Fortified with large tubs of popcorn, more than 200 New York City middle- and high school students walked into an enormous IMAX movie theater in Manhattan on Feb. 14 to see a special early screening of the soon-to-be-released 3D film “Dream Big: Engineering Our World.”

The result of years of work by MacGillivray Freeman Films, the American Society of Civil Engineers and sponsor Bechtel Corp., it is the first big-screen film to promote to young people careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The launch, which will take place during National Engineers Week, from Feb. 20 to Feb. 24, includes extensive follow-up educational programs as well as events and exhibits. The film will be screened at IMAX theaters across the U.S., Canada and Mexico, beginning on Feb. 17.

The students are participants in the STEAM educational program of the New York City Dept. of Design and Construction (DDC).

Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora has added an "A" for "architecture" to the STEM acronym. Peña-Mora told ENR that he heard about the film from ASCE and “reached out to school principals” about bringing in students for the screening. The film and the DDC program share the idea of “increasing the interest of the younger generation in engineering … opening a new door for them,” said Peña-Mora.

"The movie was awesome," said Ginabell Made Paula, one of three students from Gregario Luperson High School for Science and Mathematics, in Manhattan. "I was thinking of jobs in engineering … but once I saw the people in the movie and how they help other people through engineering I was really interested."

Click here for a short trailer.

The $15-million film and supporting educational effort are sponsored by Bechtel, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the ASCE Foundation, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, and the United Engineering Foundation.

After the screening, students talked with director Greg MacGillivray, two engineers featured in the film—Bridges to Prosperity CEO Avery Bang and CH2M geotechnical engineer Menzer Pehlivan—and one of the film’s technical advisers, Dennis Poon, vice chairman of structural engineer Thornton-Tomasetti.

With stunning 3D special effects, the movie takes viewers on a journey to see large and small engineering projects and learn how engineers solve problems around the world. The stops range from Poon’s work to make the 632-meter-tall Shanghai Tower safe from typhoons to Bang’s team building a pedestrian bridge in Haiti to prevent villagers from drowning to Pehlivan’s work in Nepal helping to rebuild after the devastating 2015 earthquake.

The movie also showcases students, as well. It highlighted a prestigious robotics competition, which was won by an underwater robotics team from Carl Hayden High School, Phoenix, where 80% of students live below the poverty line. In the competition, the Carl Hayden students beat out a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

MacGillivray said that, beyond the focus on specific projects, the moviemakers and sponsors “decided to tell the story of four individuals and get into the heart of why they became engineers and why they think that job is so important to the world.” Pehlivan said, “The movie shows that engineering is not about math and science only. It’s about imagination, innovation and creation. It shows that you can be the person who makes the world a better place to live.”

Bang said engineers are "quite proud" of the film. Hopefully, he says, "The audience will say, 'I could do that! I could use my creativity and my genius to help the world in any number of ways.' "

Poon added, “Engineering starts with your imagination and your passion, and then it’s all about teamwork. Don’t worry about the math, it will come to you. Start with your ideas!”