BY CARMEN KILLICK
Public Relations Coordinator
"Richard is fabulous. He kept the students captivated by all the
wonderful toys he brought."
"This was one time when the students couldn't wait to write their
"He has such a way with students. He presented to their level with
a lovely voice and smile."
-Praise by teachers for Outreach volunteer Mr. Richard Hall, P.Eng.
Richard Hall, P.Eng., has been a volunteer with
APEGGA's Outreach Program for four years. Richard completed his bachelor
of science degree in electrical and computer engineering at the University
of Calgary in 1994. At the age of 32, he has worked as a software consultant
and systems engineer for local companies, as well as on his own entrepreneurial
Richard and his wife Doris recently moved to Toronto.
We at APEGGA thank Richard for the generous gift of his time and energy
to the engineering and scholastic community.
In this volunteer profile, he discusses his prime reasons for his involvement
in the APEGGA Outreach Program, which puts engineers in schools and classrooms
for subject presentations and career advice.
1) What do engineers possess that they can contribute
to students and their education?
Engineering, presented as real-world, useful knowledge,
illustrates how knowledge can be directly applicable to society's continuing
operation, advancement and ultimately its survival. Our knowledge is not
just a dry piece of paper with calculations on it -- it goes through a
second creation that ends up with computers, bridges, fuels and more.
Our presence in the classroom gives students a glimpse of how they might
actually use the knowledge they acquire for the 12 prime years of their
youth. Our influence makes science related classes an exciting journey
of exploration in the real world rather than a torturous set of homework
assignments. This, we hope, produces a lot more scientifically informed
and investigative young minds, and a better likelihood of creating a few
more engineers and scientists to carry on the profession.
2) Why is it important for the public's understanding
of science to grow?
A democratic society relies on an informed and
politically active public. A democracy that is not scientifically literate
(or is uninvolved) will not make rational decisions for technical matters;
no matter how advanced its scientific circles. Instead it will make its
decisions based on popular emotional, short-sighted agendas and not by
reason. As individuals and a society, many of our actions and much of
our neglect, affecting our integraged human and ecological communities,
3) What does professional accountability mean
Engineers have a foot in theory and a foot in reality
-- engineers are the ones who know not only what could be but also how
to make it happen and what the likely effects will be. We understand at
least as well as anyone what "the numbers" mean to the real
world, and this intellectual vision institutes a special contract with
humanity. Engineering, like all other professions, ultimately services
humanity and is always subject to human agendas and goals. The engineering
profession absolutely needs to have not only a theoretical and practical
aspect, but a humane one as well -- engineers represent the vortex of
science and its application towards a human agenda in the same way doctors
apply medical science to patients. I believe that it's important to instill,
cultivate and exemplify this crucial character trait early on in the life
of the students I present to -- I think it has much more impact and gives
the profession a more exciting, humane look.
4) Do you recall a particularly memorable volunteer
In one of my presentations, a student accidentally broke
a fragile glass toy. She dashed from the room in tears. After cleaning
up the glass, I went to talk to her, and reassure her that as long as
she was all right, everything else could be fixed. I told her that engineers
believe that people are much more important than machines, and that it's
part of the engineers oath to make sure that the people are OK first,
and then to look after the machines. Her reply was that she wanted to
be "an engineer like that."
5) Who is the one person in the world you admire
the most and why?
My grandfather, Les Hall: He never stopped being interested
in the world. He lived a very diverse life, and between him and his wife,
always enjoyed that diverse life and never had any regrets. He worked
the railroad as a locomotive engineer (the kind that all small kids seem
to identify engineering with), then driving buses, then at Calgary's General
hospital. He didn't take jobs that he didn't enjoy and never regretted
or wasted any of his life. He was very bright and open-minded, and just
devious enough to make sure no one took advantage of him. He was a lifelong
learner, and always stretched past his comfort zone - he once even took
a gourmet cooking for camping course (wilderness entertaining?). I once
gave him the same electricity and magnetism presentation that I give in
schools, and he got so excited about one of the toys that he had me buy
it for him. At 93, and stricken with Parkinson's disease, he decided he
had the time to start learning how to use the Internet. He made me realize
that the world has so much to explore if you're just curious about it,
and that no one in their own lifetime could possibly fit it all in. He
used every day of his life to make things around himself better for both
himself and others.
6) What is your motto?
"We never are, we are always becoming."