By Matt K.
The main takeaway I gained from this course is that engineers cannot create like they used to. Therefore, they cannot learn like they used to. The purpose of being an engineer today is not about designing and manufacturing just to make money off of consumers. The global scope has to be considered. Engineering is not all math and physics. Culture plays a more important role than ever. As mentioned in the book, global engineers must improve on their “soft skills” in order to be environmentally and socially conscience. I believe the most important aspect taught in this course was the cultural aspect when developing new technologies. Engineers should always ask first how their creation will have an effect on the people and the planet. If they blindly produce technology that functions well and has cheap costs without thinking about the global impact (waste, pollution, health issues etc.), they are not truly thinking how an engineer should.
That is what this class has taught me. Obviously, all the other undergraduate courses are mostly essential in terms of technical knowledge, but Engineering for Social Change says that technical courses are not enough. I plan on graduating with a Mechanical Engineering degree in May 2018 and I would not have had the same outlook on the engineering field as I do now if I had not enrolled in this course. There are many ways that technology has greatly benefitted humanity but none of them are without consequences. Every lecture and presentation had the same bottom line: if technology does not become more socially aware, humanity will face many dangers in the future. Engineering in society cannot continue to operate like it has been for the past century. The harm being inflicted on our planet and on the developing nations is accelerating in terms of waste and pollution and while many professionals are working hard to come up with solutions, it will most likely be in the hands of college graduates to come up with sustainable, long-term solutions. It starts with education and this class discusses the real applications and consequences of implementing knowledge obtained in the main technical courses. For example, learning how to build a car is not enough for an engineer. One must understand what effects producing that car can have on the world.
Admittedly, I never knew the scale of the harm we are doing to our planet until this semester. The statistics were fascinating and horrifying at the same time. There are some things that make me think the world and the people in it are beyond saving because of how much damage has been done by humanity in such a short period of time. But I am confident that if more engineers and people in general become more responsible, many unintended consequences can be mitigated and new methods and technologies can spread around the world and have huge positive impacts.