All Member Forum

National Engineers Week 2020: How Does Making a Difference Start?

By Mr. Ransford McCourt P.E., PTOE posted 02-18-2020 09:41 AM


So often in the transportation profession we hear that a motivation for selecting this career is to make a difference, but what does that mean? Where would someone start that had such a passion to effect such great change?

Using a simple definition from Webster’s Dictionary helps solidify what making a difference means - to cause a change: to be important in some way, to do something that is important: to do something that helps people or makes the world a better place. That innate desire drives people to meaningful careers in engineering.

Engineering Week is a gateway to youth being found by professionals who inspire curiosity, passion and life-long learning. This year “Be a Pioneer of Progress” promotes recognition among parents, teachers, and students and the importance of a technical education focused on advanced math, science, and technology literacy, by motivating youth to pursue engineering careers in order to provide a diverse and vigorous engineering workforce.

I have seen many “gateways” to the transportation profession in my career. Children with a parent who was an engineer. Children who played with Hot Wheels. Youth that rode transit and wanted to make it better. Kids that would see traffic signals and wondered how they work. Youth that saw Chevy Chase (Eurpoean Vacation) and Goofy trapped in roundabouts and cloverleafs that wanted to help set them free. Children that read maps and became curious about networks. Children of parents who became victims of the toll of our transportation system. Or in my case as a junior in high school, writing a paper on urban mass transit during the era of BART, WMATA and MARTA construction wondering how they built such systems.

Making the world a better place starts with curiosity which is nurtured by the collaboration of passionate people who share their experiences. People who encourage students to understand the STEM tools students see daily and how they can access these tools to help them become excellent at something meaningful. To solve problems that others talk about. It starts with relationships – something Engineering Week facilitates. Providing a vision to one young person of what they can be, how they are important and how they can have impact.

The transportation profession is changing before our eyes. ITE is there to help carry this journey forward in building skills, networks, credentials and recognition to people making change a reality. You can go to our website and find many tailored STEM activities you can use in the classroom.

Automated vehicles and artificial intelligence will change how our industry can best serve the traveling public – likely in bigger ways than the interstate freeway system and urban mass transit. We are only the next young engineer away from getting there, and who knows you might be the one to introduce them to the challenge. Shape your community.