“The WISE summer changed my life” is how Marc Canellas, a senior in mechanical engineering at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo., describes two and a half eye-opening months spent on Capitol Hill as part of the Washington Internships for Students of Engineering (WISE) program.
“I thought I knew a lot about NASA, commercial space flight, and space policy” starts Canellas, “but when I started the WISE internship, I learned there is so much more to know.” Canellas enjoyed his D.C. immersion in space policy and the politics of NASA. “I was impressed,” he notes, “by the fact that Members of Congress have reams of statistics and data on such items as dollars spent, dollars allocated, satellites designed, or satellites launched. However, what they don’t have is information on the intangibles. They can’t see how much space flight has inspired and continues to inspire generations; how research for space exploration helps to push the envelope of technology; and how these concepts generate new innovation.”
Canellas urges scientists and engineers to get involved, and to be more vocal about engineering policy- primarily because they can articulate and appreciate these intangibles. “Scientists and engineers need to be more vocal in a bipartisan fashion. Congress needs us to help explain technology,” he said. Canellas noted that the work IEEE is doing in articulating and advocating for science, engineering and technology policy is good–and, hopefully, influences other organizations to do the same–and also sponsor additional WISE interns. “It’s not enough for just the lobbying folks to participate, everyone should participate,” Canellas said.
Canellas, who claims he caught “Potomac Fever,” followed his own advice after returning to the University of Missouri. He wanted to “instill in my fellow engineers the appreciation of the interaction between public policy and engineering.” This idea inspired a conference to talk about the intersection of science and policy. The Engineering Connections between Politics and Science for the 21st Century conference brought together researchers, politicians and professionals to discuss a range of issues on 13 March.
In addition to organizing a large conference, serving as an ambassador for the College of Engineering, performing astrophysics research through the McNair Scholars Program, and”¦oh yea, working on his capstone project for graduation, Canellas still finds time play intramural sports and pickup soccer.
His advice for all: “Find something you are passionate about–and go for it.” Canellas urges engineers to get involved, even if it may initially be uncomfortable. “We have lots of skills and are fascinating people. Ultimately, we are problem solvers,” he said, “We can put these problem-solving skills to use-whether to advance technology, or to influence public policy to make the technology possible.”Advertisement
Nita Patel is IEEE-USA’s VP of Communications and Public Relations.