National Engineers Week: Engineers are pioneers of progress



Engineers are pioneers. I’m not just saying that because I am one. Building roads and cities, traveling to space, concentrating on renewable and sustainable energy, and making areas accessible are just some examples of how engineers have made our community better. 

National Engineers Week is this week., and this year’s theme “Pioneers of Progress.” By definition, a pioneer is a person who is the first to develop or apply a new method, area of knowledge or activity. That’s engineers, right? We do more with less, optimize resources and help the public every chance we get. 

As an Engineer, I believe it is my duty to find and invent ways to solve problems every day. We pioneer new eras of technology, comfort, safety and opportunity. Although we typically work behind the scenes, what we do makes what you do possible. 

Engineers consistently push for a better community where we live, work and play. For example, flood protection along the Cedar River and street improvements part of the Paving for Progress program are a few that touch many of our lives in the Cedar Rapids area. As a Civil Engineer, I take pride helping community leaders to assess, plan and implement the right solutions which consider the safety and health of their citizens. Engineers are problem solvers at heart, and we focus on creating solutions to some of life’s biggest issues. 

Engineers are so much more than safety vests and hard hats. We are passionate about improving communities and creating inventive solutions. Engineers are the go-to people for how to adapt to changes in climate, combat new diseases, feed the world, protect the environment, and prevent and treat pollution. 

An area where we’ve had the most impact at Fehr Graham is implementing sustainable solutions in projects. For example, we helped create an assisted living facility in Marion, Iowa. The building and site make occupant health and connection to nature high priorities. The Views of Marion is the first WELL-certified senior living center in the United States. When we worked with the Views of Marion, we looked for creative solutions that minimized impacts to the environment while maximizing the benefits for the residents and visitors. 

Not everything in engineering must be monumental. Something as simple as sidewalks is a big deal in many communities. It's essential to connect paths and make them accessible so kids get to school and people get to work safely. Engineers design sidewalks that meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards, which is crucial to making routes safer for all. 

Another addition that enhances communities is parks and trails. The creation of parks is important in communities because it creates an area for people to gather, relax and enjoy the outdoors. Parks provide a sense of public pride and cohesion to every community. They also promote good health by encouraging exercise and a connection to nature. 

We need more pioneers. If you know a young person who has an interest in science, technology, engineering and/or math, or STEM, encourage them to pursue classes and programs that enhance their passion. It’s important to embrace these kids, bring them into our workplaces and show them what’s possible. 

I never thought I would be called a pioneer, but I welcome challenges every day. Those push me to find the best solutions to benefit the most people. Without engineers, there would be fewer pioneers making the world a better place.

Nate Kass, PE, PLS, is one of Fehr Graham's eight owners
and manager of the firm's Cedar Rapids, Iowa, office. He is involved
with each phase of design and construction projects, and he is
committed to being responsive and delivering valuable outcomes.