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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.
Engineering is the application of science and math to solve problems. Engineers figure out how things work and find practical uses for scientific discoveries. Scientists and inventors often get the credit for innovations that advance the human condition, but it is engineers who are instrumental in making those innovations available to the world.
History of Engineering
The first engineer known by name and achievement is Imhotep, builder of the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, Egypt, probably in about 2550 BC. Imhotep’s successors—Egyptian, Persian, Greek, and Roman—carried civil engineering to remarkable heights on the basis of empirical methods aided by arithmetic, geometry, and a smattering of physical science. The Pharos (lighthouse) of Alexandria, Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, the Coliseum in Rome, the Persian and Roman road systems, the Pont du Grad aqueduct in France, and many other large structures, some of which endure to this day, testify to their skill, imagination, and daring. Of many treatises written by them, one in particular survives to provide a picture of engineering education and practice in classical times: Vitruvius’ De architecture, published in Rome in the 1st century ad, a 10-volume work covering building materials, construction methods, hydraulics, measurement, and town planning.
Albert Einstein, one of the world's greatest scientists, hit the nail right on the head when he pondered the question 'what is engineering?’
In simple terms, engineers identify a problem, and come up with a solution – often creating something completely new in the process.
Traditionally, engineering is about infrastructure. Engineers were known to create bridges and vehicles that got us from A to B faster more efficiently. Now engineering is acknowledged as a discipline that opens up opportunities and creates technology and products that help make our lives easier.
According to Albert Einstein, “Scientist investigates that which already is; Engineers create that which has never been”.
Engineering is the passion, aim, pride, dream and joy; it totally depends on you in which field you want to make your career. Engineering is an activity other than purely manual and physical work which brings about the utilization of the materials and laws of nature for the good of humanity.
In Asia, engineering had a separate but very similar development, with more and more sophisticated techniques of construction, hydraulics, and metallurgy helping to create advanced civilizations such as the Mongol empire, whose large, beautiful cities impressed Marco Polo in the 13th century.
Civil engineering emerged as a separate discipline in the 18th century, when the first professional societies and schools of engineering were founded. Civil engineers of the 19th century built structures of all kinds, designed water-supply and sanitation systems, laid out railroad and highway networks, and planned cities. England and Scotland were the birthplace of mechanical engineering, as a derivation of the inventions of the Scottish engineer James Watt and the textile machinists of the Industrial Revolution. The development of the British machine-tool industry gave tremendous impetus to the study of mechanical engineering both in Britain and abroad.
The growth of knowledge of electricity—from Alessandro Volta’s original electric cell of 1800 through the experiments of Michael Faraday and others, culminating in 1872 in the Gramme dynamo and electric motor (named after the Belgian Z.T. Gramme)—led to the development of electrical and electronics engineering. The electronics aspect became prominent through the work of such scientists as James Clerk Maxwell of Britain and Heinrich Hertz of Germany in the late 19th century. Major advances came with the development of the vacuum tube by Lee De Forest of the United States in the early 20th century and the invention of the transistor in the mid-20th century. In the late 20th century electrical and electronics engineers outnumbered all others in the world.
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. Engineers are problem solvers, organizers, communicators, calculators and designers. These skills rely heavily on rational thinking and logical decision making, which is why most Engineers come from science and math’s 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.
Branches of Engineering
Chemical engineering is applied chemistry. It is the branch of engineering concerned with the design, construction, and operation of machines and plants that perform chemical reactions to solve practical problems or make useful products. It starts in the lab, much like science, yet progresses through the design and implementation of a full-scale process, its maintenance, and methods of testing and improving it.
Branch of engineering that deals with chemical production and the manufacture of products through chemical processes. This includes designing equipment, systems and processes for refining raw materials and for mixing, compounding and processing chemicals to make valuable products.
For example, chemical engineers working in the chemical industry investigate the creation of new polymeric materials with important electrical, optical or mechanical properties. This requires attention not only to the synthesis of the polymer, but also to the flow and forming processes necessary to create a final product. In biotechnology, chemical engineers help design production facilities that use microorganisms and enzymes to synthesize new drugs. Problems in environmental engineering that engage chemical engineers include the development of processes (catalytic converters, effluent treatment facilities) to minimize the release of or deactivate products harmful to the environment.
Chemical engineering is diverse and far-reaching. Its foundation lies in chemistry, physics and mathematics, as well as other branches of engineering, including applied sciences, biological sciences, and economics. And the work of chemical engineers spans a multitude of industries all over the world.
Top universities for chemical engineering are following:
- California Institute of Technology.
- Stanford University.
- University of Michigan--Ann Arbor.
- University of Minnesota--Twin Cities. Minneapolis, MN.
- University of Delaware. Newark, DE.
- University of Wisconsin--Madison. Madison, WI.
- Princeton University. Princeton, NJ.
- University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign. Champaign, IL.
It would take too long to list all the products that are impacted by chemical engineers, but knowing what industries employ them may help you comprehend the scope of their work. Chemical engineers work in manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, design and construction, pulp and paper, petrochemicals, food processing, specialty chemicals, microelectronics, electronic and advanced materials, polymers, business services, biotechnology, and environmental health and safety industries, among others. Within these industries, chemical engineers rely on their knowledge of mathematics and science—particularly chemistry— to overcome technical problems safely and economically. And, of course, they draw upon and apply their engineering knowledge to solve any technical challenges they encounter. Don't make the mistake of thinking that chemical engineers only “make things,” though. Their expertise is also applied in the areas of law, education, publishing, finance, and medicine, as well as in many other fields that require technical training.
Civil engineering is the design and construction of public works, such as dams, bridges and other large infrastructure projects. It is one of the oldest branches of engineering, dating back to when people first started living in permanent settlements and began shaping their environments to suit their needs.
Early engineers built walls, roads, bridges, dams and levees; they dug wells, irrigation ditches and trenches. As larger groups of people began living together in towns and cities, these populations needed reliable sources of clean water, the means to dispose of waste, a network of streets and roadways for commerce and trade, and a way to defend themselves against hostile neighbors.
Civil engineers conceive, design, build, supervise, operate, construct, and maintain infrastructure projects and systems in the public and private sector, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment. Civil engineers create, improve and protect the environment in which we live. They plan, design and oversee construction and maintenance of building structures and infrastructure, such as roads, railways, airports, bridges, harbors, dams, irrigation projects, power plants, and water and sewerage systems. They also design and build tall buildings and large structures that can withstand all weather conditions.
Top universities for civil engineering degree are:
- Kyoto University.
- Tokyo Institute of Technology.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
- University of Cambridge.
- University of Oxford.
- Waseda University.
- Peking University.
Generally, civil engineers fall into two types: consulting engineers and contracting engineers. Consultants are responsible for the design work of projects and work predominantly in an office. Contractors then take the designs and implement them during construction. Contractors work on site, managing the construction of the structure.
Types of Civil Engineers
Civil engineering is a discipline that most of us fail to understand what it entails. While most of us tend to associate it with roads, bridges, dams and buildings, it should be remembered that it is a wide field that comprises various options. It is a major facet of culture and society. Civil engineering has come a long way. It did not develop recently since there are various historical phenomena and creations that borrow from civil engineering. Examples of historical civil engineering designs include the pyramids of Egypt.
An environmental engineer analyses environmental problems and goes ahead to develop and create solutions to such problems. This field combines the study of disciplines such as science mathematics, hydrology and atmospheric sciences. The core tasks of an environmental engineer include:
- Solid waste management
- Treatment of water sources
- Improvement of air and water quality
Water Resources Engineer
A water resources engineer seeks to improve the quantity and quality of water resources and water. He/she should have sufficient knowledge in meteorology, environmental science and fluid dynamics. These engineers concentrate primarily on flood and storm water analysis, ground water remediation, water supply and planning, wastewater treatment procedures. The also focus on control of soil erosion.
Basically, construction engineers are entrusted with management tasks. To begin with, every civil engineering project involves a construction. For instance, a building needs to be erected; a road needs to be laid. All such projects are managed by construction engineers.
Transportation Engineering is the application of scientific principles and technologies to the planning, design, analysis, operation, and management of transportation systems for a full range of modes of transportation, e.g. highway, urban transit, air, rail and water, in order to provide for the movement of people and goods from one place to another in a safe and efficient manner. As a sub-discipline of Civil Engineering, this specialty is organized around society’s need to provide an adequate transportation infrastructure and involves broad interaction with other disciplines.
Transportation engineers focus on designing new transportation systems and upgrades to highways, urban roads, airports, railroads, and water transport networks. To facilitate their designs, engineers need to collate and analyze data on traffic flows, accident rates, and other statistics. They also have to take future demand for transport into account while considering the results of impact studies and local, state, and federal transportation policies.
Structural engineering theory is based upon physical laws and empirical knowledge of the structural performance of different materials and geometries. Structural engineering design utilizes a number of simple structural elements to build complex structural systems. Structural engineering is a branch of civil engineering, and its applications are diverse. A great deal of what structural engineers do involve designing structures such as buildings, bridges, tunnels, etc. The majority of structural engineers work primarily as consultants to architects or design-build contractors. The architect or design-builder comes up with a building layout, and then it's the structural engineer's responsibility to calculate the loads (such as snow, wind and earthquake forces), fit the structure to the architecture, and decide on what structural systems to use. The structural systems include steel, concrete, masonry, wood and other materials from which the engineer selects beams, columns, and other members that make up the building support. If one considers the human body as analogous to a building, structural engineers would be the professionals that design the skeleton so that the body can support its weight and other forces that act on it.
Geotechnical engineering is the branch of engineering concerned with the analysis, design and construction of foundations, slopes, retaining structures, embankments, tunnels, levees, wharves, landfills and other systems that are made of or are supported by soil or rock. The geotechnical research ranges in nature from analytical and numerical study of geotechnical problems to constitutive modeling, experimental modeling and design. Geotechnology plays a key role in all civil engineering projects built on or in the ground, and it is vital for the assessment of natural hazards such as earthquakes, liquefaction, sinkholes, rock falls and landslides.
Electrical engineering is one of the newer branches of engineering, and dates back to the late 19th century. It is the branch of engineering that deals with the technology of electricity. Electrical engineers work on a wide range of components, devices and systems, from tiny microchips to huge power station generators.
Electrical Engineering is an extremely diverse field, and terming it as the “study of electricity” is a gross oversimplification. We basically attempt to answer some of the following questions; under the specified sub-fields (Each number in each sub-field addresses the same problem from different points of view)
How do we build technologies that enable two humans on opposite ends of the Earth talk to each other with quality matching real life conversation, no delays, and when the two people are themselves moving? How do we make sure that it’s secure and others can’t overhear?
How do we scale the above to allow 7 billion people to converse simultaneously, or listen to famous personalities giving speeches, without any interference, loss of data/quality, or overload?
How can we enable one to watch live videos on their phone, upload photos with Snap chat Filters for the world to see, be on a call, and simultaneously transfer files from one phone to another?
How do we distribute any form of energy to the masses? (All forms, ranging from thermal and nuclear to wind and solar, have to be converted to electrical energy first.) How can we convert the energy effectively without significant losses, and transport it thousands of nanometers away, to millions of people, 24/7?
Once distributed, how do we convert and use this energy for light, movement, sound etc.? It can be used to power up systems ranging from smartphones to entire cities, and this needs to be done effectively.
Is it possible for us to store this energy and use it at our will, perhaps to run a vehicle or charge a phone on the go?
Systems and Instrumentation
How do we extend our sensory capabilities? What if I want to measure the trajectory of the Earth, find out my current location, check the fuel left on my vehicle, see how much power my house has consumed, and much, much more? How can doctors see inside the human body to examine possible defects? How can farmers predict the yield through soil trends and weather forecasts? How can we help self-driving cars to see, phones to hear and speak out, and mobile touchscreens to feel?
Is it possible for us to interpret and take actions based on what we sense through electrical devices? (Robotics would be one aspect of this.)
How do we realize all of the above technologies using electrical/electronic components? This includes a huge range of circuits used in the power grid, telecom towers, turbines, vehicles, mobile phones, computers, CT Scanners, vacuum cleaners, hard drives, hair dryers, cameras, large scale servers, lights, and what not.
Solid State Devices and Photonics
For building the above circuits in quite a few cases, we need to miniaturize them considerably (Your smartphone needs billions of these, which are almost in a nanometer scale), so how do we do that using materials like silicon, which have special properties?
Can we also use special materials (such as optic fibers) to transmit data and gigabit speeds, and ensure seamless communication?
This isn’t exhaustive, of course, but this should give you a broad idea of what Electrical Engineering is all about. A basic undergraduate degree would introduce you to most, if not all, of these fields.
Top universities for electric engineering are:
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Cambridge, MA.
- University of California--Berkeley. Berkeley, CA.
- Stanford University. Stanford, CA.
- Georgia Institute of Technology. Atlanta, GA.
- University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign. Champaign, IL.
- California Institute of Technology.
- University of Michigan--Ann Arbor.
- Cornell University.
An electrical engineer is someone who designs and develops new electrical systems solves problems and tests equipment. They study and apply the physics and mathematics of electricity, electromagnetism and electronics to both large and small scale systems to process information and transmit energy. They work with all kinds of electronic devices, from the smallest pocket devices to large supercomputers.
Mechanical engineers create and develop mechanical systems for all of humankind. Concerned with the principles of force, energy and motion, mechanical engineers use their knowledge of design, manufacture, and operational processes to advance the world around us — enhancing safety, economic vitality and enjoyment throughout the world. Mechanical engineering is a discipline of engineering that applies the principles of physics and materials science for analysis, design, manufacturing, and maintenance of mechanical systems. It is the branch of engineering that involves the production and usage of heat and mechanical power for the design, production, and operation of machines and tools. It is one of the oldest and broadest engineering disciplines.
Technically, mechanical engineering is the application of the principles and problem-solving techniques of engineering from design to manufacturing to the marketplace for any object. Mechanical engineers analyze their work using the principles of motion, energy, and force—ensuring that designs function safely, efficiently, and reliably, all at a competitive cost.
Top universities for mechanical degree are:
- University of Cambridge.
- Harvard University.
- University of California, Berkeley (UCB)
- University of Michigan.
- University of Oxford.
- Imperial College London.
- The University of Tokyo.
- Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)
Mechanical engineers make a difference. That's because mechanical engineering careers center on creating technologies to meet human needs. Virtually every product or service in modern life has probably been touched in some way by a mechanical engineer to help humankind.
Other types of Engineering
Other fields of engineering are following:
- Aerospace Engineering
- Automotive Engineering
- Architectural Engineering
- Computer Engineering
- Electronics Engineering
- Environmental Engineering
- Materials Science Engineering
- Petroleum Engineering
People tend to do three things when faced with a problem: they get afraid or uncomfortable and wish it would go away; they feel that they have to come up with an answer and it has to be the right answer; and they look for someone to blame. Being faced with a problem becomes a problem. And that's a problem because, in fact, there are always going to be problems!
The first step is problem solving includes:
- Remember that different people might have different views of what the issues are.
- Separate the listing of issues from the identification of interests (that's the next step!).
- Recognize and define the problem precisely by exploring it thoroughly (may be the most difficult step).
- Determine what question is to be answered and what output or results are to be produced.
- Determine what theoretical and experimental knowledge can be applied.
- Determine what input information or data is available
- Many academic problems that you will be asked to solve have this step completed by the instructor.
To create a mathematical model of the problem to be solved:
- Determine what fundamental principles are applicable.
- Draw sketches or block diagrams to better understand the problem.
- Define necessary variables and assign notation.
- Reduce the problem as originally stated into one expressed in purely mathematical terms.
- Apply mathematical expertise to extract the essentials from the underlying physical description of the problem.
- Simplify the problem only enough to allow the required information and results to be obtained.
- Identify and justify the assumptions and constraints inherent in this model.
- A computational method for solving the problem is to be developed, based on the mathematical model.
- Derive a set of equations that allow the calculation of the desired parameters and variables.
- Develop an algorithm, or step-by-step method of evaluating the equations involved in the solution.
- Describe the algorithm in mathematical terms and then implement as a computer program.
- Carefully review the proposed solution, with thought given to alternative approaches
Assess the Solution
The final step is to test and assess the solution. In many aspects, assessment is the most open-ended and difficult of the five steps involved in solving computational problems.
The numerical solution must be checked carefully:
- A simple version of the problem should be hand checked.
- The program should be executed on obtained or computed test data for which the answer or solution is either known or which can be obtained by independent means, such as hand or calculator computation.
- Intermediate values should be compared with expected results and estimated variations.
- When values deviate from expected results more than was estimated, the source of the deviation should be determined and the program modified as needed.
- A check should be performed on the solution to determine if it makes sense.
- The assumptions made in creating the mathematical model of the problem should be checked against the solution.
Relationship of engineering with other disciplines
Some major relationships of engineering with other disciplines are following.
Engineering relationship to Art
Art has always been a part of structural engineering since the beginning. Without art I don't think structural engineering would ever have been possible even if you consider a masonry construction to a modern art. Let me give you some examples.
Eiffel tower, designed by Gustavo Eiffel represents a marvelous relation between art form and structural engineering. See how the legs of the tower spreads apart, it represents the shape of seismic forces when applied to a structure. It shows the fluidity in transferring the load from top to bottom. It was designed such that wind forces are minimal. Isn't it beautiful and strong?
Let us consider the Puente Del Alamillo Bridge designed by Calatrava. He presented a harp shape and ingeniously balanced the tension in the cable and the weight of an inclined column. This shows how we can save material that induces moment in the column. Suppose if we use a vertical column, then the material consumption would have been much more.
Engineering relationship to Medicine and Bio
Biology, Engineering and Medicine is an open access, peer reviewed journal on all aspects of biomedical engineering published bimonthly online that can directly inspire or lead to improvements in human health or healthcare.
The practice of medicine is no longer an independent arena. The art of medicine is exclusively exposed through its inherent interdisciplinary nature. Research scientists continue to elegantly discover what exists within various diseases; they inform the biomedical community of what already exists. Engineers utilize this information to create that which is yet to exist ; they develop novel tools that can be implemented into clinical practice. And the physician of the future holds the honorable responsibility of bridging the gap between these once distant worlds. A physician of the future connects the dots, and pushes the limits of what we can offer patients.
Engineering relationship to Science
The relation between both science and engineering is vice versa. Nothing is impossible without both existences. You need science to implement engineering. And you need engineering to know science. Whatever you get to know in science creates a base to your engineering. Whatever you study in engineering has a realistic view that you studied in science. So this is how these both are interred related to each other.
Engineering relationship to Business
As industrialization hurtled ahead in the United States in the early years of the 20th century, U.S. universities, beacons of rationalism and progress, set up business schools dedicated to producing managers trained in a new science of business administration.
As the dominant applied science in industry, engineering quickly emerged as a major recruiting ground for the applied science of management; and the link is still close today — reflected in an increasing tendency to combine the two in specialized M.B.A. and recruitment programs.
Role of Engineering in Social Life
Engineering is one of the key influences that shape our society. Engineers don’t just work with machines, designs and electronics, they use maths and science to provide innovation and inventions that shape our society and improve the way we live and work. This means that engineers have a responsibility and also a great opportunity to ensure that the have a positive influence in society. This webinar will delve into the multifaceted role of engineering in society and provide you an insight into how you can make a difference and contribute to society being an engineer.