All of us rely on the work engineers do in countless ways every day. Still, volunteering your expertise outside of your normal workflow can be even more impactful. Tackling new challenges can infuse your career with fresh meaning, forge valuable relationships, and develop skills you never thought you had.
Consider giving back through one of these engineering-focused opportunities. You might find you gain as much as you give.
1. Volunteer With Engineers Without Borders
Join more than 16,000 people working with Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA) to improve millions of lives across 45 countries. Volunteers build solutions that address some of the most critical issues facing global communities, including drinking water and sanitation infrastructure, solar photovoltaic systems, irrigation systems, paved roads, bridges, and schools. One team recently repaired 35 wells that more than 100,000 Ethiopians depend on for drinking water, for example.
Highly experienced engineers can join EWB-USA’s Engineering Service Corps, which focuses on planning, design, monitoring, and evaluation. You don’t even need to leave home to contribute; while most initiatives are located in Central America, the Caribbean, and Africa, EWB also currently runs 35 different projects in the United States.
The organization carefully measures long-term sustainability and other indicators of project success, so you’ll know you made a difference. If you’re crunched for time, consider mentoring a student chapter or reviewing community requests for assistance.
2. Help Out With a Local Science Festival
Nobody knows what attracts people to careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) better than STEM professionals. This makes them crucial foot soldiers in the movement to recruit the next generation of American scientists and engineers. Sharing what your work means to you and how it impacts the world can inspire kids to follow in your footsteps.
The best way to spark enthusiasm is often through an exciting hands-on project that produces a concrete, practical result. Think about getting involved in your local school’s annual science fair, Google for a city science festival, or check out the Science Festival Alliance’s map of events. Engineering challenges, coding activities, and stargazing are always great ideas!
3. Speak at Science on Tap
Science has never held so much potential to shape our future, making scientific literacy more important than ever before. Enter Science on Tap, a series of public events aimed at communicating, debating, and celebrating science in everyday venues.
Originally inspired by England’s Café Scientifique, chapters have been springing up in many cities across the U.S. over the past decade. While there’s no central Science on Tap website, a quick Google search may pull up a local series (sometimes called Science Café or NerdNite).
Volunteering to speak at an event will give you the opportunity to share your work with a wider audience, indulge a personal interest, or drum up support for promising advances in engineering that may solve formidable problems—think applications in chemicals, mining, wastewater, remediation, and renewable energy.
Rest assured that you’ll be speaking to a large and lively crowd. Holding the meetings at a bar encourages turnout, and also engages customers there for the pub grub.
Engagement is key. Science on Tap events aren’t one-way conversations; they’re intended to serve as forums for discussion and debate. The typical format involves about 45 minutes of presentation, followed by 15-30 minutes of questions. Afterwards, you can relax and enjoy a pint.
Give Back: Engineer a Movement
Already participated in one of these activities? Consider talking it up to your coworkers in the office, or presenting it to your colleagues at the next engineering conference. You may just galvanize others to contribute their considerable talents to the common good.