Mechanical Engineering Overview

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  • Topic: Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Oak Ridge Associated Universities
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  • Published : December 15, 2012
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eMechanical Engineering Overview
The Field - Preparation - Day in the Life - Earnings - Employment Development - Career Path Forecast - Professional Organizations

The Field
Mechanical engineering is one of the largest, broadest, and oldest engineering disciplines. Mechanical engineers use the principles of energy, materials, and mechanics to design and manufacture machines and devices of all types. They create the processes and systems that drive technology and industry. The key characteristics of the profession are its breadth, flexibility, and individuality. The career paths of mechanical engineers are largely determined by individual choices, a decided advantage in a changing world. Mechanics, energy and heat, mathematics, engineering sciences, design and manufacturing form the foundation of mechanical engineering. Mechanics includes fluids, ranging from still water to hypersonic gases flowing around a space vehicle; it involves the motion of anything from a particle to a machine or complex structure. Mechanical engineers research, design, develop, manufacture, and test tools, engines, machines, and other mechanical devices. Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering disciplines. Engineers in this discipline work on power-producing machines such as electric generators, internal combustion engines, and steam and gas turbines. They also work on power-using machines such as refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment, machine tools, material handling systems, elevators and escalators, industrial production equipment, and robots used in manufacturing. Mechanical engineers also design tools that other engineers need for their work. In addition, mechanical engineers work in manufacturing or agriculture production, maintenance, or technical sales; many become administrators or managers. Analysis, design, and synthesis are the key functions of mechanical engineers. The question is often how devices and processes actually work. The first step is to visualize what is happening and clearly state the problem. A mechanical engineer will then use computer-based modeling, simulation, and visualization techniques to test different solutions. "Mechanical Engineering Overview" Prepared as part of the Sloan Career Cornerstone Center (www.careercornerstone.org)

Design is one of the most satisfying jobs for a mechanical engineer. To design and build a new car, you must reckon with power, weight, size and shape, materials, reliability, and safety. "Synthesis" is when you pull all the factors together in a design that can be successfully manufactured. Design problems are challenging because most are open-ended, without a single or best answer. There is no best mousetrap -- just better ones. The field is notable for emphasizing versatility. A mechanical engineering education is an excellent foundation for work in other fields. Some mechanical engineers work on medical problems, such as the mechanics of bones and joints, or the fluid dynamics of the circulatory system. Mechanical engineers deal with economic issues, from the cost of a single component, to the economic impact of a manufacturing plant. M.E.'s can be found in sales, engineering management, and corporate management. Versatility is a decided asset in a world that is undergoing constant economic, political, industrial, and social change. Mechanical engineers are educated and positioned, not only to adapt, but to define and direct change. The diversity of the field of mechanical engineering is represented in the following areas of involvement.

Basic Engineering
Fundamentally, mechanical engineers are involved with the mechanics of motion and the transfer of energy from one form to another or one place to another. ME's design and build machines for industrial and consumer use -- virtually any machine you find, had a mechanical engineer involved with its development and production. They design heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems to control the...
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