I attended the University of Washington “Engineering Exploration” evening earlier this week. It’s a night where engineers from industry (“mentors”) get together to sit across tables from college students who are either in an engineering department, or who are thinking about applying to an engineering department.
The evening started out with free pizza for everyone (this is held on campus, after all). Last year, the ratio of students to mentors was about 1:1. This year, it was closer to 10:1. The turnout was at least twice what the organizers had expected. They had to order more pizza…
The students who came to sit down with me were all engaged and thoughtful. They were there because they knew what they wanted to do, but not necessarily how to do it. One student said (paraphrased) “I want to design something to save the world”. He wasn’t even in a department yet; he was still trying to decide if engineering was the right choice. I did my best to convince him that Mechanical Engineering would be an excellent choice – and that the energy industry offered opportunities to do just that (save the world).
The theme of the evening quickly became Sustainability. Every student that I talked to was interested in something “green” or “good for the environment”, one student had even narrowed his interest to “how to create sustainable processes” – as applied to, basically, anything.
It was a great evening. I met some other engineers from the Seattle area – many from our largest engineering employer, Boeing, as well as some consulting firms, and other smaller companies (many of which design and build parts for the aerospace industry). One comment stands out from the rest. The coordinator, a former professor in ME, Dr. Scott Winter, said in his opening comments (quoted to the best of my memory):
“Engineers are unique, they don’t just fill jobs; they create jobs.”
How true that is. Engineers are the people who come up with the next new idea, and in some cases, a whole new industry results, bringing with it all sorts of new jobs and opportunities. One of these days, someone is going to “save the world” – and I’ll put my money on that someone being an engineer!