What is Engineering

What is Engineering?

Engineering is a word that most of us know. When I first heard someone say, ‘I’m studying engineering,’ I thought of technical drawings and engines. However it is much more than that; ‘engineering is a foundation for the development of society’[1]. It is everywhere we look; we sit on it, travel in it, eat it and live in it. ‘Engineering is everywhere, but most people never see it or recognise it’[2]. This is why I want to look at what it really involves, and why we at South Bank Academy Trust are so passionate about raising up young engineers.

Problem Solving

Engineering is about seeing needs and problems in society and offering solutions. An example of this is the invention of the ear trumpet in the 18th Century. This was designed to help patients with hearing loss. It would amplify sound thus improving the patient’s hearing.[3] You would not see one of these being used today, but it was a key leap in biomedical engineering that led to the hearing aid that we use in the 21st Century. Engineering takes a look at the problem and designs ‘next generation technologies and solutions’ (Rao Bhamidimarri, 2016). It is important to be able to think clearly and strategically as an engineer to reach the most practical and beneficial solution.

Communication

Communication is a skill needed in almost every field of work or study. The reason why communication is vital when we speak about engineering is because of cultural, societal and institutional challenges that the design stage of engineering has to take into consideration before its execution. You can have the most well-thought-through design and implementation structure, but without taking into consideration the structures or lack of structure in the corresponding culture, your innovative solution can fall on deaf ears. Engineers have to know how to communicate across cultures.

Engineering requires the ability to connect and go between different worlds. It even requires world creation. Engineers make decisions on the future will or should look like, technically, socially. (Bhamidimarri, 2016)

So engineering is about communication and translating technical and mathematical strategies into different cultures and societies, to bring solutions in specific contexts. Communication is key in engineering.

Creative Thinking

Engineering and the arts are not always associated with each other, but they are not as disconnected as you might think. Engineering requires immense creativity. The arts use creative thinking as a means to express thought, emotion and ideas into something tangible. Engineering is much the same process. It also uses creative thinking as a means to reach a goal. But instead of aiming at expression of thought, engineers aim to reach a practical, innovative and culturally appropriate solution to a problem.

Engineers are creators, visualising and testing solutions and responding to ‘new and surprising challenges in creative ways’ (Bhamidimarri, 2016). Engineering tries to change the way things are done, to improve the life we live. To achieve this, the thinking behind each project needs to be push boundaries and travel into the unknown. We see this all the time in the technological world. A great example of creative thinking in engineering is China’s innovation in public transport: the elevated bus.[4] The bus has wheels that go either side of the car lanes and its body stretches above them, like a mobile tunnel. Passengers board the elevated bus and sit above the traffic. The bus is not held up by a busy Monday morning on the road and it carries more passengers than a regular bus. Creativity is all over its design and it offers so many practical solutions to China’s rush-hour commuters. Engineering thrives when it is powered by creative thinkers.

Different Areas of Engineering

There are so many different fields of engineering, and they require engineers of different levels and qualifications. Here are some of the areas that you might come across:

- Aerospace Engineer

- Agricultural Engineer

- Automotive Engineer

- Biomedical Engineer

- Chemical Engineer

- Civil Engineer

- Computer Engineer

- Drafting and Design Engineer

- Electrical Engineer

- Environmental Engineer

- Geological Engineer

- Marine Engineer[5]

The list could go on for pages. Engineering has so many different applications. This can be daunting for a young person thinking about what area in which to specialise. However this is also the beauty of engineering: You have so much choice. It is a career that does not limit you to buildings and bridges, but it calls you to discover what you are passionate about, and apply yourself to that.

Why Engineering in Education is Important to Us

It is quite simple; our future depends on engineers. We want to educate and equip the next generation of engineers with good values, skills, and a passion for making things better.

An engineer needs to develop many strengths. I have not covered the full range of skills and qualifications you need to become a professional engineer. However, what we do at school level is to set students up with foundational skills and an enthusiastic approach to learning. We encourage them to think creatively, have some agency in their own education, try things that fail and then learn from those failures. We do this through classroom-based teaching, group tasks, project learning and real-world engineering experience. This is so that when they go on to higher education, apprenticeships or employment, they have already cultivated the best attitude for developing a wider range of skills. We need engineers for the future of our society, and we need them to be competent.

[1] Engineering and Enterprise: Inspiring Innovation; Rao Bhamidimarri and Ailin Liu; Springer International Publishing Switzerland, 2016

[2] CCSP Press; Scholarly Research Communication; Volume 5; Issue 1; Article ID 0101136; 4 pages; Journal url: www.src-online.ca; Published 19th December 2013; Article by Dena Wynn McMartin, Professor of Environmental Systems Engineering, University of Regina

[3] This research was sourced from: https://www.livescience.com/48001-biomedical-engineering.html; accessed 8/3/18

[4] This research was sourced from: https://www.popsci.com/11-greatest-engineering-innovations-year#page-9; accessed 8/3/18

[5] This list was sourced from: http://educatingengineers.com/career-specialties; accessed 7/3/18