A Salute to Engineering
Regardless of your location, occupation, or passion, COVID-19 has likely transformed your life over the past year. It has affected everything from work and education to entertainment and daily life. During the height of the pandemic, people around the world had a sudden transition in livelihood. This transition would not have been possible without the intervention of engineers. Whatever problem COVID-19 presented, was supported by the ingenuity and creativity of engineers, including medical aid, online learning, and daily appliances. Engineers have played a vital role in the world’s response to the pandemic, and especially as the daughter of an engineer, their contribution to the rapid evolution of technological advancement in physical infrastructure and programming excites me the most.
Of the countless contributions engineers have made over the past year, it is evident that their direct impact on healthcare technology and medical equipment has not only changed, but saved lives. In April, the world was facing a peril of medical equipment shortages. Globally, engineers collaborated to support the ever-growing healthcare equipment crisis. Like many other companies, Xerox sensed the urgency of the situation and repurposed their production to manufacture ventilators. Originally a business that produced printers and photocopiers, Xerox began to mass-produce inexpensive, disposable ventilators. Engineers worked tirelessly behind-the-scenes to operate the development and construction of these tools, which protected millions of patients. In addition to the ventilators, hand sanitizers also became a necessity, causing a sell-out in stores. Companies such as Bacardi, Brewdog, and ExxonMobil switched from producing liquor to making Isopropyl alcohol when they noticed they could help the world overcome this hurdle. Engineers of diverse backgrounds came to the table to make personal protective equipment available to patients and medical workers, including industrial, materials, and biomedical engineers. A true tribute is owed, as engineers served as the backbones for each problem they solved—supporting design, production, and marketing.
The COVID-19 pandemic shifted our daily interactions to online alternatives, and engineers were behind the rapid evolution of online tools and programs to make this possible. With an increase in demand for virtual technology, engineers have worked nonstop to increase product quality, improving the user interface and user experience exponentially. For me, restricted in-person contact with family overseas has also been difficult, but engineers made it convenient for us to meet over video calls. Over time, I watched the advancements of video-call features, creating meetups that seemed real. School also took a huge turn this year, as we transitioned to virtual education and were faced with technical problems that challenged learning. As these issues were fixed one by one, I can’t help but think that engineers have been a part of every aspect of our lives, including our lives at home. Around the world, people made efforts to reduce the amount of time spent outside of their homes, seeking substitutes for in-store shopping. The higher usage of online shopping has accelerated the progression of online systems and deliveries, improving user components such as personalized content and device adaptability. Again, engineers came to the rescue as they implemented more e-commerce programs and features to support our shopping experience.
To defeat the challenges presented by COVID-19 and accomplish some of the greatest engineering progress the world has ever seen, engineers have also taken huge personal sacrifice. Throughout the duration of the pandemic, many engineers expanded working hours, some staying at hospitals to monitor, study, and help manage the pandemic. For example, my dad, an engineer, had to constantly shift back and forth between working at an office and working from home. For many engineers, including my dad, working overtime meant less time for family and less time for themselves. I understand the impact of these selfless acts, and I am only grateful.
Engineers have always been a critical part of our society, but COVID-19 cast the spotlight on their passion to help our communities thrive despite immense obstacles. We have seen how engineers responded to the massive change in our circumstances by developing new equipment and creating new technologies. These feats deserve a grateful recognition, both personally and professionally. So, if you’re an engineer, I want you to know that I see you, I hear you, and I salute you.
Domonoske, Camila. “ExxonMobil Starts Making Hand Sanitizer, Following Liquor Companies.” NPR, NPR, 24 Apr. 2020, www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/24/844363276/exxonmobil-starts-making-hand-sanitizer-weeks-after-many-liquor-companies.
Miller, Anthony. “The State of User Experience (UX) for 2020: Key Trends.” millermedia7, 4 Dec. 2019, millermedia7.com/state-of-user-experience-ux-2020/.
The New York Times. “Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 Mar. 2020, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html.
Williams, Mobolaji. “Engineers Work Longer & Less Regular Hours During COVID-19.” Engineering Leadership Insights, Jellyfish, 30 Dec. 2020, jellyfish.co/blog/engineering-work-hours-covid-19/.
“Xerox and Vortran Medical Partnering to Mass Produce Disposable Ventilators.” Xerox Newsroom, Xerox, 6 Apr. 2020, www.news.xerox.com/news/Xerox-and-Vortran-Medical-partnering-to-mass-produce-disposable-ventilators.