Meet the Civil Engineer With More than 25 Million YouTube Views

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John Wolfhope

Water Resources Program Director

Grady Hillhouse, Water Resource Dam and Levee Design Engineer in San Antonio, runs an educational YouTube channel, Practical Engineering, which focuses on home-built demonstrations of fundamental engineering concepts while also advocating for the profession.

What started off as a fun, creative way to introduce engineering to his wife’s elementary class on Career Day in 2015 is now a hobby that has amassed a following of more than half a million subscribers. After three years, Practical Engineering is now a verified YouTube channel that has garnered more than 25 million views, thousands of followers on Facebook and Instagram, and has been featured on various sites and magazines. Grady’s diverse audience consists of engineers, professors, students and more.

Grady receives numerous emails from college professors, who have used his videos in their classrooms; students, who are working on science fair projects or have questions; and multiple video requests, which he adds onto his ever-growing list of video ideas. To his surprise, many of the most popular videos among Grady’s audience are about geotechnical engineering.

Through Practical Engineering, Grady has piqued the attention of fellow YouTubers, universities and museums that have requested to collaborate with him on projects. He is currently working with the Carnegie Science Center, located in Pittsburgh, to help build a model for their Science on the Road program. It targets students in kindergarten through eighth grade and introduces them to career options in science and technology fields.

When it comes to the future of Practical Engineering, Grady says he doesn’t have any hard goals.

“It’s more of a hobby and a way to unwind,” he said. “If it gets other people interested in engineering, then it’s a benefit.”

His growing audience keeps him motivated to keep creating videos and trying new things.

For those who are thinking of creating a YouTube channel, Grady advises to consider who your audience is.

“It’s hard to bridge that gap in the technical profession and the general public,” he said. “You need to be able to explain topics on a level that others can understand.”

Grady will speak at the 2018 Texas Civil Engineering Conference, CECON2018, on Sept. 21 in San Marcos, Texas. His presentation will focus on lessons learned as a civil engineer and unwitting social media influencer, generating public interest in infrastructure, and inspiring the next generation of civil engineers. Grady will also talk about how social media continues to play an increasingly important role in our communities and how we educate and communicate about engineering and infrastructure must evolve, as well.

“There’s an intersection of new media in engineering,” Grady said. “We have a lot to learn about social media and how to advocate for engineering.”

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John Wolfhope, PE, is Freese and Nichols’ Water Resources Program Director.