Around the World

International-editionsThis blog today is about never letting others hold you down or convince you to give up the dream.

In 1998, my last year in engineering school, I wrote a book about going to engineering school and choosing a discipline to study (mechanical, electrical, civil, etc.) Because no one would publish it, I formed a publishing company and did it myself. I had no idea what I was doing but simply believed with all my heart and soul that anyone who wanted to go to college for engineering needed my book. About six months after publishing the book, the phone rang and to my great surprise, the caller ID said NASA. I tentatively answered the phone thinking they must have the wrong number, but no – they asked for me. They told me they loved my book and wanted to give it to everyone. From that moment on, all I had to do was figure out how to ramp up and hang on because I had lift-off. The book quickly became the #1 engineering career guide at Amazon and book publishers were now coming to me.

During that time, I received rejection notices from publishers, the Dean of the college refused to write a foreword and other students seemed less than interested. But, I knew there was nothing like it and that it would’ve been the perfect reference when I was making the decision to study engineering. With only a gut feeling, I sent it out into the world.

Eighteen years later, it is in its fifth edition and now covers 45 types of engineering and engineering technology. About 80,000 copies are in print and Chinese and Asian (India) editions were published last year. It is a testament to believing in yourself and your power to see and contribute to a better future. You may never know who, exactly, you are helping but I guarantee you will sleep well at night if you follow your heart and promote (do!) something good.

Famous Women Engineers

Every now and then, I like to take a step back and appreciate how far we’ve come in engineering and technology. Each time I do this I’m completely amazed that I can print things in plastic in my 3D printer, build robots that will follow my instructions and create my own rubber stamps in my laser cutter. I love the Maker and DIY cultures but also respect that we stand on the shoulders of giants. Without the discoveries of the past, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Below is a short list of famous women who have lead or are leading the way.

  • Heather Knight is a pioneer in the growing field of social robotics which investigates ways in which robots could have an impact on our everyday lives. With degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, she is known as a social roboticist and is constantly thinking about new ways to make robots charismatic, giving them the necessary personality and social skills to interact with humans in meaningful ways.
  • Dr. Catherine Mohr, a mechanical engineer, is developing the next generation of surgical robots and robotic procedures that allow patients to heal faster and better. She is pushing the boundaries of medicine with her research in robotic-assisted surgery.
  • Ada Byron Lovelace collaborated with Charles Babbage, the Englishman credited with inventing the forerunner of the modern computer. She wrote a scientific paper in 1843 that anticipated the development of computer software (including the term software), artificial intelligence, and computer music. The U.S. Department of Defense computer language Ada is named for her.
  • Amanda Theodosia Jones invented the vacuum method of food canning, completely changing the entire food processing industry.  Before the 1800’s, a woman could not get a patent in her own name. A patent was considered property and women could not own property in most states.  So, in a move typical of women inventors of the 19th century, Jones denied the idea came from her inventiveness, but rather from instructions received from her late brother from beyond the grave.
  • Dr. Angela Moran, a materials engineering scientist, conducts research to help assure that metals and other material that make up some the Navy’s most vital equipment (such as aircraft, sea vessels and weaponry) can withstand the stress and demands of their use.
  • Mary Engle Pennington revolutionized food delivery with her invention of an insulated train car cooled with ice beds, allowing the long-distance transportation of perishable food for the first time.
  • Mary Anderson invented the windshield wiper in 1903. By 1916 they were standard equipment on all American cars.
  • Beulah Louise Henry was known as ‘the Lady Edison’ for the many inventions she patented in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Her inventions included a bobbinless lockstitch sewing machine, a doll with bendable arms, a vacuum ice cream freezer, a doll with a radio inside, and a typewriter that made multiple copies without carbon paper.  Henry founded manufacturing companies to produce her creations and made an enormous fortune in the process.
  • Hedy Lamarr, a 1940’s actress, invented a sophisticated and unique anti-jamming device for use against Nazi radar. While the U.S. War Department rejected her design, years after her patent had expired, Sylvania adapted the design for a device that today speeds satellite communications around the world. Lamarr received no money, recognition, or credit.
  • Grace Murray Hopper, a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy, developed COBOL, one of the first high-level computer languages. Hopper is also the person who, upon discovering a moth that had jammed the works of an early computer, popularized the term “bug.” In 1991, Hopper became the first woman, as an individual, to receive the National Medal of Technology. One of the Navy’s destroyers, the U.S.S. Hopper, is named for her.
  • Stephanie Kwoleks discovered a polyamide solvent in 1966 that led to the production of “Kevlar,” the crucial component used in canoe hulls, auto bodies and, perhaps most importantly, bulletproof vests.
  • Ruth Handler was best known as the inventor of the Barbie doll, also created the first prosthesis for mastectomy patients.
  • Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar helped to develop the ceramic tiles that enable the space shuttle to survive re-entry. In 1985, she had an opportunity to test those tiles first hand as an astronaut aboard the shuttle.

Comments?

Know Your Community

I read the article below at first nodding my head in agreement. After a few minutes, I came to realize that while the message may be true for some girls, it’s not true for all. Marketing engineering, technology and computer science careers to women is not a one size fits all prospect.

The article states that we use pink, curly fonts, and butterflies too much to bridge the gender divide. That we assume we need to turn technology into something girly to make it attractive.

How not to attract women to coding: Make tech pink – SFGate.

I personally can relate to this. I grew up in the SF Bay Area and was not attracted to pink media. I was much happier playing with my brother’s LEGO than Barbie and I wouldn’t have been attracted to pink LEGO either. I wanted to be taken seriously and knew that wouldn’t happen if my game wasn’t on the same field as all the boys on the block. As I grew older and gained confidence, I became much more attracted to color. Today, I prefer the teal, purple and tangerine LEGO blocks. Is that because I understand that I don’t have to be like the boys to make a valuable contribution? That different contributions are not less valuable?

From promoting engineering all over the country and facilitating over 80 Mother/Daughter TEA Workshops (engineering events for Mother and Daughters) I can say, without equivocation, that one size does not fit all. Some girls love fancy script and a girly atmosphere and some prefer a gender neutral environment. This also varies greatly by geography and community.

The best approach to reaching girls is to know your community and have a sense for what is interesting, what has worked in the past and what hasn’t been tried. If pink flyers with curly fonts work in your community, keep using them. If you find you aren’t getting enough girls to sign up for your program(s), change how you market. Just like engineering design, marketing is also an evolving process. What worked last year might not work this year. Test your messages, evaluate and redesign if necessary.

 

iPhone app for Engr and Engr Tech Careers

ITAEIYapplogoBrand new in iTunes is the app “Is There an Engineer Inside You?

This is a great resource for teachers, administrators, parents and students. It covers 40 different types of engineering and engineering technology degrees with videos, job descriptions, salary expectations, scholarships and a school locator.

It’ll help teachers, administrators and parents understand the differences between 40 types of engineering and the opportunities available.

It’ll help students figure out what kind of engineer they want to be.

So head over the the App Store and get your copy. It’ll be the best $2 you’ve spent in a while.

And, please Share far and wide!

Five Things Teachers Can Do Right Now

I’ve received many emails lately about Engineers Week and what it’s all about. To briefly summarize, Engineers Week (Eweek) is always during the president’s birthday week. So this year, it’s Feb. 16-22. Eweek statistics show that last year, 40,000 engineers visited classrooms to educate students about the field of engineering. Eweek extrapolates that those engineers reached 5 million students! There are only 20 days until Eweek and it’s not too late to get involved.

Below, I have provided suggestions for teachers to use Eweek as a special time to really educate, inspire, motivate and/or cajole interest in engineering. It’s a time to celebrate the profession and the amazing advances and achievements of the field. It’s also the perfect opportunity to get people to help you in this mission.

Five things that teachers can do right now.

  1. The first thing I would recommend to get an engineer to come to your classroom is to open the phone book and call a local firm that has a yellow page ad. Explain that you are a teacher and would like an engineer to talk to your kids for Engineers Week. You can give them the link to Eweek (www.discovere.org). Most firms benefit from the exposure so you might be surprised at the results. If they seem resistant, just try another.
  2. Put your state in the search engine to find local events in your area.
  3. There is a good chance that in a classroom of 30 students, at least one or two will have parents that are engineers. You may be able to get the parent engineers to talk to your class.
  4. Call your local college of engineering and see if you can arrange a tour or see if they are doing anything special to celebrate the week. Don’t forget about junior colleges and vocational schools! They are also great resources.
  5. Contact your local engineering society to find out what they are doing. For example, the IEEE, ASME, ASCE, NSPE and many others have state branches that are independently run by engineers in your state. This may be an excellent opportunity to make a lasting connection. Just put (ieee.org) or (asme.org) or (asce.org) or (nspe.org) into your browser and search for local or state chapters of the organization. When you find your state contact, write to the president asking for help.

What are you doing for Eweek? Questions, suggestions? Post them here!

In Search of an Icon

If we want engineering to be more broadly accepted by mainstream society and the media, we need to define what an engineer looks like. The field of engineering has become larger and more encompassing over time.

Engineers come in all forms.  There are currently 2.3 million engineers, engaged in everything from design to sales to testing, manufacturing, training, and marketing. You can find engineers working in the field, behind a desk, in a production plant, at a customer site, or even on an airplane. Engineers design, manufacture, build, research, write, investigate and present their findings. It’s easy to think of engineers designing rides at Disney or crawling around inside of a bridge to check for stress cracks – we know what that looks like but what about the engineers who don’t design our modern conveniences and structures? How do we show an appealing image of an engineer who is checking air quality or researching new and safer ways to dispose of compact fluorescent light bulbs?  How do we show students the image of an engineer who is trying to find ways to save animals on the brink of extinction? How do we show an engineer who is working on developing safer foods, less hazardous farming techniques or ways to cut down on crime? That’s a lot of job descriptions and categories to narrow into one icon that defines an engineer.

If Hollywood can make CSI shows look good to students (forensic scientists often study dead people for clues), we can definitely find a way to make engineering look more appealing too. And it starts with an icon or symbol that we can associate with an engineer.

All ideas are welcome!

2012 Poster Contest Results!

The EESC’s 2012 poster contest had two themes.

  1. Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and
  2. Grand Challenges for Engineering.

Students could enter one or both up to three times. Winning posters had to be fun, motivational and inspire students to pursue a degree in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

The results are in!

2012 Poster Contest Winners


Women in STEM Category

1st Place – Anna Hershey

2nd Place – Alex Frashuer

3rd Place – Alicia Tran and Teresa Gleason

Honorable Mention – Theo Howard, Joe Stohr, and Michelle Anderson


Grand Challenges for Engineering Category

1st Place – Julie Rasos

2nd Place – Joe Costa

3rd Place – Emma Bonfiglio, Rachel Welch and Teresa Gleason

Honorable Mention – Morgan Carrier, Blair Lewellyn, Michelle Anderson, Helen Cheng and Jeffrey Low, Amanda Zuschin, Amanda Holl, and Jennifer Qualls

 

Congratulations to all the winners!

8th Annual Poster Contest

This year, when getting ready to launch the poster contest I decided to do some snooping around on Facebook to see if past high school poster contest winners were in engineering school now. To my delight, 4 of 5 that I searched for were definitely enrolled! It’s a small sample but still noteworthy.

So either:

  1. Researching engineering careers and producing a visual representation of that research stimulates an increased interest in the field. Contestants may learned things about engineering they didn’t know before.
  2. Students that win have been interested in engineering and that enables them to produce more thoughtful posters.
  3. Because many classes in numerous schools enter the contest as a class assignment, this may produce a collective consciousness about engineering that contains more information about possible careers than would be possible otherwise.

Whatever the case, I’m happy to see that this contest is making an impact!

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EESC’s 8th Annual Poster Contest Kickoff!

The EESC’s 2012 poster contest will include two themes. Contestants may enter one or both up to three times. Posters should be fun, motivational and inspire students to pursue a degree in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

Category 1: “Grand Challenges for Engineering” – This theme is back for another round! Throughout human history, engineering has driven the advance of civilization. In the last century, engineering recorded its grandest accomplishments. The widespread development and distribution of electricity and clean water, automobiles and airplanes, radio and television, spacecraft and lasers, antibiotics and medical imaging, and computers and the Internet are just some of the highlights from a century in which engineering revolutionized and improved virtually every aspect of human life.

For all of these advances, though, the century ahead poses formidable challenges. As the population grows and its needs and desires expand, the problem of sustaining civilization’s continuing advancement, while still improving the quality of life, is more immediate. Old and new threats to personal and public health demand more effective and more readily available treatments. Vulnerabilities to pandemic diseases, terrorist violence, and natural disasters require serious searches for new methods of protection and prevention. And products and processes that enhance the joy of living remain a top priority of engineering innovation.

Applying the rules of reason, the findings of science, the aesthetics of art, and the spark of creative imagination, engineers will continue the tradition of forging a better future. For more information on the Grand Challenges, visit: http://www.engineeringchallenges.org/cms/8996.aspx

Category 2: “Women in STEM” – More women in the STEM workforce is vital to innovation, our economy and global competitiveness. Every day, inspiring women in a variety of STEM careers make a difference in the world. STEM literacy is a requirement in the 21st and possibly the best ticket to a good job, meaningful career, and a secure future.

Contest deadline: 11:59pm November 1, 2012

Winners will be notified by November 14, 2012

View the 2005-2011 winning posters here: http://www.stemposters.com/