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Engineering Change Lab

05 Apr 2018 events&conferences

The 10th Engineering Change Lab was held on February 23-24, at the Hatch Mississauga office. I was in attendence to volunteer as a “harvester”, documenting the weekend, as well as to represent the student voice as a CFES representative.

The Engineering Change Lab (ECL) is a social lab movement composed of leaders in private enterprises, universities, NGOs, and other stakeholders, who meet three times a year to collaborate on addressing the systemic challenges facing the profession and “unlocking the engineer’s full potential”.

“We envision Canada’s engineering community reaching its full potential by helping steward the application of science and technology to address the challenges of our time.” (Engineering Change Lab Vision)

What started as an Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and Engineers Canada initiative, the Engineering Change Lab community has grown to now also welcoming stakeholders such as NSERC, Suncor, Hatch, Ministry of Education Ontario, Boeing, OPG, and educators from 10 different Canadian Universities. In addition to these professional, academia, and industry leaders, the student voice is represented through participation by the CFES and the Engineering Student Societies’ Council of Ontario (ESSCO).

The CFES has been involved with the Engineering Change Lab since its very first iteration back in 2015, and have participated in each of the past 9 labs. This 10th lab is a special one, because it also marks our official partnership with the ECL.

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The main theme for Lab #10 was defining and imagining a world where engineers led the way for “Technological Stewardship”. Engineers have always been great at designing and inventing the technologies that affect the world and our everyday lives. But as the world is shifting toward greater awareness for environmental, economical, and social impact, engineers must also shift to take a bigger position toward shaping the future of the world and being stewards of the technology for which they are responsible.

Technology = “the process by which humans modify nature to meet their needs and wants. “ Stewardship = “the belief that humans are responsible for the world, and should take care of it.”

The goal of Lab #10 was to understand what it would look like for the participants to step into technological stewardship roles in their different contexts: as the engineering community, subsystems of society, organizations, or as individuals.

“Stewardship is protecting the technology we have today, but also being proactive in preparing for the technology that could arrive in the future”

5 main pathways were identified where the engineering community can play a role as technological stewards:

  1. Driving the evolution of technology to tackle challenges.
  2. Integrating the societal implications of technology into our work.
  3. Embodying and incorporating a diverse range of perspectives.
  4. Actively engaging in cross-cutting collaborations to identify and address important challenges.
  5. Publicly championing technology literacy and engagement.

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With an understanding of these pathways, participants separated into subsystem breakout groups to have discussions about technological stewardship specific to their sector. The subsystems were broken down as K-12 Education, Post-Secondary Education, Workplace, and Regulation/Advocacy. Discussion revolved around what already exists in the system in terms of technological stewardship, and what was the easiest/most important way to incorporate technological stewardship through one of the 5 defined pathways.

Conversations continued into the second day, which began with an interactive workshop by Liz Nelson on “Strategic Doing”, a new way of collaboration centred around measurable outcomes, framing questions, and asset management. Liz presented us with an exercises to reframe questions away from focusing on a problem (“Why are most engineering students disengaged and unsatisfied with their educations?”) to focusing on appreciation (“What would it look like if all engineering students were empowered to shape their curriculum and played a role in educational advocacy?”). A second exercise challenged us to categorize arbitrary assets into “physical”, “skill-based”, “economic”, and “social” buckets, then come up with a creative application where these assets can be utilized. Both exercises were extremely valuable for the CFES, and inspired us to reevaluate our new strategic plan with these tools in mind.

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Most of the second day was dedicated to progressing the existing initiatives of the Lab, which includes the Diversity & Inclusion group, K-12 Engineering Outreach, Student Involvement within ECL, and the Canadian Engineering Education Challenge (CEEC).

I participated in the CEEC discussion with the CFES President, Zenon, where we represented the student voice in exploring how to bridge the gap between engineering curriculums and the expectations of the industry. Zenon and the CFES will remain active in this working group to investigate how the results of the CFES Student Survey and Engineers Canada’s Final Year exit survey can support the activities of the group.

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At the beginning of the Lab, and again the end, all 59 lab participants were asked to describe how they felt about the lab environment through one word. These opinions evolved from “community” and “collaboration” at the beginning of the lab to “action” and “impact”.

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Indeed, the valuable conversations from the weekend left all of the participants empowered and inspired to introduce ways of technological stewardship in their individual communities, with specific actionable steps.

Congratulations to the Engineering Change Lab on another successful lab. Thank you also to Hatch for hosting all of us at their Mississauga office over the weekend.

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