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December 2006

IEEE-USA Approves 2007 Engineering Public-Awareness Program to Enhance Image of Engineers, Engineering

By Pender M. McCarter

As part of its ongoing effort to enhance the image of engineers in the United States, IEEE-USA volunteer leaders have endorsed a 2007 IEEE-USA public-awareness program that reaches out to children, adults and the public at large. At its meeting on 17 November in New Orleans, IEEE-USA's Board of Directors approved $138,000 in budgeted and unbudgeted funds to promote engineering awareness: $75,000 in unbudgeted expenditures, plus $63,000 in already budgeted expenses.

The public-awareness program includes six components:

  • Adding IEEE technologies to TV engineering news spots developed through the American Institute of Physics (AIP) "Discoveries & Breakthroughs" syndication service

  • Helping print and broadcast journalists communicate authoritatively to the public about engineering and science, through the selection of two IEEE-USA Engineering Mass Media Fellows, as part of the AAAS program; and recognizing journalists for furthering the public understanding of the engineering profession

  • Launching an engineering film festival with the American Film Institute, or similar body, and U.S. IEEE sections to help highlight engineering as it is presented in popular media

  • Backing engineering reconstruction efforts in and outside of the United States, by recognizing accomplishments of students in the non-profit humanitarian organization, Engineers Without Borders-USA

  • Introducing children to basic engineering concepts and communicating engineers' support for local community activities through National Engineers Week 2007 Discover Engineering Family Day in Washington, D.C.; and sponsoring the 15th anniversary EWeek Future City Competition essay contest

  • Informing younger students, 9-to-13-years-old, about careers in engineering through a brochure distributed to a cross-section of children's museums nationwide

The program components are detailed below:

TV ENGINEERING NEWS SPOTS: For a third consecutive year, the IEEE-USA Board backed the AIP "Discoveries & Breakthroughs" TV news spots, continuing its contribution of $25,000. In 2005-2006, IEEE-USA participated in the development of some 300 news stories about engineering and science sent to 66 U.S. TV stations — with a potential audience of 75 million viewers.

IEEE-USA participation ensured that more engineering stories were part of news broadcasts, especially IEEE technologies, in such news features as: "Predicting Surgery"; "Wind Farms and Weather"; "Producing Speech"; "New Generation Fire Sensors"; "Fuel-Efficient Cars"; "High-Tech Citations"; "Robotic Bugs"; "Longer Battery"; and "Future Screens." IEEE-USA's Precollege Education Committee has also pursued a program with teachers using "Discoveries & Breakthroughs" DVDs in classrooms — collaborating with students to produce their own versions of the TV spots — further expanding the reach of the AIP/IEEE-USA service.

For more information, go to www.aip.org/dbis/.

ENGINEERING MASS MEDIA FELLOWS: Beginning in 2007, for the eighth consecutive year, IEEE-USA continues its support of the AAAS Science & Engineering Mass Media Fellows program — for the second time choosing two IEEE-USA Fellows — representing a $17,000 contribution. Since 2000, IEEE-USA has backed eight U.S. IEEE student members, who have worked for 10 weeks at such media outlets as: Scientific American; WNBC-TV, in New York City; Popular Science; WOSU-AM, in Columbus, Ohio; the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; the Richmond Times-Dispatch; the Sacramento Bee; and the Chicago Tribune.

In 2006, 14 AAAS Mass Media Fellows produced 180 news stories about science, technology and engineering.

IEEE-USA is the only engineering organizational sponsor in the AAAS program, and one of only three sponsoring organizations to support more than one media fellow.

For additional information, go to www.ieeeusa.org/communications/massmedia.asp.

ENGINEERING JOURNALISM AWARD: In a related activity, IEEE-USA presents an annual award for distinguished literary contributions furthering the public understanding of the profession. Past literary award recipients include NPR's Richard Harris, The Wall Street Journal's G. Pascal Zachary, and author Jon Katz.

For details on the literary award, see www.ieeeusa.org/volunteers/awards/award8.html.

ENGINEERING FILM FESTIVAL: In 2007, IEEE-USA will seek to enter into a partnership with the American Film Institute, or similar body, and subsequently with IEEE Sections nationwide to produce an engineering film and discussion series. The IEEE-USA Engineering Film Festival will be open to the public and is intended for a broad range of individuals who enjoy the cinema and have an interest in engineering and technology. The films are expected to be shown without charge, and to as many as 400 Washington-area residents once a week for six weeks.

After each film, a speaker or panel with knowledge of the film's subject area will be called on to provide commentary on the engineering and to take questions from the audience. Films to be considered include: Edison the Man (1940), starring Spencer Tracy; Fantastic Voyage (1966); The Right Stuff (1983); Apollo 13 (1995); Infinity (1996), about the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman; and Primer (2005). With $20,000 in funding, the program will be patterned after the National Institutes of Health's successful "Science in the Cinema."

For more information, go to http://science.eduation.nih.gov/cinema.

ENGINEERS WITHOUT BORDERS-USA STUDENT RECOGNITIONS: In 2007, for the second time, IEEE-USA is sponsoring five $1,000 recognition awards for college students who distinguish themselves in volunteer reconstruction efforts for Engineers Without Borders (EWB)-USA, the non-profit humanitarian organization. The achievement awards will be presented at the EWB-USA international conference, 12-14 April 2007, at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

For details, go to www.ewb-usa.com.

EWEEK 2007 DISCOVER ENGINEERING FAMILY DAY: For the fourth consecutive year, IEEE-USA is cosponsoring the EWeek Discover Engineering Family Day, on Saturday, 17 February 2007, at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. The hands-on opportunity helps children grasp fundamental engineering principles. With 7,000 attending, the 2005 Family Day produced the second-largest turnout in the history of the National Building Museum — exceeded only by the 2004 Family Day. Some 6,000 adults and youngsters participated in the 2006 event.

In 2007, at EWeek Family Day, the high-school cast and young engineers from the new WGBH-PBS Design Squad engineering reality competition TV program will demonstrate how to engineer an innovative product. IEEE-USA assisted with the proposal that led to the IEEE becoming a sponsor of Design Squad.

For details on Design Squad, go to http://pbskids.org/designsquad/.

2007 marks the 14th year of the EWeek Family Day, a premier engineering and science outreach program in Washington, which serves as a model for similar family programs conducted nationwide. During EWeek in 1993, IEEE-USA helped launch the first Family Night at Intelsat in Washington, the model for the Family Day event.

For more information, go to http://eweekdcfamilyday.org.

EWEEK FUTURE CITY COMPETITION ESSAY CONTEST: Further, the IEEE-USA Board approved $10,000 to sponsor the 15th anniversary EWeek Future City Competition essay contest. IEEE-USA helped launch the first Future City Competition in 1993 when the organization coordinated the IEEE’s role as lead society sponsor of EWeek. Through the competition, middle-school children learn about the engineering creative process using a computer program to design model cities. An essay contest is also incorporated in the competition. In 2007, students will prepare an essay on developing an energy strategy using fuel cells to power a city of the future.

For more information, go to http://www.futurecity.org

ENGINEERING CAREERS BROCHURE: Additionally, in 2007, IEEE-USA will continue distributing a precollege education brochure designed primarily for children in fourth to eighth grades. Some 20,000 copies of My Science, My Math, My Engineering! How Am I Ever Going to Use This Stuff in the Real World? were distributed in 2006 to more than two-dozen U.S. children's museums and to organizations with K-12 student sci-tech enrichment programs. The brochure complements an earlier brochure available from IEEE-USA aimed at high-school students.

The new brochure can be downloaded at www.ieeeusa.org/communications/ia/ia-06-23-06.asp.

Improving the public's understanding and appreciation of engineering continues to be a top priority for U.S. IEEE members. IEEE-USA has been actively involved in promoting public awareness of engineers and engineering for more than 25 years.

For more information on IEEE-USA's public-awareness program, a brochure can be viewed and downloaded at www.ieeeusa.org/communications/files/PAbrochure.pdf.

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Pender M. McCarter, APR PRSA, is IEEE-USA’s director of communications and public relations, and has been an editor and associaton executive in high-tech communications for more than 30 years. In 2007, he will retire from his full-time job at IEEE-USA to consult with the organization part time on engineering public awareness. Comments may be submitted to todaysengineer@ieee.org.

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