Civil engineers have for centuries been at the heart of social and economic progress and helped improve the world in which we live.
2nick baveystock ice director general crop
The ICE’s 200th anniversary is the perfect time to demonstrate to people just what civil engineering brings to society.
We all know that the general public does not really understand the magnitude of what civil engineers do. People, across the world, expect their mobile phones to work, that aircraft will land safely on runways and that turning a switch will produce electricity. We are in many ways the victims of our own success.
Speaking the right language
Much of the problem is that we speak in a language that the public does not understand, about issues they do not recognise, and with a reticence that means we are rarely heard. I attended a hugely successful awards dinner last month, with fantastic projects, deservedly recognised as world-beating. But expecting the public to be enthused about something called “Project 310/A Package 3” is pushing our luck too far.
We have to talk about the issues that people are worried about. In the UK, most people are worried about housing, good schools, and how they will be looked after in the future. In Africa, jobs, safe water and energy are often the main topics. In Hong Kong, it is accommodation and congestion. We must use ICE 200 to seize the public imagination by offering solutions to the problems that they face, not just talk to ourselves about how wonderful we are. Clarity and simplicity is all.
So ICE 200 tries to explain why we do the things we do, rather than how we do them. The key to success is convincing the general public that infrastructure is not an abstract concept, but something that benefits it every day.
ICE 200 gives us a megaphone to shout loudly about civil engineering on a global scale – to inform, to educate and to inspire. We have 96,000 members across the world. If we cannot harness that power, we are missing a trick.
Everyone can play a part: individuals, companies, academia, think tanks, the retired and the yet to qualify. ICE 200 wants to achieve three things: we want to demonstrate that civil engineers directly transform the public’s lives; that civil engineers safeguard the future of our families; and that civil engineering is a creative, rewarding and fun career for anyone.
We have designed a series of activities to engage with the public. These are: Pitch 200, Café 200, Explore Engineering and the Invisible Superheroes exhibition. Everyone can be engaged. All we need to do is to tell the public just what engineering delivers for them. You do not need to wait for some mythical ICE “permission to proceed”; let us take the initiative in the same way that Telford, Brunel and Arup would have done, and get out and tell our own stories. And they are global programmes; all of us can take part.
This is a competition. Anyone can enter. But we particularly want young engineers with a passion for civil engineering to take up the mantle of demystifying complex engineering concepts. Applicants will be given 200 seconds to explain, to a novice audience, their chosen subject in as quirky and engaging a way as possible. To enter, contact Suzanne.email@example.com. Your regional teams are still taking applications and look forward to hearing from anyone who may want to be involved.
Every day in towns throughout the world, groups of people meet to discuss what interests them over a tea or a coffee. We want to harness that network.
Café 200 is a programme of engineering talks to clubs and coffee morning groups that aims to widen our exposure to the public – particularly parents and carers – and society as a whole. The Institution was founded in one of London’s many coffee houses, which in the 1800s were a hotbed for exchanging ideas and debating possibilities. We are going back to our coffee house roots by holding these talks with existing public groups and revivifying the exchange of ideas that kept engineers at the forefront of innovation and the Industrial Revolution.
Gateshead millennium bridge
This project runs throughout the year and all you need to do to take part in Café 200 is to speak to the public about your civil engineering experiences, the projects you have worked on (or are working on) and how we help change people’s lives.
Regional teams are drawing up a programme of public meetings. As sessions become available, we will be in touch with our pool of volunteers to fill the slots. But do not wait to be asked and if you see an opportunity in your area then grab it. Click here for further details and support, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Civil engineers, arguably more than any other profession, have a direct impact on the world around us that stands the test of time. The Trans-Siberian Express, the Millau Viaduct, and Telford’s Menai Bridge all provide a testament to engineering excellence.
Explore Engineering is a great way for people to find out about the built environment in their area and discover how civil engineers shape the world – and who better to explain this than ICE members? So we need people to put together organised tours and self-guided trails aimed at inspiring young people and parents to consider civil engineering as a career and shout about how civil engineers transform lives for the better. The programme will mix current projects with the rich heritage of infrastructure.
There will be a mix of online content, physical “guided” tours and leaflets that show how civil engineering is changing our environment and improving lives by providing water, building roads and bridges, supplying energy, treating waste and all of the other ways civil engineers transform lives and safeguard the future. If you want to be involved or you have a brilliant idea then contact email@example.com.
We want to use our global headquarters in One Great George Street to show the world how engineers transform lives. To do this we have launched a year-long exhibition to celebrate the heroic endeavours that engineers undertake for society. The exhibition shows how engineers around the world have improved people’s lives and introduces the unsung heroes behind their work.
Using state-of-the-art technology, from augmented reality to virtual tours, the exhibition will bring to life projects that span the globe and demonstrate the full range of civil engineering’s reach and effect. The comic book superheroes theme will help inspire the next generation of engineers and the ICE is calling on its members to share the crucial role they play. If you would like to support the Invisible Superheroes exhibition please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
ICE 200 is a fantastic opportunity for everyone. We can all get involved. Do not look to Great George Street for approval.
This is a time for pop-ups and innovation. Let us, all of us, use 2018 to really tell the public how engineers transform lives. If every single one of us persuaded just one brilliant young girl or boy to be a civil engineer, think what a stunning legacy we will offer the world as a result of our 200th Anniversary.
If you want to find out what is happening in your area, or share your efforts please use the social media hashtag #ICE200.
Make it so!
- Nick Baveystock is the ICE’s director general