National Engineer’s Week – Inspire the Next Generation of Innovators, Hug an Engineer!
Engineers, for the most part, are by nature very inquisitive. For most of us, the first thing engineers do when problem solving is ask lots of questions.
So, I’ll ask you this: Do you know that February 17 marked the kickoff of Engineer’s Week? If you go to the National Society of Professional Engineers web site, you’ll find this:
Dedicated to raising public awareness of engineers’ positive contributions to quality of life, EWeek promotes recognition among parents, teachers, and students of the importance of a technical education and a high level of math, science, and technology literacy, and motivates youth to pursue engineering careers in order to provide a diverse and vigorous engineering workforce.
Two parts of that mission statement catch my attention: “positive contributions to quality of life” and “diverse and vigorous engineering workforce.” If you asked someone on the street what they thought were examples of how engineering impacts their lives, they probably would respond by pointing to automobiles, computers and smartphones, highways and the combustion engine. All good answers.
I have business colleague who once asked me about the discipline from which I received my Ph.D. I told him Electrical Engineering. He then said “oh, a soft science major”. I said no, a practical science major. Science allows us to make sense and understand the world around us, engineering harnesses the understanding and try to make our lives better. The engineering design principles do not differ dramatically whether you are working on the next energy efficient washer/dryer combo used in our homes and or the next DC power supply. At some point, for both examples, obvious and subtle, an engineer would have to ask, “How do I make this truly useful to my customers in a cost effective and more durable way?” That’s exactly how we approach development with our customers, and the type of thinking Engineers Week encourages and cultivates.
Engineers Week is also about raising awareness of the need for more technically skilled people. We need a vigorous workforce to reduce the shortage of engineers that most experts consider to be a crisis. An important part of that is bridging the gender gap that has traditionally kept girls and women in the minority when it comes to hi-tech. I think changing that dynamic begins in the classroom, and through the efforts of organizations such as TechGirlz, whose mission is “to inspire middle school girls to explore the possibilities of technology to empower their future careers.”
I want to be sure to point out that I believe both boys and girls can be encouraged by parents and educators to explore engineering and STEM-related training. Furthermore, it’s important for the companies that need engineers to actively work to open doors to education, as well as employment. Advanced Energy is helping through internships, scholarships, and working to expand STEM education resources locally. We’re excited to be funding and providing equipment for the Advanced Energy Electronics Lab at Front Range Community College’s Center for Integrated Manufacturing, in Ft. Collins. The 27,000 square-foot facility will offer students a state-of-the-art lab and classroom facilities, so they can get hands-on hi-tech experience prior to entering the workforce.
I was honored to join Advanced Energy last year as Chief Technical Officer. Since then, I’ve been able to get an insider’s perspective on the diverse, smart, resourceful and dedicated engineers that work here. The challenges they are taking on might center on innovation at the single-atom scale and have repercussions on a global scale. That’s no exaggeration. I appreciate them every day, not just during Eweek, and know all my colleagues do as well.
I’ll close with one last question: When was the last time you thanked an engineer – or a kid who is thinking about exploring engineering? I suggest that sometime this week, you make that happen!