#EWeek2020, Engineering

I can think of several reasons why 500 kids would willingly wait in line for more than 20 minutes on a Saturday: free ice cream or puppies are chief among them. But what about an opportunity to look like a civil engineer?

Worldwide, we are responsible for interesting kids in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. One way to inspire kids to consider a career in STEM is to show them that they belong. That’s why I recently organized an I Look Like A Civil Engineer photo booth at Discover Engineering Family Day, a free event in Washington, D.C. The goal of I Look Like A Civil Engineer is to inspire a new generation, especially girls and minorities, to become civil engineers and to invite all people to consider how civil engineering affects their lives.

Eleven civil engineer volunteers and I ran the photo booth where those 500 kids pictured themselves as civil engineers. Each selected a civil engineering project as their backdrop, such as a dam, bridge, sea wall, roller coaster, building or stream restoration project, and we explained how civil engineers are involved in each type of project. We frequently heard from both kids and parents that they had no idea civil engineers worked on such diverse projects that impact the environment and the world we live in. I believe once kids realize how society benefits from engineering every day, and that civil engineers are responsible for making our infrastructure safe, designing the cities of the future and protecting our natural resources, they will be more interested in civil engineering and STEM.


After selecting a backdrop and donning a construction hard hat, the kids proudly held “their” design plans for the photograph, which was then printed and emailed to them. It was amazing to see so many kids excited about being an engineer.

The photo booth is a small part of I Look Like A Civil Engineer’s efforts to change perceptions about civil engineering. We are also telling stories of civil engineers on our website and are raising funds to create a fun, interactive app that shows the public what civil engineers do and exposes kids to diverse teams of civil engineers. Contributors will be invited to join I Look Like a Civil Engineer at key milestones in the app development process, see the app get developed firsthand and be part of its design and creation.

I Look Like A Civil Engineer believes attracting students of all backgrounds to civil engineering as a career benefits both the students and society. Students benefit from working in a high-demand field where they can be creative problem solvers and do work that helps people. Society benefits from having more of our best and brightest helping to shape our future.

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Civil engineers play an important role in designing solutions to the world’s most pressing issues. Globally, there are nearly 800 million people without dependable access to clean water and 2.5 billion more without access to modern sanitation, putting them at risk for disease. In order to bring people out of poverty, everyone needs access to clean water, proper sanitation and resilient infrastructure. Civil engineers plan, design and construct these basic systems.

Through the photo booth and our other efforts, kids get to see themselves as civil engineers and learn about civil engineering. I hope that in 10 to 15 years, some of the kids we inspired will be engineers with AECOM, writing about the amazing work they’ve done to improve the world’s health, happiness and safety.

You can see more pictures on the I Look Like A Civil Engineer wall! If you are a civil engineer and want to make an impact on the next generation, tell your story at www.ilooklikeacivilengineer.com.

lynn mayo_headshot_89x100Lynn Mayo, project engineer, is AECOM’s water resources technical practice leader, North America. She has worked as a civil engineer for 30 years and is co-founder of I Look Like A Civil Engineer, LLC. Civil engineers are invited to inspire the next generation of engineers by telling their story at www.ilooklikeacivilengineer.com.
LinkedIn: Lynn Mayo

Originally published Apr 18, 2016

Author: Lynn Mayo