A recent article, "What if Geometry was called Video Games", by Joe Astroth makes an important point. He refers to Green Hornet, a very recently released film, which uses much of the same visualization technology as extremely popular digital films like Avatar. And then he goes on to say that if we can show them the mathematics and physics that is behind nearly every frame and don't use words like geometry, "the kids who love Green Hornet just might end up as the next generation of engineers."
Joe goes on to say that that a recent STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Education Report concluded that after middle school US students drop to the middle or lower internationally, underperforming their peers around the globe. But they are all proficient users with their PCs, Wiis, XBoxes, PSPs, iPADs, and iPhones of the same technologies that were used create the movies, video games ancd web applications they spend hours with daily. Joe concludes that we just need to show them the connection between the video games and tools they use for designing their own wiki pages, and the mathematics and physics used to create these games and tools and they might end up as the next generation of engineers.
As I have blogged about on several occasions the aging workforce challenge in North America has reached crisis proportions. For example, a recent article reported that the average age of the technical work force at a North American power utility is 60. To address the shortage in skilled trades, many utilities are setting up their own in-house training programs to train younger people, often recruting them directly out of high school. The shortage of electric power engineers appears to be global. I have talked to electric power people in countries like Brazil and Mexico with youthful population profiles compared to North America and Western Europe, and they are also seriously concerned about where they are going to get the next generation of electical engineers.
One way companies and government agencies are utilizing to help attract and retain younger workers is what I call "generational software". The younger generation has been brought up on Wii's, PSP's, and Xbox's and the 3D gaming technologies that the gaming industry has developed for this market. These 3D gaming technologies are now being integrated with engineering design applications. Many of the younger generation feel much more at home with these new 3D applications, and some companies and govenrment agencies are beginning to see 3D technology as a way of attracting and retaining younger engineers as well as a productivity tool.