Passion and persistence from Jane Howell Lombardi, chief communications officer for the American Society of Civil Engineers, were critical in bringing “Dream Big: Engineering Our World,” an IMAX movie about engineering, to the big screen. The film attracted 1.4 million viewers during its 2017 showings and has been booked into 80 theaters in the U.S. and other countries. The film has positively affected young viewers’ opinions about the field, independent research confirms. Now, Lombardi and the ASCE team have a new goal: to get a DVD of the film, supporting educational materials and teaching guides into every school in the U.S.

Lombardi in 2011 attended a Liberty Science Center content symposium that discussed using giant-screen IMAX movies to make STEM fields attractive to students. She brought the idea back to ASCE and kept pushing it. Developed around research and audience testing about what it takes to inspire kids, the film, which opened in February, focuses on young engineers and how their individual creativity is helping to change the world. The “Dream Big” program also features free educational tool kits, including lesson plans about engineering and 10 supplementary short videos on specific teaching topics such as “lean and green” and “wind engineering.” 

Jane Howell LombardiJane Howell Lombardi
Reston, Va.
ENR 3/6/17 p. 21
Successful film about engineering, which is geared to inspiring kids, now is making its way to schools across the U.S.

“When Jane proposed the idea, my first reaction was, ‘Are you out of your mind?’ ” says Patrick J. Natale, former ASCE executive director and now a Mott MacDonald VP. “She was the idea person and turned it into reality by not taking no for an answer.” Natale sold the idea to the ASCE board, and the ball got rolling. Christine Williams, executive vice president of the ASCE Foundation, led the drive to bring in the $15 million needed for the integrated IMAX movie and educational outreach program. Charlene Wheeless, Bechtel vice president for global corporate affairs, saw the film’s potential and encouraged Bechtel and the Stephen Bechtel Jr. Foundation to become the largest funders of the project. Director Greg MacGillivray of MacGillivray-Freeman Films decided to tell the stories of four individuals and why they think the job of an engineer is important and fulfilling.

Putting “Dream Big” educational videos into schools will broaden the audience beyond IMAX viewers. “Funding from the United Engineering Foundation is covering public high schools,” says Lombardi, “and we’re launching a campaign during Engineers’ Week to expand the program.” To participate, visit

Go Back to ENR's 2017 Top 25 Newsmakers