Engineering: Coming to a Giant Screen Near You

By Chris McManes

Engineers create big things, small things, and everything in between — from skyscrapers to smartphones, from radar to supersonic trains.

The engineers who bring these and similar innovations to life are being celebrated in a new IMAX and giant screen movie.

Dream Big: Engineering Our World will premiere 17 February across North America. It will showcase engineering feats, and reveal the heart that inspires engineers to advance technology for humanity.

“The premiere isn’t really the end,” says Jane Howell, Dream Big project leader. “It’s just a new phase.”

Howell serves as director of communications for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the principal engineering society sponsoring Dream Big. Bechtel Corporation is the title sponsor.

Dream Big is kicking off in conjunction with Engineers Week (19-25 February). ASCE and Bechtel Corporation are EWeek 2017 co-chairs.


One of the new phases Howell is talking about is the outreach program accompanying the film. It will include things like hands-on activities, lesson plans and museum programs. Web videos and social media tools will also help students, parents and teachers explore engineering concepts in greater detail.

“The educational materials help us broaden the topics we touch on,” Howell says. “They also help us add some deeper engineering content. It would be difficult to imagine the film without the educational resources attached to it.”

Engineering feats explored more in-depth include, among others, the Shanghai Tower and the Hyperloop One supersonic train. The tower is the second-tallest building in the world. Its wind turbines provide 10 percent of the structure’s energy. To diminish the fierce gusts of wind that can cause upper floors of a skyscraper to sway, the tower’s rotational design reduces wind forces by 24 percent.

At the Hyperloop One test track north of Las Vegas, engineers are designing a vacuum tube system that will propel pod-like cars more than 700 miles per hour. This would enable passengers and cargo to speed from downtown Los Angeles to the Las Vegas Strip in less than 25 minutes.

Attendees at the IEEE Rising Stars Conference visited the test center in January.

Brad Ohlund, director of photography for Dream Big producer McGillivray Freeman, is impressed with the futuristic transportation system.


“The Hyperloop gives you a sense of where engineering is going ” and what our world might soon look like,” he says on the Dream Big Website.

Howell and the producers made sure many forms of engineering were prominently featured.

“We’re kind of showcasing the interrelationship between different engineering disciplines and technologies,” she says, “For example, when you look at autonomous and connected vehicles, that’s really the kind of thing that brings every engineer together. There are systems engineers, electrical engineers, automotive engineers, mechanical engineers and civil engineers, all working together.”

IEEE fields of interest showcased include smart cities, robotics, solar energy and LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging).

A Major Production

Actor Jeff Bridges narrates the 42-minute, Dream Big production. McGillivray Freeman is the same company that created IMAX classics like Dolphins, The Magic of Flight, Ring of Fire and The Search for Life in Space.

Project Partners include DiscoverE (which produces EWeek), the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers and IEEE. Howell said the multi-million-dollar project was conceived in 2004, and it has been in active production for the past three years.

The Washington, D.C., premiere is set for the Lockheed Martin IMAX Theatre at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

“The movement is really what’s most important,” Howell says. “The film is the engine that’s driving it.”

Chris McManes (mick-maynz) is IEEE-USA’s public relations manager.

Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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