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What is Engineering?

My engineering education challenged me to reach for the stars. And one day I found myself standing on the moon...

Gene Cernan, Commander, Apollo XVII

In a nutshell, engineers are problem solvers. Whether it is allowing you to carry movies and videos with you at all times (iPod), guiding airplanes and hikers to their destinations (GPS navigation systems), or providing clean water to rural villages in sub-Sahara Africa, engineers are problem solvers who search for more efficient, easier to use, and less expensive solutions to today's challenges.

The first engineers were from Egypt nearly 6000 years ago -- Imhotep (the builder of tombs) and Khufu-onekh (who built the Great Pyramid which still stands today).  These origins eventually gave rise to engineering schools which first appeared Syracruse (around 400 BC) and dedicated to solving solving military problems.  The term 'Engineer' itself derives from the Latin word 'ingenium' which meant 'catapult' or 'siege engine'.  Over the last two thousands years, the engineering field has grown considerably.  You can now find engineers trying to make energy use more efficient, constructing bridges and airports, or even landing on the moon.

A few engineering disciplines are listed below. By no means is this list exhaustive especially when it comes to the list of career paths! Check here for more disciplines:

  • Electrical Engineering -- Related to any project involving electrical devices, systems, and the use of electricity. EEs work on power plants, computers, and other electrical devices. Career paths include: BC Hydro and Research in Motion
  • Computer Engineering -- Deal with all aspects of computer systems including design, construction and operation. May specialize in digital systems, operating systems, or networks. Career Paths include: Apple and Spectrum Signal Processing
  • Mechanical Engineering -- Use mechanics or energy principles to design machines such as engines and motors. Typically work in areas such as robotics, automotives, or manufacturing. Career paths include: Honda Motors and Weyerhaeuser
  • Chemical Engineering -- Take raw materials and turn them into products we use everyday. Crucial in producing pharmaceuticals. Many work within the petroleum and plastics industries. Career paths include: Ballard Power and Petro-Canada
  • Civil Engineering -- One of the largest branches and oldest of engineering. Has its origins in the practice of individuals distinguising themselves from the military engineers by using the term civil(ian) engineers.  Work on high-rise buildings, dams, water treatment centers, and urban transit systems. Career paths include: TransLink and City of Nanaimo
  • Environmental Engineering: Assist with the development of water distribution systems, recycling methods, and pollution prevention and control systems. Career paths include: BC Ministry of the Environment and Metro Vancouver