Future Engineers

The engineers of metropolitan Chicago make both individual and group efforts to encourage pre-college youth to become engineers.  The need is not just replacement of retiring engineers but growth of the number of engineers available to meet the growing demand.  The annual Chicagoland E-Week Awards Dinner is one event which, by recognizing students in STEM competitions, supports that mission.

YOU Could be an ENGINEER

Yes you could.
First, let’s find out what is meant when someone is called an “engineer.”
The person who operates a railroad engine or a construction machine is often called an engineer. That is because at one time, those operators needed to know how the machine worked so that when there were problems the operator could fix it, or know what to tell a mechanic to do fix it.

More common today the engineer is a person who applies knowledge to the building of devices that meet needs people have. Sometimes people do this without even knowing that what they are doing is a form of engineering.  Consider the examples of a child assembling Legos to create a structure of their own imagining, a father building a tree house for his children, and the farmer who has fabricated special purpose machinery.

You could be this kind of engineer if you have ever shown such interest and skill. Okay.  You have the inquisitiveness and creative ideas. Now what?

You are never too young or too old to begin to become an engineer.  Some children begin to develop building skills in pre-school and some people decide to become engineers after a full career in other work.  Keys to becoming a trained engineer are:

  • Do your school work well and remember what you learn.
  • Don’t neglect one course for another.
  • Seek out others who can help you with understanding the STEM tools.
  • Use your prior course knowledge to help with today’s courses.
  • Stay physically as active as health permits.
  • Join clubs that challenge you to use and develop skills.
  • Participate in competitions (many STEM competitions can be found on the internet)

The information below provides a few specifics about developing the skills in the engineer’s tool box.

Building blocks of knowledge are important.  To make any skill a part of your ‘tool kit’ you must practice it.  Think of sample problems and homework.  Skill in one tool (Language, Math, and more) will grow as you master the first principles and move forward. Think of each level of skill as a part of a strong wall you are building.

Multiple tools are required to be an accomplished engineer. Although the specific tools vary by discipline certain types of skills are common to all. Language skills, both written and oral, provide for communication. Science skills underpin the engineer’s tools.  (Engineering, in all forms, is applied science – chemistry, mathematics, and physics.)  Each is dependent for development on the Building Block approach.

Problem Definition is essential to planning the engineering work to achieve the necessary goal. A good problem definition also helps to avoid “chasing the rabbits” (stray ideas without meaning) that may arise. A well-know inventor and Washington Award recipient (1936, Charles Kettering) has said that “A problem well-defined is a problem half-solved.”

Time management is a must for engineers, both as a student and a practicing engineer.  There is, usually, a fixed amount of time in which work must be done.  This often means that fun ‘stuff’ must wait, or be limited, until the job is done and focus is required.

The arts at first look don’t seem to be related to engineering.  However, engineers must talk with many people, often not engineers, in their employment and socially.  Interest and knowledge in more than the ‘hard’ sciences makes conversation easier and, often, explanations more understandable.  Such knowledge also makes the engineer a more ‘rounded’ and whole person.  Don’t neglect the arts.

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