By Jenny Y.
At the beginning of the semester, I did not understand the concept of “Engineering of Social Change.” Considering the class is centered around donating $10,000 to a nonprofit organization, I also did not see the point of allocating class time for lectures on irrelevant issues. However, I was immediately proven wrong. Through Dr. Grimm and Dr. Littlefield’s lectures, I learned the importance of making the right choice. Although the $10,000 is the Neilom Foundation’s money, I began to think of it as my own money, and tried my best to relay my point of view of who the money should be given to. Within mechanical engineering, there are not a lot of courses that involve discussion. It is fascinating to hear my classmates tie in their technical knowledge into something more humanities based. It was definitely an unconventional experience, but I gained a lot of knowledge from my peers as well as the lecturers.
Often times, the importance of engineers in society is stressed. However, the unintended consequences of engineering products and services are not discussed. Something as simple as the invention of a car resulted in a plethora of unintended consequences such as greenhouse gases, oil spills, etc. These unintended consequences continue to persist throughout society today. Even small feats such as implementing a well in a developing country has unintended consequences. Ideally, these consequences should be mitigated, however, it is impossible to foresee every unintended consequence. Therefore, a successful engineer must thoroughly research the effect of their engineered products, and consider the possibility that engineering a product may not be the best solution.
Dr. Anand mentioned that the people who need this class the most do not register for it. Honestly, I did not expect to learn as much as I did. It is truly remarkable how much the engineering education at the University of Maryland focuses mainly on technical content. In actuality, I feel like I have learned more through this class than in all of my three years in the engineering program. In this class, I am taught to ask the “why” instead of just taking fact as fact. Something I found particular interesting was when the class talked about how we perform experiments already knowing the end result. On the contrary, a successful engineer questions every fact, and double checks the data to ensure the result is proven and can be replicated. While a small example, I believe this is how the innovation and ingenuity engineers strive for occur.
Overall, this class has been very enlightening. From discussing issues such as the Flint Michigan Crisis, and the impact of 3D Printing, it is evident that I have a responsibility as an engineer to not only uphold all of my responsibilities ethically, but also to strive and create social change.