ENGINEER – FUNCTIONS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
By: Iftikhar Ajmal Bhopal Year: 1984
Engineering is the professional art of applying science to the optimum conversion of the resources of nature to benefit man. The words engineer and ingenious are derived from the same Latin root “ingenerare” meaning “to create”.
Associated with engineering is a great body of special knowledge; preparation for professional practice involves extensive training in the application of that knowledge.Engineering is an art requiring the judgment necessary to adapt knowledge to practical purposes, the imagination to conceive original solutions to problems, and the ability to predict performance and cost of new devices or processes.
The function of the scientist is to know, while that of the engineer is to do. The scientist adds to the store of verified, systematized knowledge of the physical world; the engineer brings this knowledge to bear on practical problems. Engineering is based principally on physics, chemistry & mathematics and their extensions into materials science, solid and fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, transfer and rate processes, system analysis, computer programming, electronics and optronics.
Unlike the scientists, the engineer is not free to select the problem that interests him; he must solve problems as they arise; his solution must satisfy conflicting requirements. Usually efficiency costs money; safety adds to complexity; improved performance increases weight. The engineering solution is the optimum solution, the end result that, taking many factors into account, is most desirable. It may be the cheapest for a specified level of performance, the most reliable within a given weight limit, the simplest that will satisfy certain safety requirements, or the most efficient for a given cost. In many engineering problems, the social costs are significant.
Engineers employ two types of natural resources – materials and energy. Since most resources are limited, the engineer must concern himself with the continual development of new resources as well as the efficient utilization of existing ones. The results of engineering activities contribute to the welfare of man by furnishing food, shelter, and comfort; by making work, transportation and communication easier and safer; and by making life pleasant and satisfying.
The branches indicate what the engineer works with; the functions describe what he does. In order of decreasing emphasis on science, the major functions of all engineering branches are the following:
Research. The research engineer seeks new principles and processes by employing mathematical and scientific concepts, experimental techniques, and inductive reasoning.
Development. The development engineer applies the results of research to useful purposes. Ingenious and creative application of new knowledge may result in a working model of a new electronics circuit, a chemical process, an industrial machine, or a gadget of optronics.
Design. In designing a structure or a product, the engineer selects methods, specifies materials, and determines shapes to satisfy technical requirements and to meet performance specification.
Construction. The construction engineer is responsible for preparing the site, determining procedures that will economically and safely yield the desired quality, directing the placement of materials, and organizing the personnel and equipment.
Production. Plant layout and equipment selection, with consideration of human and economic factors, is the responsibility of the production engineer. He chooses processes and tools, integrates the flow of materials and components, and provides for testing and inspection.
Operation. The operating engineer controls machines, plants, and organizations providing power, transportation, and communication. He determines procedures and supervises personnel to obtain reliable and economic operation of complex equipment.
Management and other functions. In some countries (U.S.A.,Japan, etc) and industries, engineers analyze customer requirements, recommend units to satisfy needs economically, and resolve related problems. In some industries, too, engineers decide how assets are to be used.
An engineer must study sciences and their application, resources and their conversion, and man and his needs. The first stage of professional preparation is usually a collage degree, but in the present-day-world, where rapid change is the rules, learning must be continuous.
Undergraduate Curriculum. The integrated undergraduate engineering program, developed primarily in Europe and the U.S. over the past century, provides the basic education for entrance into the profession. It provides opportunities for students to master important concepts; to become adept in powerful techniques; to develop creative approaches to problem solving; and to become skillful in oral, written, graphic, and mathematical communication. By integrating the study of humanities, social sciences, mathematics, physical sciences, and technology and by providing experience in analysis, synthesis, and experimentation, the undergraduate engineering program offers a modern liberal education.
The typical curriculum leading to the bachelor’s degree is defined by series of courses.. General, education is provided by a pattern of courses selected, from the humanities and social sciences. Basic science education includes mathematics, physics, computer programming, and often statistics, chemistry, and biology. Engineering sciences include materials, mechanics, thermodynamics, transfer and rate processes, electrical science, electronics, and information processing.
The combination of general education with basic and engineering science may provide the common preparations for all engineering students at a given institution. Specialization to meet the needs and interests of individuals is offered through majors or options — combinations of courses to provide depth in a specific branch or function.
Graduate Study. More and more engineers in the U.S.A., U.S.S.R., Japan and other countries hold advanced degrees. In engineering, graduate study is characterized by highly sophisticated concepts, more advanced mathematics, greater depth in special topics, more opportunity for individual work, and less dependence on formal courses.
Modern trends. Early engineers were trained by apprenticeship to a skilled practitioner. As the body of knowledge gained by observation, testing, and research increased, organized programmes of study were initiated in established institutions. Following World War—Il, new trends became apparent, the result of the rapidly growing body of theoretical knowledge. Greater emphasis was placed on mathematics, physical science, and the engineering science. The current trend is toward more basic and less applied courses, greater use of computers and probability theory, and, at least in some countries, additional humanities and social sciences.
One activity common to all engineering work is problem solution. The problem may involve quantitative or qualitative factors; it may be physical or economic; it may require abstract mathematics or common sense. Of great importance is the process of creative synthesis or design, putting ideas together to create a new and optimum solution of the problem. Since the engineer functions at the socio-technological “interface” (with science and technology on one side and individuals and communities on the other), he bears a unique responsibility to decide on priorities, establish performance criteria, select materials and processes, and specify evaluation procedures.
Problem solution. Although engineering problems vary greatly in scope and complexity, the same general approach is applicable. First comes an analysis of the overall situation and a preliminary decision on a plan of attack. In line with this plan, the usually broad and vague problem is reduced to a more categorical question that can be clearly stated. The stated question is then answered by deductive reasoning from known principles or by creative synthesis, as in a new design. The answer or design is always checked for accuracy and adequacy. Finally, the results for the simplified problem as stated are interpreted in terms of the original problem and reported in an appropriate form.
In his search for solutions to problems, especially new problems, the engineer is in conflict with a rather intractable environment and often in competition with predecessors who tried and failed and with contemporary rivals who are trying to solve the same problem. His success depends on ability to create a new idea, a new device, a new process, or a new material.
Decision making. The engineer not only makes technological advances available to man but also may be charged with the responsibility to see that such advances do indeed enhance the welfare of man. By virtue of his knowledge, his skill, and his unique role in society, the engineer must concern himself with the results of technological progress such as its effect on the physical environment and its social and economic impact. A successful engineer is prepared for decision making on complex problems in broad areas. He is skilled in the use of sophisticated tools and creative in the development of new techniques. He has the vision to conceive vast projects, the talent to analyze them as integrated man-machine-environment systems, and the ability to predict their technical performance and their human impact.