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What Do Mechanical Engineers Do

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“Scientists dream about doing great things. Engineers do them.”

-James A. Michener

Engineers solve complex problems for society. Mechanical engineers create and build mechanical devices. They apply the fundamentals of science and math to create practical, useful solutions that the rest of us can use.

The diverse mechanical engineering field can be divided in a variety of ways in terms of job functions. Some of the most common functions relate to these areas of technology, but not all do. Among these fields are:

  • Product Design -- developing products ranging from biomedical devices to gasoline-powered engines. A mechanical engineer designs anything that uses mechanical motion.
  • Research and Development -- discovering new solutions to human needs or improving older methods.
  • Manufacturing -- developing the machines that process materials into products. Designing and building machines and systems of machines that improve operating efficiency is of prime importance.
  • Systems management -- overseeing operations of a large system, such as a power plant, as well as supervising the people who work there.
  • Energy -- planning how energy is generated, stored, and moved. Industries that produce and deliver electrical power, such as natural gas, oil and alternative energy, employ mechanical engineers to develop more fuel-efficient cars, motors, and appliances.

In most of these fields, the mechanical engineer is concerned with heat utilization or machine design--in other words, harnessing or creating energy. Heat utilization techniques are applied in boilers, air conditioners, and refrigeration units. Machine design is more focused on hardware, including automobile engines, computers, and washing machines.