The Socially Responsible Engineer

By Jordan D.

This course was very unique when compared to my previous mechanical engineering courses. I had expected this course to discuss engineering terms such as safety factors. This course was instead very similar to my general education class “Engineering Ethics,” where we studied engineering ethics by reviewing case studies. That class gave me a distinct perspective on engineering and is the reason I decided to register for the Engineering for Social Change course. During the semester, I learned that being a professional engineer comes with great benefit but an even greater responsibility. Engineers must make an ethical decision of whether to pursue profits and overlook negative consequences. I learned that there is a lot of factors to consider when trying to make a positive impact, because the threat of unintended consequences is real.

Throughout the semester, we were given lectures on various topics related to social change. On one particular presentation, Dr. Grimm impersonated a homeless individual and tried to get the students to donate to him. The class had a discussion about the things we considered when deciding to give our money to people and organizations. This discussion allowed me to see the complexities of being socially involved. During another lecture I learned about the global issues and technology engineers will have to face in the near future. This gave me a more optimistic view on the field as a whole seeing that the technologies we discussed are interesting. I feel that the technologies, such as genetically modified food, 3D printing and self-driving cars have an important role to play in creating a better future. The course theme for this semester was waste. I became more aware of how much waste the United States produces and the side effects of not treating said waste. The most shocking thing I learned is that approximately 40% of food produced in the US gets thrown away every year. This was even more alarming when I discovered that we already have the means to end world hunger. I began to feel that the information I was learning in this course was more important than any of my other engineering classes.

There was a lot I took away from this course. As an individual I will have the opportunity to give back to my community, and the greater world, through philanthropic efforts. I plan to one day participate in a foundation that supports initiates I see as effective. This course has helped me affirm my decision to study engineering and become a working engineer. I understand now why our society sees engineers in a high prestige. Being that this is my senior year, this course makes me want to join an organization, such as Engineers Without Borders so that I can use my technical schools to make a positive impact.  After experiencing the technical challenges that nonprofits face, I have considered working at a non-profit. To limit my personal contribution to waste, I will participate in recycling in my home and I will try to incorporate composting as well, maybe going as far as to have a home garden. I plan to keep my electronic devices for as long as possible to limit my electronic waste.  I recommend that all engineering students take this course because it shows engineering from a real world perspective.

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