On the Shoulders of Giants

By Brian A.

Sir Isaac Newton said “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” This is what came to mind as I sat and attempted to distill ENME-467 into a sentence or theme. Philanthropy and engineering have evolved over time, with each field contributing individuals and thinkers to build on the foundation left behind by the others. I particularly enjoyed the discussions about the early American philanthropists and their different approaches to solving the problems at hand. These people were the giants of this modern world, and understanding their initial motivations put my current environment into perspective.

As an engineering student, the majority of my time senior year was spent quantifying my technical and team oriented abilities, applying to jobs, and trying to maintain the last of my classes work load. ENME 467 became a fantastic change in motives. The goal wasn’t to score the highest on a test or to get perfects on all of the homeworks, it became discussion and debate. This class was the only introspective engineering class I have taken in the whole curriculum and I think that is a shame! I think that the role of engineering philanthropy is getting larger because philanthropists are solving todays problems while shaping the future. Currently engineers are building and creating things faster than ever before, and this is precisely why a class like this is so crucial for us. We need to help shape in a socially responsible way; it is this future because we are being held responsible for designing it right now.

This class spent the majority of it’s time breaking down the fourth wall and attempting to reinstate peoples individual values back into their engineering toolbox.   Every lecture required the engineer to look back and asses a current or past issue in light of their own experiences and opinions. The most important part about this in my opinion is that it was re conditioning engineers to speak up and have their own insights. What’s more, these discussions were put into context with the work of great thinkers that have come before us, and that helped to formulate our discussions and sharpen our reasoning. We stood on the shoulders of giants!

I liked that we attempted to apply these ideals and processes to a real world issue, but the timing and external constraints that were on me as a part of my final semester were a real limiting factor. I spent a lot of time attending interviews and career fairs which took away from time that would have otherwise been invested in this class. It is for this reason that part of me wishes that this class could be taken by students that are earlier on in their engineering course work. I recognize that unfortunately seniors may have the lightest coursework besides freshmen and it would be a risky endeavor to open this class up to students in lower years. On one hand I believe I personally would have benefited from being exposed to these concepts earlier on. It may not be prudent to allow a class full of college freshmen to give away $10,000 but then again, was it prudent to let college seniors do it? Either way I really appreciated this course and I intend to keep these readings and pass them along wherever possible. I’ve actually already passed the snow sister story on a few times!

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