The World’s Common Language

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All of a sudden, the world order appears to be inside a cocktail shaker in the hands of a bartender. Long-standing alliances have been thrown out of whack, and resurgent regional players are pushing at boundaries in hopes of gaining a geopolitical edge.

Amidst all the turbulence, however, the common, nonpartisan, and global language of technology has never been louder or more important. Emerging technology transcends cultural barriers and connects humankind, both intellectually and emotionally.

In February, I wrote about ASME E-Fests and of the efforts by a group of ASME volunteers to create a student engineering festival in Brazil. A few weeks ago, I saw the fruits of those efforts: A fervently charged engineering event that took place in Rio de Janeiro. It greatly touched hundreds of future engineers in South America—both personally and professionally—and I wasn’t spared.

ASME E-Fests bring together students from around the world for a weekend of engineering competitions, music, activities, giveaways, networking, career development, and job fairs. The program began in 2017. To date, festivals have been held in the U.S., India, and now Brazil.

The spirit of cooperation and friendships these rising engineers forged in Brazil bridged economic and national differences, thus forming, at least for one weekend in July, a cohesive group that shared a mutual experience joined by the common thread of technology.

Teams from various countries throughout South America competed in challenges ranging from human-powered vehicles to designing 3-D parts.

Of special note was a team from Venezuela whose economic and physical journey—a trek that began with online fundraising and involved planes, trains, and automobiles—was gracefully acknowledged at the closing ceremony by the Brazilian student organizers. Their determination helped them win several prizes and cheers from the crowd.

ASME’s first such event in South America was a resounding success, not because of the sheer number of participants attending—more than 600—or the local and international attention it received (even a network from China covered it), or even because of the skills and technical knowledge that was imparted to the participants.

No, when asked, the students said that the most important element of E-Fest South America was that, while sharing the passion for engineering, they were able to forge friendships with strangers from countries they did not know and whose language they did not speak.

Except, of course, for the common language of technology.

In seeing tomorrow’s engineers express themselves as they did, the world appeared in perfect order.

John G. Falcioni, Editor-in-Chief, Mechanical Engineering Magazine.

Reprinted from Mechanical Engineering magazine.