Contemporary issues are the philosophies, occurrences, or feelings about a specific topic (or area/field) that is happening now in our current society. I am a Human Factors and Systems engineer, thus in my previous job I was interacting with all disciplines of engineering. One contemporary issue that is affecting engineering fields currently is how do we get younger people interested in a STEM related field. An article completed by Elsevier discussed ten major engineering challenges that we are going to face in the next decade. They stated “By 2018, the United States will have more than 1.2 million unfilled STEM jobs. Meanwhile, according to a UCLA study, 40% of students enrolled as STEM majors switched subjects or failed to get a degree” ( (10 major engineering challenges of the next decade , 2018). I feel this issue is really important for current engineers to focus on because it is up to use to be mentors and leaders to these young minds. It is about engaging all types of students and sparking that interest in STEM fields.
When I was in 6th grade, my mother told me I had to go to this club called TSA (Technology Student Association) one Saturday morning. She said if I didn’t like it after I tried it then I never had to go again. She told me to give everything an equal chance and do not say you do not like something until you gave it an opportunity. I went to my first meeting the next Saturday morning and I was the only girl with 39 other middle school boys. I was teased for being a girl and trying to join a “boys” club. My father (being a handy-man) had taught me how to fix things on my own and helped create my passion for building and designing things. So being the only girl there did not bother me because I was doing something I enjoyed! My mother told me “ignore the boys and prove them wrong.” That, I did.
I worked hard, listened and learned from my teachers and persevered. I took first place in multiple categories in the TSA competition – beating out all the boys who laughed at me. I encouraged other girls to join TSA the next year, and it went from a club where I was the only girl to a club that was growing with more girls joining every year! I continued to participate in TSA throughout middle school and high school. Over those 6 years, I won over 25 first place trophies and placed nationally 3 times amongst 10,000 competitors.
I was ridiculed, and everyone said I was given special treatment. No one believed a little girl worked hard and did everything on her own. My mother then told me, “You will be ridiculed your whole life, but if you work hard and continue to work hard no matter what people say, you will be successful.” I took what my mother taught me and never gave up my entire life.
I feel like I always go back to women in the engineering field as an issue, but it has been a big part of my life and made me into the person I am today. But a bigger question I was to pose is how do we get young minds (of all ethnicities and genders) involved into STEM? For me it was being involved in a club that allowed me ability to be hands-on and create things. It was about having mentors who bent over backwards to teach us and sacrificed their own personal time to enrich the minds of young ones. I was privileged that my school offered these opportunities for me, and that I had such great mentors. So, how do we reach out to the young people who do not have these privileges? I don’t know the answer to this, but it is a question that needs to be asked to get our minds working. I feel this is something we can achieve but we (current engineers) need to be willing to put in the effort to sacrifice our time (the little we have) to educate and inspire the future STEM majors.
10 major engineering challenges of the next decade . (2018, March 8). Retrieved from Elsevier: https://www.elsevier.com/rd-solutions/industry-insights/other/10-major-engineering-challenges-of-the-next-decade