A group of leading engineers representing diverse sectors of industry are forming an “Engineering Change Lab,” an initiative aimed at shaping the profession to meet society’s evolving needs through innovation.
The initiative resulted from a two-day meeting in August, when nearly 50 U.S. engineers gathered in Omaha, Nebraska, hosted by engineering firm Lamp Rynearson & Associates. The group considered the pressures of the market and public policy, and examined perceptions that the industry hasn’t adapted quickly enough to create the conditions in which the engineer’s ability – and responsibility – to innovate and solve problems can be applied to societal needs. The group analyzed the engineer’s role in applying technology when serving communities, and as a “steward of technology on behalf of society.”
The Engineering Change Lab is based on an initiative of the same name that launched in Canada in 2015. Spearheaded by Engineers Canada and Engineers Without Borders/Canada, the Canadian group consists of 40 senior leaders who represent multiple organizations from across the engineering profession. The U.S. group invited the Canadian director, Mark Abbott, to share his experiences and help his American counterparts frame their challenges and goals.
“We need to really work on being a profession that is focused not only on technical solutions, but one that also recognizes the broader impact of our decisions on people, moving beyond just looking at individual projects to much broader societal impacts,” said Mike McMeekin, Chairman of Lamp Rynearson & Associates.
“The future,” the group agreed, “is Enginearing” – word play that captures both a pride of profession and the urgency of the issues it addresses.
“We obviously hit a nerve,” said Kyle Davy, of Kyle Davy Consulting. “Almost unanimously, the people we reached out to, and posed this broad question to, were interested in being part of the discussion.”
“When we talk about the future of the engineering profession, we need to consider our role in addressing forces that are impacting society—things like climate change, population growth and the beneficial application of new technologies,” said Lauren Evans, President of Pinyon Environmental, based in Denver, Colorado. “We need to focus our efforts on the people that we serve in society. We can proactively help address their issues."
The group also identified ways to advance the conversation, including further defining and addressing the scope of the initiative, and contacting other professional organizations that are working on similar issues.
The Engineering Change Lab intends to broaden its stakeholder group and establish committees to address areas of interest identified by focus groups. A website is currently under development.