What is Mechanical Engineering?

Mountain BikersMechanical Engineering (ME) is about controlling the movement of matter and energy. If it rolls, flies, flows, or produces sound, a mechanical engineer has probably had a hand in designing it. Machines designed by mechanical engineers keep you warm in winter and cool in the summer, put people out in space (and bring them home alive), propel you at 500 miles an hour 7 miles above ground (while you sleep), allow surgeons to operate on you though a small tube inserted in a vein, and will improve your life in wonderful ways in the future. Those wizardly feats didn’t spring from guess-work. They were the result of taking ideas and arranging them in new ways, then applying scientific principles to ensure the machines will work the way we want them to work.

What do Mechanical Engineers do?

Electric CarMechanical Engineers (ME’s) spend their time creating, problem solving, analyzing, testing, evaluating and researching. MEs look at the products, systems, and materials existing in the world and devise ways to make them more efficient, more user-friendly, stronger, faster, and more sustainable – all around BETTER!  ME’s will invent new products and machines that will surely improve your life. Basically, ME’s are in the business of bettering our world. Mechanical Engineers play a significant role in the design and manufacturing of all of the products and systems essential to everyday modern life: things like home appliances, bikes, snowboards, iPods, electric power generation, recreational equipment, hybrid automobiles, keyboards, satellites, wind turbines, wheelchairs, airplanes, robots, industrial equipment and environmental control systems. They are the designers of the complex mechanical, thermal and fluid-flow systems, including computer simulation and feedback control. Look, listen and feel the environment around you and you’ll notice their contributions everywhere.

Don’t Mechanical Engineers only work in factories?

sunrise beach n belize web
U Mechanical Engineering Wind Energy Project: Sunrise at the beach in Belize.

ME’s work everywhere: in big and small cities, rural communities, even remote wilderness areas. Some ME’s go into medicine, law, business management, or policy. Some work in business offices or classrooms, others in factories or research labs; some work outdoors – even in outer space! ME’s work in almost every technical field imaginable, including aerospace, automotive, biomedical engineering, computer aided design and manufacturing, transportation, energy production, and environmental systems. Mechanical engineering is the broadest of all engineering disciplines, with the widest applicability and most flexibility in terms of career paths. Mechanical engineering typically involves team effort. ME’s work on projects with experts in many different fields and interesting people from different backgrounds – even different countries.

What do Mechanical Engineering students learn?

Mechanical engineering education involves learning how to design safe, reliable, environmentally sound, and cost effective devices and systems. At the core of our curriculum are the engineering science classes where you learn to predict how energy, forces, fluids and materials will interact in almost any application or natural environment. Mechanical engineering students learn how to program a computer to produce numerical simulations of complicated phenomena, or to control a device to do a specific set of tasks. Teamwork, communication, and computer skills are important to all ME’s. Students doing researchAt the graduate degree level, Mechanical Engineering students sharpen their predictive skills with advanced classes in engineering science, and add to the knowledge base in the engineering sciences through basic and applied research. This new knowledge leads to big opportunities to produce the technology of the future and to improve human lives. The education of a Mechanical Engineer provides the basic skills needed to be an effective problem solver in the modern world. Thus, while many ME students augment the broad technical knowledge gained in their undergraduate studies with more specific graduate study in ME, some ME graduates combine their ME knowledge with other technical disciplines, or use it as a basis for entry into Business, Law, or Medical School. The Department of Mechanical Engineering provides a broad-based education opportunity for our students that will empower them to make significant contributions to the solution of society’s problems in a wide variety of challenging, interesting and rewarding careers.