It’s Engineers Week – a chance to highlight engineers and the work they do! But there are many different types of engineers who work on solving different types of problems, using different materials. Some engineers work on the scale of huge buildings, and others work on the micro-biological level of cells and cell parts.
Learn more about five different types of engineers, what they work on, and fun projects you can do to test your own engineering skills.
What does a civil engineer do? Civil engineers design and build projects like buildings, roads, tunnels, bridges, and water and sewage systems and make sure that those things work properly and safely.
Meet Sophie Puerto, a civil engineer at Michael Baker International. Sophie designs awesome projects that improve the world around us. She explains the tools and ideas that let her (and other engineers!) do this work, including how we use a system of pulleys and levers to create cranes that make it possible for people to lift and move heavy materials so we can build enormous things like buildings, roads, and dams.
Think like a civil engineer!
Learn more about Sophie and the kind of work civil engineers do by creating a tool that they rely on: Build a Crane!
What does an electrical engineer do? Electrical engineers design and test electrical equipment and systems, like motors, navigation systems, and broadcast and communications systems.
Meet Jan Wei Pan, an artificial intelligence scientist at Boeing who creates robots that can work together with humans to build planes. These robots are really strong, and work right next to humans, so it’s important that they can shut down when people get too close to keep them safe. Because robots can’t see, Jan Wei gives robots cameras to look around and relies on open and closed circuits to tell robots when they should turn off. Circuits are pathways that electricity can flow through.
Think like an electrical engineer!
Lean more about Jan Wei and the robots he designs by building your own robot that comes to a safe stop when instructed to.
What does an mechanical engineer do? Mechanical engineering is a broad field, and mechanical engineers design machines that perform a wide variety of functions. They design machines that create power (like generators, engines, or turbines) and machines that use power (like refrigerators and air conditioners), as well as machines like elevators and escalators.
Meet Kerri Olson, a robotics engineer at Boeing who designs robots that help humans build planes. The robots Kerri designs help attach wings to the body of planes – something that is very difficult for humans to do. These robots have to be strong, flexible and perform each function safely. Kerri’s interest in robots started when she was a student and had to make a robot that could dance as part of robotics club.
Think like a mechanical engineer!
Design and build a robotic arm that can pick up and move three very different objects: a marble, a straw, and a coin. Learn about forces and the laws of motion as you build.
What does an aerospace engineer do? Aerospace engineers design and test machines like aircraft, spacecraft, satellites and missiles.
Meet Tony Castilleja, an engineer at Boeing who builds spaceships! Tony works on a spacecraft (the CST 100) that makes it safer and easier to transport astronauts to and from the international space station. In order to get astronauts where they’re going safely, this spacecraft must be very precise and the people who build it need a deep understanding of the physics of flight.
Think like an aerospace engineer!
Build your own air-powered spinning machine that works the same way as thrusters do on spacecraft. Learn about the laws of motion as you build your spinning machine.
What does a chemical engineer do? Chemical engineers turn raw materials into everyday products like clothes, food, pharmaceuticals and much more. Chemical engineering is a broad field, with lots of sub-fields and jobs within it, and chemical engineers can work on everything from minerals to pharmaceutical drugs to the environment (managing waste materials, or finding ways to recover and reuse valuable raw materials).
Meet Vidhya Chakrapani. Vidhya is a scientist who works in a field called nanoscience and studies really interesting particles called quantum dots. Quantum dots are so small that over 40,000,000,000,000 of them can fit on the tip of your pinky. Quantum dots are starting to be used in a lot of different things, such as solar panels, medical imaging, and even TVs.
Think like a nanoscientist!
Create your own quantum dots that are all the exact same size. Learn about nanoscience and how useful it is as you build.