By Freddy P.
Engineering for Social Change is unlike any engineering class I have ever taken. It brings the human aspect to engineering, which is usually not taken in full consideration. Throughout the semester, we had remarkable speakers that talked about different relevant themes, such as renewable energy, the future of technology, water on Earth, and so on. In my opinion, one of the most fascinating speakers we had this semester was Smeeta Hirani. She talked about her career and how she found her greater purpose in life when she started working directly with social change causes. Ms. Hirani mentioned a relevant quote by H. Thurman, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive”. This made me take into perspective my life goals with respect to engineering.
Another important lecture we had was with Dr. Shelby of USAID, who talked about co-design and its importance. This, linked with some of the readings about philanthropy made me realize that sometimes what we might think is a great solution to a problem may not be the most optimal because the target is not taken in proper consideration. Also, when doing any type of social change involving the people directly with the cause will give them a sense of belonging and this will enhance the success of the project. This was taken into consideration when working with the Ideas for Social Change Challenge, because we already had the solution, solar energy. However, coming up with the appropriate way to implement this solution and create a tangible social change was the real challenge.
Moreover, having the opportunity to directly impact people has been one of the more rewarding experiences I have ever had in my life. Our class chose water crisis to be the theme for our $10,000 grant—which I should add that is incredible that we even have the chance to work with this amount of money and make a perceivable impact. The grant process has taught me a lot about critical thinking and asking the right questions because sometimes the organizations or people that claim to be so helpful are in reality not what they seem to be. Therefore, by digging deeper, and asking what we really want to know, we were able to accomplish great things.
I believe it is our mission as Millennials to be the generation that stops beings so self-centered in their goals and to become the one that starts working for social issues, especially in the engineering aspect. Taking this class has opened my social activist side, and I now find myself thinking of ways in which I can help my home country, Venezuela, once I graduate. I consider this is a class that every engineer should take during their time at the university because it shows the importance of social change not only for the rest of the world but also for oneself.