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Updated: October 30, 2023, Reading time: 8 minutes

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Engineering is the application of scientific principles to the design and construction of systems and procedures used in modern society. By applying scientific discoveries, engineers invent ways to improve the safety, functionality, and longevity of modern-day systems while reducing the cost and effort required to construct and design them.

To succeed, an engineer must understand the underlying scientific and engineering principles used in building complex systems. Encouraging children to tinker with simple projects from a young age can help to form a foundation for this knowledge. As a child develops, increasing the complexity of these projects will help them to understand that complex systems are built in small steps, thereby providing crucial early exposure to the fundamental methods of engineering.

GSC_Engineering Guide - fact
Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Aerospace Engineers

Aerospace engineers design and build systems that travel through the air and through space. From hovercraft that fly a few feet above ground to spacecraft that travel through space, aerospace engineers build aircraft that overcome gravity and drag to fly through the atmosphere and beyond. Since Wilbur and Orville Wright’s first successful flight in 1903, aerospace engineering has become crucial to national defense, commerce, leisure, and agriculture.

Biomedical Engineers

Biomedical engineers design mechanical systems that integrate with the human body to improve body function. Biomedical engineers design and build pacemakers for regulating heart function, insulin pumps for controlling blood sugar levels, and prosthetics for replacing the functionality of amputated limbs. Seamlessly integrating mechanical systems with the human body, effective biomedical engineers help to alleviate physical ailments, thereby prolonging life and reducing the effects of physical disabilities.

Civil Engineers

Civil engineers construct buildings and support structures for a variety of industries, such as agriculture, commerce, and the energy sector. Civil engineers apply scientific discoveries in materials science, thermal dynamics, and physics to construct physical structures such as hydroelectric dams, large-scale irrigation systems, and bridges. In addition, renewable energy projects such as geothermal systems, scientific research facilities such as particle colliders, and transportation systems such as highways rely on the work of civil engineers.

Environmental Engineers

Environmental engineers mitigate environmental hazards from natural and man-made disasters such as oil spills, nuclear power plant leaks, and radiation contamination. Relying on scientific discoveries in the biological and environmental sciences, environmental engineers invent methods for preventing the spread of contaminants in the air, soil, and water. Unmitigated, environmental hazards could lead to extensive damage to ecosystems, poisoning animals and humans and contaminating water tables and agricultural products in affected areas for decades.

Chemical and Biological Engineers

Chemical engineers design, manage, and improve complex systems for producing chemical products. Using reactions and procedures discovered by chemists, chemical engineers construct systems for purifying water using distillation or reverse osmosis. Chemical engineers also design systems for purifying natural gases and hydrocarbons, such as gasoline and diesel fuel, as well as systems for storing energy, such as batteries. Biological engineers modify biological systems using the principles and techniques of biology. For example, biological engineers modify the genomes of plants to create genetically modified produce that is resistant to diseases while growing taller, stronger, and faster.

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers build mechanical systems that are pervasive in modern society. Crucial to the transportation sector, mechanical engineers design cars, trains, motorcycles, and bicycles. In the energy sector, mechanical engineers design turbines for wind farms and hydroelectric plants, power drills for mining natural gas reservoirs, and levers for exporting coal from mines. Mechanical engineers also design robotics systems for manufacturing, home care, and underwater research.

Agricultural Engineers

Agricultural engineers design systems and procedures for improving the productivity of farmers. Agricultural engineers use biology techniques such as grafting to produce a plant that may be taller, stronger, more resistant to disease, or more productive than the component plants of the graft. They also use mechanical knowledge to improve machinery used on farms.

Electrical Engineers

Electrical engineers design and build electronics systems that are all around us every day, from computer chips to LED light bulbs. Electrical engineers designed the hardware systems that enabled the computer and automation revolution of the 21st century. Electrical engineers are responsible for printed circuit boards that send electrical signals to control the steering of cars, the control surfaces of aircraft, the rudders of ships, and the orientation of robotic arms. Electrical engineers also design power systems for railways as well as transformers and power lines that supply electricity to homes and cities.

Software Engineers

Software engineers design systems that control computers. Software engineers write computer code that runs the guidance systems of missiles, the operation of autonomous cars, and the routines implemented by magnetic resonance imaging systems. Software engineers also built the Internet. The Internet is a system of interconnected computers, called servers, that allow information to be easily stored, modified, and retrieved. Software engineers build websites on the Internet, which display information that can be accessed by computers and mobile devices around the world.

Engineering Activities and Projects for All Ages

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