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Science of TRON

Listen to audio from the "Science of TRON" panel, featuring director Joe Kosinski, producer Sean Bailey, and science consultants Sean Carroll & John Dick. Learn More

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Hugo Draws Inspiration from Some Old-School Engineering

Everyone knows Thanksgiving is all about the movies, and this year theaters are offering up three family-friendly films: The Muppets, Arthur Christmas, and Hugo. The Thanksgiving lineup is sure to bring laughs and stunning animation but it also offers moviegoers a little science. The Muppets features the return of Muppet scientists (and CERN employees) Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, while Arthur Christmas is a high-tech take on Santa Claus (so will we see engineer elves?). But what about Hugo, the Martin Scorsese–directed film about an orphan living in a Paris train station in the 1930s? The 3-D adventure offers a glimpse into some engineering history with the help of an automaton. 

Because Dreams Need Doing

What does an engineer do? If you’re having trouble coming up with an answer, you aren’t alone. In a study of K-12 graders, the majority believed engineers build buildings and fix cars; 10% of the students confused engineers with train operators. Another study asked teachers “What kinds of work do engineers do for their jobs?” Between 25 and 35% of the surveyed teachers selected clean teeth, arrange flowers, sell food and make pizza.

The studies’ results are startling, but what does this have to do with film? The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) recently launched a new website (www.engineeringmessages.org) devoted to changing the conversation about engineering. The NAE worked with a market research and brand development company to create new messages and taglines that challenge common misperceptions of engineering. Which got us thinking, what films support positive messages about engineering?