What is exactly is engineering ?

So what exactly does the term engineering mean ? There are various sources on the internet that will give similar explanations, some more complex than others. Engineering in simple terms is the act of utilizing information or evidence, be it scientific, mathematical, social, political or economic, and then applying this knowledge to create, improve upon or redesign something, which could be a physical structure, a scientific formula, an organization, a chemical compound, or somethings as simple as a locomotive train.

Lets use the example of locomotive trains and carriages. The engineering knowledge and expertise required in the design and manufacture of a full scale locomotive train is obviously quite extensive. There are functionality design elements required to ensure that the locomotive is powerful enough to draw the carriages attached to it, It should be capable of drawing those carriages when loaded to their full specified weight capacity, whether they are fulled with goods being delivered from point A to point B, or whether the carriages are filled with commuters using the rail sytem as a means of public transport. The term “Locomotive Engineer” actually refers to the driver of the locomotive or person who is responsible for ensuring that the locomotive leaves its departure point and arrives safely at its destination. The engineers behind the actual designing of the locomotive are a completely different brand of men. These engineers are inventors, scientists, men of reason who thrive on the challenge of solving engineering problems. The basic principle of a steam locomotive is the conversion of heat energy into mechanical energy. In most cases a boiler is utilized that generates steam. The steam is channeled into an engine where its pressure and force drive the engine’s pistons. Once the engine’s pistons are pumping, the that mechanical energy is then translated into the locomotives wheels turning and voila, the locomotive is moving forward.

For several decades there has existed a a large group of model railway and steam locomotive enthusiasts and hobbyists. These folks are fascinated by the subject of locomotives and the railway systems and will spend endless hours building and replicating railway systems on a miniature or model scale. In reality, there is little difference between the engineering involved in designing a full scale locomotive and its railway system, and the construction of a model, scaled down version of it. The model railway enthusiast community is made up largely of men, it seems less women have a penchant for this more mechanical type of hobby. I suppose this does make sense, even in the larger scale engineering community we find that there is a far greater percentage of male engineers as opposed to female engineers.

engineering forms

Enough of the locomotive engineering analogy for now. The basic premise, is that an engineer is a man or woman that has an interest in applying knowledge or factual evidence to transforming or creating something new and better with that knowledge. Again, engineering is not just limited to the kind of engineering that most of think of immediately, the traditional mechanical or chemical engineering. In the modern landscape where there are literally new advances and technological developments being reported each week, there is a new breed of engineer on the rise. These engineers are in the fields of marketing, software application development, data security, computer networking and so on. There is even a term recently coined as a “social engineer”. What is a “Social Engineer”, you might ask ? Social engineering is a means by which people with the motive to steal or gain access to a company’s confidential information might employ. A social engineer relies on the basic human traits of compassion, empathy, willingness to trust and help. Here is a scenario that a social engineer may concoct. Let’s for sake of ease refer to the social engineer as “Bob”, and the company receptionist as “Shelly”. Bob approaches the receptionist looking a little flustered, carrying a CV that has been soiled with coffee. Bob has already done his homework on Shelly and knows that she is a single mother of two young children. He quickly builds a rapport with Shelly by telling her is a single father and was late in dropping his kids at school that morning. In his haste, he ended up spilling coffee on his CV for the job he is applying for on the 5th floor of that same building. A job he desperately needs to take care of his children. Immediately Shelly’s guard is dropped, she feels a connection with Bob and compassion for his situation. When he asks if she could please use his flash drive in her computer to reprint his CV, her instinct to help another person overrides the cautions she has been given from the her company to never do something like this. Shelly inserts the flash-drive into the computer, malicious code is executed whilst she reprints his CV, and just like that the security of the company has been breached. The social engineer and his accomplices now have a backdoor into the company from which they can begin exploring the company network.

Engineering has evolved over the years just like any other industry or profession. With the advances being made at the pace they are in this century that we live, there will continue to be new kinds of engineers and areas of engineers created.