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1.3: Science, Engineering Science, and Mathematics

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    The foundation of engineering education begins with mathematics, physics, and chemistry. In recent years, the biological sciences have played an increasingly important role in basic science education.

    Building on this foundation is a core of engineering knowledge that all engineers should understand. This core material has typically been taught over several quarters (sometimes years) in several independent courses. These courses - statics, dynamics, mechanics of materials, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, and electrical circuits - are collectively referred to as the engineering sciences.

    The engineering sciences have much in common with the sciences as they are based on the same natural laws and use mathematics as a common language. However, there are significant differences in both organization and emphasis.

    Differences between the sciences and engineering sciences are partially a result of the different goals of science and engineering. The sciences have grown out of the scientific community where the primary goal is understanding and describing nature. The engineering sciences by contrast have grown out of the engineering community where the primary goal is design - the creation of new things. This means that engineering and the engineering sciences are much more than just applied science. Engineers are often faced with developing new, albeit incomplete, knowledge to bridge gaps in the available science and allow them to keep designing.

    The emphasis on design means that engineers face new and unique problems every day. They not only are expected to find the best answer but to clearly demonstrate that their solution is correct. (How many times a day do you take for granted that an engineer did their job correctly?) Because of this, engineering education emphasizes the methodology and process of problem solving. (See Appendix A.) Students often fail to recognize this important aspect of engineering education.

    When faced with a new problem and a required problem solving approach, students frequently object because they know the formula from a similar problem in physics or chemistry. Why bother to construct a solution to this new problem? Unfortunately, pattern matching often leads to incorrect solutions and severely limits a student's ability as an engineer. It is precisely because we cannot test your ability to solve every conceivable problem you will meet that we emphasize the methodology and process of the problem solving approach. If you can successfully apply this approach to the various problems we'll tackle in class, we have faith that you can also successfully tackle new problems in the future.

    The consistent application of a problem-solving methodology using explicit modeling assumptions to develop models from fundamental principles is the hallmark of engineering courses. This approach will be stressed repeatedly in this course. Throughout this course you will be asked to not only solve a problem but to document your solution and demonstrate that it logically follows from the basic physical laws.

    This page titled 1.3: Science, Engineering Science, and Mathematics 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.