Parenting: Kid Engineers

David Murphy says some people think "building" toys like Legos can encourage future engineers.

David Murphy says some people think "building" toys encourages future engineers.
May 23, 2012 8:43:18 AM PDT
The average starting salary for students who graduate with an engineering degree is in the neighborhood of $50,000 to $60,000 per year or more, according to those who represent engineering universities like Penn State. That's not a bad number for a kid coming out of college; it may even be enough to make it possible for them to retire some of that horrendous college debt everyone's talking about these days. So, how do you know if your kid has what it takes to be an engineer?

I know a bunch of them, including my father-in-law, and aside from an interest in math and science, most have told me that their careers really began as kids.

Most engineers started-out enjoying toys and games that allow a child to tinker and create, whether it was the old Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets and Tinker Toys, or the more contemporary products like Legos.

The basic lesson is that if your son or daughter likes building things, encourage it. Give them Legos and other construction toys that encourage not only the following of instructions, but creative design as well. Even basic building blocks for the very young child can encourage the young engineering-bent mind.

Of course, not all engineering disciplines are the same. Mechanical Engineers are more interested in engines and force, whereas Civil Engineers like to building structures like bridges and highways. Electrical Engineers are fascinated by circuitry, Computer Engineers by hard drives and software, and Bio-Medical Engineers in chemical reactions.

Despite the differences, they were all interested in how things fit together and how they work. The above-mentioned toys can get the juices flowing toward any of the engineering disciplines.

I'm providing a link to a Graduating Engineer article that describes how some engineers who loved engineering-slanted toys as kids are actually going on to build them. They are working in various capacities for companies like Mattel and Lego, helping to fine-tune and create the next generation of construction and creative toys. There are also some nuggets about the sorts of childhood experiences that lead some people into the lucrative field.

I don't know which engineering discipline will be the big money-maker or job-provider of the future, or even whether there's an over-supply ahead in the field. But every business that builds or designs anything needs engineers and there's liable to be plenty of these firms around in the future.

Can your kid succeed along these lines? Engineers say a great way to get a hint is to buy them some building toys and turn them loose!

---David Murphy

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