fauxklore (fauxklore) wrote,

MIT Club of Washington Annual Meeting

Chuck Vest's talk on "Engineering Frontiers, Challenges, and Globalization" sounded pretty interesting, so I went to the MIT Club of Washington's annual meeting. The event was held in The Great Hall of the National Academy of Sciences, which is certainly a grand setting. The dinner was better than I expected (spinach salad with pineapple, salmon, risotto, asparagus, and some sort of chocolate confection for dessert) and even included wine.

I should comment on the lack of socialization amongst MIT alums, alas. Maybe it is horribly old-fashioned of me, but isn't one supposed to take turns talking to the people seated on one's left and right? Instead, at our table of 8, 2 people didn't even acknowledge anyone else at the table. The person on my right introduced himself (and his wife, who was sitting to his right) and then talked exclusively to the person on her right without a break. (As far as I could tell, his wife didn't get a word in edgewise and was left having two men talk around her.) Which left me talking to the person on my left and the person on her left. The conversation was fine, but it still struck me as rather unmannerly behavior.

The club business meeting was mercifully short. As for Dr. Vest's talk, there were no surprises there. The former president of MIT and current president of the National Academy of Engineering is, obviously, going to focus on the need for engineering education and the importance of academic research. I agree somewhat with the need for greater integration of engineering and other disciplines, but I'm a bit concerned that the focus is always on life sciences, information technology, and nanotechnology. There is still a serious need for the classic areas of engineering and I think that often gets lost in chasing the latest hot topic.

In addition, while it's hard to argue against the need for better K-12 science and math education, I think the cultural bias in the U.S. against science is a deeper problem. When I was growing up, space was cool and I remember sending to NASA for photos and getting all caught up in the moon landings. Now, it seems like everything is about making money and anybody who cares technology for its own sake is dismissed as a hopeless nerd. All the education initiatives in the world (and, especially, ideas like rewarding high school students for taking science and math classes) isn't going to solve that.
Tags: engineering education

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