It was 30 years ago that DiscoverE put out the first call to engineers across the nation to go to classrooms and meet with student to introduce them to engineering.
“We are celebrating this milestone year and working to engage the next generation of engineers and technical professionals,” said Thea Sahr, director of Communications and Programs for DiscoverE. “What we’re doing this year is doubling down on that message of reminding Science, Technology, Engineering and Math professionals and educators about why we do Engineers Week.”
The National Society of Professional Engineers started dedicating a week to celebrate the profession in 1951. In the early 1990s, Sahr said it became apparent that the field was not attracting women or people of color; and that engineering students were deciding to leave their course of study to pursue other degrees.
As part of shifting its focus, the National Engineers Week Foundation even changed its name to DiscoverE, to reflect the organizations new direction.
Today, Sahr said DiscoverE has 50,000 volunteers around the country who go to classes or work in afterschool programs to engage students about engineering. Programs like the Future City Competition, Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, the Global Marathon for, by, and about Women in Engineering & Technology, and World Engineering Day, along with an interactive and engaging website, has put engineering back on the map.
The theme of this year’s Engineers Week is “Engineers: Be a pioneer of progress, give a child an engineering experience.”
“We’re not only pioneers of technical progress in our businesses and government and all of great places doing their work, but we are pioneers of progress in educating students in what an engineering career is all about,” she said.
While it may not be the case in the Huntsville area, Sahr said most students across the country don’t know what engineering is and that’s why working engineers are encouraged to share that the field is creative, about teamwork and making a difference in the world.
She said studies have shown that 74 percent of educators agree that student don’t have many chances to meet engineers. Surveys by the engineering group of volunteers and educators who have utilized the DiscoverE resources and website, 86 percent of them said DiscoverE has been essential in their ability to introduce their students to engineering.
“With our engineers and technical professionals going out there and working with them and talking with students, we know it’s working and there’s more work to be done and that’s why we’re still pioneers of progress,” Sahr said.
A focus area remains on women in engineering. She said many studies have been done about the obstacles women and girls face in engineering and technology fields and the reasons they leave, ranging from pay disparities to harassment. Sahr said this year the 2020 Global Marathon kicks off with a different perspective: Why do they stay? What are the common factors that help women persist and thrive in the engineering profession? Speakers will share stories of purpose and perseverance, as well as their tactics to defy expectations, successfully overcome challenges, and advance.
The Global Marathon, an online series of conversations, will be held on Wednesdays from March 11 to April 8 and involves stories from inspiring women in engineering and technology. Participants can get actionable career advice, and connect with women around the globe.
Sahr said topics will also focus on overcoming obstacles, how to pave new pathways, and finding creative strategies to confidently persist in an engineering career. To learn more or register, go to www.DiscoverE.org/GlobalMarathon
“We’re excited about Engineers Week this year as we celebrate 30 years,” she said.