The following opinion piece by Dr. David Borrok, vice provost and dean of Missouri S&T’s College of Engineering and Computing, was published in the Springfield News-Leader.
When people think of engineers, their thoughts may turn to the civil engineers who design their local roads and bridges, or the nuclear engineers working at powerplants, or the mechanical engineers who design everything from aircraft engines to riding lawnmowers.
As an educator of engineers and scientists, I would challenge people to have a different idea come to mind when they think about engineers: shaping the future.
National Engineers Week 2023 was recently observed from Feb. 19-25, and the theme was “Creating the Future.” This theme speaks to the underlying reason why we need engineering. Plainly said, engineering is transformative.
In a world where artificial intelligence can pass challenging exams, write poetry and provide answers to many of our questions, we have to ask ourselves what kind of college degrees are needed to put people in a position to shape the future instead of just reacting to it.
Engineering programs in universities across our nation are pushing boundaries in the engineering of artificial intelligence, biomaterials, hypersonic flight and materials, technology, resources for green energy and much more.
Engineers become successful astronauts, top inventors, CEOs, military leaders, entrepreneurs, educators and researchers. They work to develop everything from the smartphone in your pocket to prosthetic limbs possibly used by your loved ones.
Why are engineers naturally inclined to play such vital roles in the world? The secret is that engineering schools prepare students for the future. Tradition is a beautiful thing, but to turn a phrase, “this is not your grandfather’s engineering degree.”
The principles of critical thinking and problem solving are timeless, but the problems we face and the technologies we need to develop are ever evolving. We do not just prepare students to tackle the problems of today but provide them with the knowledge, vision and confidence to shape the future.
Even though National Engineers Week 2023 just ended, I would encourage people year-round to remember: engineers may not be able to see into the future with a crystal ball, but they are actively doing their part to “create the future” and make it a great place for everyone. Challenge yourself to shape the future and join us.