If there is one thing we’ve learned in our 30+ years of engineering, it’s that no one has a corner on knowledge. At MJ Engineering, we are always expanding our expertise, perfecting our processes, and refining our approaches, but we know that the knowledge we gain is not ours to keep. In fact, the more we pass it on to younger generations, the more it comes back to us.
How we feed the future
Since our beginning, we’ve taken the time to share much of what we have learned with others. Typically in a classroom, we tell students stories of our discoveries and our failures. Rather than resulting in a loss of equity in intellectual property, giving freely of our knowledge and experience is actually an investment—one that pays dividends by promoting leadership, inspiring discovery, and creating assets in the form of future engineers.
That is why MJ Engineering team members periodically give presentations about roller coasters and other exciting engineering applications, judge regional DECA competitions, and speak to college engineering students about what it means to be an engineer. Most recently, MJ Engineering donated to a local high school robotics team, who made it all the way to the FIRST® Championship in 2019 (see our Summer 2019 Newsletter for more on that endeavor.)
Promoting leadership through shared knowledge
One way to sustain any industry is to raise leaders who can carry the vision after the current generation has retired. How can this be done if not by sharing the excitement we have about our industry? For many of us, we learned to love what we do by watching someone else who held the vision before us.
“When presenting to young kids, particularly elementary school kids, we want to ignite that spark that gets them interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM),” says MJ Engineering President Richard Wand. “It is that spark of curiosity that, once ignited, is very hard to extinguish. When presenting to high school students, it has been my experience that the spark is either already there or has already been extinguished. So it is especially important to reach those kids in first through fourth grade, who are most apt to respond to a STEM-style presentation and have it affect them to the point that they start looking at things differently.”
Inspiring knowledge with shared experience
There is no stealing of ideas in these arenas, nor is it a matter of limiting genius. On the contrary, as we share our knowledge, the articulation of ideas makes them stronger in our own minds. After all, if you can’t communicate something, do you really know it?
More to the point of true understanding through communication, we find that apt young minds will bring the questions that those of us who have been around for a while either forgot to ask, or have settled on the answers we discovered years ago. For many, the mystery of new technology has long left the process, and the burden of feasibility has taken away the wonder.
However, in teaching the younger generations about this industry and the ways we create solutions, we are reminded of that wide-eyed discovery that—against all odds—leads to new discoveries. As Richard says, “Experience maximizes technology, but inexperience inspires technology.” And the truth is that without such inspiration, many industries will wither away. It is absolutely vital to the sustainability of any industry to keep a fresh set of ideas coming in.
So our decision to share what we’ve learned over the past three decades is not entirely altruistic. In truth, we gain so much more than we give. In addition to the satisfaction of impressing and inspiring a new generation of would-be engineers, what drives us back to the classroom time and again is the dream of keeping our industry viable and engaging for many generations to come. And who knows? One day those young engineers may create the very thing that makes our lives easier when we have long since retired.