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.
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.
- Aerospace Engineering: There are several types of aerospace engineers, including aeronautical engineers and astronautical engineers.
- Make a Paper Glider: Creating paper airplanes is an exciting way to explore aerospace concepts.
- Careers in Aerospace Technology: NASA is a major player in the field of aerospace engineering, and on this page, the agency offers information for students thinking about this type of career.
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.
- What Is Biomedical Engineering? Biomedical engineers design systems to help doctors treat patients more effectively.
- Prosthetics Project: Build and Test Prosthetic Legs: Prosthetics are an important area in biomedical engineering, and students can explore prosthetics with the project on this page.
- Crash Course: Biomedical and Industrial Engineering: Watch a video to learn more about these branches of engineering.
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.
- About Civil Engineering: Find out more about this field from the experts at the American Society of Civil Engineers.
- Everything You Need to Know About Civil Engineering: The principles of civil engineering are used in many fields, from geology to energy.
- Civil Engineering Project: Build the Best Bridge: Building strong, resilient, and safe bridges is an important application of civil engineering.
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.
- Why Environmental Engineering Is Vital for Our Future: This page discusses the essential contributions of environmental engineers to modern society.
- Ten Major Advances in Environmental Engineering: Environmental engineers have been crucial to protecting the environment and building a sustainable society.
- Nine Easy Environmental Activities: Environmental engineering is closely linked to ecology and conservation, which are explored in these activities.
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.
- Chemical Engineering: Find out about what chemical engineering is and how you can work in this area from the American Chemical Society.
- What Is Biological Engineering? Biological engineering applies biological principles to a variety of fields, such as pharmaceuticals and energy.
- Project: Biodegradable and Non-Biodegradable Waste: Recycling is an important application of chemical and biological engineering, as demonstrated in this project.
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.
- How to Build a Catapult: Catapults were a transformational invention and an important development in the history of mechanical engineering.
- Important Job Skills for Mechanical Engineers: Find out the types of skills you need to succeed in this field.
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.
- Agriculture and Engineering: Engineers help farmers improve their ability to produce food efficiently and safely.
- What You Need to Know About Agricultural Engineers: Find out more about the nuts and bolts of this field.
- About the Profession: The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers provides an overview of what these professionals do.
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.
- What Does an Electrical Engineer Do? Electrical engineers work with electricity and electromagnetism.
- Magnet Experiments for Kids: Magnetism is an important area of electrical engineering that is explored in these projects.
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.
- History of Coding and Software Engineering: Software engineering has transformed society since the middle of the 20th century.
- Printable Algorithm Coding Game: Algorithms are sequences of tasks used to create technological solutions to problems, and you can get a taste of how they’re built with this project.
Engineering Activities and Projects for All Ages
- Pulleys: Simple Machines for Kids: Pulleys are an important mechanical engineering tool used in construction.
- Lever Experiments for Middle School: Levers use mechanical advantage to make lifting objects easier.
- Transportation in Plants: Capillary Action: Maintaining a clean environment for plants is essential because plants take in water from the environment, which is demonstrated in this experiment.
- Build a Desert Biome: Plants can grow in a variety of environments, including deserts.
- Plant Science: Regrowing Vegetables: One way to boost the efficiency of food production is to turn food scraps into new plants.
- Blockly Maze Game: Kids can learn the basics of coding by creating a sequence of steps for their game avatar to take.
- Scratch: Scratch is a free tool that lets kids create animations using the concepts of computer programming.
- Water Molecule Experiment: Chemical engineers need to consider thermal dynamics when designing chemical systems, as explored in this project.
- Fortune-Teller Fish: Polymers are used extensively by chemical engineers and biological engineers, and they’re also used to make curiosities like this simple toy.
- Lava Lamp Experiment: The chemical principle of solubility is behind how lava lamps work.