Math And Science Skills Essential To Young Engineers

By Kenneth T. Derr, Chairman and CEO
Chevron Corporation

South San Francisco, California

I remember when the slide rule was an essential classroom tool. Today, the classroom wouldn't be complete without a computer. I remember watching the Sputnik launch, awed like the rest of the world by the first ever artificial satellite launching. Now, endeavors in outer space are almost common.

In just a short time, I have felt the effects of numerous, substantial engineering advancements. Advancements that have changed the way we live - even how long we live. From cellular phones and Internet searches to organ transplants and artificial limbs, engineers contribute to nearly every major technological and medical advancement.

In 1996, it's difficult for any of us to imagine life without everyday conveniences like telephones, refrigeration and motorized vehicles. So, as another National Engineers Week passes, it's important for all of us to reflect on the significance of this field and look toward the future of engineering.

Technology will continue to be the driving force in our global marketplace. And America's future competitiveness depends on the quality of our students. We at Chevron are constantly searching for well-educated engineers, and like many other U.S. corporations, we can only benefit from cultivating a strong engineering workforce here at home.

We need our children to excel in math and science so that they may continue to make advancements in medicine, academia and industry. The cures for AIDS and cancer, disposal of nuclear waste and energy conservation are all issues that will be taken on by our children.

Yet, according to recent national exams, three-quarters of U.S. students lack basic math skills. And the National Center for Research in Mathematical Sciences Education says that American high school students routinely rank lower than European and Asian students in comprehensive science exams.

As a corporation, Chevron has developed several programs to help combat this decline. We realize how important it is for parents, teachers and corporations to team-up to help motivate our nation's children to pursue math and science studies.

Engineering is essential, interesting work. With disciplines that range from mechanical, civil and chemical to electrical, environmental and biotechnical, there are numerous options available to the engineer. And from a standpoint, you couldn't pick a better career. Engineers earn an average of $60,000 - $90,000 per year. The average starting salary for graduates with a bachelors degree in engineering is higher, and unemployment lower, than almost any other field.

Most people become engineers because they enjoy math and science. And most students who enjoy math and science do so because they were encouraged in their efforts. My own pursuit of a mechanical engineering degree was largely the result of my father's encouragement. When children ask questions like, "Why is the sky blue?" and "How does the television work?", we must foster their curiosity, teaching them how to find their own answers, make their own discoveries. These discoveries will help us in the decades to come.

The U.S. has always been a strong force in the global marketplace, and we will continue to be as long as we focus on the future. There is nothing more essential to the future of engineering than the education of our youth. We must work together to ensure sound math and science educations for our children.

With a master's degree in business administration and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University, Kenneth T. Derr began his career in Chevron's manufacturing department in 1962. Ensuing assignments included staff economic analyst and various positions with Chevron's El Segundo Refinery. He became president of the company's U.S. oil and gas subsidiary in 1979 and vice chairman of the corporation in 1985. Derr has been Chevron's chairman and chief executive since 1989.

To find out more about engineering opportunities, contact your local college placement office.

See the related Press Release: Chevron Executives Inspire Future Engineers.

Different Disciplines Of Engineering

Mechanical (Designs)

  • Dimensions / Fit
  • Transportation / Movement of 'Things'
  • Power / Energy / Work Conversion
  • Lubrication and Wear

Civil (Structural & Geo-Technical)

  • Load-bearing capacity (ability to withstand dead & live loads)
  • Lateral (side) & Torsional (twisting) stability - (earthquakes; wind)
  • Foundations (structures on which things sit & attach to the earth)
  • Soil stability and drainage

Chemical (Process)

  • Chemical 'ingredients' & 'reactions' (two things can create a third)
  • Heat & Energy requirements of reaction
  • 'Quality' & 'Efficiency' of manufacturing process

Electrical (Electronics, communication, control systems)

  • Electrical power generation & supply
  • Circuitry (wiring, components, processors, 'chips')
  • Transmitting, receiving & storing data / info. (radio, 'optical')
  • Instrumentation & Control (speed, start, stop, temperature, chemical 'ingredients')

Health, Environmental & Safety (HE&S)

  • Safe 'exposure' levels; chemical, noise, 'radiation'
  • Protection and cleanup of air, water, soil (& recycling)
  • Safe design and operation of equipment
  • Emergency response (workplace and community)

Other Kinds of Engineering

  • Computer /software
  • Petroleum/Reservoir
  • Aerospace

To find out more about engineering opportunities, contact you local college placement office.

Updated: February 1996