The word ‘engine’ derives from the Latin ingenium for ingenuity or cleverness. Engineers use scientific knowledge and mathematics to create technologies and infrastructure that address contemporary issues. They connect social needs with appropriate technological innovation and commercial applications. As such, engineering is a major driver for sustainable socio-economic development.
What is Engineering?
“Engineering is the field or discipline, practice, profession and art that relates to the development, acquisition and application of technical scientific and mathematical knowledge about the understanding, design, development, invention, innovation and the use of materials, machines, structures, systems and processes for specific purposes” (UNESCO Report, 2010, p. 24).
As one of the oldest professions in the world, engineers have played an indisputable role in shaping our educational, scientific, cultural and communication sectors. Their understanding of structures helped build many of the world’s heritage sites including the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur and the hydrological systems of the Angkor Complex in Cambodia. They have also built our communication networks from the early electrical telegraphs to the cyberspace of today. Therefore, UNESCO asserts that “most of the broader history of civilization, of economic and social relations, is also the history of engineering, engineering applications and innovation” (UNESCO Report, 2010, p. 30).
Engineers are a vital profession in addressing basic human needs, in alleviating poverty, in promoting secure and sustainable development, in responding to emergency situations, in reconstructing infrastructure, in bridging the knowledge divide and in promoting intercultural cooperation. But, despite the social and economic importance of engineers, there is increasing concern that declining enrolment in engineering studies will have consequences for future development.
The UNESCO Engineering Initiative
The UNESCO Engineering Initiative addresses this concern by promoting engineering education at the secondary and tertiary levels and by highlighting the roles and accomplishments of women and youth in the engineering field. It emphasizes the importance of renewable and alternative energies for sustainable engineering practices. Through highlighting how youth are taking on contemporary engineering challenges and how professional engineers are shattering gender-based stereotypes the UNESCO Engineering Initiative is inspiring the next generation of engineers.