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The Engineer and the Global Humanitarian

Engineering is so essential to all aspects of modern life that opportunities abound for mechanical engineering and global humanism to join as a powerful force to tackle critical issues facing this planet.

Many engineers serve their communities offering their professional expertise. Now, engineers can also integrate global humanism into their careers, furthering the principle that regardless of political affiliation, religion, or culture, it is the responsibility of every human being to diminish human suffering.

ASME’s strategic partnerships with humanitarian groups provide members access to volunteer opportunities for advocating mechanical engineering while making the world a better place. Volunteering with one of ASME’s partners, such as Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB-USA), enables members to find innovative, sustainable, and appropriate solutions for many of the world’s problems.

Such much-needed creative engineering solutions go beyond traditional approaches that have not focused on preserving resources, which has resulted in massive energy loss. For example, the average automobile wastes 80% to 85% of the energy in the gasoline before it gets to the wheels.

The ineffective use of natural resources hits the poorest the fastest and hardest. For instance, in standard irrigation systems an average of 80% of water evaporates or leaks away before being used, according to ASME’s Strategic Management Sector. The lack of affordable basic necessities, such as energy, clean water, sanitation, food, medical care, and education, prevents billions of people from improving their lives. Engineering has the potential to change that and is one of the most emotionally fulfilling applications of humanitarian engineering.

Some ways to get involved are to network with friends and colleagues and to volunteer with socially-minded organizations, such as Engineers Without Borders (EWB-USA), the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Junior Engineering Technical Society (JETS).

Most important, join an organization you identify with so that your passion inspires others: Become a mentor at your area high-school, college, or in your workplace; sign up on ASME’s E-Mentor web site. It’s a two-way street: While you motivate another engineer, in return you gain fresh perspective, invaluable to your own development.

There are many areas to choose from. For example, in the public policy arena, mechanical engineers can provide invaluable advice as legislators face new issues due to the pervasiveness of technology in modern life. As Dr. Bill Jones, consulting engineer and president, J. William Jones Consulting Engineers, told attendees at an ASME Congress, regardless of one’s political views, no one wants the people in charge of making extremely important decisions about technological development, application and ethics to be uninformed. ASME’s “Engineering the Greater Good” program supports sending engineers to Washington, D.C., for one year to provide non-biased technical advice to politicians and the government.

A thriving culture of globally conscious sustainable engineering can heal communities and help meet future challenges. No organization does it better than EWB-USA, whose founder Dr. Bernard Amadei has been awarded ASME’s and ASCE’s joint Hoover Award recognizing service to humanity. EWB-USA’s goal is to promote responsible, sustainable, culturally appropriate engineering solutions for developing communities. Volunteers at EWB-USA address community-specific engineering needs in developing areas of the world. Even though these projects may not have the glitz of high-tech research, they are innovative and rewarding. Furthermore, EWB-USA’s philosophy can be adopted as an example of how to change the way one thinks about designing technology, developing sustainable products and services, and creating environmentally friendly engineering solutions across many applications. High-tech or classic, engineers have the ability to revolutionize the world and to bring the gifts of clean water, sanitation, transport, sustainable development, energy, and a higher standard of living to billions.

The ineffective use of natural resources hits the poorest the fastest and hardest.

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