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A Student's Guide to the Basics of Engineering

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Engineering is as old as humanity. Since before the beginning of recorded history, humans have worked to adapt the environment to better fit their requirements. The cave-dweller who made the first tool was humanity's first engineer! Early engineers were also the people who designed the first roadways, large farms, villages, sailing vessels, and cities. Slowly, the engineering skills and knowledge of humans expanded until they were capable of building large marvels, some of which stand today. For example, the aqueducts of Rome were built starting around the fourth century B.C.E. to move water around the city. A project of that scale would be the responsibility of engineers today. It wasn't until the 15th century that engineers were spoken of the way they are thought of today, as professionals who combine mathematics with design in order to build lasting, sound structures.

Today, engineering can be a rewarding career choice. Engineers work in a variety of settings. They can be found measuring the amount of pollution in rivers, working in labs, overseeing factory floors, and on construction sites. Many engineering specialties have specific educational requirements and skill sets.

  • Mechanical engineering focuses on machinery. It involves designing, producing, and maintaining machinery along with the various parts that go into the machinery and the systems that monitor it.

  • Electrical engineers oversee electrical systems and electrical devices, including everything from tiny circuits to national power grids.

  • Civil engineers design major infrastructure projects such as expressways, dams, airports, and bridges.

  • Aerospace engineers design, produce, and test aircraft and spacecraft. This includes creating the vehicles themselves and all of the parts they contain, along with the navigational and communication systems they depend upon to operate safely.

  • Nuclear engineering oversees every aspect of harnessing the power of nuclear radiation. The systems these engineers oversee include the nuclear reactors that power submarines and power plants. A big part of the jobs of nuclear engineers is protecting humans from any negative effects of using nuclear energy.

  • Structural engineering is concerned with designing, constructing, and maintaining load-bearing structures like bridges and high-rise commercial buildings.

  • Biomedical engineers design things that assist in the practice of medicine and help people with their health issues. This type of engineer works closely with health professionals to design systems, devices, and equipment to meet the needs of practitioners and patients.

  • Chemical engineers create the processes, tools, and systems that turn chemicals into usable products.

  • Computer engineers design computer systems, software, and networks for private and commercial use.

  • Industrial engineers make factories and other work environments as efficient as possible. They do this by optimizing the systems, processes, facilities, and equipment used in manufacturing.

  • Environmental engineering works to prevent pollution wherever possible. When pollution can't be prevented, they work to mitigate the impact of pollution as much as possible. This type of engineer also oversees the cleanup of polluted sites.

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