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Illuminating Engineering

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.547.1 - 6.547.6



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Paper Authors

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Elizabeth Parry

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Laura Bottomley

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2480

Illuminating Engineering

Laura J. Bottomley and Elizabeth A. Parry

North Carolina State University/Science Surround


Engineering is a difficult profession to explain to the average person, much less student, and is probably one of the most frequently misunderstood. The session described in this paper was developed to put engineering in common terms for the lay person, as well as provide an interesting and fun way to explore different concentration areas of the profession. The demonstration has been given to children as young as six years old, to parents of incoming engineering freshman and to emeritus engineers for the purpose of highlighting how the profession has changed. Little adaptation is needed, surprisingly enough, for these diverse audiences.

Many of the demonstrations involve basic science as a way of illustrating the application of science to the solution of engineering problems. The session is heavily dependent on audience participation, making use of active learning. A sense of humor is also a necessary component of the presentation; it seems to help the audience become receptive to the ideas that are being presented.

For the purposes of the demonstration the working definition of engineering is as a creative profession that uses math and science as tools to solve problems. The wide range of potential work areas is hinted at, as is the essential integrated nature of the various engineering disciplines.


What does an engineer do? To most people, even professionals who have worked in the field for years, this question is a challenge to answer. Simply put, engineers use math and science to solve problems. Even the kindergartner can understand this succinct definition. But what does it really mean? As part of its outreach program, the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University takes engineering to the K-12 campus to demonstrate the kind of work engineers perform. The session is appropriate for all ages, requiring only that the depth of the explanations be tailored to age appropriateness. The intent of the program is to inform, versus educate, about the engineering profession. The tone is light and a sense of humor is mandatory to help dispel preconceived notions about the field. Indeed, the tone of this paper is written in the manner best suited for the presentation itself, in a straightforward, approachable way.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, Copyright 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Parry, E., & Bottomley, L. (2001, June), Illuminating Engineering Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9338

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