By Marissa G.
The idea of social change is common. Now a class about engineering for social change is an unique experience that brought my passions to light and showed me different perspectives on the limitless possibilities to make an impact on society. Here, I do not specify “positive” impact as we have learned that the advancement of technology has come with many unintended consequences. This is where the term “unintended” is debatable. My aspiration from a young age was to “make a positive impact on our local community and someday for the world.”
I learned that unintended consequences can have a positive or a negative outcome. Regardless of the outcome, these consequences were not the original intent or purpose. Yet whether the outcome has a positive or negative affect is based on perspective. This course does not focus on the harmful effects of these outcomes, but addresses potential ways of viewing how to approach unintended consequences. Shining this light on it is a great opportunity to learn from mistakes. One of my favorite Ted Talks, by Historian Edward Tenner, supports this system. However, I have been interested on the other side of the meaning of “unintended;” the side that states unintended is a form of ignorance. Yet, this is just my current personal take.
This course is unique from the required engineering coursework because we can form our own opinion on what we each believe in. I did not realize how many styles of philanthropy and nonprofits that exist. My personal preference or style of philanthropy is a hands-on approach to analyze the root cause of problems. Yet, I was not sure how to relate engineering to the concept of philanthropy and social change. The opportunity this course provides is invaluable. Encouraging us to reach out to nonprofits, research, and explore has opened my mind to the endless possibilities for social change to blossom. Learning to understand that nature of nonprofits and the grantmaking process has enabled me to see how these connect to technical solutions. This course does not only teach us that we have the ability to help engineer for social change, but it also demonstrates the importance for engineers to to learn about the connections to social change.
We all know engineers solve problems. But gaining insight to the social problems it can solve is key to moving into the future. Engineers of the past have caused societal and environmental harm to today’s societies. I believe it is up to the next generation to build a sustainable future. This course enhances the “standard” engineering education.