Get Ready to Dream Big

Engineering is about to get huge – larger than life and in surround sound.

The filmmakers at MacGillivray Freeman Films (MFF), in partnership with the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and Bechtel Corporation made the new IMAX movie “Dream Big: Engineering Our World.

Now, they want it to start a movement.

Student engineering teams from around the world build sun-powered vehicles to compete in the World Solar Challenge, a 1,500-mile race across Australia to advance solar and transportation technology.

“Dream Big” director Greg MacGillivray says his team wanted to make a great film, and serve a larger purpose. “We love to create entertaining, informative, visually transporting movies, and this one we think is bigger and more moving than any we have created yet. But we also harbor a hope that this film can act, along with so many other efforts on behalf of STEM, as a bit of a catalyst. We hope to one day meet a young woman who maybe says to us, ‘I saw “Dream Big,” and that’s where my own dreams started.’ That’s an exciting idea to us personally, because the more engineers we have from different backgrounds, following different paths and ideas, the brighter our future looks.”

The film’s debut aligns with Engineers Week (Feb. 19-25) and of course, the theme this year is Dream Big, with educational resources and programs for museums, engineers and educators.

On China’s coast, where typhoons roar, engineers designed the Shanghai Tower with a twisting, spiral shape. Its aerodynamic design drastically reduces the impact of the wind on this 2,073-foot, 128-story structure, the second tallest building in the world.

MacGillivray and his team approached “Dream Big” by travelling the globe in search of some of engineering’s most captivating feats and stories. The three-year production effort took the film crew to a greater number of locations than any previous film they’ve done.

The approach worked.

“The challenges engineers are taking on are the big ones: clean water, smart buildings, climate change, creating sustainable cities for tomorrow,” says ASCE Executive Director Tom Smith. “And that means there is a pressing need for lots of young people to bring their fresh ideas. We hope many will be inspired when they see how engineering can take you to different places across the globe, from China to Nepal to Seattle. You also see how different kinds of people – from Avery Bang working in Haiti to a first-generation American such as Angelica Hernandez making her dreams come true in Phoenix to Steve Burrows flying across China – can each make their own individual mark on their communities and the world at large.”

“…there is a pressing need for lots of young people to bring their fresh ideas. We hope many will be inspired when they see how engineering can take you to different places across the globe, from China to Nepal to Seattle.”

While the visuals of engineering wonders are a sight to behold, the film’s production manager Meghan MacGillivray says the engineers themselves steal the show, “‘Dream Big’ has some of the most dramatic footage we’ve yet captured, but the real drama is in our cast. Menzer, Avery, Steve and Angelica invited us into their personal worlds. They lift the curtain on what it’s really like to be an engineer in today’s world – what drives them, what they love about what they do, what makes them so excited to get up every day and take on such incredible challenges – and the picture they paint is hard to resist.”

Engineers led by Avery Bang work on the new Chameau footbridge in Haiti. Bridges like these, built in developing countries, signal a new field of study and work called humanitarian engineering.

Charlene Wheeless, principal vice president at Bechtel for Global Corporate Affairs notes that “Dream Big” celebrates the hard work and creativity of engineers around the globe, “The film showcases how engineers dream big to create a sustainable future and better quality of life for people everywhere. Whether its mega-construction projects, technology innovations, solar cars, or humanitarian structures, engineers across many disciplines, backgrounds and industries can and do change the world.”

Producer Shaun MacGillivray agrees, “Sure, you need to study math and science to become an engineer. But engineering is just as much about getting creative, about helping people and even carving out our human destiny. That’s exciting stuff for anyone.”

Photos courtesy of MacGillivray Freeman Films, copyright American Society of Civil Engineers.


Find Dream Big in a theater near you

More About the Film

Narrated by Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges, “Dream Big” is the first film for IMAX and giant-screen theatres to answer the call of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) initiative – which offers a fresh perspective on engineering and aims to inspire kids of diverse backgrounds to become the innovators, educators and leaders who will improve the lives of people across our entire planet throughout the 21st Century.

The film’s eclectic, stereotype-busting engineer cast includes:

Menzer Pehlivan, a Turkish-American who grew up wanting to be a movie star until a huge earthquake revealed another way to make a major impact on the world (engineering buildings that keep people safe).


Steve Burrows, a curiosity-driven British structural engineer who is a kind of time traveler, using cutting-edge technology to uncover the ancient past in China and construct the future in San Francisco.


Avery Bang, who builds bridges in underdeveloped countries, connecting people with new opportunities.



Angelica Hernandez, a Mexican immigrant turned leading Arizona engineer who got her start in the legendary robotics club at Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, Arizona.


Educational Resources

With the support of ASCE, Bechtel and additional partners, MFF is presenting exhibits, events and educational programs to accompany “Dream Big” to go beyond the viewing experience to a fully interactive educational movement.

They include:

  • An expertly designed school program that includes 12 lesson plans for grades K-12
  • 50 hands-on engineering activities designed specifically for museums and informal outreach
  • Plans for engineering-themed events including Girls’ Nights Out
  • Collaborations with local ASCE groups across the country, as well as other groups including the Society of Women Engineers and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
  • Local engineers leading demos and events at museums, schools and public places