Before I begin, there are a few things that you should know about me. I am quiet, goofy, kind, caring, shy, outgoing, creative, and bubbly. And I am an engineer.
I have a BS in Mechanical Engineering and I am currently working on an MEng in Mechanical Engineering and a PhD in Engineering Education. I want to improve the way engineering is taught and help to change the “chilly climate” that is synonymous with engineering. Engineering is not always a welcome setting for women and minorities. But how do we change this?
I came across this TEDx talk by Debbie Sterling on inspiring the next generation of female engineers. She talks about getting girls excited about engineering and changing the narrative for young girls. And she is working to accomplish this through the creation of GoldieBlox, toys that introduce girls to engineering at a young age, to change the narrative of what girls can be and what they can do.
In Whistling Vivaldi, Claude Steele talks about giving people “information that enables a more accurate and hopeful personal narrative about their setting” (Whistling Vivaldi, p. 169). So maybe we can give young girls a narrative about engineers that is broader than “train conductor” or “antisocial nerd” (because, let’s face it, I am neither of those things and engineering is much broader than that).
And that got me thinking. Can letters by engineers to future engineers help change the stereotypical narrative of what an engineer is?
Below is my letter. What would your letter say?
Dear current and future creator, builder, developer, dreamer, problem solver, world changer:
My name is Amy and I love learning about the world around me. I love exploring and seeing new things. I love creating new things and making things better. I love hearing other people’s stories and learning about other areas and cultures and perspectives. And this is why I love engineering.
I always thought that engineering was just about math and science. I thought engineers sat alone in a dark, dingy rooms starting at computer screens. But engineers get to do really cool things. Engineers get to help find cures for cancer, help explore outer space, help people learn, help improve the way we live, and so much more! Engineers use math and science to solve problems and find creative solutions to those problems. And engineers work with people to do this. Engineers are creators, builders, developers, dreamers, problem solvers, and world changers. Just like you!
Engineering is really fun and amazing, and it is also really challenging. But that is because engineers are constantly learning about new things and trying to see problems from a new perspective. But one cool thing about people is that we are always learning and growing. We don’t stop learning when we are done with school. We all constantly learn about the world around us, and engineers get to do this every day!
So I encourage you — creators, builders, developers, dreamers, problem solvers, and world changers — consider engineering as a way to realize dreams, learn about the things around you, and change the world. We need you!