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“Change Agents” for Engineering

December 5, 2012

Have you ever thought back and reflected upon how you chose your career?  As a child, what input did you receive that shaped your aspirations?  Was it a family member, neighbor, school teacher, coach, minister or the media? Were there opportunities that were afforded to you that helped shape your career path decision?

A few times each academic school year, EWI is asked to give tours to high school (and occasionally younger) students. This is always a pleasure to do, as it requires our technical staff to step back and explain – in terms that a teenager can grasp – the things we are so accustomed to doing every day. What always surprises us is how exciting our work truly is when we introduce it to young people, most of whom don’t know anything about engineering, let alone what we do here at EWI in materials joining technology.  As the students listen to our engineers share their career experiences, tour our facility, participate in technology demonstrations, the gears of curiosity begin to engage as a flicker of light appears in their eyes: “Could I be an engineer some day?”

I have to hand it to my associates here at EWI. They never fail to successfully show visiting students first-hand what studying science and math can lead to.  As a nation, we are losing ground in STEM education of our young people.  STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is what has enabled our country to be at the forefront of technology innovation.  This type of education must be encouraged at an early age in the student’s life if the United States wants to maintain its scientific prowess to support our manufacturing base.

Recently, EWI hosted students from Linden McKinley, an older high school in Columbus city that has recently re-tooled its educational focus on a STEM curriculum. The school is located in a neighborhood where growing up can be a real challenge. I know; I’m from there and I graduated from Linden McKinley. Somehow, someway, someone got into my head and steered me toward engineering while in high school, and it stuck.  During the visit I witnessed an increased desire among the students to explore possible science related careers; several of them mentioned when departing that they would like to become engineers (imagine that).

I want to say thanks to all my colleagues for sharing their enthusiasm with our visitors. The students recognized that we have fun in what we do and the things that we do enable a better way of life.  Don’t take for granted what you did – you made an impact on these young minds. Time will tell what the future holds for them, but you planted a seed of inspiration.

How about you?  Are you thinking about the next group of scientists and engineers coming behind you?  I feel that I was blessed to have individuals come my way who shared their experiences and gave me opportunities to witness science in action.  This provided the drive and encouragement to look and move beyond my environment as a youth.  Maybe you and your company can serve as “Change Agents” to make a difference in the lives for budding future engineers.