Enticing students down the path to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) is a big deal these days. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has jumped on the bandwagon with a festival series designed to inspire budding engineers and technologists.
The ASME E-Fests—a series of three-day, two night events that queue up a variety of activities to immerse students in innovation—is the latest in ASME’s efforts to attract more engineers to the workplace, says Tom Loughlin, ASME executive director. “The role of engineering has never been more important than it is today—it’s a very exciting time to be an engineer,” he explains.
While engineering, and specifically mechanical engineering, has traditionally been focused on problem solving and building machines, the discipline is rapidly expanding to address quality-of-life issues in areas like infrastructure, food supply and clean water. These are global problems that appeal to civic-minded students, Loughlin explains.
The other big change is in the skill set required for engineering success. Whereas a traditional engineering curriculum has focused on technical acumen and sought out those with an aptitude for math, today’s engineers also need strong skills in areas like team building, project management, teamwork and communications. “Employers are seeking candidates that demonstrate capabilities far beyond specific technical skills—all these softer skills are representative of engineers today,” Loughlin says. “This generation of engineers is a much more social animal than previous generations. These students see themselves as global citizens.”
That’s where the E-Fests come in. These events are more reflective of what’s required for today’s engineers and attempt to nurture those interests and skill sets with a festival agenda chock full of student design competitions, poster and presentation competitions, a human-powered vehicle contest, and lots of food and socializing.
The first E-Fest took place earlier this month in India, and there are two additional E-Fests slated for University of Nevada, in Las Vegas, and at Tennessee Tech University. Loughlin says the goal is to expand the E-Fests with additional events planned for the United States and abroad.
Siemens PLM Software has signed on to be a partner on the E-Fest series, specifically on the Innovative Additive Manufacturing 3D Challenge (IAM3D), which is one of the competitions to be held at the festivals. At the IAM3D competition, students will employ 3D printing technology to create new products or re-design existing products to minimize energy consumption or improve energy efficiency. As part of its commitment, Siemens will provide its Solid Edge CAD software to student competitors for free.
“Strong industry collaboration is critical to prepare the next generation of engineers and manufacturers for digitalization,” said Dora Smith, global director, Academic Partner Program, at Siemens PLM Software.
In addition to E-Fests, ASME sponsors a number of events aimed at nurturing student engineers. The Innovation Showcase (ISHOW) is modeled after the popular show Shark Tank and tasks student participants to work on “social innovation” to solve social and environmental issues. The society’s Human Powered Vehicle Challenge (HPVC), also taking place at E-Fests, provides an opportunity for students to develop sustainable and practical vehicles that employ human energy for underdeveloped parts of the world.
Watch this video to see the Human Powered Vehicle Challenge in action.