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1.1: Introduction

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    Frequently students enter engineering with little knowledge of the engineering profession. If you were to ask students why they selected engineering you might hear several answers:

    • "I was good in mathematics and physics (or chemistry)."
    • "I like to work on cars."
    • "I like to take things apart."
    • "My mom (or dad or uncle or sister) is an engineer and it sounded interesting."
    • "I want a job with a good salary."

    The common thread usually being an interest in making things and a natural ability in mathematics and the sciences.

    If you were to ask graduate engineers several years after graduation what they do, you would get varying responses but you might hear the following:

    • "Engineers are problem solvers."
    • "Engineers design things."
    • "Engineers build things."

    The common thread here being problem solving and designing and building new things. Few will mention science and mathematics.

    Edward Krick provides a fairly concise description of this in his book, An Introduction to Engineering and Engineering Design \(^{1}\) :

    "An engineer is a problem solver. Ordinarily starting with a broadly expressed function-to-be-filled, the engineer must translate this general statement of what is wanted into the specifications for a device (or structure or process) which will economically fulfill that objective. To arrive at this solution the engineer must apply his or her knowledge and inventiveness to uncover a reasonable proportion of the many alternative solutions to the typical problem. The engineer must evaluate these alternative solutions in the face of numerous intangible and conflicting criteria. The limited time available for proposing a solution precludes an exhaustive exploration of all possible solutions. In lieu of complete information the engineer makes extensive use of judgment. The engineering problem that is not complicated by economic considerations is rare indeed. A private enterprise ordinarily accepts an engineer’s solution to a problem only if it shows commercial promise, and a public enterprise insists on an attractive benefit-to-cost ratio.”\(^2\)

    Consider: What exactly is a profession?

    Reread this passage. What are the various parts of this job description for an engineer?

    In the same text, Krick also provides us with a succinct definition of engineering:

    "Engineering is a profession concerned primarily with the application of a certain body of knowledge, set of skills, and point of view, in the creation of devices, structures, and processes used to transform resources to forms which satisfy the needs of society." \(^3\)

    Notice that this definition is not limited to a specific type of engineering.


    \(^{1}\) Edward V. Krick. An Introduction to Engineering and Engineering Design. John Wiley & Sons, New York, \(1965 .\)

    \(^{2}\) Ibid., pg. 30.

    \(^{3}\) Ibid., pg. 40.

    This page titled 1.1: Introduction is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Donald E. Richards (Rose-Hulman Scholar) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.