Engineers Week 2016 Features Tech Demos and Hands-on Activities

The weeklong event aspires to interest students in engineering and technology

14 January 2016

This year’s U.S. DiscoverE Engineers Week will be packed with new activities for students and young professionals, including tech-company tours, product demos, competitions, and hackathons. From 21 to 27 February, thousands will gather around the United States to celebrate engineering and get more young people involved.

Now in its 65th year, the weeklong event continues to receive support from IEEE. Discover Engineering Family Day, hosted by the National Building Museum and sponsored by IEEE-USA, is scheduled for 27 February in Washington, D.C. The event is designed to engage students ages 4 to 12 in engineering activities, with IEEE volunteers demonstrating applications of technology. For example, IEEE Member Nate Ball, cofounder of Atlas Devices, a security and defense technology company in Boston, is returning to show his company’s Ascender vertical rescue device. Ball, a self-proclaimed daredevil, is set to ascend 37 meters to the museum’s roof, strapped to a climbing rope powered by battery.

And prior to EWeek, from 13 to 17 February, the Future City Competition National Finals are to be held. The contest, which evolved from a middle school engineering design competition IEEE-USA launched in 1993, now has about 40,000 student participants, which is narrowed down to 37 regional teams—each made up of three students, one teacher, and one mentor—are selected to compete for the top prize: one week at U.S. Space Camp, in Huntsville, Ala., and US $7,500. Runners-up receive $5,000. IEEE-USA sponsors the third-place prize of $2,000 as well as the Best Communications System award, which is presented to the team with an efficient, accurate system. Winners of the BCS award receive a plaque and a $100 savings bond. Marc Apter, 2013 IEEE-USA President, will present the prizes.

DiscoverE is for the first time staging a Global Day of the Engineer, on 24 February, when engineers around the world who have been asked to pledge time to celebrate engineering engage students in technology or share a technical innovation. For ideas on getting involved, watch a presentation on “Five Ways to Make a Difference During Engineers Week 2016.”

ON THE LOCAL LEVEL

The IEEE Central Texas Section—which includes Austin and San Antonio—is especially busy this year. Many of the section’s young professionals are taking the lead in organizing EWeek events, including lunches and tours at Apple, Google, and Intel offices in those cities during the event’s first four days. The members also are holding a hackathon and organizing happy hours.

“I want to get students and young professionals involved in this effort because we need them to be the future of IEEE,” says IEEE Member Leslie Martinich, chair of the section. “Those of us with gray hair won’t be here forever, so we need to build the skills of young people.”

The section’s culminating event, Innovators, Engineers, and Entrepreneurs, is to be held at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, in Austin, on 26 February. The all-day workshop, which features a major biomedical component, has two primary goals: helping entrepreneurs become successful and identifying areas of innovation that are likely to be popular.

“It’s important for entrepreneurs and engineers to think about what problems need to be solved,” Martinich says. The event’s speakers will highlight issues on the horizon that need to be addressed with the help of technology, such as bringing Internet access to remote regions and purifying drinking water, as well as what to think about in terms of innovating for the future.

The keynote speaker on the 26th is IEEE Fellow Robert Metcalfe, co-inventor of the Ethernet and founder of digital electronics manufacturer 3Com, which was acquired in 2010 by HP. The event is expected to draw a significant number of industry sponsors and exhibitors.

Martinich plans to mount a membership drive at the event. “We’re going to have exhibits and networking opportunities, as well as tool kits to help participants build innovative technologies,” she says. “The creative sparks happen when people with expertise in different areas talk to one another.”

GET INVOLVED

Many IEEE sections will be celebrating EWeek, some by bringing in high-tech professionals to give a technical talk in a classroom, school club, or library.

The popular Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, which matches girls with mentors to learn about engineering and technology, is scheduled for 25 February around the country.

Need ideas for what you might do during EWeek? Here’s a sample of other activities that are taking place across the United States:

  • The Engineers’ Council plans to hold its National Engineers Week Honors and Awards Banquets in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., on 19 February and in Universal City, Calif., on 27 February.
  • The University of Nebraska, in Lincoln, is sponsoring the Nebraska Robotics Expo at the Strategic Air & Space Museum, in Ashland, on 20 February.
  • The DiscoverE EWeek San Diego Awards Banquet is scheduled for 26 February at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
  • The Illinois Institute of Technology, in Chicago, is holding the 32nd annual Engineers Week Expo, on 27 February. Its theme is “Engineering New Horizons.”

Chris McManes is IEEE-USA’s public relations manager.

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