The engineering profession is often challenged with ways to pass on the enthusiasm for the profession to younger generations. Part of this is based in the education system and the streamlining of subjects taught, but most of the blame for the seeming obscurity of the profession has to lie with the profession itself.
For Civil Engineers in general, the showcase projects are always the fancy bridges, but there are very few bridge or skyscraper engineers in the world. My specialty is Municipal Engineering, which ranges from water and wastewater treatment, collection and distribution, road design, subdivision design, stormwater systems, and the operation and maintenance of these systems. Most of the projects are not high profile, I've been involved in several large highway and intersection designs and award-winning subdivision designs, but for the most part, the work I'm involved in is behind the scenes.
Thinking about what I learnt at school, it seems the whole practice of engineering could do with more exposure in the curriculum – math, social studies, science, art could all be tailored to help students understand the role of engineering and particularly municipal engineering in maintaining the places they live.
There are a couple of books out there that offer good teaching opportunities for parents or schools to engage interested children in engineering principles, these include (on Amazon.com):
- The Works: Anatomy of a City (.ca here)
- The Art of Construction: Projects and Principles for Beginning Engineers & Architects (Ziggurat Book) (.ca here)
- Engineering the City: How Infrastructure Works (.ca here)
- City Works: Exploring Your Community: A Workbook (.ca here)
And for good measure, here is a link to one of the most amazing books of water works photography: Water-Works: The Architecture and Engineering of the New York City Water Supply.