A Unique Experience

By Daniel B.

This class has done more for me as an engineering student interested in social change, specifically through entrepreneurship, in all of my collegiate experience at this university. Normally you only get as much out of a class as you put in, but in this case your yield is far higher than what you put in.

What did the most for me were the Monday lectures held by guest speakers. Professor Kim showed us some of the great changes barreling toward us as we rise up to meet the future from events resulting from engineering changes and otherwise. Robotics are going to change the world, for better or worse is up to us still though. This lecture connected to others to follow such as the one on ethics and the economic impacts advanced autonomous systems have on the economy and job markets. This has the potential to widen a wage gap in the economy that may prove rather troublesome if handled poorly. Dealing with this change itself can be an act of philanthropy as we would be preventing this gap from pushing more workers toward joblessness, homelessness, and poverty.

It has also been made clear that we as engineering students have the responsibility to operate and design sustainably. That is to design for today and tomorrow without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same in their time. We can improve efficiency of machines and devices, eliminate waste, and reduce the size of our heavy footprints carbon and otherwise.

Of course, fields full of engineering in many cases yield profitable fruits. Engineers and engineering companies rake in income sometimes many standard deviations above the average for any given society. We may have the opportunity to directly support a cause with the money we as individuals or organizations earn. With this money, we must be careful to whom we give it to. Every person and group is looking for additional financial support to grow or sustain themselves today. A lesson well learned from the first few weeks of class is that it is a real concern that we do not cause any harm with the funds we appropriate. We do not want to make a bad situation worse by feeding the weeds, but rather want to see only good seeds grow. This makes the decision of who to benefit very challenging, as we learned from personally navigating the grantmaking process.

We found ourselves having to ask questions we did not imagine before of the organizations that responded to our request for proposals when the time came. With well over a dozen organizations, we had to probe and judge whether they were truly in line with our cause. Do they act sustainably? Do they really do what they say? How big is their impact on society? Do they serve fairly? Are they passionate about their work? Can we trust them to truly make good use of the funds we may endow upon them? Every one of them wants to answer yes to all of the above, so it came upon us to investigate over phone and in person. This hands on experience was very valuable as we learned to notice what we found important to our decision making process, and made it easier to visualize who and what would benefit from us. All of the aforementioned work, and lessons learned will certainly stick with me as I continue on to become a socially minded engineer and entrepreneur for the future.

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