471,730 Full-time Engineering Students!

The numbers are out. According to American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), in 2011, there were 471,730 full-time undergraduate engineering students. This is up from:

  • 450, 685 in 2010
  • 427,503 in 2009
  • 403,191 in 2008
  • 385,690 in 2007
  • 374,202 in 2006
  • 367, 576 in 2005

The data speaks for itself. The effort that every educator, mentor, evangelist, and advocate is making to help students embark on an engineering education is working! The blood, sweat and tears that go into helping a robotics team at midnight, taking the weekend emergency phone calls when something doesn’t work as expected, or the months of hectic planning for a big event are paying off. With an engineering education, these students will be able to do or become anything that they want. It’s a remarkable foundation to build your life upon. My hat goes off to everyone that is on this journey. Thank you for what you are doing and your passion for this calling.

The Engineering Behind Skating

Summer time always makes me want to go skating down one of our beautiful bike paths under a peaceful canopy of trees. Because I relate everything to engineering careers, I can’t help but think about the engineering that is infused into the sleek and innovate design of skates.

The beauty of skating is that no matter if you are into skates as transportation, for playing hockey or basketball, for dancing, for fitness or for sailing with the wind across empty lots, you have the ability to thoroughly express and enjoy yourself. This enjoyment is expanded and increased by having the proper equipment such as knee and wrist pads, a helmet and well-maintained skates. Engineers are at the forefront of making the sport safer and more fun by applying engineering principles to creating the wheels, bearings, frames, boots and safety gear.

The creation of an inline skate is no small feat of engineering. For example, just to create the wheels of a skate, engineers go through meticulous design and testing phases that are dependent on what type of skating you are going to do. Obviously, an aggressive skater wants speed and maneuverability. Recreational skaters are interested in comfort and stability, fitness enthusiasts are interested in a good low-impact and cardiovascular workout. Inline racers want precision engineering for maximum speed and some want to transverse mountains in the quest for the ultimate trail or activity. There are unlimited possibilities for the engineer with an interest in skating and a creative streak to take them to the next level.

Aggressive skaters typically defy gravity by regularly performing flips, skating on ramps, sliding on rails, grinding and other challenging stunts. Because aggressive skating is so popular, diverse and expressive, it requires the heaviest gear. You never know what is coming next. The engineers in this industry are up against a tall challenge to help the skaters reach new heights of performance while ensuring that the equipment can endure the pounding that it takes day after day from riders with a wide variety of body types and skating styles.

In general:

  • Mechanical Engineers may design the frames, wheels, bearings, and everything in between.
  • Manufacturing Engineers often determine the systems to get it manufactured. They are interested in reducing the costs associated with production.
  • Materials Engineers are always on the lookout for new materials to have more fun and provide a better ride. This includes anything that makes up the skate (boots, wheels, bearings, frames, hubs and everything else).
  • Civil Engineers may design skate parks that allow the skaters to jump benches, slide down poles and ledges, and/or they may invent other obstacles that allow the skaters to do tricks. Civil engineers may also design portable ramps and ledges for learning to do tricks at home or to allow the skater to setup a make-shift park anywhere they want.

So strap on your skates, thank an engineer, and let’s get moving…

Read more about careers that combine sports and engineering in High Tech Hot Shots: Careers in Sports Engineering.


Green Construction

Exclusive excerpt from my new book, The Green Engineer: Engineering Careers to Save the Earth.

gecoverDo you think a building can give you more energy, make you more alert, or healthier? Although the buildings we visit and the homes we live in protect us from sun, snow, rain, wind, and the other elements of nature, they also affect our health and the environment in many ways. If you have ever been in a green building, you have probably found that as well as being very comfortable, it was also beautiful. There was probably special care taken to have good indoor air quality, comfortable lighting, and be environmentally sustainable. That’s part of what green building is all about. Green buildings can be homes, warehouses, skyscrapers, or any built structure that are designed to be sensitive to human health and the natural environment.

The energy used to heat and power non-green constructed buildings in the US produces 38.1 percent of the nation’s total carbon dioxide emissions, consumes 12 percent of the total water used, and 39 percent of the total energy used. In addition, greenhouse gas emissions are also created from manufacturing new building materials and the debris from traditional construction fill landfills. Green construction addresses these issues by designing buildings that meet low emissions requirements and that have a higher rate of reuse and recycling at the end of its useful life.

There are many benefits to green construction. Not only is it good for the environment (green buildings can enhance and protect biodiversity, improving air and water quality, reduce waste, and conserve natural resources), but green buildings can also reduce operating costs and improve worker health and productivity.

My favorite part of the job is helping someone understand that being green can improve their life and save them money.” -Gay Taylor, PE, LEED AP BD+C, President, The Taylor Waller Companies and former Engineering Manager for Federal Express

Sensory Overload

I’m just back from the USA Science and Engineering Festival and still trying to mentally catch-up with all that I saw and experienced. I was on sensory overload from when I first arrived on Friday until the doors closed on Sunday. There were 3000 exhibits that provided hands-on experiences for kids (kids were building stuff all over the floor in every aisle), stages for celebrities to entertain the crowds (when the Myth Busters guys were on the stage, you couldn’t even move in the exhibit hall), and tremendous excitement about all things STEM. Each time I tried to walk around to see the different booths, I only made it through 100-200 of them. So many booths, so little time…

Saturday’s attendance of 46,000 was the largest ever for the DC convention center. It was an amazing celebration and my hat goes off to the highly skilled and super organized people that made it happen. The world wouldn’t be the same without you.

Can’t wait for the next one!