The word engineer is the modern word for the Latin term ingeniator, which describes one who contrives, designs or invents. It comes from the word ingenium, which means natural talent or genius. From this we also derive the word ingenious, meaning skilful - a talent for invention or construction.
Can you imagine?
Can you imagine a world where cities have become peaceful and serene because cars and buses are whisper quiet; vehicles exhaust only water vapour; and parks have replaced unneeded urban freeways. Living standards have dramatically improved, particularly for the poor and those in developing countries. Houses can pay part of their own mortgage costs by the energy they produce; there are few if any acrive landfills; forest cover is increasing world-wide; CO2 levels are decreasing for the first time in 200 years; and the effluent water leaving factories is cleaner than the water going in.
Engineering is an exciting profession that really helps to change and improve our world. Engineers can create imaginative and visionary solutions to the challenges facing the planet in this new century - the problems of feeding the world and how we will use energy but still protect our environment.
Engineering is creative and sometimes demanding and your work as an engineers will be valued and well rewarded. It involves judgement, scientific understanding, risk, working in teams and facing exciting challenges.
How Important is Engineering?
Engineering has never been more important to Australia's prosperity and the well-being of its people. Its benefits are everywhere - in health, the built and natural environments, foods, medicine and aerospace. But these benefits are not always evident to the community. The word 'engineering' is often lost somewhere between science and technology. Science, engineering, technology and innovation are very closely linked and interrelated; but they don't have the same meaning.
To engineer literally means 'to make things happen'. Engineering know how converts science knowledge into technology; then turns technology into successful innovation. So, engineering is about making real and useful things for the occupants of planet Earth (and maybe other worlds in the not too distant future!). Here are some examples:
Millions of people in the world are alive today, thanks to artificial pacemakers. Medical science explained the secret workings of the heart but it was left to brilliant engineers to develop the tiny, intelligent device that keep hearts beating. The lessons learned from creating the pacemaker stimulate ideas for other successful devices, for new uses - that's called innovation.
Preserving endangered species requires accurate data about habitats. Engineers designed sophisticated imaging equipment and the satellites to carry it, providing researchers and environmental scientists with a unique view of the earth's habitats. Accurate data enables accurate planning. This engineering 'know how' even helps in the development of other communication products.
Engineers have always found innovative, workable solutions to technological problems through a systematic problem-solving approach. During the Industrial Revolution over 200 years ago, engineers were the people who designed steam engines, invented spinning machines, built roads and brought piped water to towns.
Engineering is at the heart of modern economies and contemporary life. Many of the things that mark out the last century - even the last decade - are the direct result of engineering. Engineers aim to improve the quality of life for all of us. Everything that is made or built results from their expertise, from smart buildings to video phones, from the Internet to digital television. As scientists make new discoveries, engineers are at the forefront of turning that knowledge into something practical and valued. So, in this way, engineers are at the boundaries of our current knowledge.
Here is a list of some of the new horizons for engineering:
Advanced computer technology
Data compression and encoding/security
Flat screen displays
Integrated transport systems
Minimally invasive surgery
Personal and mobile communications
Robotics Software engineering
Engineers make a significant contribution to creating wealth in a country. Many successful economies have a high number of engineers and technologists. They play an important role in taking new and emerging technologies and creating new products, processes or services.
Where once virtually all engineers were men, now many thousands of women are engineers, as more and more young people see engineering as a challenging, fulfilling and well-paid profession. Dr Dan Turner, when he was President of the American Society of Civil Engineers, said:
"The American life span has extended by 40 years in the past 100 years: by 3 years due to medical advances and by 37 years due to engineering advances. These advances to public well-being through good engineering were achieved by:
- provision of clean water (Civil Engineering)
- removal of wastes (Civil & Resource Engineering)
- upgrade of human living space (Civil, Mechanical, Electrical Engineering)
- upgrade of food supplies (Agricultural, Chemical, Electrical Engineering)."