Our future lies in engaging the littlest engineers among us
My thoughts and face now grace this column in every issue, thanks in part to a surprise promotion by our VP, Editorial Director Paul Heney at the conclusion of our Women in Fluid Power Panel at our Fluid Power Technology Conference. He couldn’t have picked a more fitting time or venue.
Although I am not an engineer by training, I have spent the past 13 years of my career learning fluid power and enmeshing myself in this industry. And at almost every conference or trade show I attended, one thing was very clear—there aren’t many women in this field. I was always in the distinct minority.
Not so this year. Including the panel members themselves, there were perhaps 20 women in the audience for the panel—engineers, executives, students, and I’m sure marketing professionals—all there to say women are in this industry and we’re here to stay.
Most of the discussion on the panel did not center around the #MeToo movement or sexual discrimination (although that is an issue everywhere). Instead, the common theme that resounded was the importance of bringing new engineers into the fluid power arena. How do we do this? Start young, everyone agreed.
While the current STEM competitions in the fluid power space and engineering in general are great at the junior high school level and beyond, it’s critical we capture the attention of young children early in their elementary school years. We need to help them fall in love with STEM. If we continue to wait until they are preteens or teenagers like many current programs do, they may already have predisposed notions of what an engineering career may entail and may think it’s not cool enough.
It’s critical to showing children the fun of engineering at a young age and make math and science exciting when their minds are still open to new ideas.
Listening to my daughter and her many classmates say what they found most fun this past year at their kindergarten graduation made me smile. A majority of them—boys AND girls—said their favorite memory was working out math challenges and science experiments. If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is. Let’s keep going!
It’s time to develop more fluid power introductory programs for the littlest engineers among us. We need mentors, manufacturers and industry associations to come together to begin planning the fun for our future.