The people who contributed their time, money, and/or services during the National Engineering Week (NEW) are commendable. I think events like NEW are definitely a good thing to bridge the gap between people who are in the profession with people who are not. It is sort of a leap into the future for some. I think we should have events like NEW, which bring engineers from all sorts of areas together for a common cause to bring more people into the profession.
Whether or not NEW will solve the enrollment decline in the engineering profession is an entire different issue. From my own experience as a kid growing up in a third world country and with not too many resources I can tell you that we need to start the effort of creating interest in our children in their childhood. I came to the USA in 1987 and went back to my country in 1991 and returned to the US in 1994. While I was in my country, my uncle thought me Math and English. I used to work on them 4 to 5 hours a day for about 3 years. I learned Math from basic addition/multiplication/subtraction to intermediate Algebra, Trigonometry, and Geometry. I was not allowed to use a calculator to basic computation and had to learn tables up to 12 and then later up to 15.
I believe that the parents need to push their kids towards math and science during their early childhood. I believe that is the only way to fix the problem facing us today.
I got interested in engineering when I was quite young. I loved working with electronics creating things. When I was in high school we had an awesome Electronics teacher. It was an ROP program and was the best for 100's of miles. It was great. We made things, we learned to fix things. Great fun! When I landed my first EE job, it was great, but lots of work and quite diverse. Again, I fixed things. My second EE job (still work for this company) things have changed A LOT. I used to work in manufacturing where my responibilities were to ensure quality manufacturable products. It was great. Then things started changing and we started getting out of manufacturing. I decided I wanted to stay an engineer so I moved to R&D (mostly D) in my company. Now we are getting out of the "D" with more and more outsourcing. I think engineering where we are creating things and solving problems is alot of fun, but we are doing less and less of it. It seems we are spending more and more time jockeying for the fewer and fewer jobs than we are on engineering work. Too bad, engineering can be very rewarding for those that are wired for it. What can we do to encourage it? Perhaps bring back the importance of engineering. As someone wrote earlier, in todays world the money mongers get the big salaries and are more valued in our economy than those who actually create and "do" something.
It was pretty much my interest in Mathematics which got me into engineering.
Kids may hear about the decline in Engineering industry/ lay offs from their parents and get uninterested in it. But when you see the decline, it is not just engineering, decline is in every other industry. It obviously doesn't make sense selecting other industries when you get paid more or better in engineering. For example. In India, Lecturers in IIT are paid 3 Lacs whereas a student graduated from IIT is paid 12 lacs. It is funny when people say there is no job satisfaction in engineering jobs. When you work hard the whole day to solve an issue and solve it, you do get job satisfaction and feel good of yourself. Job security is getting worse in every industry.
Parents and teachers have to take responsibilty to explain kinds about the imporantace of engineering and how it changed the world and tell them to select their own field. I bet they will consider engineering.
What can/should be done to motivate more young people to go into engineering?
You can start by persuading the community of technical magazine editors to stop insulting current working engineers by inplying that they're economically illiterate.
The ridiculous premise of this question is that current engineers -- typically either underemployed or overworked -- have any interest in motivating others to go into this profession. We don't. Technical magazine editors and engineering school deans have their own incentives (more readers to expose to their advertising and more tuition-paying students), but those do not necessarily dovetail with the incentives of the current working engineer, whose marketability, salary, and treatment by employers only rise in proportion to low supply & high demand.
This is not to say that we wouldn't help/assist/guide any young engineers we were privledged to work with (I have, and I will), but we should be honest about whose interests are really being served in the pursuit of certain goals. Mentoring a 22-year-old once they're here is a much less difficult moral decision than encouraging them to choose this profession (from among competing alternatives) in the first place, given (a) the tenuous positions many American engineers historically face beyond age 40, and (b) the likely continued exodus of technical work to the east.
To return to your original question, start by directing it toward the people who care about it the most: not Engineers, but the Engineering Managers & Business Leadership of tech companies. They're the ones who SHOULD HAVE a vested interest in this, and they're the ones with DO HAVE the capacity to make the profession more attractive. Just don't bother asking my company's (a giant California aerospace firm HQ-ed in Massachusetts) management: they have a rapidly aging workforce and no succession plan on the horizon. Evidently, their lump-sum retirement payout provides no incentive for long-range planning.
What was it that first inspired you to answer the calling?
The space program of the 60's and 70's. Good luck recapturing that kind of vision.
Is it something that could still resonate with today's youth?
The premise of this question is that there's something special about "today's youth" such that they might NOT aspire to have (theoretically) useful, intellectually stimulating work. Please elaborate, as I admit I know little about them .... beyond the mythology that they're consumed by video games and text messaging.
i wasn't one of the kids that "took everything apart". sure i did a little of that but who didn't? my interest in electronics grew out of my interest in a band that used a technique called circuit bending (google it) to make some of their musical instruments. i took it up as a hobby. i guess i waited until my 20s to go through the "taking things apart" phase. i remember being intensely curious at what was going on inside those little black rectangles on the circuit board and now here i am 9 years later with a fresh ee degree just starting my career, for better or worse.
I started off taking apart tv's, radios, and electronic devices when I was just in elementary school and always wanted to know why and how it worked. Later on I kept watching Japanese sci fi movies and animes. In Japanese films they had a tendency to show engineers as intelligent and creative which also help peak my curiousity. I read books about Nikola Tesla and other popular science books. It was amazing how Tesla developed the theory for AC, made the 1st radio (1943 supreme court overturned Marconi's patent), remote control boats, wireless energy which didn't quite work on a large scale. Tesla had so many ideas that we are just coming back to again today with new names.
I got my associate degree in electronics, then got a bachelors in electrical engineering, and am working part time on my masters degree in electrical engineering while volunteering for the IEEE.
I work as a communication systems engineer at an electric utility company and noticed that if you work in the union you made better pay than as a salaried engineer, so most engineers work as technician at my utility company.
To get kids interested we should have more positive role models maybe in tv, movies. There are many shows about doctors, lawyers, fire fighters, cops. Highlight more prizes such as the X prizes and show the excitement in actually producing something useful. Show that it is challenging and rewarding. I know when I hear my boss say something is impossible or very difficult I am the first in line start investigating the problem.
I had two older cousins in electrical engineering, one an enterprise system support engineer for ncr, and another a hardware engineer for national semiconductor. So it ran in my family a little bit.
I agree with some of the others above that today everything is a blackbox and difficult to understand. There are a few hobbyist companies such as Parallax that have nice micro controller kits that are simple enough for anyone to understand and well documented manuals.
By the way I am 35 years old and was one of the last classes in tech school to learn about discrete electronic components and parts of old 8085 computers, the programmable counters, timers, trouble shooting with logic probes. It is sad that the people graduating from my old tech don't really understand anything at a component level anymore.
I will leave everyone with one of my favorite quotes "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." "The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible." "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong." All Arthur C Clarke.
And one last quote "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams." ‚??Willy Wonka
I wish the next generation of children surpass us in knowledge and wisdom to apply it properly. I get worried when I see the kids graduating every year from high school, a very few are sharp, and many will need to look for jobs at Walmart.
P.S. A few great role models are Burt Rutan of the X prize for the first commericial space shuttle. Steve Wozniak for all his contributions to computer engineering and funding Burt's project. And finally Dean Kamen for all his great inventions and all his volunteer work with children.
What made me become an engineer? I would say a troubled childhood and being poor. In First grade, I tried to design an automobile piston that would clean up pollution (1969) that was very impractical. In Third grade, I was drawing reel-to-reel computers in my lunar walkers (1972). In Jr. High, I designed, hard shell space suits, tried to block diagram an AI (1975). In high school (early 80?s), I was drafting, nuclear subs, nuclear tanks, nuclear cities, recycling systems (ecological and rebreather), space stations, space capsules, space shuttle experiments (sent one to NASA), biological batteries (this worked), solid fueled rockets (from scratch, some worked), prosthetic limbs , and a lot of other garbage I can?t remember. Then I went to a few engineering schools and held several jobs and that quickly cured me of the engineering and creativity bug. If there had been earlier intervention (say First grade), I could have spent a lot more time playing and socializing with people, instead of now sitting in an office alone for years designing embedded hardware and software (think I?ll risk putting a plant in my cubical). I would talk about the pay, lack of benes, and no vacation since 2008, but I do not want to depress you or cast a disparaging light on engineering. Instead, I will talk of the good times.
From a young age, I was always interested in how things worked, my dad being an electrical engineer may have helped a bit too.
I had an instinct to pull things apart to see what made them work, mechanical ability helped, so I could get things back together too.
In high school I got more interested in audio amplifiers and had the urge to know how they worked, so I could make & repair them. That is when I made the decision to get into EE when i'd go to college. I'm now on the R&D side of electronics, some new products, some test equipment.
I don't see many people with an interest for how the internals of things work. Without that yearning to know, i'm not sure how you can motivate people to get into a field.