Times have changed: both the science of engineering and the art of war have developed beyond the dreams of our forefathers. We change with the times and keep abreast of progress.” These words may have been written about cybersecurity, energy resilience, AI, or any of the other complex problems today’s engineers are at the forefront of tackling. However, they were actually written in 1929 by Maj. S. L. Scott of the Operations and Training Section, Office Chief of Engineers. Like many of the early members of the Society of American Military Engineers, Maj. Scott foresaw how crucial it would be to engage, inspire, and educate engineers both young and established to provide for our national defense.
A HISTORICAL NEED
When SAME was established in 1920, only nine years before Maj. Scott’s article, education for engineers was at the heart of its mission. World War I had brought industry and military engineer leaders closer than ever before, and the shared experiences and camaraderie showed how much each sector could learn from the other—in fact, how it was critical for national security that they do so. Through its local Post structure and national professional journal, The Military Engineer, the young Society was well on its way to ensuring readiness for the nation’s civil and military needs.
In the years that followed, the engineering field continued to evolve, and with it so did SAME’s outreach. After World War II brought a surge in technological capability that promised to reshape the form and function of combat from that point on, Lt. Gen. Samuel Sturgis Jr., USA, Army Chief of Engineers, remarked that “today’s wars are engineers’ wars.” Engineers quickly identified the critical need for a pipeline of talented students to follow the current generation, and so the focus fell on colleges and trade schools. Articles in The Military Engineer broke down population trends and graduating class sizes to determine whether through technical analysis it was possible to answer the question of ensuring sufficient engineering manpower for the future.
This approach gave way to less mathematically rigorous strategies as engineering fields grew more complex and interdisciplinary—for what good would it be to get students into a university if the curriculum did not adequate prepare them for the problems they would be tasked with solving? “Thus it is realized that the presentation of relationships, small and large, ranging and linking the fields of engineering and science, is the proper content of modern technical education,” G. Brooks Earnest wrote in 1961. While it would be nearly 40 years until the phrase STEM would become mainstream, the need for an integrated and holistic educational curriculum was already evident.
Social movements in the 1970s and 1980s both influenced engineering fields—namely, in the rise of environmental engineering—and reshaped the educational approach. As the world grew more interconnected and it became more difficult to departmentalize, so to did university curricula. “The intent was to provide engineering graduates with a broad, well-rounded education to make them more fully aware of their social responsibilities and more capable of considering these responsibilities in making decisions,” Dr. Robert K. Hughes wrote in 1986. With engineering projects also growing in scope and complexity, social skills like project management and leadership development found themselves being incorporated more frequently into an engineer’s toolset.
Today’s engineer is responsible for technologies that have far surpassed the “dreams of our forefathers” in 1929. And as breakthroughs continue to reach new heights—sometimes literally, in the example of the creation of the U.S. Space Force— it was increasingly obvious that the education of our modern engineers could not be left up to mere chance. While the educational approach had evolved greatly since a century ago, a concerted effort still needed to be made to find, recruit, and nurture those who would become the engineers of tomorrow.
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
SAME addressed this need in our 2025 SAME Strategic Plan, which sets out a lofty goal to “Lead efforts to inspire, encourage, and enable youth to pursue STEM careers; help develop the technical capacity that our nation needs to remain globally competitive.”
Along with its widespread Student Chapters at the university level, SAME supports high school programs and scholarship funding. In 2019 alone, Posts contributed 17,251 hours on STEM engagement that reached 28,621 students, and donated $653,238 to STEM-related activities.
However, scholarships and financial support is only one key to cultivating the next generation of engineering talent. As Henry Dulaney, P.E., F.SAME, USACE Vicksburg District, wrote as part of the 2025 SAME Strategic Plan, “Many of us chose this field because we were exposed to it by someone else who worked in a STEM position. We have a great responsibility to pay it forward for the next generation,” Through opportunities on both a local and national level, SAME is ensuring that young engineers are lifted up and given the tools and opportunities they need to develop into full-fledged engineers of tomorrow.
One way SAME is getting hands-on STEM experience to young engineers is through the SAME Engineering and Construction Camp program. Started in 2000 in conjunction with the U.S. Air Force Academy, the program has grown over the last two decades to include five camps held across every service branch. Over 300 students regularly attend the camps, where they experience a week of STEM activities selected to challenge their leadership, teamwork, and engineering skills.
As many know, however, education does not stop after graduation. Along with its professional journal, The Military Engineer, SAME provides its members with continuing education opportunities in the form of topic-focused webinars through its Communities of Interest, guest speakers at the local Post and Regional levels, and national conferences keynoted by engineering leaders across both the industry and military sectors.
Whether it is financial support through a local Post scholarship programs, exposure to STEM through one of our SAME Engineering and Construction Camps, or continuing education through an online webinar or conference, SAME is taking the next step in the holistic education of our next generation of engineers.
While SAME’s founders may not have been able to foresee the specific technical problems today’s engineers face, they recognized that the changing landscape—and the ability to change along with it—would be a constant challenge for the engineering community. Through support for educational needs, the creation of engaging programs and events, and inspiring experiences that create lifelong learners, SAME is helping enrich the pipeline of tomorrow’s engineers.
The Society of American Military Engineers is celebrating 100 years of service to the nation in dedication to national defense. Its official Centennial book, SAME: The Second Century Begins – Preparing for the Future by Building on the Past will release in Spring 2021. Filled with a combination of unique archival material from the past century of engineering history and an unprecedented look at tomorrow, this book is the perfect commemoration of SAME’s past, present, and future. Pre-orders are available now.