Post from Jean Thilmany
My friend’s nine-year-old son, Jack, is the only boy enrolled in his school’s sewing class. Recently, he brought home his first creation, a pillow case, and his mother reports he was excited to sleep on it that night. Next, he’s turned his attention to pajama pants.
What does this have to do with engineering? Well, everything.
“More boys would take the class if they just realized it was engineering,” Jack told his mother. In fact, many things in this world have civil or electrical or environmental or biomechanical or other types of engineering at their base—including fashion design.
With the underrepresentation of women engineers, and the ongoing discussion of gender roles and gender stereotyping at a young age, I plan to go out of my way to point out to the kids in my life the underpinnings of engineering in the clothes we wear; and the bridge we cross over the Mississippi; and the dams we pass as we travel along the river; and in the car we share the automotive engine that propels us.
I’m sure I’ll think of a million more examples, including a look at the way that nature engineers all plants to allow them to thrive best (for more on this, see the Computing section in the November 2012 issue of Mechanical Engineering magazine).
I’d like to encourage you to have the same conversations with the children and adults in your life that I’ve had with my six-year-old son. By making them more aware of engineers’ efforts and their effects on our everyday life we can boost engineers’ presence in society and increase the young talent within their ranks.