It’s easy to lose faith in humanity’s future. A quick glance at the news is often enough to send anyone into a bender. In this type of climate, a place like Epcot that provides an optimistic look at our future is important. While that focus has waned recently, there are still places everywhere that convey a similar vibe. I’ve found that soul in our St. Louis Science Center, which shows the power of scientific discovery in its exhibits and OMNIMAX films. During a recent trip, my daughter and I caught up with Greg MacGillivray’s Dream Big: Engineering Our World. This inspiring giant-screen film channels a similar spirit and deserves our attention.
Dream Big was released earlier this year and is currently playing at science centers and museums around the world. What makes it connect is the focus on a better future through brain power and ingenuity. Jeff Bridges narrates this hopeful look at the potential for technology to improve our world. The spectacular opening POV shot places us directly inside the International Space Station for a rare glimpse of the Earth from above. There are few better examples than the ISS to show how nations can work together to achieve great things.
A Changing World
We’ve all seen the footage of Mission Control at NASA when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. The dedicated engineers had another thing in common — they were all white guys! It was hard for a young girl to see herself becoming an engineer, particularly a woman of color. That tide is changing, and this film can only help that cause. The story concentrates on the work of four engineers (three women), including a Turkish-American and Mexican immigrant. My daughter loves math and science, and it’s critical for her to see female role models on the screen.
After experiencing a deadly earthquake in Turkey, Menzer Pehlivan decided to become an engineer and work to improve buildings’ stability. Pehlivan’s doctoral thesis focused on dangers to nuclear facilities, and her story provides a concrete example of a way to make a difference through engineering. We also meet Avery Bang, whose nonprofit Bridges to Prosperity helps construct bridges to give people in remote communities access to basic services. The stories in this film about villagers in Haiti dying while crossing rivers to get medicine are tragic. Bang’s work reminds us that engineers do more than just help design giant buildings.
We also meet the students of the robotics club at Carl Hayden High, who build remarkable machines with limited resources. Angelica Hernandez was one of those students and now works as an engineer on energy efficiency programs. Through her story, we learn about the remarkable success of Stinky. This robot might not be as shiny as MIT’s creations, but it defeated them in a marine vehicle competition. This story reinforces the heart of Dream Big; human ingenuity will lead us to success in the 21st century.
Tomorrow’s Horizons are Here
Dream Big contains its share of grand structures, including the Shanghai Tower and the Great Wall of China. Those massive icons are important because they show inventive ways to solve problems. With the global population rising and limited resources available, it will take serious ingenuity to face new obstacles. A concept like the Hyperloop from Elon Musk is one example of a unique solution. Director of Photography Brad Ohlund placed an IMAX camera onto the Hyperloop sled for this film, and the scene makes an impact. The Hyperloop is currently just a test model in the desert of North Las Vegas, but the potential is amazing.
This example is one of many in this entertaining film, which sells engineering as an exciting field that will help deliver a beautiful tomorrow. MacGillivray also directed classics like To Fly! and Everest, and he understands how to work in this medium. The visuals can tell the story with limited exposition, and that approach helps Dream Big stay light on its feet. Many IMAX films get bogged down in the information and lose the heart. The mix of exciting shots and engaging people makes this one stand out from the pack. Supported by catchy, rousing songs like “One Day” from Matisyahu, it’s a fun ride yet also has an important message.
When I first visited EPCOT Center as a kid in 1984, the scope was like nothing I’d seen. The future it presented just felt right, and the connections between pavilions made sense. That cohesive, optimistic theme is present in Dream Big and inspires me in a similar way. If you have a son or daughter with an interest in engineering or science, show them this film. It makes a convincing case for the power of those fields to save us all. I’d love to see more of this message in Epcot, but it’s still a thrill to have the opportunity to enjoy it wherever we live.
Visit the official site of Dream Big: Engineering Our World to learn more information, watch the trailer, and check theater listings for where it’s currently playing.
Learn more about Bridges to Prosperity.
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Leaving Orbit by Margaret Lazarus Dean