Engineering is the use of math & science to solve problems. Engineering isn’t coding, programming, robotics or CAD modeling. Although engineers can use coding, programming, robotics or CAD modeling to solve problems. If our students only understanding programming, then they will feel as though they can’t solve problems in robotics. Or, if we only teach our students CAD modeling, then they will think they can’t solve problems using programming.
We are unnecessarily placing the next generation in restrictive boxes because it can be easier to teach more specialized learning. Below are 3 reasons why we believe that as kids brains are still growing and developing, it is much more beneficial to teach a broad technology based problem solving skill set.
While you can’t entirely prepare your kids for what is ahead, there are steps you can take to mitigate the risk of them being left behind by expected changes that are on the horizon.
For those of us that are within the current generation of parents, it is quite likely that you have switched jobs multiple times during your career. It is also quite possible that you have changed fields entirely.
This career journey would be very different from that of your parents. The majority of our parents stayed at the same job for their entire career. Throughout the process, they likely became experts at solving the problems that company specialized in.
However, many of the industries that this experience occurred within may or may not exist. For example, a manufacturing may have been very suitable for someone beginning their career in the 1950’s. Today, if someone were to demonstrate an interest in a manufacturing career, a guidance counselor would likely advise against this industry due to the instability and secular decline that has occurred over the past 70 years. Or, if someone began their career in retail in the 1970’s, they may have been very successful. But, if someone were to be interested in retail in the current e-commerce dominated environment, their parents and others would likely suggest that they should look elsewhere.
For manufacturing, it isn’t that we no longer make things. The amount of goods made has actually increased over the past 70 years as the global populations has continued to grow. However, the jobs in manufacturing have dramatically increased in countries where the labor costs are much lower. Similarly, retail is still very much apart of the global economy. However, the new approach for success is to have an omni-channel (brick & mortar, online and mobile) approach. The increased technological focus means that there are simply less people needed to achieve success. In this new world of retail, the software is doing much of the heavy lifting.
In this environment, this means that there is going to be an increasing number of new problems that will emerge for the next generation to solve. We don’t know how the current in demand industries will evolve. But, what we can hypothesize is that as our global population continues to grow, there will be a need for scalable solutions. And, the best preparation to an every changing environment is not to narrowly guess which problem solving framework will dominate. Instead, it makes more sense to theorize that a general toolkit will be exceeding useful.
Those who have been working for multiple years have likely felt what it is like to hit a wall developmentally. The skills that earned early career success are no longer sufficient for continued advancement.
For many people, this rapid change can be terrifying. For others, there is an embrace of the constantly cycle of innovation, disruption, growth and decline.
In order to maintain intellectual agility, it is important to ensure that the capability and capacity to learning continues long after formal education is complete.
Throughout even our short careers, we have seen innovation new technologies such as cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing become mainstream. These ideas were researched for years to figure out how these new innovations might work in practice. Eventually, multiple teams were able to make them work and they were distributed throughout the ecosystem.
Right now there are new groups of researchers who are looking at new innovations that in 10-20 years will seem commonplace. For those who are not prepared for these changes, it can create tremendous anxiety and stress. However, if you reframe things to have a beginner’s mindset and embrace that there are going to be new innovations and inventions throughout your career then you are already prepared to learn these new things.
You go from having a fixed to a growth mindset that prepares you well for future success because the joy comes from learning about a new platform or solution.
Diversity of Problems
As we see from the definition of engineer, the solution tool is not presupposed. Instead, it reverts back to the 1st principles of math & science to solve problems. These building blocks are at the core of what humans have been learning and studying for centuries.
By not having a pre-determined solution such as programming, it frees the next generation to focus on what the actual problem is. Instead of fitting the solution to the problem, they are able to start with the problem and build toward the solution.
This range enables inventors and innovators to pull from a variety of sources to find what will work. We know that the complexity of problems is continually increasing. Whether it’s global warming or homelessness or clean water, solutions to these problems may have a technical solution or they may not. The goal for the next generation is that we want them to have the mindset and tools they need to solve problems.
We know that the global community benefits when there are elegant solutions to difficult problems. And, as humanity progresses, we might imagine that many of the problems with the most straightforward solutions have already been solved.
This environment means that we have to level up the next generation to prepare for problems with no easily discoverable solution set. However, because we have done the advanced work of developing an engineering mindset; they will be most capable of working through these problems whatever they might be.
There are any number of problems that we are depending on the next generation to solve. If we simply limit them to coding or robotics or design thinking, then we force specialization when they individually and society collectively would benefit more from a foundational grounding in engineering which is simply using math and science to solve problems.