The Engineering Life
Yannis Miaoulis, Director of Boston’s Museum of Science, is fond of asking audiences to name the only engineer — not scientist — with a recurring role on television. The answer [* below] always surprises his listeners, and points up the curious disconnect between a society universally dependent upon engineers but generally uninformed about their contributions and, for want of a better phrase, the “engineering life.” In her latest book, Engineers Make a Difference, Dr. Celeste Baine continues her efforts to engage students of all ages to consider a life in engineering.
Baine, an engineer herself and author of several other books on engineering, shifts focus somewhat in this book, speaking not as much to future engineers but instead more to their parents and teachers. This rich and well-documented resource should convince many that an engineering life is one filled with both challenge and reward, and that, at a minimum, youngsters should learn enough about it to consider it for a career.
Baine’s conversational and personal style of writing is immediately engaging, starting with a introductory confession about purple cable-ties (you’ll have to read it … I’m not going to spoil it!) She sprinkles surprising and memorable facts (NASA employs 17 engineers for every scientist, during WW-II actress Hedy Lamarr invented a device to jam Nazi radar, model Cindy Crawford graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA and received a scholarship to study chemical engineering) throughout the text in a way that arms the reader to engage others on the topic of how engineers truly do make a difference.
On the first page of the first chapter, Baine reminds us that the word engineer literally means “one who practices ingenuity.” Like Molier’s Bourgeois Gentleman who was surprised and delighted to learn he’d been speaking prose all his life, Baine’s book repeatedly asks who of us doesn’t, and wouldn’t want to, practice ingenuity all our lives? She makes an especially strong appeal to giving young girls the opportunity to pursue engineering, declaring, and then documenting, that “Girls make great engineers!”
The inventor-educator-mathematician Seymour Papert, who’s long been an advocate for engaging girls in the sciences and engineering, once noted that “Some of the most crucial steps in mental growth are based not simply on acquiring new skills, but on acquiring new administrative ways to use what one already knows.” Certainly Baine makes the case that one of those “administrative ways” to view, organize, and live a full life is to become an engineer.
The book is:
Engineers Make a Difference
by Celeste Baine
* Homer Simpson