Engineers research, design and develop a huge range of things that surround us, from sports trainers to roads, tunnels and bridges, and from light bulbs to space satellites. They work on structures, products, systems or processes in a wide variety of industries, including manufacturing, energy, communications, construction, computing, transport, chemicals and water.
Engineers use scientific principles to find creative solutions to practical problems. Their work is very varied and impacts on all our lives, through areas such as construction, manufacturing, processing, communications, transport, fuel and medical technology.
Engineers have shaped much of the modern world. They have given us roads, bridges, dams, televisions, personal computers, the mobile phone, nuclear power stations, reservoirs, pipelines and microchips – the list could go on and on.
The work carried out by engineers is wide ranging. At any stage of a project, an engineer might be involved in:
- planning the project
- carrying out feasibility studies
- building and testing prototypes
- research and design
- diagnostic studies to find causes of problems
- meetings with colleagues and clients
- site visits and report writing.
Engineers often specialise, for example, in design, research, systems or control.
Engineers take into account health and safety issues, and the cost/quality of materials they might use. The need to protect the environment, recycle, and reduce waste and carbon emissions has become a vital part of engineering.
Engineers spend much of their time working in teams. They work in an office, in a laboratory or ‘on-site’ somewhere, depending on the nature of the project they are working on, and which stage the work has reached.
There are many different areas of engineering.
- Mechanical engineering: the design, manufacture and maintenance of all moving parts of machinery. This is a very diverse area, including everything from the design of Formula 1 cars to installing gas turbines in industry.
- Chemical engineering: this covers changing raw materials into a wide range of useful products, such as plastics, dyes, drugs/medicines, paints and cleaning products.
- Electrical engineering: generating and supplying power to homes and businesses.
- Electronics engineering – developing products that use electricity, such as computers, satellites and digital televisions.
- Civil engineering: designing and building structures such as roads, bridges, airports and tunnels.
There are also many types of engineering that are specific to particular industries. These include aeronautical, automotive, biomedical and telecommunications engineering. Many engineers specialise in one area. Others are general engineers with a broad understanding of many different types of engineering.
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