Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Growing The Next Generation of Innovative Engineers

Back in the 1950's and 1960's, when NASA's space program was getting off the ground, aerospace engineers' average age was in their 20's. Today, aerospace engineers have an average age of around 55. Ten years from now, those engineers will be retired. So it's fair to ask, "Who will take their place?" That's a question many people in the scientific community, including leading entrepreneur, innovator and founder of FIRST robotic competition Dean Kamen, have posed for some time now. It's obviously an important issue for us at Quanser too, since our major focus is on creating educational products and curriculum for control engineering education.

Are young people sufficiently excited by science education today? It certainly doesn't seem so. Engineering school enrollments are down in North America, and a smaller percentage of students graduate than in past years. The fact is, while it may have been cool to be an aerospace engineer in the 1960's, young people today have largely found their heroes in the world of entertainment and professional sports. They're keeping their eyes on the ball alright, but in our opinion, in most cases it's the wrong ball. Instead of a basketball, it should be a ball bearing in a Ball and Beam experiment!

Our motto is "Captivate. Motivate. Educate." and we bring that spirit to the classroom. Our control products, experiments and curriculum are expressly designed with these goals in mind. Dean Kamen has the same goals. Two decades ago he founded FIRST, an organization dedicated to inspiring young people's interest and participation in science and technology. FIRST is like an all-star game for young science and engineering students, and Quanser is proud to be a part of it. Our engineers are committed to it, acting as coaches for the high school teams and also judging the competitions. This week, March 24 - 26, we'll be doing both in Waterloo, Ontario as 30 teams of the smartest, most inquisitive students in Ontario show us their stuff. Stay tuned for a report on what went on.

We've no doubt that the engineering superstars of tomorrow will be nurtured by competitions and collaborations like these. So while our focus is creating exciting, new, cost-effective university-level engineering education hardware and software, in our spare time we're dedicated to ensuring that the excitement of engineering education is ignited – as early as grade school. That way, we're covering all the bases and preparing more students to be part of the next generation of technical innovators and entrepreneurs.

Watch a short interview with Paul Karam, Director of Engineering at Quanser to find out why he thinks competitions like FIRST are important for students - and for companies like Quanser.


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