Gettin’ ‘Em While They’re Young
I recently stumbled across your November editorial “Get ‘Em While They’re Young.”
I’m on the board of trustees of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. We’re proud that our team won last year’s FIRST championship, and also proud that the founder of FIRST, Dean Kamen, is a member of WPI’s class of 1973.
I hope your editorial spurred some of your readers to help encourage students to consider engineering as a career opportunity. I’ve always wondered why the ISA hasn’t grasped the urgency of getting “new blood” into the instrumentation industries, and why ISA hasn’t taken an active role in supporting FIRST or other K-12 science, math and engineering initiatives. Every company involved in the process and automation industries can take an active role by supporting employees’ efforts to volunteer as leaders and mentors.
Selling the Cool
The following letter refers to the Automation Minute "Selling the Cool."
Nancy’s suggestions are right on the money. Career Day just doesn’t cut it any more.
For my part, my company just did a conveyor project for a very large central Pennsylvania candy and chocolate company, and we had some product [candy bars] in our facility for testing. The testing was completed and the product was left over, so we employees were tasked with “disposing” of it. I disposed of about a case of it to my youngest son, who is a math teacher at a local high school. He, in turn, used it in the classroom as a motivational tool.
Of course, the product we were given is not yet on the market, so the kids wanted him to tell them how he got it.
“My dad was doing a project for the manufacturer, and they used these to test the project.”
“A project? What kind of project can you do with candy bars?”
“It’s a conveyor and servo motor thing.”
Long story almost over, I have an invitation to come to his classroom, and show the kids how I use math in my work to convey candy bars, and also to print newspapers (I just returned from Saudi Arabia on a startup).
The cool is anything they can identify with—or something they’d like to identify with, such as world travel.
Of course, bringing kids in is a long term solution. Manufacturers are dying out there now. They can’t even hire decent help to keep their heads above water. But this is another subject for another time.
Jeffrey D. Brandt
And a New Breed of Engineers
I enjoyed your article in the January issue on this topic. It is good to see that another school has chosen to copy Carnegie-Mellon University’s successful Engineering and Public Policy program that has been operating successfully since 1973. The Engineering and Public Policy degree is offered as a double major with core engineering disciplines including mechanical, chemical, civil and electrical engineering, and materials science. Students train in topics like public speaking, liberal arts and entrepreneurship. The engineers work with students in the schools of business school and urban and public policy. Consulting projects are assigned in the junior and senior year. Projects have run the gamut from working with ASTM committees to establish standards for medical devices to power plant siting models. The program has done some great work. The engineers for the ‘new millennium’ have been training for over three decades. It is nice to see that other organizations recognize the need for this type of education. Now we need to get these engineers to work before it’s too late.