4 answers

What do you have to like or be good at to be an engineer or to take engineer classes?

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I am in 9th grade and I hear people talk about engineering a lot but I really dont know anything about it. I would like to learn more knowledge about this career and what you have to do. #engineer #data-engineer

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4 answers

Sean’s Answer


Hi Jaymes. First off, that's very smart of you to be looking for guidance about something you don't know a lot about - that is going to help you a lot in life. Engineering is a very broad topic and there are a lot of different kinds of engineers. There are Materials engineers who work with specific materials, Mechanical engineers who work with mechanical systems (they're the ones who design and make machines of different kinds), Aerospace engineers who design and build aircraft/spacecraft, Software Engineers like myself who make software, and many many more. Although the field of engineering is very broad, one thing engineers have in common is that they design and make things. They tackle real-world problems with real-world solutions and make things happen.

I see you've flagged data-engineer on your question, so I can talk a little about what that is. A data engineer is someone who works with, manages, and organizes large data sets. At my job we store a lot of data about our games and player behavior. The Data Engineer's job is to design systems to be able to use that data effectively. That may include thinking of ways to present the data in a useful way, thinking of what data might be best to collect, and combining the data in ways to gain new understanding and drive decision making. You may not be exactly sure what this data might 'look like', but one way to think of it would be to imagine a really big Excel document with lots of different columns.

Engineering is a really big field, and if you like problem-solving it might be the field for you. Beyond that, there are lots of sub-fields of engineering to suit your specific interests. I hope this helped answer your question!


William’s Answer


I would also like to add that engineers have a general sense of curiosity and often ask the questions "why?", "how?", or "can it be better?"

For example, how does a car work? Is gasoline and the combustion engine a good way to propel a car, or is there a better way?
How do online games synchronize you and your friends' actions in World of Warcraft?

Engineers love to solve problems.


Chung’s Answer


All three comments above are pretty good introductions for the background of engineering world. In addition to those, I'd like to suggest you to study little bit broader and deeper by yourself and with your buddies who have similar interest in engineering.


Mark’s Answer


It helps to like to create things. It doesn't really matter what. But you like to build a thing.
And you like understand a thing and know how it works. Curiosity.

It also helps to be comfortable with math. You don't have to be great at it, you have plenty of time to learn more. But you should be comfortable with the idea that you would spend a lot of time doing math.

I see you're in Pittsburgh, I went to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. In the engineering college, they have:

Biomedical Engineering - I initially thought of being a biomedical engineering and an electrical engineer, because I wanted to build prosthetics. If you really like chemistry or biology, this could be interesting for you.

Chemical Engineering - I don't know a lot about ChemE. But in broad strokes, a ChemE takes some research a scientist did in a lab in a test-tube, and figures out how to do it in a giant processing plant.

Civil Engineering - I know even less about CivE. But common examples would be building bridges/buildings/dams/etc. As a CivE, you might need to make sure whatever being built is environmentally efficient/compliment. Or, of course, is structurally sound.

Mechanical Engineering - Essentially building things that move. Robotics is a cool thing that comes to mind when I think of mechanical engineering. Or maybe designing a new engine. Or a giant ship. Or a refrigerator. Or a vending machine that quickly creates ice cream as you wait.

Electrical & Computer Engineering - This is what I did.
You could work on radio-communications, like in an aircraft, or wifi, or cellphones.
Or build new computer circuitry, like designing a CPU.
Or you could be working on embedded systems, the computers that are in things like ovens/cars/thermostats/elevators/pretty much everywhere except personal computers.
Or you could work on the operating system for the iPhone.

Material Science & Engineering: I also don't know a lot about this one. But basically, studying / and creating new materials. Like the skin of a stealth airplane that absorbs radio waves. Or new alloys to jet engines. Or armor, like kevlar. The wikipedia article for Material Science has a cool list of "Emerging Technologies" with examples like this.

It is not uncommon, but not easy or necessary, to study two different engineerings. But no matter what, each thing you learn in engineering is like gaining a new tool for your tool belt, which you're use to build/inspect

In a lot of engineering schools, it helps to have an idea of what kind of engineering you are interested in. But they often don't let you pick until after you've taken a basic course in at least two, and it's common to change your mind in this time.

I have an electrical engineer friend who worked on designing iMac circuitry.
I have an electrical engineer friend who worked on blimps that looked for incoming missiles.
I have a mechanical engineer friend who worked on construction vehicles.
I have many computer engineering friends who work in software..

A common flow of work is:
- Someone tells you what they need (you get the requirements)
- You figure out how to build/improve something so it does what they want it to do.
- You build it
- You prove it does what they want it to do
- You make sure it continues to work

In many things, you prove it does what you want it to do before you build it. You wouldn't want to build a bridge without having some computer model to show that it won't fall down in high winds. But sometimes this doesn't work out at planned. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citigroup_Center#Engineering_crisis_of_1978