As part of its #BeAnEngineer campaign, ExxonMobil recently released a series of commercials that ask viewers to think about what the world would look like without engineers (at least some of them).
In one ad, two boys are sitting on a couch when a carrier pigeon flies in with a message on its leg. It’s an invitation to the movies—from two weeks ago. “You seriously need to upgrade your pigeons,” says one of the boys. In another, a young boy prepares nervously for a skateboard trick. His brother places a hollowed out watermelon rind on his head for protection.
The initiative, which began last year, uses the ads, social media, and a website to help demystify engineering and inspire students to pursue it. The website explains the many types of engineering, profiles people in the field, and offers lesson plans for teachers.
An ACT study released last year showed that nearly 1 in 10 graduates showed a preference for STEM-type activities but indicated they had no interest in a science, technology, engineering, and math career. And about a quarter of students expressed an interest in pursuing a STEM major or career but did not show a preference for STEM-type tasks—all of which points to the fact that many students likely have no idea what people in STEM careers, like engineering, really do.
Another recent video reinvigorated #ILookLikeanEngineer. That hashtag was created this summer by Isis Wenger, a young, female engineer who was featured in an ad campaign recruiting engineers and received backlash for being “unbelievable” and too pretty.
— Stacey Stormes (@SStormes) December 18, 2015
Goldieblox, the toy company that makes engineering kits geared toward girls, put out a video earlier this month featuring young girls dressed up as powerful women from 2015—including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Amy Schumer, Abby Wambach, and Wenger. Several girls hold up the #ILookLikeanEngineer sign.
(Interestingly, the video has been pulled from several sites, allegedly due to a copyright issue. GoldieBlox also ran into a copyright problem with its first viral video, in which it parodied the Beastie Boys’ song “Girls.”)
So, readers, what does it all mean? With these types of social media campaigns proliferating and more states adopting science standards that emphasize engineering, could 2016 be the Year of the Engineer?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.