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Dream Big: Engineering Our World

Students working on a budget, create "Stinky"

Jeff Bridges was in my favorite movie last year (Hell or High Water), and it’s nice to hear him narrating this interesting movie that will be playing at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park for the next few months — Dream Big: Engineering Our World. Not only is he an A-list actor, but his name is Bridges, and he’s talking about bridges and buildings.

This a 45 minute documentary, which is fun in IMAX (lots of bridges and buildings to look around on the dome screen).

We learn all about engineers and the technological innovations they’re involved in. We get to meet engineers from various backgrounds, and a few of the women turn down big paying jobs to help in countries where they’re needed. One engineer grew up in Turkey, and after a big earthquake destroyed many buildings when she was 13 — she switched from wanting to be an actress to becoming an engineer. She’s now working in Seattle. Watching her enthusiasm while talking to kids is contagious.

Another woman is offered a high paying job, but follows her heart, and helps build foot bridges in developing countries.

At the screening in San Diego, I got to meet Fredi Lajvardi , who is featured in the film. He started an after-school robotics club at Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix that is prominently Latino and low income. Listening to one of his former students, who is now an engineer, break up crying while talking about how influential he was — is one of the most wonderful things you’ll see on screen this year. I won’t spoil for you how they did in a competition against MIT and other colleges, but their robot “Stinky” sure didn’t stink on that day.

I remember a few years ago, watching a movie at the Fleet that tried encouraging kids to get involved in the space program. I was surprised at how boring that was. This movie doesn’t suffer from that. It never talks down to the young teenagers that may be watching, and we learn how pivotal engineering is in the world. It’s inspirational (especially for young women) in the same way Hidden Figures was.

There’s a fun segment that takes place at a solar car challenge in Australia, with students that had never even left their small town.

We also learn some interesting facts about the strength of The Great Wall of China. Who knew sticky rice was used in the lime mortar to make it so strong? That short segment alone was more interesting than anything in that Matt Damon turkey that came out a few weeks ago.

My wife and I talked to Lajvardi after the screening. He talked about the many scientists that inspired him, and the many books he read about them. I loved the smile he got across his face as he said, “The principal let me do what I wanted. I worked my eight hours, and then said after school, I wanted to do my thing. He was hands off. When I started the robotics team, I wouldn’t let the kids tell me they couldn’t do things or have any reason to feel that they couldn’t be successful. If it came to going to college. They might say they didn’t have the money, or maybe they were undocumented immigrants. I just encouraged them to apply and work hard, and we’d worry about the rest later.”

It’s so encouraging to see there are teachers like this in the world.

It was also encouraging to hear Jeff Bridges narrate and not sound like has marbles in his mouth (sorry, but I’m thinking about True Grit and Hell or High Water). He even had a few interesting lines about the buildings (“The taller the structure, the more it flirts with mother nature”).

I play racquetball with a few engineers that are always asking me what good movies are out. I’ll tell them about this, the first four star movie I’ve reviewed this year.

It’s opening Friday. Bring the family.