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A Visit to My Ala Mater (Nov 2009)

 

Last month I visited my high school for the first time in over 20 years. What a rush of great memories and a new challenge to meet in preparing our children as future engineers.

 

 I arrived at Murrel Dobbins High School after work on a Wednesday evening . My schedule is as tight as the next middle-aged professional but I had to stay true to a promise made to a fellow alum. Denise (not her real name) organized our 10th and 20th high school reunion. She organized Yahoo groups and Facebook pages from contact information she diligently researched. When she got around to calling me the first thing I asked her about was our school's alumni association. She said she would look into what they were doing and asked me to call her back as a reminder. I failed to follow up.

 

Sometimes things happen in a round about way. The purpose of my visit to the school, on this rainy day, was to fulfill a promise made to Greg (not his real name) - a biology teacher at Dobbins. Velda Morris introduced us at the BEST Robotics kick-off, at Villanova University, weeks earlier. He enabled me the opportunity of delivering on my promise to Denise. Greg needed a hand in the ominous task of building their robot for the October 17 trail run at the Franklin Institute.

 

Well there I was, strolling through the preserved walls and floors of yesteryear. Greg showed his appreciation on my arrival then hurried me to work. I spent most of the hour helping a young cosmetology student install wood blocks to secure the motor's axle to the wheel. In fact most of the team, of about ten students, were in cosmology/beautician, web design, graphic arts and fashion. There was one member from the plumbing shop. I stepped back and thought how strange - arts and fashion careered students building a robot?

 

I left a little depressed after discovering that presently there were no shops geared toward the mechanically inclined. The young student building the wheel block seemed a natural in systems design by looking at how her block would interface the wheel and axle as one. I observed this with the other groups working various aspects of this project. They were extremely impressive - imagine if they studied these engineering basics through four years of high school. What a job we engineers have in front of us. How do we return shops with engineering basics like electrical circuits, computer programming, electrical wiring, mechanical controls and automotive back in these schools? When do we begin to identify the engineer and begin their development as a professional engineer? Who can funnel our wealth of experience and knowledge into the classrooms as catalyst to ignite the brilliant ideas dormant in the subconscious of our youth?

 

Please visit a school that is close to you. You observation is needed to find ways to increase our nation's engineering capital.
 

 

 

Myreon-Michael Smallwood

Cell: 215.880.4094

Email: DiscoverE@pspe-philly.org

Web site: http://www.pspe-philly.org/k-12/k-12.html

 

 

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