Many engineers reach a point in their careers where they are inspired to give back to the industry and the wider engineering community. By finding ways to engage with current and future engineering students, you can play a part in inspiring the next generation of engineers. Opportunities exist at all levels, from elementary school to college.
For many engineering industry professionals, the desire to work in the field began long before they became college engineering students. Some students developed an interest in designing machines as children; others became fascinated with the way a car engine converts gas to energy. According to Science Buddies, the new General Motors CEO, Mary Barra, was interested in her father's red Camaro. Whatever the catalyst, it is clear that early inspiration can have a powerful and lasting impact on a person's life.
If you want to encourage students to consider a future in engineering, the best place to start is with local elementary students. Many schools promote science, math, and engineering programs that are frequently in need of volunteers and instructors. If you have a flexible schedule during the summer, you can also participate in summer engineering camps, which are usually hosted by universities. In an effort to increase the number of women in engineering, Georgia Tech hosts TEC Camp, which offers experience in hands-on experiments and classes to middle-school girls. Websites like Connect2Engineering.com often have listings of local groups with volunteer opportunities.
For a more challenging opportunity, you might consider finding ways to work with high school students. Teenagers are still malleable and open to ideas, though not to the degree of elementary and middle school students. At the high school level, you might consider judging science fairs, giving guest lectures in physics classes, or offering facility tours to local math classes. Contact local high schools to find out about career mentoring or job shadowing opportunities, which offer the chance to give students a firsthand look at what you do. You could also round up engineering students from local universities to create a question and answer panel about college life and choosing a major.
Opportunities also exist to inspire students who are already pursuing an engineering degree. If you are targeting current engineering students, you can provide a more in-depth experience. As part of the engineering degree, universities often require engineering students to complete project-based capstone or enterprise programs that require the support of engineering firms. Other groups, such as Women in Engineering and Engineers Without Borders, often need guest speakers, project sponsors, and professional advisors. Professors may welcome opportunities to bring classes on a tour of local engineering firms.
As a professional engineer, you have the opportunity to spread your enthusiasm for your job to kids of all ages. By taking time to inspire the next generation of engineering students, you can help guarantee the future of the industry.
(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)