As the civil engineering industry continues to grapple with a workforce crisis, ASCE might have an ace in the hole.
The upcoming giant-screen film Cities of the Future, produced by ASCE with MacGillivray Freeman Films, is a potential game-changer for supplying the talent pipeline.
Elisa De La Peña, E.I.T., ENV SP, A.M.ASCE, certainly sees it that way. A transportation civil associate for Michael Baker International in Santa Ana, California, De La Peña was one of hundreds of ASCE members to enjoy a sneak preview screening of Cities of the Future during the ASCE 2023 Convention opening reception at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.
“I loved that the film featured kids,” De La Peña said. “That’s the demographic we’re targeting. So seeing kids actively engaging in engineering challenges like that and being excited by the potential of what the world could look like is just great. I want to see more of that in the world, and I love that a seed is being planted with this film.”
De La Peña has been active in K-12 outreach opportunities in Southern California. She’s passionate about inspiring the next generation.
“It can be difficult for professionals to make the time during work hours to meet with students, but it’s been the best way to bring awareness,” De La Peña said. “We have to, because it doesn’t exist in pop culture.
“Even if you talk to professionals today, a lot of them started out interested in adjacent careers. Personally, I was interested in architecture because I knew what architecture was as a middle schooler. But I had no idea what civil engineering was until I got into an undergraduate program. And even then, I didn’t have a great concept of the depth of the profession, the breadth of the profession, and all the opportunities you have to make a difference in the world as a civil engineer.”
Cities of the Future follows ASCE’s massively popular – and highly effective outreach tool – Dream Big: Engineering Our World, also produced by MacGillivray Freeman Films.
The new film tracks ASCE younger member Paul Lee as he meets with other ASCE members around the world to learn more about sustainability strategies and infrastructure innovations to bring back to Los Angeles and a middle-school Future City team he’s helping to mentor.
The version of Cities of the Future screened for attendees was a rough draft. In fact, attendees filled out detailed surveys after the screenings that will help inform the filmmakers’ next round of edits.
The completed film is scheduled to premiere during Engineers Week 2024 in February.
Until then, here are some early reviews of the film from convention attendees:
Kristina Swallow, P.E., Pres.18.ASCE, planning and development services director for the city of Tucson, Arizona, who served as ASCE’s president when Dream Big was still rolling out in theaters and classrooms:
“I really enjoyed how the film showed how engineers can create change and really drive us to the future we’re looking for. It wasn’t just about sitting in the office and doing the plans; it was about the dreaming and creating. I really enjoyed that.”
Debbie Birrell, executive director of the Chicago Engineers’ Foundation:
“It definitely does feel like Dream Big-ger. Dream Big was awesome. I feel like this one is either going to match or exceed where Dream Big left off.”
Elisa De La Peña, E.I.T., ENV SP, A.M.ASCE:
“I immediately loved it. I’m familiar with Paul Lee and Monica Morales’ activism within ASCE and within the greater Los Angeles area. They’ve both contributed so much. It’s nice to see them representing engineers from the area.”
Erin M. Steever, P.E., M.ASCE, ASCE Region 7 director and engineering specialist at Bartlett & West, attended the VIP screening hours after discussing workforce challenges during the ASCE Board of Direction meeting:
“I thought it was fabulous. I really, really liked how they brought in a real engineer [Paul Lee] – a young engineer who’s advanced in his career. And they showed a lot of female engineers, like Peyton Gibson. I know a lot of people know Peyton being in the industry, so it was fun to see her as well.”
Carol Haddock, P.E., M.ASCE, director of public works for the city of Houston and former member of the ASCE Board of Direction:
“I look forward to the way that it’s going to inspire young kids to want to change the world and hopefully become civil engineers.”
Senior students from the Florida State University ASCE student chapter, Nicole Blanchard, Bailey Leider, and Allison Scheel, attended the movie screening and the ASCE Convention, having qualified for the ASCE Innovation Contest finals:
“I really enjoyed learning about the students’ projects. It was kind of reflective of our own experience in the innovation contest,” Leider said.
“I like how they emphasized that we are the future. The future is our kids, and their hands-on creativity and innovation is what will propel the future to a more sustainable world.”
Ben Baker, P.E., M.ASCE, a senior civil engineer for Gannett Fleming who has been very active with the ASCE Los Angeles Section and Younger Member Forum:
“The movie was great. Fun to see Paul Lee rock climbing. I know Paul through ASCE and Los Angeles, and I know he’s passionate about sustainability.
“Oh, and the flying car was pretty cool.”
Learn more about Cities of the Future.