Young Engineers

What Kind of Engineers Are You Going To Be?

The calm and sunny April morning of the first day of spring break during my first year at high school was disturbed by an impatient phone ring. The urgent call my best friend’s father, uncle Kiro, had made was to instruct me to promptly go fetch his son Buba (they did not have a phone at home then but they did have a TV set so we regularly shared the technological marvels of the day!) and go with him to the vocational high school where he — and until recently my father had — worked.

First Day of School

First Day of School

Buba and I had shared many an adventure during our childhood: a childhood shaped by the close friendship our working mothers had nurtured years before we were born — just a few months apart. Though after 1st grade we had studied in different elementary and middle schools, Buba and I had ended up in the same math magnet school where the current president of Bulgaria and I competed on the same math olympics team. Our school, prestigiously focused as it was on math, programming and sciences, offered apparently not enough in terms of mechanical and material studies besides an introductory class of the different types of steel. And uncle Kiro made his opinion known as soon as we showed up, rushed and anxious, at the door of the vast hall filled with rows of machine tools.

My friend’s father looked at us sternly and asked us if we could use the metalworking lathe next to him. Of course, we could not do much more than pressing the start button on the tool. Disappointed, he asked us what kind of engineers we were going to be if we could not use the most standard tools of his generation. Puzzled, my friend and I went home wondering how could it be expected that we should know something we were never taught? We comforted ourselves with the confidence that we knew things that our parents did not…

Why my father, who was apparently a very good teacher, never taught me the skills he knew, I can only speculate, but that story has stayed with me with its potent conflict of generations and misunderstood expectations.

Can Girls Be Engineers? You Better Believe It!

“There can be no improvement unless the girls are brought up in schools and centres of learning, unless they are taught the sciences and other branches of knowledge, and unless they acquire the manifold arts, as necessary, and are divinely trained. For the day will come when these girls will become mothers. Mothers are the first educators of children, who establish virtues in the child’s inner nature. They encourage the child to acquire perfections and goodly manners, warn him against unbecoming qualities, and encourage him to show forth resolve, firmness, and endurance under hardship, and to advance on the high road to progress. Due regard for the education of girls is, therefore, necessary.” ~ Abdu’l-Baha

Now as the father of two very smart and artistic girls, I delight in every opportunity to encourage them to create, design, and be young engineers. I am rather visual and whenever I see a well designed artifact I take the time to analyze with the girls what makes the product — or piece of art — so unique and satisfying. When my Nest thermostat arrived in the mail, I knew it would be a good opportunity to work with my daughters on a fun new project.

When I asked my older daughter whether she liked helping me be an engineer, she said “I like helping you but I also like being an engineer!”

The little one volunteered to help me with the installation…

A young engineer helping me install the Nest Learning Thermostat

A young engineer helping me install the Nest Learning Thermostat

 

Her older sister chose to work on a new invention, reusing the packaging of the thermostat.

A young engineer reusing the Nest packaging to create a self feeding cat play station.

A young engineer reusing the Nest packaging to create a self feeding cat play station.

 

Her invention was a self-feeding cat play station called McMeow. When I asked her “Why McDonalds for cats?”, she explained that it was the only self service restaurant she knew to have a play station — fair enough… Her younger sister — the budding graphics designer, — promptly created a clever logo.

McMeow - the McDonalds for cats! Idea by Sofia, design by Juliet!

McMeow – the McDonalds for cats! Idea by Sofia, design by Juliet!

 

We truly had fun and while helping me install the Nest Learning Thermostat, my 8 year old daughter answered affirmatively the question: “Can girls be engineers?”

When I asked my older daughter whether she liked helping me be an engineer, she said “I like helping you but I also like being an engineer!”

When I asked my older daughter whether she liked helping me be an engineer, she said "I like helping you but I also like being an engineer!"

When I asked my older daughter whether she liked helping me be an engineer, she said “I like helping you but I also like being an engineer!”

I intend to make sure my daughters never doubt the answer: yes, girls can be awesome engineers!

P.S. Read more about the positive response to my Young Engineers’ Parenting!

Trackbacks & Pings

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *