I want to be this kind of engineer

i-f875c0b07d9b3cb6229668554781b35a-alice.jpg I feel hung down, brung down, hung up, and all kinds o' mean nasty ugly things, and the last thing I've been feeling like doing is spending more time on my computer, let alone blogging. But this video, produced for SMU's engineering program tweeted by the NAE and listed on the iFoundry blog is way cool, and, I hazard to say, is the kind of engineer I am trying to be.

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Right on!

It's a great vision. I aspire to this too. But after all the slick marketing I have to ask, do the faculty research profiles match the marketing? Do student job placements?

I checked out their research highlights page at http://lyle.smu.edu/departments/research.html.
I see structural dynamics. I see modeling of transport phenomena in porous media. I see a bunch of things with corporate and military applications. Yeah, there's some stuff in health and environment... but is "smart skin" the number one health priority when we have 47 million Americans with no health insurance and a system with out of control costs?

And I don't know where they place their students in long-term employment, but the co-op list includes Lockheed Martin, Johnson Space Center, JPL, EDS, TI, etc. Military-Industrial.

So it's a great vision. How do we get there from here?

Without a serious effort to change the priorities of the profession, I can only conclude that the point of marketing campaigns like these is to glorify what we are already doing by making it seem revolutionary when it's really serving the status quo.

At the risk of killing Alice's minor buzz, which I happen to know she totally needs at this point...I have to say I somewhat agree with Riled. Marketing campaigns like this are a great step forward in trying to draw in underrepresented groups into engineering education - it appeals to the values those groups hold, and shows them that their concerns can be addressed through a career in engineering. Problem is, they have to go through the as-yet unchanged educational system. It's a chicken and egg thing. Who's going to change the system if we don't get a more diverse group of people in there? yet how are they going to change the system if they continue to be educated in the same-old, same-old ways? It's not going to happen overnight. But people like Alice are chipping away at the edifice.

Alice, I sometimes lurk here and I enjoy your posts, and Iâm sorry that youâre feeling down. But Iâm surprised that you like this video. Doesnât science play a central role in engineering? Where is the mention of science? Are we really going to get more people interested in being engineers by glossing over the science? Can you really be a successful engineer without a love of science? Because it seems to me that there are a number of ways of being the people lauded in this video (e.g., leaders, agents of change, etc.) without being an engineer. An engineer, to me, is someone who attempts to achieve those goals through science.

Field Notes, thanks for getting the reference... :-)

Zuska and Riled, I agree with your commentary. Such marketing campaigns risk covering for a bait-and-switch - all kinds of folks with progressive ideals are lured into engineering only to find it's the same old-boys-club with as problematic careers as it ever was. But I also kind of think that engineering needs such people with progressive ideals to be lured to engineering and then disappointed so that maybe we can make a different kind of engineer/engineering.

Hope, I actually think you *can* be an engineer without a love of science, but I also think that talking about the (arguably) non-science aspects of engineering is a good thing. After all, I think you can't be a great doctor without having a love of science, and yet being a doctor is sold as "helping people" first and foremost. I think if we talk about engineering being about "making a difference" before all else, then some folks who might not see their identities as being organized around science but who would be good engineers might consider a career in engineering. Maybe. But we haven't been touting this message for long enough yet to be able to see any difference.

Of course, this is why Science Woman felt we should change the title of this blog when I joined in - I don't think engineer=scientist.

Anyone else want to weigh in?

Sometimes I think science gets in the way of engineering. Trying to make a difference in the world means just that, making a difference. It doesn't necessarily matter if economics or politics gets in the way; it's an obstacle to be overcome. To be sure, we do have limitations about what we can accomplish. But more often than not, a creative idea spurs a solution. Sometimes we need science to realize these creative ideas. Sometimes math and science do little more than showing us that we need another creative idea because the idea we started with proves to not be feasible.

I would rather work with a team of people committed to making a difference any day, especially if they had the ingenuity to see beyond the obvious constraints.

There are many ways to make a difference. If this is what I want to do, and I have no particular interest in math or science, why would I choose to become an engineer?

Perhaps you are the person who can see how to get from point A to point B even when the path is unclear. Perhaps you are relentlessly creative, constantly taking something from an idea to something in reality. Perhaps you lie awake at night wondering how to provide meaningful employment to people that utilizes the resources you have on hand locally. Perhaps you find it completely untenable that significant populations in the world do not have access to clean drinking water. Perhaps you live in a community that's constantly scrounging for solutions and no one else seems to care. Perhaps you are a person who refuses to take "No" for an answer when you know you desire a good and correct thing.

Perhaps you are an engineer.