and researchers to successfully address complex societal issues.
What do you think, readers? Will the lure of ideology attract the next generationís brightest minds to the profession? Would this type of program prove an enticing sabbatical option for more seasoned engineers? And is it enough? Let us know, we love hearing from you.
I think this may be a case of poor choice of a word: "ideological". It sounds like what they're talking about is showing people that engineering solves human problems, in other words they're explaining the definition of engineering. That has nothing to do with an ideology. Ideology deals with questions like to what extent property rights should be respected. Engineering is a different discipline from that.
These are excellent points from one of the venerable amongst us, Torfa. I really appreciate the long-view perspective and agree that the lasting effect of WW2 on our economy can't be understated. And if I may add some levity - you might like this one which came from a good friend and fellow EE while summing up our Cold War success: "Our German scientists were better then their German scientists".
Charles, you are on to something here but I would say that what is too idealogical is this discussion. Playing the role as this forum's cynic can be tiring but it's appropraite here. All one needs to know about what is going on here is in this sentence:
"The program, sponsored by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, is designed to prepare students to solve the Grand Challenges facing society."
I would encourage the forum to mull over that specific, telling statement and ask the appropriate questions thereof.
The IT world has customized easily these days as new public networking application and elements came out. This natural success should be expected, but many IT professionals missed the vessel, so to talk.
Maybe the word should be altruistic - devoting oneself to a worthy cause. Maybe there should be an engineering peace corp. But I don't think you are going to get too many people to put up with the rigors of eng school for 4-5 years just to be a nice guy (or gal). Medical Drs go thru quite an lengthy ordeal until they can actually practice, but they know in the long run they will be well rewarded.
It sounds as though you are presuming what the students' ideology is. None of your ideas sounds appealing to me nor would they to many of the young people I know. Helping people is not a universal ideal.
What needs to happen to get more interest in engineering is to remove ideology so the students can follow their own.
Also, reform primary education back to the basics (reading, writing, and math). Engineering would be less daunting if the students were better qualified coming out of high school.
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