The latter two holidays fall together by design, not by coincidence. Our nation’s first president was also an engineer. Trained as a surveyor and highly aware of the role of engineering in successful military campaigns, Washington designed many things to make life on his country estate more comfortable and efficient, including a combination plow and seed-planter and a two-story circular barn that worked as a giant, horse-powered threshing machine.
Engineering Education: A National Goal
Besides engaging in engineering himself, Washington also advocated strongly for the creation of institutions of higher learning dedicated to engineering education. At the time, in the late 18th century, engineering was not yet a subject taught in colleges or universities. This support for engineering education is another reason why the National Society of Professional Engineers deliberately choose Washington’s birthday week when, in 1951, they launched National Engineers Week.
Today engineering IS routinely taught at institutions of higher learning nationwide; Engineers Week is intended to show how engineers make a difference in our world, boost awareness of our need for engineers, and especially, support and promote activities that get students interested in engineering. The ultimate goal is the same today as it was in Washington’s time: to ensure that the nation has a diverse, capable engineering workforce.
Mobilizing Volunteers in Engineering
A coalition of more than 70 engineering, education, and cultural societies plus more than 50 corporations and government agencies work together to make EWeek happen through the organization DiscoverE, which specifically promotes Engineers Week as a way to “bring engineering to life” for kids, educators and parents—hopefully inspiring today’s students to become tomorrow’s engineers. The EiE Video Snippet below shows how early exposure to engineering inspired one young girl.
The event website has loads of suggestions for how working engineers can volunteer for the cause, like visiting a classroom or afterschool group, inviting students to your workplace to see what engineers do, hosting a DiscoverE Family Day at a museum, mall, or park, and much more.
Meanwhile, college-aged engineers really get into E-Week: for example, the University of Houston sponsors a “Run of π,” where you walk or run 3.14 miles; and Penn State’s College of Engineering holds an annual design-a-Rube Goldberg Machine-contest (this year’s challenge: design a machine that takes 20 or more steps to erase a chalkboard!)
Free E-Week Resources for Educators
But you don’t have to be an engineering student, an engineer, or work in a tech field to celebrate EWeek. The event website also offers free resources for educators and parents to use with children, such as short videos, links to useful websites, and classroom activities.
Here at Engineering is Elementary, we also have some resources to help you observe E-Week. Download a poster showing the EiE Engineering Design Process, or try some of our fun, hands-on engineering activities, including
You can even load our "Technology Flashcards" app on your iPhone!
Doesn’t engineering sound like more fun than International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day (Feb. 23) or Public Sleeping Day (Feb. 28)? Happy Engineers Week—and let us know how YOU celebrate.