Discovery Place Science
Have you ever stood on a chair to reach something on the top shelf or used a safety pin as a temporary fix for a missing button? Maybe out of curiosity you’ve taken apart an electronic device to see if you could put it back together again, devised a pulley system for a treehouse or thrown a homemade parachute man over a balcony to see if it floats. If any of these activities sound like something you might do, you may have a knack for engineering!
What exactly is engineering?
Engineering is a way of using creative thinking and innovation to solve everyday problems and improve quality of life. Humans have been engineering ways to make life easier since the very beginning, with archaeological evidence dating back thousands of years to the introduction of simple machines like the wedge, the lever and the wheel.
Today, engineers are brainstorming and testing out new ideas to solve global climate issues, provide clean drinking water for developing nations, improve infrastructure and explore outer space. The National Academy of Engineering has proposed a list of Grand Engineering Challenges for the 21st Century that includes topics like reverse-engineering the human brain and global sustainability (check it out at www.engineeringchallenges.org).
How do you think like an engineer?
The process an engineer uses to solve problems is much like the process a scientist, mathematician or artist might use. Engineers study the world around them and identify a need for change or a problem that needs a solution.
Engineers ask questions, research, consider the potential constraints, imagine solutions, build prototypes and test them. After they’ve tested their idea, they evaluate it and find ways to improve it. This process is called the Engineering Design Process and it can be applied just about anywhere.
Women in Engineering
Although engineering is currently a male-dominated field, there are many women who have made a tremendous impact on history and paved the way for other women who wish to follow in their footsteps. To name a few:
- Margaret Hamilton was the software engineer who wrote the code that landed the first humans on the Moon.
- Stephanie Kwolek was responsible for the discovery of Kevlar – a synthetic material stronger than steel – which is used in the production of bullet proof vests.
- Hedy Lamaar invented a remote-controlled communication system for the U.S. military.
There is approximately only one female for every 10 males in the engineering field, but what would the world look like if every girl was empowered to use their creativity and critical thinking skills to make the world a better place?
Empowering More Female Engineers
At Discovery Place, we empower females of all ages to embrace STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in their everyday life. From our Girls in STEM program to Summer Camps to the Design Challenges we offer in our Thinker Space, there is always an opportunity to exercise your engineering brain and learn something new.
Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day is February 24 – who will you share the gift of engineering with? Maybe you can challenge your sister to build a solar-powered toy car, or create a balloon rocket with your mom!
When we challenge ourselves, the possibilities are endless. And when we put our heads together, we may be able to find solutions for some of the world’s most complex problems.