Posted on Feb 26, 2010
John M Grau
This past Saturday, the National Building Museum in Washington, DC hosted Discover Engineering Family Day. My son Brendan and I went to check it out.
The floor of the immense, open pavilion in the museum was filled with exhibits booths featuring hands-on demonstrations of engineering skills. The purpose of the event was to discover how professional engineers turn ideas into reality.
We built a stomp rocket with paper, a plastic tube, and an empty water bottle (aerospace engineering). We made slime (chemical engineering). We used a few Lego pieces to build a structure that was supposed to withstand a simulated tsunami in a wave tank (civil engineering). We failed.
We learned about the science behind popcorn (agricultural engineering), and we were able to play with competition robots (mechanical engineering). We controlled radios with light beams (electrical engineering), and we took a break to eat hotdogs and giant cookies (smart parenting).
Basically, we had a good time, and we learned first-hand how a career in engineering can be practical, interesting, and fun. I wish we had Engineering Family Day in my community when I was growing up. I started college as an Engineering major, but I switched to Business at the end of my freshman year. I didn’t have a clear vision about what all my math studies would lead to.
Getting our young people excited about engineering is a good thing. We need more home grown engineers in this country. India and China are producing many more engineers than the United States, and that will lead to their competitive advantage.
I think our country would be better off with fewer lawyers and investment managers, and more engineers.