Concepts of Engineering & Technology

Course Overview

Units at a glance

Have you ever wondered how civilization continues to design, build, and improve machines and structures around the world? Looking at the skyline of any major city, you can see a crazy number of tall buildings, lengthy bridges, and engines purring under endless equipment. We all know these inventions are critical to our modern way of life, yet we don’t always understand the knowledge required to create such innovation. Have you ever peered up at a towering skyscraper and marveled at the mere impossibility of it? It is, in fact, not only possible but also just part of a day’s work for an engineer. In this course, you’ll be exploring the various fields of this occupation, its history, the important role it plays in human life, and the ethical issues related to engineering. So buckle up; here we go!

It’s easy to identify a problem but not always as easy to figure out a solution. An engineer’s job is to take pesky things like problems and apply a functional process that will eventually result in a technological solution. That problem-solving process involves a series of important steps, steps that are imperative for success. Understanding these techniques is critical for an engineer, as is knowing the differences among the various technological systems that aid in the process. You could say that an engineer has a sizeable toolbox of strategies at his disposal. This unit will explain those tools and how they can best be used on the job. It will also help you to develop your own process through the development of an engineering notebook.

As an engineer, you will likely find yourself in a situation where you know exactly what you want to build, but the only problem is your ideas are stuck in your head. Finding a way to express ideas and bring them to fruition is a challenge, even for an engineer, and understanding the design process is a critical part of the process. Obviously, designing something requires that you also have a firm grasp on the materials needed and how they are characterized within an experiment. Simply put, this means engineers must conceptualize their goals while remembering the pragmatic elements required to achieve them. How can I get what I want with what I have? Working out a design process is a balancing act between the creative and the scientific worlds. Having a vision is essential, but understanding the reality of how to achieve that vision is equally important. You can’t have one without the other.

Are you a practical person? Do you like to see things running smoothly and efficiently? Do you worry about systems that break down and create problems? If the answers are yes, you may want to learn more about civil engineering, a field that focuses on precisely these issues in the real world. The real world filled with roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and water supply systems. The real world that needs a qualified person to design, build, supervise, operate, and maintain these things. And as we all know, these “things” are not negotiable. They must be supported with ideas and hard work to keep our real world chugging along and, in some cases, sprinting along as we continue to evolve into an increasingly accelerated species. Civil engineering is arguably the oldest discipline in this field, dating back to 3000 BCE, and definitely one of the most pragmatic. I mean, if you don’t have a roof over your head, what do you have?

Were you one of those kids who liked to take things apart or, more truthfully, break them to see what was inside? Did you pull the wings off your new mechanical toy butterfly to examine how they were attached? Maybe you even managed to put it back together. These preoccupations with machinery and its secrets are also the wonderings of a mechanical engineer. How does this broad field really function? And exactly what type of engineer does it require? A mechanical engineer has a large, albeit sometimes unusual, scope of interests and plays an integral part in the running of the modern world. So maybe the kid taking the remote control apart instead of watching the actual television is on her or his way to an exciting career as a mechanical engineer.

If there’s one word to remember today, it’s creation! Creation is everything, creation is life. It’s awesome to be able to study and understand the natural world through science or identify the makeup of different substances through the wonders of chemistry; however, what does it take to use both of these disciplines of chemistry and engineering to create something entirely new? Something that can improve human life, feed the planet, save lives, and change the face of reality? As you will soon find out, it takes a chemical engineer. This incredibly complex and challenging field of engineering is particularly exciting because of its relationship to substances and conceptualizing how they can be used to form new ones. A chemical engineer not only has to understand science, mathematics, and chemistry but must also have the skills to funnel all that knowledge into the alchemy of any entirely new and innovative result. And voilà! Now you have creation, the essence of chemical engineering and the very essence of life.

If you consider healing the world to be a worthwhile endeavor, then you have the spirit of a bioengineer. Nature is filled with different materials—under the ground, in the sky, far down in the murky depths of the sea—and learning how to use these organisms is key to this evolving world of discovery. The natural world continues to provide many priceless resources that we are free to use at our discretion; however, we must remember to remain ethical and thoughtful in this process so as not to deplete the world and ourselves. Unlike chemical engineering, which creates synthetic materials through nature, bioengineering simply uses the materials of the earth to generate what is needed to improve human life. Just remember: biology + engineering = bioengineering! Bioengineers are the naturalists of the engineering world and some of the most effective innovators of our time.

Thinking back on all the incredible challenges engineers have overcome in their profession, it’s easy to be positively astonished by the amount of innovation the world has seen. If someone had told us a hundred years ago that someday people would carry wallet-sized personal computers around allowing us to map anything, find information in seconds, or call a friend thousands of miles away, well, we probably would have directed them to the closest mental hospital. Rarely do people have the ability to predict the future, yet engineers have proved time and again that wild dreams can eventually become reality. Looking back at all the awe-inspiring engineering developments over the years and remembering that at one time they too seemed impossible, it’s safe to say society is likely in store for a lot of surprising advancements in the next hundred years. What areas do engineers hope to develop during the 21st century? And how will society look as a result? Engineers may have a lot of tools in their toolboxes, but the word impossible is definitely not one of them!

Course Highlights

Unleash your creative design process.
Become familiar with the engineering design process—from idea to prototype.
Explore different types of engineering and the fundamental principles within them.
Imagine the impossible—and then make it happen.

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