As an educator, I think it is important to re-visit the material and curriculum that we deliver to our students quite frequently to mesh with the changing world. In the 8th grade at Allendale Columbia, the somewhat traditional Conceptual Physics course has been tweaked into a more authentic and relevant Intro to Engineering in Your World course. I think it is crucial that our younger students have an accurate notion of what the engineers of today do in the real world. As I sit and think of their engineering role models, I cannot help but cringe – they are either evil villains like Spiderman’s Dr. Octopus, or self-centered, self-absorbed pseudo-heroes like Tony Stark. Let’s not forget the awkward and self-deprecating mechanical engineer Howard Walowitz on the Big Bang Theory. No wonder our young students aren’t rushing to join a profession where they are feared, mocked, or misunderstood.
I am an emerging twitter user, so an intriguing chat from Big Beacon caught my attention. Big Beacon’s goal is to transform engineering education under the leadership of Dave Goldberg and Mark Somerville. The world is a changing place, and according to BigBeacon, the world is ready for a whole new kind of engineer. I’ve read their education manifesto, and it is inspiring to an educator like me. It’s incredible to think what kind of place the world will be in 2030 and that our youngest students will be facing challenges of which we cannot remotely conceive.
When the twitter feed said there would be a twitter chat starting soon with a topic of the depiction of engineers in popular culture, I was strangely drawn to it. I’m not an engineer, but I’m married to one, so I’ve had many conversations with my husband over the years about the stereotype of the profession.
Following #bigbeacon, I followed along as the host, Stefan Jaeger, Author of The Jackhammer Elegies, posted the questions. It was an incredible professional development experience to listen to present and past engineers, almost-engineers, educators, and innovators talk about the way the engineer profession is portrayed. Having been a middle teacher of 20 years, I cannot help but wonder how many students are turned off from an engineering path as they head off to college. I’m only a small part of the equation, but I will reflect how my own classroom discussions and practices might just influence that new world engineer.