Where Have All the Young Engineers Gone?

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" For those of us old enough to remember watching Neil Armstrong take one small step for a man and one giant leap for mankind, the answer was easy. "I want to be an astronaut." Who wouldn't? You get to fly through outer space, ride around on the moon in a tricked-out golf cart, wear a super-cool spacesuit, and, best of all, you get your very own genie in a bottle. Oh wait, that was a television show. Anyway, the first big step toward becoming an astronaut was to get an engineering degree. The 1960s despite the assassinations, the racial strife, and the free love were the heyday of engineering schools. That was where you got your ticket to the glamour profession. And that glamour, that celebrity, is what's missing from today's engineering career. Initiatives abound to reinvigorate our children's interest in engineering. President George W. Bush's recent signing of the America Competes Act, with its promise of new money for math and science curricula, certainly ups the ante. And smaller grass-roots programs like Lego Mindstorms and its community of robot-building youths, and Manchester, N.H.-based FIRST, with its team-building approach to robotics competitions, are attempting to coax the next generation into engineering. But the complaint we heard repeatedly from interviews for our annual salary survey was that the number of young, qualified engineers is dwindling. What will it take to rekindle American youths' excitement about engineering? What do you know of that is already being done? What can we do better? We will begin looking deeper and deeper at these questions via our web site, forums, and print publication. Let us know what you know. Tell us what'ss going on. Where have all the young engineers gone?
Show Comments
Hide Comments

Join the discussion

We welcome your thoughtful comments.
All comments will display your user name.

Want to participate in the discussion?

Register for free

Log in for complete access.

Comments

  • <p>The young engineers don't happen like the old days because some of my students in our High School Engineering Class come in thinking "thats way too complicated for me." Gone are the days of the local TV repair shop who for many was the Citadel of Electronics. Guys from the Armed Services trained in Radio Electronics had countless stores all over the country and made good money essentially being the "geek squad" of the 40's and 50's and 60's to the incredible high tech Black and White ( and whoa Color) televsion.</p> <p>The students always wonder what engineering would be like. In the old days there were opportunities for students to "spend the day" with a career engineer. That doesn't happen much since everyone is running "lean" machines with no excess staff or time.</p> <p>It's pretty darn complicated. You have to know Calculus and all that physics stuff. Business degrees sound like so much more fun. Cubicle lifestyles of the rich and famous without any effort whatsoever including my very own company, BMW and parking place. That is what many students think. They really believe you walk into a 100k a year job.</p> <p>When my students come to my class I ask, "Who wants to be a millionaire?",... They all raise their hands and I calmly respond "You came to the right class. Your odds are pretty high of doing amazing things in the Engineering Sciences and Pure Sciences. You can even make millions and influence many peoples lives to a greater and more positive level. "</p> <p>I noticed the latest Dell magazine for Computers showing "older" people ( at least not young people ) in the photos. I guess they have the same problem. The young guys aren't happening. One major software company told me they would sell more product if there were just more engineers in the companies.</p> <p>You want to change things guys. Do what I did three years ago. I went to my Son's High School and said "Do you want a technology program?" I can't think of many Schools that will say NO. By the way in defense of the school systems they have so much crap to comply with and State and Federal requirements they don't have any TIME AT ALL to take on these programs. I work with these wonderful people all the time. They are locked down tight and duty bound to hold the line to what is required. Anyway find someone to donate some stuff like the good people at YASKAWA did and ANTENEN Robotics. Scrape some parts together and POW you are generating YOUNG ENGINEERS OF TOMMORROW! Trust me I have had several students who were cluesless what to do go onto very good Colleges and they really like their Career Choice.</p> <p>Oh well, I could tell you more since I work with these kids a lot in many different programs. The key to the success of America's Engineering Program is YOU. Talk to your Schools and Volunteer yourself and try to get some other guys in on it. It works and it happens but as many College people will tell you College is too late to make a Career choice in Engineering. The seed has to be planted earlier to get the students in the right mindset.</p> <p>The kids can do it and you can too. Yesterday I taught students how a diode works including hole-electron theory and Periodic table, you know, the works. They completely understood it to the point of interacting on debates of electron replenshiment in the phosporus doped N type material. Believe me it's in there.</p> <p>thanks for listening</p>

    Reply

  • <p>Looks like Hollywood is chipping in to make engineering exciting to youngsters, see the link below to my column where I talk about how technical types are taking over TV &amp; movies.</p> <p><a href="http://www.controldesign.com/articles/2005/234.html">http://www.controldesign.com/articles/2005/234.html</a></p>

    Reply

  • <p>Engineering schools for the most part aren't helping with their undue emphasis on math as per my column:</p> <p><a href="http://www.controldesign.com/articles/2006/153.html">http://www.controldesign.com/articles/2006/153.html</a></p>

    Reply

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments