I recently attended the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) trade show and had some great conversations at the TECAT booth with racers, engineers, retirees, and kids all excited about motorsports. Several of these conversations brought to mind the challenges we face getting younger people excited about careers designing, building, operating, maintaining, and recycling the planes, trains, automobiles, bikes, boats, tractors… that were on display at the show. A couple of conversations in particular stood out with regard to this topic.
The first conversation was with Sarah Burgess @sarahburgess97. She talked about her work with Wyotech and working with some of the technicians and mechanics of tomorrow. Similarly she had been a judge at a Formula SAE event and interacted with the vehicle engineers of tomorrow. I shared some of the work I’ve been able to do with the SAE Foundation’s programs for K-8 youth inspiring them to pursue STEM careers. If you are a teacher reading this please check out awim.sae.org. The SAE Foundation has an amazing program called A World In Motion (AWIM) available to help you bring STEM into your classroom. If you’re an engineer reading this reach out to your local SAE section and learn how you can volunteer in the classroom through the AWIM program. The shortage of young people going into careers as technicians and engineers is huge and efforts like the ones above are working to address the supply side of this challenge.
As for the demand side of this challenge, the second conversation caused me to think. One of the “old timers” who stopped by the booth mentioned that working on cars “sure ain’t what it used to be.” I expected the rest of the comment to go down the path of how cars have become increasing complicated and electronically or computer controlled such that normal people can’t fix their own cars. While he did say cars are getting “more electronic”, he followed that with “it seems like any 16 year old who can run a computer can just hook up to the car and it tells them what part to get from the parts store to get it back up an running. You don’t have to know anything about how it works any more.” As integrated vehicle health management (IVHM) becomes more the norm we at TECAT look forward to our sensors being an enabler for this transition. Those “fancy computers” as this old timer called them rely on data inputs that couldn’t be measured in the past. It seems this visitor to our booth at PRI was right, “things sure ain’t what they used to be.”