What is Engineering? – The Definition

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Engineering is the application of scientific knowledge to solving problems in the real world. While science (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.) allows us to gain an understanding of the World and the Universe, Engineering enables this understanding to come to life through problem solving, designing and building things. The electronic device you are using to read this article was engineered from raw plastic, metal, silicon and lines of software code before being transformed into a usable device. Pretty cool!

Engineers can be distinguished from other professions by their ability to solve complex problems and implement solutions in cost effective and practical ways. This ability to face a problem, work through various thoughts and abstract ideas and then translating them into reality is what is so exciting about engineering.

Consider the Following Things Engineering Allows You to Do:

  • Sit (reasonably) comfortably in a chair while flying through the sky – commercial airplane.
  • Heat up a meal in under 5 minutes – microwave.
  • Gain instant access to almost all human knowledge – Google.
  • Check your Facebook profile anywhere at any time – mobile phone.

What are the Common Skills Engineers Use?

Engineers are problem solvers, organisers, communicators, calculators and designers. These skills rely heavily on rational thinking and logical decision making, which is why most Engineers come from science and maths backgrounds. Yet despite this fact Engineering is a highly creative activity, especially when complicated problems are involved. The modern Engineer is also very software savvy and can use a range of different computing programs to assist in verifying designs and predicting how structures will behave in the environment.

What are the Common Fields of Engineering?

There are many branches and fields within the various Engineering disciplines which can be rather confusing. However, all Engineering degrees are based on one (or a combination) of the 4 major disciplines of Civil, Chemical, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering.

Building a Tunnel: How Different Engineers Work Together

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A Civil Engineer who specialises in structural design (Structural Engineer) would calculate the size of the tunnel, how it is to be constructed (all of the stages) and what it is made of (reinforced concrete, etc.). In order to provide clean air and remove as much of the vehicle emissions as possible, a Mechanical Engineer is employed to design the ventilation system.

The Mechanical Engineer would plan for the amount of emissions that need to removed and the process of removing them (for instance how many of a particular type of fan would be required and where they are to be installed. Don’t forget they also have to figure out where this air flows to. An Electrical Engineer will design the lighting as well as any control systems for hazard signs. In some cases, specialist disciplines such as Environmental Engineering are used to conduct an investigation into the sustainability and environmental effects of building such a tunnel.

Do Engineers Work as Individuals?

This answer is dependent on the specific project, job and even field that engineers work in. Generally, all Engineers work as part of a small or large team. A Chemical Engineer conducting research and development may spend the majority of their time working independently in a lab performing experiments and writing technical reports. On the other end of the spectrum, a Civil Engineer in the construction industry may spend the majority of their time on-site, working with foremen and tradesmen to develop buildings or infrastructure.

Is Engineering Boring and Repetitive?

It is inevitable in any job, really, to have to perform dull and mundane tasks. Engineers are required to check calculations (which are vital so nothing explodes or collapses!), read technical papers and write technical reports. The true value found in engineering is the ability to combine all tasks to create something greater (think 1 + 1 = 3).

Consider that many other professions such as accounting, teaching and even business studies all have their own mundane and repetitive tasks – it’s the ability to create something special like a two-hundred story skyscraper or a car that runs on the invisible force electricity that makes engineering stand out! Engineering provides you with the opportunity to contribute to society and leave a lasting impression on the world – follow in the footsteps of engineers like Thomas Edison whose inventions are still used today!

Want to Learn More?

Check out the rest of the site for more information about the different Engineering disciplines, careers, and much, much more.

You can also check out our People of WIE page. It contains stories and learning experiences from Engineering students and professionals who have improved their lives through Engineering.