Successful engineering designs leave some mark on our world and those that live within it. The interaction of technology with society falls under the realm of public policy, exercised at the local, state, national, and international levels.
Why do so few engineers actively participate in our nation’s public policy conversation? Our government affects the implementation of technology, funding for fundamental research, the entrepreneurial climate that fosters innovation, indeed even the education of our next generation of engineers. (One need look no further than the Sputnik era to see how the government can spur a generation toward engineering excellence.)
Even beyond issues of technology and science, engineers develop natural problem solving skills that can be applied to a wide variety of challenges. Our government faces many problems. Engineers solve problems. Why do so few step up to the challenge of elected office? In the present US Congress, none of the 100 Senators was educated as an engineer, while only 6 of the 435 members of the House of Representatives are engineers.
RCEL seeks to educate engineers that are aware of the public policy considerations that will shape their engineering solutions, and have an appetite for actively participating in the public policy conversation. Through collaboration with Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, we offer numerous activities – on campus and off – for students to develop this insight.
How can you develop these skills?
- Read broadly. The RCEL office and OEDK have copies of magazines such as The Economist and Foreign Affairsavailable for students to borrow. You need to know about your world if you want to change it.
- Actively participate in RCEL’s conferences and workshops.
- Attend events at the Baker Institute for Public Policy; their calendar is here. You might especially enjoy talks hosted by their Science and Technology program.