This is a guest post by Darlene Cavalier, a writer and senior adviser at Discover Magazine. Darlene holds a Masters degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and is a former Philadelphia 76ers cheerleader. She founded ScienceCheerleader.com and cofounded ScienceForCitizens.net to make it possible for lay people to contribute to science.
The world may never know for certain who sparked the idea for the current BP oil containment cap. Professor Robert Bea, from the University of California, Berkeley, however, has a strong hunch:
Six weeks ago, Robert Bea, an engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, received a late-night call from an apologetic “mystery plumber.” The caller said he had a sketch for how to solve the problem at the bottom of the Gulf. It was a design for a containment cap that would fit snugly over the top of the failed blowout preventer at the heart of the Gulf oil spill. Read More
Engineer Your Life is a terrific initiative serving to break down stereotypes and challenge social expectations about who can be an engineer. The goal is to inspire young women to consider engineering as a creative, team-oriented, and lucrative profession that makes a difference. Why does this matter? Well women comprise just 20.4% of engineering majors in universities and 11.1% of practicing engineers. Meanwhile, engineering is considered among the ‘fastest-growing occupations’. But that’s only the beginning…
EYL’s latest study surveyed high school girls, guidance counselors, and practicing engineers to understand ‘cultural perceptions of engineering and its feasibility as a career choice.’ These four messages tested best among the girls:
Live your life, love what you do. Engineering will challenge you to turn dreams into realities while giving you the chance to travel, work with inspiring people and give back to your community.
Creativity has its rewards. Women engineers are respected, recognized and financially rewarded for their innovative thinking and creative solutions.
Make a world of difference. From small villages to big cities, organic farms to mountaintops, deep-sea labs to outer space, women engineers are going where there is the greatest need and making a lasting contribution.
Explore possibilities. Women engineers often use their skills to go into business, medicine, law, or government. An engineering education will prepare you for many different careers.
In light of engineering’s persistent public image problem, these messages—which are aligned with the values and aspirations most important to girls—are convincing girls that engineering is exciting, meaningful, and definitely worth considering as a career. These messages are used throughout Engineer Your Life, and the coalition encourages the entire engineering community to adopt them in all your outreach activities and materials.
What a cool campaign! Just check out the EYL videos:
Initiatives like this give me hope that the next generation of engineers will include a lot more motivated women with the expertise and confidence to narrow the gender divide. For good.
The third speaker in the panel I moderated at the STS conference was Fei Guo from Southeast University in Nanjing, China and the University of Wisconsin-Madison who spoke about The Absense of Engineering Ethics in China and its Solutions: An STS Perspective.
Fei began by explaining there are no engineering ethics in China. As a sub-discipline, the term specifies the responsibilities of engineers as professionals. However, most interesting to many of us in the room was hearing about the difference between how engineers are perceived in the U.S. and China. In Chinese tradition with roots in Confucius philosophy, engineers ‘build‘ rather than ‘design‘ and the profession is largely ignored. Hence, he described an absence of engineering books and courses.
Fei believes that given the modernization of China, engineering ethics must be introduced. He outlined a model to do so based on the example of the transformation from microethics to macroethics in U.S. engineering and the developments of STS. His proposal includes:
1) Highlighting engineering studies and practice, demonstrating creative characteristics in engineering
2) Introducing a general curriculum to popularize the multiple images of engineering and building macroethics in engineering education
3) Reforming the Chinese library and publication system, thereby encouraging publication and broader distribution of general engineering works.
While this is not an topic I’m familiar with, it raises some intriguing questions about persistence of S&T fields and definitions in other parts of the world. Is globalization moving us toward standardization? Probably. Does it matter?