Engineering more than stereotypes
July 28, 2009
Just as a baby is unconsciously reliant upon its parents for survival, Americans are often unknowingly dependent upon hard-working and innovative engineers to define our nation's defense and economic systems.
Engineers work behind the scenes to improve our quality of life in a multitude of ways: from designing computer chips or satellites, to constructing ships and tankers, to piloting an intricate defense system that ensures the safety of our democracy.
They engineer biomedical imaging and prosthetic programs, develop methods to conserve soil and water, search for reservoirs containing oil and natural gas and perform progressive experiments with hazardous chemicals. We owe many of our technologies and inventions - from portable music players to the personal GPS to the space shuttle - that are so often taken for granted to the resourcefulness of engineers.
Unfortunately, many students automatically dismiss engineering as a viable career choice because they believe it to be boring and inconsequential. People don't realize that engineers are not always stereotypical nerds with astronomical IQs who wear Coke-bottle glasses and plastic pocket-protectors.
They are simply people who seek to make a difference in the world. As a summer intern for the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command on Redstone Arsenal, I have had the privilege of gaining an inside look into the world of engineering.
I never dreamed that I would be allowed to participate in an endeavor to incorporate missile defense technology into the medical arena. However, as a high school student, I have been allowed to play a small role in real-life breast cancer detection research.
In addition, my internship has helped me learn problem-solving techniques, improve my presentation skills, write a technical paper and, dare I say it, even do a little basic computer programming.
Engineering, with its various areas of expertise and limitless possibilities, is an ideal career for those who have not yet chosen a college major or career path. Unfortunately, there has been a drastic decline in the number of American college students pursuing postgraduate degrees in science and engineering.
According to Diane Williams, department chair of Business, Cost Estimating, and Financial Management at Defense Acquisition University, only 9 percent of all students entering high school in the United States will eventually graduate from college with a technical degree such as math, engineering and physics.
In an era of rapidly expanding technology, the world is certainly an engineering playground in terms of fascinating job opportunities. However, if more American students do not become involved, our country will inevitably fall prey to a global technological disadvantage.