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Publication Number:      Date:  Jan/Feb 2001
Issue No: Vol. 64 No. 4
Date: Jan/Feb 2001


A Sightseer's Guide to Engineering

By Diane Enriquez

So you think an engineer is someone who drives a train? Or maybe you think the word "engineer" is synonymous with computers? With the onslaught of computer technology, it's easy to see why computer engineers get so much attention these days, but engineers are everywhere. They're helping to design your car, the roads you drive on, your CD player, and even your golf balls.

But if you didn't know that, you're not alone. A 1998 poll indicated that 61 percent of adults felt "not very well" or "not at all well" informed about engineering. So this year, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of National Engineers Week, the National Society of Professional Engineers and its society partners are creating "A Sightseer's Guide to Engineering" Web-based state-by-state travel guide to encourage both children and adults to view online remarkable and fascinating engineering achievements and activities from all disciplines around the United States.

The featured locations will show the public that engineering is not only everywhere but it can also be fun. The guide might include a roller coaster, a ski lift, a lighthouse, or a college lab, as well as obvious engineering marvels such as Hoover Dam. The public was asked to make suggestions for interesting sites. The travel guide will be launched on the National Engineers Week Web site (www.eweek.org)on the first day of National Engineers Week 2001, which is held February 18-24.

This guide to engineering is only one of the many activities planned for National Engineers Week. During the week, engineers participate in a variety of activities to help create an interest in engineering, math, and science. And the National Engineers Week Web site will contain information on a variety of activities and resources designed to increase the public's awareness and appreciation of the engineering profession.

And after your interest is successfully peaked, you might want to visit "Discover Engineering Online" (www.discoverengineering.org). Aimed at inspiring interest in engineering among America's youth, the site is a vast resource that its developer, Eastman Chemical Company, co-chair of the 1999 National Engineers Week, hopes will tantalize its users to take a serious look into the world of engineering.

Among the many features of the site is information on what engineers do and how to become one including civil engineers and specific disciplines such as structural, transportation, and geotechnical engineering.

Designed specifically for students in grades six through nine, an age group known for limited patience for anything that even hints of boredom, the site has almost endless links to games, downloadables, and powerful graphics, as well as to Web sites of corporations, engineering societies, and other resources, all tailored to keep young minds tuned in. One section, for example, lists several "cool" things tied to engineering, such as the mechanics of getting music from a compact disc to the ears of a teen, how to make a batch of plastic at home, or learning how to fold the world's greatest paper airplane.

Paper airplane? Yes, engineers do that, too. You'll see, after exploring these sites and all of the exciting things that engineers get to do, you'll forget you ever thought that they just drove trains.

Diane Enriquez is the Webmaster for the Federal Highway Administration's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Va. She is employed by Avalon Integrated Services Corp. of Arlington, Va.



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