This Sunday marks the start of National Engineers Week, which runs from February 16th through the 22nd. Founded in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), one of its chief aims is to increase interest in and promote engineering as a career. Another important goal is to educate the public about what it is that engineers do and how much engineering impacts their lives.
One story that has inspired me is this one from Johnson County, Kansas, of a high school student who 3D printed a prosthetic hand for a local boy. Think about that. Prosthetic hands are certainly not new. But the fact that someone saw a problem and took action relatively simply and quickly, finding a solution without having to buy an expensive prosthetic device, which the boy and his family couldn’t afford, is a game changer.
It’s stories like this that highlight the revolutionary changes that engineering is bringing about in society.
Many factors are coming together to democratize design in this way. One is the explosion of 3D printing technology and its easy availability to the public in places like public libraries and at Maker Faires. The other is the easy access to designs online at sites such as thingiverse.
If it’s true that humans are by nature toolmakers and problem solvers, then this new age just might bring out the engineer in all of us. It’s already set to change the paradigm from one of consumer and purchaser of products from manufacturers and stores to one of manufacturer of devices where a need is perceived.
These are exciting times and the added spotlight of National Engineers Week can serve to make the public even more knowledgeable about its own creative powers and possibilities.
So, what idea will you bring into the world?