A Hands-On Approach With My Son Sparked His Interest in Engineering

Showing, not telling, kids what engineers do can have a lasting impact

3 min read
A photo of a father and son.

IEEE Senior Member Qusi Alqarqaz [left] poses for a photo with his son.

Vanessa Velazquez

Like most parents, I want my kids to succeed and choose a career that is right for them. I may be biased, but I’ve always felt an engineering career would provide them with a secure, stable future. I’ve tried many times to persuade my two oldest children to get into the profession, but to no avail. So I tried a different approach with my youngest.

We all know actions speak louder than words, and as parents we must lead by example. That’s why I spent time with my son on a regular basis not only telling him about what engineers do but also showing him. This approach apparently got through to him, because this upcoming semester he’ll be studying environmental engineering at Texas A&M University, in Corpus Christi.

When I have asked students I’ve mentored why they chose engineering, they’ve often told me it’s because of their parents. Either the parents were engineers or they made it a priority to introduce their children at an early age to STEM programs such as robotics competitions and clubs.

What finalized my son’s decision to pursue engineering was a summer camp he attended while in high school that was held at the University of Texas, San Antonio (UTSA). There he learned about the various types of engineering fields from people who worked in those industries, and he participated in hands-on projects. I remember how excited he was at the end of each day, telling me about what he accomplished.

He also participated in several technical field trips for students organized by the IEEE Central Texas Section Power & Energy Society chapter, including one where he learned about a solar energy project in Austin. Students got to spend a full day at the newly built 3M factory, a manufacturing plant that operates 100 percent on solar power. The experts there explained how it all works.


I’d like to share with you an excerpt from my son’s college essay:

All my life I’ve wanted to be an engineer. My dad is an electrical engineer. He would always say that no matter what type of engineer you want to be, if you are good at what you do, you’ll have a job for the rest of your life.
Growing up, my dad taught me so much. He was a construction manager at the time, so I would go with him to Home Depot instead of the park. I would learn about all the tools, equipment, and different materials. My dad would buy extra supplies so I could learn about them and build something with them. I would go into my backyard and take my dad’s tools and just spend hours building things.
In high school, that’s when my parents saw my love for being an engineer, so they started to sign me up for camps. One of my favorite camps was the UTSA Engineering Camp. I learned how to be a leader and a team player. I became comfortable with the idea that I’m not always right and that it’s better to listen and take advice from others to make something successful. That specific camp made me realize this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I was born to become an engineer.

Reading that letter reinforced for me that every single moment I spent with my son, showing him what engineers do, has paid off. He has even told me he looks forward to one day telling his kids about the times we’ve spent together and showing them what he does as well.

IEEE Senior Member Qusi Alqarqaz is an electrical engineer with more than 28 years of experience in the power industry. He writes about engineering education and technology, works as a consultant, and mentors students. He contributes to The Institute as well as The Analog, a newsletter for the IEEE Central Texas Section, and IEEE Transmitter. He previously worked in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

The Conversation (0)