Engineering for Social Change?

By Getachew A.

This class is very different than any of the classes I have taken before. Prior to this semester, all of the engineering classes I was taking only taught me how to solve a certain problem using the given equations. There was usually only one way of attacking a problem, which is not the case with real life problems. In real life, most problems cannot just be solved with equations. Life is not just about finding derivatives and calculating spring constants, but much more than that. As engineers, we need to think about how to engineer solutions as well as how our engineered solutions will be perceived by the people using them. We also need to give some thought to the unintended consequences of these engineered solutions as some might backfire. Overall, this class has made me think about the social impact I can make as an engineer and how much potential an engineer has in making positive and negative social impact in the world.

Throughout the semester, the guest lecturers have been helpful in correlating engineering to social change in various ways. Professor Jungho Kim’s lecture was helpful as it highlighted some aspects about the future of engineering and how engineering might evolve and how it might be implemented in the future. Professor Robert Grimm’s lecture was also very helpful in understanding why philanthropy is important for engineers. Lastly, Professor Michael Pecht’s lecture was very interesting and educating as he mainly talked about engineering and culture. I was able to understand that engineering solutions have to be culturally appropriate in order have social impact.

Lastly, the group work project, which involved choosing a nonprofit organization that worked on some kind of waste management was helpful. This project was incredibly helpful as it helped me improve my skills of working with other people hand in hand in order to achieve a certain goal. Additionally, the student driven decision-making process was something very different from any of the other classes I have taken before. As engineers, I am sure we will be making plenty of decisions that might impact the lives of people and I believe the student driven decision-making process gave us a good glimpse of how our careers might be like as future engineers.

In conclusion, I believe the uniqueness of this course made it particularly enjoyable. It gave me a better understanding of philanthropy and the social impact engineers can have. It was also a good break from all of the calculations involved in many of the class I am currently taking. I will definitely be recommending this class to my fellow engineering peers as I believe they all should have some idea of how they can have social impact in this world.

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