Professor Joel Schindall gave a Tau Beta Pi DaVinci Lecture yesterday, and something he said especially resonated with me. He pointed out that the Tau Beta Pi (TBP) mission was to honor those who demonstrated “distinguished scholarship and exemplary character as students in engineering.” Notice how character was stressed in addition to technical prowess.
Back in 1885 when TBP was founded, engineers played a huge role in developing society. Some of the major inventions that influenced people’s lives include the lightbulb (1879), the dishwasher (1889), the radio (1893), the gas turbine (1899), and so on. Introducing these inventions to the public and convincing people to adopt new technologies required exemplary character from the engineers. It was also a good reminder of the magnitude of impact on society that engineers can make through their work.