Response to CEP Editorial: Seeking More Respect for Engineers—Case for Action

In the October Edition of the CEP, Editor-in-Chief Cynthia Mascone has urged all engineers to step up to the challenge of seeking more respect for engineers. The article can be found here.

I have a personal passion in sharing what I do as an engineer with students. I did not have the opportunity to gain exposure to the true work of an engineer until I was about to enter college, during a college orientation. I believe that it is very critical for engineers to educate our next generation on the value of engineers' roles in society and continue to fill our talent pipeline. Our society thrives on the ability for our next generation to be able to be innovative in solving tomorrow's problems in an ever-changing environment.

Besides helping out at the Engineers Week event at the University of Houston (since 2006), I have had great experiences speaking to aspiring science/engineering students at the Energy Venture Camp this summer. Energy Venture is an intensive week-long career orientation summer camp dedicated to teaching middle and high school aged students about opportunities available in the field. It was wonderful to see the students' enthusiasm and interest in engineering, problem solving and being able to make a difference.

What are some of the things we can do as engineers to raise more awareness as well as improving our public image?

Please list them here and start making a difference today.

respect image: flickr user mhcseattle via creative commons


Roxy Schneider's picture

I go back to my old high school each year for career day and speak about chemical engineering (and engineering in general). The first thing I always do is ask the classroom "who here wants to be a chemical engineer?" and no one usually raises their hand. Then I ask "who here knows what a chemical engineer really does?" and no one raises their hand. Once I explain all the cool things ChemEs do and the flexibility that a ChemE degree gives, I usually have at least a few people who have changed their minds! The problem is that in most universities, you have to know by the time you are a freshman that you want to get an engineering degree. So if we don't start raising awareness about the benefits of an engineering degree to high school students, we'll miss an opportunity to attract people to the field. (It also might be worth noting that I went to an all girls high school, so this may have something to do with the extremely low rates of interest in engineering. Although my bet would be that things aren't much better in co-ed high schools.)

May's picture

Very well said Roxy and I totally agree with your comments. I honestly have to say, up till my college orientation, I don't really have a good appreciation of what Chemical Engineers do. Thank you for volunteering your time to raise awareness at the high school level!

Ross Topliff's picture

Roxy and May say it well above. Staying in touch with high school students is, obviously, key. I entered Chemical Enginering following a visit to my high school by the the local university ChemE department chair. I have seldom regreted that decision. I am working to establish connections with local high school chemistry teachers and offering my assistance with special projects, etc. So far, I haven't had any takers. I know they are very busy with proscribed activities. Other things we can do to raise awareness include: 1) Letters to the Editor of newspapers on topics of local interest. Currently, there is a lot of discussion on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas recovery in my area. 2) Respond to blogs, tweets, etc. on energy, fuels, and environmental concerns.

May's picture

Ross - you have listed some very good ideas! I totally agree about spreading the word and planting the interest via the media, particualrly social media. Thanks for taking the time to reach out to your community!!