Engineers Make a Splash on the Silver Screen

Monday, December 9th, 2013
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With global concerns rising over a shortfall of engineers and a drop in the intake of students for engineering degrees, the entertainment industry has stepped up to raise the profile of the industry.

From the big screen to the small screen, the Entertainment Industries Council in the US has established the S.E.T. Awards, which will be presented to movies, TV series, radio and TV news programs and print and online journalism for accurate and impactful entertainment portraying and promoting science, engineering, technology and mathematics.

Top revenue-generating films and some of the world’s most-watched comedy and drama series have been honoured for accurate, inspirational and encouraging depictions of these fields.

Winning films include The Avengers, Contagion and The Dark Knight Rises, while television shows The Big Bang Theory, NCIS, Person of Interest, Body of Proof, Bones and CSI are also among the productions that have been honoured.

The entertainment industry is uniquely suited to help inspire students to pursue rewarding engineering and technical careers and to play a role in filling the strong demand for jobs in these areas.

“Movies, videos and multimedia content with accurate, inspiring and encouraging science, engineering and technology storylines are magnets for youth that can launch them into technical careers, fill existing workforce gaps and create the innovation necessary to propel not only the entertainment industry, but also the nation into a bright future” said Brian Dyak, president and CEO of the Entertainment Industries Council.

Young Engineers Australia realises the power of film as well. This year it launched EngFlick, a nation-wide short film competition aimed at increasing awareness amongst the public, and young people in particular, of the vital role engineering plays in society.

First prize was awarded to Lauren Heading for “Engineering Elevator Pitch,” a short music video in an elevator covering the impact of engineering on everyday life which serves as a call for young people to consider a career in engineering.

Heading herself is only a year 10 student but she has big dreams, hoping to one day study engineering at Harvard or Yale.

“Too many students bypass engineering as a career option, due to a lack of understanding of what the profession involves,” said Ben Aldham, chair of Young Engineers Australia. “EngFlick set out to tackle this ongoing issue by gathering visuals to help answer the difficult question of “what does an engineer actually do?”

“For Young Engineers Australia, the great thing about EngFlick films are they’re not scripted and contrived – they represent the public’s perception and their genuine understanding of engineering. Engineering offers a diverse and rewarding career and Young Engineers Australia continually search for new ways to demonstrate where it all begins; with the study of STEM subjects in secondary school.”

Over the decades, the engineering profession has been portrayed in a variety of ways in the movies.

From the 1950s classics the Dam Busters, which combines history, nostalgia, and engineering problem solving all in one, and the Bridge On The River Kwai, which inspired a generation of civil engineers, to modern day masterpieces such as October Sky – whose hero is a coal miner turned engineer – and Apollo 13, which features engineers in space, movies have played an integral role in the promotion of the profession.

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