Over 50 events fill the Engineers Week calendar on the website of DiscoverE, the official ambassador of Engineers Week. The 63-year-old national celebration of engineering accomplishments and education runs from February 16 to 22 this year. Events commemorating the week are spread across the US and include everything from awards banquets and luncheons to kids’ festivals, high school competitions, and a three-month-long summer camp.
With activities running since late January and continuing through next August, however, the events of National Engineers Week cover far more than a week and involve more than just engineers. What is there to see and do during this annual engineering celebration?
We chatted with Thea Sahr, DiscoverE’s director of programs, who filled us in on what activities are taking place during (and surrounding) Engineers Week, and what engineers, their kids, and engineering-curious students can expect.
“It’s a mix of longstanding groups in various local communities who are hosting Engineers Week events, and then every year we get new folks who join the party and want to celebrate engineering and engage kids in engineering outreach,” Sahr explained. Groups involved include well-known names such as the IEEE, the NSBE, MIT, IBM, and dozens of other institutions, companies, museums, and local and regional engineering groups.
First, who is DiscoverE, the mysterious wizard behind the curtain who unites and promotes these initiatives? DiscoverE is actually an arm of the National Society of Professional Engineers, the organization that started National Engineers Week back in 1952. Activities back then were small, local, and mostly among engineers. In 1991, the NSPE founded the National Engineers Week Foundation in order to formalize more activities around Engineers Week, said Sahr. That group has since been encouraging engineers and volunteers to involve schools, educators and other organizations in promoting engineering in front of younger and more demographically outlying students.
At the same time they have been gradually expanding their scope to include other programs. The Future City Competition challenges 6th, 7th and 8th graders to design and model futuristic cities, and New Faces of Engineering recognizes engineers under 30 whose projects have significantly impacted public welfare or professional development.
To reflect this broadening of scope, in 2013 the National Engineers Week Foundation changed its name to DiscoverE. “Engineers Week is our signature program, but we do so many other things,” said Sahr.
Things to Do, Places to Go
Today, Engineers Week events are organized by groups across the US who affiliate their events with DiscoverE, benefiting from the exposure as well as a collective mission to encourage engineering learning in younger students. “Either we just find out about them or they just find out about us, or people decide it’s time now in their local community to organize something,” said Sahr. This year’s theme is “Let’s Make a Difference,” a call to action for engineers, educators and mentors to reach out to the next generation of engineers and encourage them to change the world for the better.
Participating groups this year range from high-profile engineering organizations to local high schools and small engineering chapters. A few of the events listed in the calendar include the following:
- From February 17 to 22, the MIT Museum in Cambridge, MA is hosting Engineering and You, where kids can participate in hands-on workshops in robotics, nautical engineering, and other areas.
- On February 20, DiscoverE will host Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, where they encourage mentors, teachers and organizations to introduce girls to the educational, hands-on activities of Engineers Week.
- On February 22, longtime Engineers Week participant Bechtel Corporation is hosting its annual Girl Scout Day, in which Girl Scouts get their hands into math and science projects.
- In April the IEEE is hosting its 18th annual Robot Challenge, where high school students build and race two-legged and four-legged robots using a kit of basic parts.
- In June, the Works Museum in Bloomington, MN begins a three-month engineering summer camp where elementary and junior-high school kids participate in hands-on science and engineering projects in chemistry, robotics and other areas.
To see a full list of events, visit DiscoverE’s Engineers Week calendar.
For many students and participants, an Engineers Week activity will be their first exposure to engineering – and for some, it will cement into a life-long interest or a career. “Our last Future Cities winner, this was her first and only engineering program she did in high school,” Sahr said. The student went on to pursue a college interest in engineering.
Regardless of age, background, experience level or engineering discipline of choice, Engineers Week is a chance for engineers to participate in, or introduce a child to, activities celebrating the accomplishments of engineering. As Sahr put it, “it’s a place where all types of engineers can come together to celebrate the ‘E’ in DiscoverE.”
What are your plans for Engineers Week? Tell us in the comments, or on Facebook.