At Aveea, we’ve been asked this question a number of times, and it’s a fair question, especially considering how often the term ‘Engineer’ is ‘thrown around’ in the UK. The difference between Engineers and other titles such as Doctors or Lawyers is that the latter are protected titles. This means you need to have a certain qualification governed by a body to prove that you are actually a ‘Doctor or a Lawyer’ and are qualified to practise as one. This has led to a lot of confusion in the UK and beyond.
So, what exactly does an Engineer do then? Well firstly, let’s look at some of the types of Engineers, the more common ones we hear about; Civil Engineers, Mechanical Engineers, Chemical Engineers or Nuclear Engineers, so what do these Engineers do? From their names, we can gather that they specialise in exactly that; Civil Engineers design and build buildings, Chemical Engineers design and build chemical and processing plants and so on. But from here, it gets slightly complicated and there can be some confusion.
Let’s say you had pain in your teeth, you would go to the Dentist to get them checked out. Now if you had a problem with your electrical plug sockets at home, would you see an Electrical Engineer? Probably not… instead you would see an electrician who would have a different sets of skills to solve your problem. Of course, there are certain applications for an Electrical Engineer, but for the most part, Engineers are hidden away!
But this doesn’t mean you don’t see an Engineers work. For example, those buses you may have seen around that run on waste coffee grounds, sure you might have not yet met the Engineers and Scientists behind this magnificence, but they do exist, bringing the world one step closer to this future we all dream of. Or more recently, the new phones that don’t carry a headphone jack? Although somewhat controversial, here Engineers have taken large leap into the future, predicting what they believe will end up becoming the norm.
Sometimes, it’s incremental steps over years of continuous research. Singapore Airways for example, have just pushed for the longest flight in history, from Singapore to just outside the New York City area, 15,344km of flight time – to think that a hundred years ago this was around 3,000km. And they are not stopping there, later this year they are pushing further for a flight even longer, from Singapore to Los Angeles.
So, what do all of these things have in common, what exactly do Engineers do? Well they look for ways that our lives can be improved, and then they figure out how to do it. This ranges through the thousands of industries that we know. Faster computers, more economical cars, seismically-proofing buildings, these are things we see all the time but have taken for granted.
But what about the things that we don’t think affect us, like The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a huge accumulation of plastic in the world’s oceans that eventually ends up in the food chain. Here Environmental Engineers look at ways on how this can be resolved. Not only looking at physically cleaning up the Pacific Ocean by removing the plastic remains. But also understanding the benefits of introducing plastic bag taxes or taxes on coffee cups that are not recyclable.
This article really portrays Engineers as the ones who do everything, but the truth is that it’s a collection. For example, how exactly do Engineers know that they need to build a phone that needs wireless charging, sure they can solve the issue of removing cables, but is it needed? What about if they are told that the costs of manufacturing a car are too high, how do they figure out the economies of scale on the different alloyed aluminium components, and what would be most resilient to corrosion due to weather dependant factors?
You see, Engineers, do solve many problems, but not without the assistance of hundreds of other scientists, economists, technologists, lawyers, doctors or artists, the list goes on. The improvement of the world we live in is the massive collaboration of the world’s greatest minds, where do you fit in?