Dream Big: Engineering Our World

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Dream Big: Engineering Our World Movie Poster Image
STEM-themed docu will inspire kids to become engineers.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 42 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational value

Viewers will learn how important engineers and engineering are to society, from designing and building strong bridges and public transportation to tackling high density city planning. Sends the clear message that the future depends partially on the innovation, ingenuity, and curiosity of engineers. Encourages girls to pursue their engineering dreams by highlighting various women engineers.

Positive messages

Explains the importance of civil engineering to transportation, housing, architecture, and technology. Makes the point that the future requires innovative engineers to solve problems of a growing population living in higher-density areas and consuming more resources. Because of engineers, we're able to live and travel more safely.

Positive role models & representations

All of the profiled people are intelligent, hard-working engineers. Two of the engineers featured overcame difficult pasts, and one dedicates herself to building bridges in underdeveloped countries.

Violence & scariness

Footage from earthquake devastation. A scene in which someone describes how a mother died (drowned) while crossing a river. Brief shot of a covered-up dead body.

Sexy stuff
Language
Consumerism

Bechdel is a sponsor/producer, and they're mentioned in the film.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dream Big: Engineering Our World is a 42-minute STEM-themed IMAX documentary about how engineers are responsible for important technological innovations that propel us into the future. The film highlights working engineers from different backgrounds, most of them women. They work on a variety of projects, from building earthquake-proof structures to foot bridges in developing countries. Viewers will also meet a young engineer whose love of STEM began in an afterschool robotics club. The documentary -- which is narrated by Jeff Bridges and was produced in partnership with the American Society of Civil Engineers and presented by the Bechtel Corporation -- encourages young viewers to be curious, see how pivotal engineering is to the future, and understand why the world needs more engineers. 

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What's the story?

DREAM BIG: ENGINEERING OUR WORLD is MacGillivray Freeman Films' first IMAX documentary to focus specifically on STEM -- and, even more specifically, on the importance of engineering. Narrated by Jeff Bridges, the documentary surveys the historical, contemporary, and future importance of engineering by highlighting prominent engineers in various fields, most of them women. Produced in partnership with the American Society of Civil Engineers and presented by Bechtel Corporation, the documentary features engineers like Menzer Pehlivan, a Turkish-American who became an engineer after an earthquake in Turkey changed her life. She specializes in building earthquake-proof structures. Avery Bang builds bridges in the developing world, all of them simply engineered footbridges made of rope and wood but that nonetheless create huge opportunities for local communities -- like being able to attend school or get supplies across bodies of water. And then there's engineer Angelica Hernandez, a Mexican immigrant, who learned her love of engineering from the robotics club at Carl Hayden High School (that's the club highlighted in Underwater Dreams). It's a inspiring set of people.

Is it any good?

Although it clocks in at just 42 minutes, this IMAX documentary does an epic job of inspiring young viewers to realize the importance of engineering to society -- and perhaps to even pursue it. Extra props to MacGillivray Freeman and the ASCE for finding three fascinating women engineers from diverse backgrounds to profile. Each is a wonderful role model. Pehlivan, who understands first-hand how devastating an earthquake can be, now specializes in buildings that can withstand them. Bang gave up a more lucrative private-sector career to dedicate herself to building footbridges in underdeveloped countries like Haiti. And Hernandez is a particularly relevant example of the difference a dedicated teacher can make in a low-income student's life. Their paths to engineering and their work are all different, but their stories are all equally compelling and empowering.

After Hernandez is introduced, the film starts to focus on the legendary Carl Hayden underwater robotics team, which at this point has been featured in both a documentary and a feature film because it's such a great David vs. Goliath story. There's also a fun snippet about a small Mississippi high school that sent a team to race in a solar car challenge in Australia. Even though the team's car was built for a fraction of the cost of the other entries, making it to the race at all still an incredible feat for the students. Those two stories alone will make kids want to run out and join their school's robotics or engineering clubs. For such a short documentary, Dream Big packs quite a punch and, particularly for girls, is an inspiring example of why we need to invest in STEM education.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Dream Big's message about the importance of STEM education and engineering. What role does engineering play in our everyday lives? How about the future?

  • Why do you the movie highlights so many women engineers? What about the Carl Hayden robotics team? Why is diversity important in engineering?

  • How do engineers use curiosity in their work? Why is that an important character strength?

  • Did watching this movie make you more interested in engineering? Which story or engineer had the most personal impact?

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