Discover Engineering Family Day | A Washington, D.C. Event for 21 Years
The first Family Day was an “Engineers Week Gala” on Wednesday Feb. 17, 1993 at Intelsat, a worldwide satellite services provider, in northwest Washington, D.C. More than 200 engineers, parents, students and engineering society representatives attended. The program included tours of Intelsat and Future City Competition exhibits, banners and posters. Future City, an engineering design competition for middle school students, also launched that year.
IEEE President Martha Sloan, the organization’s first woman president, emceed the program. She was chosen because IEEE-USA was serving as National Engineers Week lead society. The Chevron Corp. was IEEE-USA’s lead corporate partner.
Speakers included IEEE Fellow Edith Martin, Intelsat vice president and chief information officer; “Dr. Fad,” Ken Hakuta, an internationally known inventor and host of a TV series for 6- to 11-year-olds; and Chevron CEO Kenneth Derr.
The event was designed to celebrate engineering as a profession. Future City winners were announced, as were the winners of a photo contest for practicing engineers and engineering students. The contest highlighted engineering’s contributions toward the development of safe and efficient energy. Print journalism awards from the American Association of Engineering Societies and the Engineering Foundation were also presented.
From 1994-97, the National Air & Space Museum’s National Mall site hosted “Family Night.” The event moved to the National Building Museum in 1998 and continued to be a weekday evening affair through 2001. The 1998 get-together, on Feb. 25 from 7-9 p.m., featured the launch of the traveling exhibition, “Breaking Through: The Creative Engineer,” which explored how engineers express creativity through their work.”
Family Day Sees the Light
Discover Engineering Family Day as we know it today – a daytime Saturday festival – began in 2002. By moving it to the weekend, more parents, teachers and students have been able to attend. Nearly 30 local and national exhibitors participate each year. IEEE-USA and DuPont are serving as presenting sponsors in 2014.
Here are a Few Family Day Highlights Since 2002:
- Engineer and TV personality Nate Ball demonstrating the reverse-rappelling Atlas Power Ascender
- One of NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon’s replica racecars, courtesy of DuPont
- Former Space Shuttle Columbia astronaut Dr. Roger Crouch
- Appearances by stars of the PBS Kids TV show ZOOM
- A model of one of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers
- A Blind Driver Challenge simulator from the National Federation of the Blind
Family Day Attendance
Discover Engineering Family Day drew a National Building Museum one-day record 13,994 visitors on Feb. 19, 2011. More than 9,000 people have attended the past two festivals, making it one of the museum’s most popular annual events. Here are some recent attendance figures:
- 2013: 9,098
- 2012: 9,596
- 2011: 13,994
- 2010: 5,340
- 2009: 8,178
- 2008: 7,300
- 2007: 6,406
Written by Chris McManes, IEEE-USA’s public relations manager and vice chair of the Discover Engineering Family Day Planning Committee. (Updated Dec. 30, 2013)