A glimpse into the future of engineering

Today's mentors create tomorrow's engineers.


Timothy Kuhlman is an electrical engineer with CH2M HILL, where he is a technologist in the industrial and advanced technologies business unit. He has 22 years of experience in the field of telecommunication system design and is registered as professionalI recently had a chance to see into the future, and I was pleasantly surprised. I spent a day at Intel’s Jones Farm campus in Hillsboro, Ore. The company was sponsoring the Beaverton Hillsboro Science Expo for high school students, and I was participating as a judge for the electrical and mechanical engineering category. I know our corporate host had some amazing new technology behind its security perimeter, but what captivated me were the science fair entrants and their projects. The high school students I saw in the exhibit hall are our future engineers.

I don’t have statistics correlating the number of students that participate in a science fairs that will then go on to become scientists and engineers. I do speak from personal experience because that was the path I followed—I was encouraged by my high school science teacher to get involved with science fairs. After competing for a couple of years, I was awarded a scholarship that helped me get into the engineering college at the University of Wyoming. Now I get a chance to participate in science fairs again, but this time as a judge. I can’t help but wonder if I as an individual and we as representatives of the engineering community are doing enough.

Besides judging my own category, I had time to walk around the exhibit hall to view the other categories. You could tell some students had some form of sponsorship where they were given an opportunity to work in a lab at a local university with access to some sophisticated research equipment. They had access to college professors and graduate students. I have no doubt these students will continue in the field of science, technology, engineering, or math (also known as STEM). There were other students that obviously had less mentorship. Their projects didn’t have as much polish, but I could tell during the interviews that they did not lack in comprehension.  

Awards were recently handed out (check out the website at bhse.org). Some of the exhibits I saw deserve to make it all the way to the International Science and Engineering Fair held in May in Phoenix.  The projects that stood out for me were the ones where the student recognized a problem, understood the science behind it, and then set forth to solve the problem. These captured the essence of what it means to be an engineer.

How will the next generation understand what it means to be an engineer and the personal satisfaction there is in solving problems that improve our civilization? Who is going to provide the encouragement, mentoring, and insight that only another engineer can provide? From my own experience and what I saw at the expo I judged, I know the STEM teachers play a major role, but most do not have the insight of a professional engineer. 

Are we doing enough? I think I can be doing more, and as engineers we need to do more. Our involvement with fostering the next generation of engineers will take more than volunteering to judge a science fair exhibit or being involved at a local high school during Engineers Week once every February.  I encourage anyone who has a passion for this profession to reach out to the local high school or middle school and ask the science teacher how he or she can help. If the science expo I attended is a sample of the next generation of engineers, I think the future looks pretty good. Imagine how much better it would be if we spent more time mentoring the next generation.  

Timothy Kuhlman is an electrical engineer with CH2M HILL, where he is a technologist in the industrial and advanced technologies business unit. He has 22 years of experience in the field of telecommunication system design and is registered as professional engineer in 15 states. He is a member of the Consulting-Specifying Engineer editorial advisory board.

STEM mentoring examples:

ACE Mentor Program: www.acementor.org

Engineers Week: www.eweek.org

Intel Northwest Science Expo: www.nwse.org

Project Lead the Way: www.pltw.org

Anonymous , 04/22/13 11:46 AM:

can we make money doing what you suggest? if there's going to be any value to coordinating activity at the high school level, how do we PE's get compensated, if at all?>
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Safety for 18 years, warehouse maintenance tips, Ethernet and the IIoT, GAMS 2016 recap
2016 Engineering Leaders Under 40; Future vision: Where is manufacturing headed?; Electrical distribution, redefined
Strategic outsourcing delivers efficiency; Sleeve bearing clearance; Causes of water hammer; Improve air quality; Maintenance safety; GAMS preview
SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
Safety at every angle, Big Data's impact on operations, bridging the skills gap
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Applying network redundancy; Overcoming loop tuning challenges; PID control and networks
Driving motor efficiency; Preventing arc flash in mission critical facilities; Integrating alternative power and existing electrical systems
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role of plant safety and offers advice on best practices.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me