A New Perspective on Engineering

By Mitchell C.

As I was signing up for classes for my first semester of my junior year and my first semester at the University of Maryland, I wanted to start it off by trying something different. I wanted to get away from all the numbers and equations, and Engineering for Social Change seemed to be exactly what I was looking for. This class, rather than focusing on numbers and equations, taught me what being an engineer really means. In addition, it showed me the importance of unintended consequences and philanthropy.

An engineer can easily get caught up in their work and overlook many important points that could lead to unintended consequences. This class taught me not only how to prevent these unintended consequences from happening, but also how to mitigate them. To prevent unintended consequences, we as engineers must slow our progress down. By moving too quickly, it risks mistaken hypotheses and other problems that could be caused by lack of testing. To mitigate unintended consequences, we as engineers must understand the complexity and dynamics of a project. In addition, we must increase our knowledge of the situation, combine uncertainties, and most importantly work together. If these measures are taken, we could reduce the number of unintended consequences and construct technology that is much more useful and friendly. Engineers should have desire to help others, but do so that everyone benefits and so that no one is getting left behind or hurt by what we create.

Philanthropy was a common term that was often discussed in class that I have never thought of much before. Little did I know the importance of it and how important it is to engineers. The semester long project is what really taught me the true meaning philanthropy. Being able to experience it first hand was something I will never forget. To be able to work with other engineers to propose a project that could help our environment was an amazing experience. Being a part of the winning team was just the icing on the cake. Win or lose the competition, no one loses in the end. We all worked together to support a project that will help our environment. Small impacts, such as this one, are the ones that will end up making the real change in our world.

The power that engineers have is immense, and it is important that we use that power wisely to help our society. Social change to me is about the impact engineers have on our society. Everything we create has an impact, negatively or positively, and it is our job to make sure that it is for the better. This class taught me how to do that by showing me first hand what philanthropy really means and the real danger of unintended consequences. Moving forward in my career, I am now more comfortable with who I am as an engineer and more confident in my ability to be able to perform tasks.

Engineering for Social Change will be a class I think of a lot during my career as an engineer. It has changed my perspective on what being an engineer is all about. Without this class, I would not feel complete when graduating. This allowed me to see the other side of engineering and I believe it is essential for all engineers to take this course. Sadly, as a classmate mentioned, “The people who needs this class the most are the ones who are not going to take it.” Engineers are constantly being forced to improve things to make them bigger, faster, and more attractive. This class forces you to step outside of the box and be different. For some people, it may be a little uncomfortable at first, but in the end the benefit of it is immeasurable.

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