What is Engineering?: Crash Course Engineering #1

What is Engineering?: Crash Course Engineering #1


You live in a world of creations. All of the things you see around me were created
by people. The technology that’s being used to record
me, and watch me, were likewise created. And not by lone geniuses, but by whole teams –
sometimes entire generations – of clever designers. Those designers were engineers. And engineers are, when it comes right down
to it, creators. The word “engineering” itself comes from
the Latin ingenium, meaning “cleverness”, and
ingeniare, meaning “to design or devise”. And that makes sense, since you have to be
clever if you’re going to solve the problems
that engineers face every day. Now, you might think of engineering as a kind
of science – and that’s not wrong. But it’s more useful to think of science as a tool, a
tool that engineers use – along with mathematics –
to perform their unique duties. Throughout this course, we’re going to show you
just what you can accomplish through engineering. Math is at the core of engineering, but what’s
more important are the ideas and the applications. They help us understand how we use math to
solve problems. So we’ll be teaching you some math, but
also the concepts that those equations explain,
in their own way. We’ll survey what we’ve already achieved,
explore what we’re still discovering, and dream
about what we hope to make possible. And we’ll show you the ideas you can use
to engineer great things! We want you to be inspired and as interested
in engineering as we are. That’s what this course is all about. I’m Dr. Shini Somara and this is Crash Course
Engineering. [Theme Music] Imagine you’re walking through town,
maybe on your way to class, or to the gym, or
to a meeting for work. And right there on the pavement you come across…a
blob. Of…something. It’s fairly large, and blue, and jiggly. Pretty strange, right?
What do you do? Well, you’re a curious person, and you know a little
something about scientific inquiry, so you want to
use science to study the blob. Maybe your background is in chemistry. So you might analyze the blob’s molecular
structure or the chemical components in it, to try
and figure out what the blob is made of. Or maybe the blob is moving or making sounds,
and you think it might be alive. So you might try to see how it responds to,
say, water or a poke with your pen. Maybe you even decide to remove a sample of
it to learn about the blob’s biology. You could even look at it from the perspective
of physics and see how it operates in motion. Maybe this goo has some special properties. Any of these responses would be approaching
the situation as a scientist. You’re curious about the blob and want to
understand it. That’s science. Scientists ask questions about the nature of the
universe, from our expanding knowledge of space, to
the tiniest particles found in the tip of your pencil. But engineers want to take the answers to
those questions and solve problems. Because, in the process of designing clever things,
what engineering really does is solve problems. And the good news is, you already know how
to think like an engineer. You’ve dabbled in engineering if you’ve
ever wondered what you can do with something. You’ve used your engineer’s mind if you went
outside on a snowy morning and built a snowman,
after figuring out the packing properties of the snow. I’m not saying you should put that on your
resume, but you do get a thumbs-up! So, from an engineering perspective, your
response to the mysterious sidewalk blob
would be a little different. But it may depend on what kind of engineer
you are. Today, engineering is much broader and more
varied than it used to be. That’s because engineering originally referred
specifically to military engineering. Military engineering involves designing and building
military works, along with ways of communicating and
transporting people and things. Think of catapults, trebuchets, and siege
towers. These types of war machines and military structures
have been found as far back as 11th century BCE,
by the Babylonians and Assyrians. You needed a good engineer if you want to
storm a castle. So from the perspective of this field, the
main problem that an engineer might want to
solve is simply how to destroy the blob. Or to protect yourself from it. Now, the first of the modern field of
engineering to emerge after military engineering
was civil engineering. This branch had its official start around
the 18th century. Like the name implies, civil engineering was used
for civilian purposes, rather than military ones. It focuses on building structures of all kinds,
along with highways, sanitation systems, and
even entire cities. Under this branch of engineering, we might want to
study the blob, to figure out what properties it has that
can be used to solve problems of daily civilian life. Like maybe the blob’s goo is better insulating
material than what’s currently in your house. Or maybe it turns out to be really elastic, or waterproof,
or have some other property that could make it useful
in construction, infrastructure, or urban planning. The 19th century led to an increasing focus
on the machinery industry, which gave rise to
the branch of mechanical engineering. Which I must say, as a mechanical engineer
myself, is a fine discipline! This branch focuses on machinery and mechanical
systems, from robots to engines. Thomas Savery and Thomas Newcomen, two English inventors who are credited with creating the steam engine in the early 1700s, were both mechanical engineers. And so was James Watt, the Scottish scientist
who made their design much more efficient by
recapturing the steam in the engine. The industrial revolution was led by mechanical
engineers like them. Then, electrical engineering was a natural
progression, once we were able to generate
electricity and create electronics. Dating back to the 19th century, electrical
engineering deals with devices and systems that can range anywhere from microchips and
cell phones to the giant power station generators
that help supply energy to big cities. Electrical and mechanical engineering
often come together to create some pretty
fantastic inventions. If you want a robot that can move about like we
do, you’re going to need a mechanical engineer
to set up the “skeleton” of the machine. Then, to give it a “heart” of electricity,
you’ll need an electrical engineer to provide
power to the robot with electronics. And if you want it to act like us too, you’ll
need someone skilled in computer science. But engineering doesn’t stop there. Another field was founded in the late 19th
century: chemical engineering. These engineers have quite a wide focus, not
only designing and operating chemical plants that
do things like refine oil and distill alcohol. They also deal with food, medicine, the environment,
and much more. They’re involved not only with the
preservatives and artificial flavors found in
the pizza pocket you ate last night, but also with the medicine you took the
next day to help your upset stomach. Together, civil, mechanical, electrical, and
chemical engineering are often seen as the four main
branches of engineering in the modern world. But there are many more fields that specialize
even further. We have aerospace engineers building machines
that fly in the air and space; nuclear engineers harnessing the energy
released from nuclear reactions; and biomedical engineers creating medical
equipment and devices to solve clinical problems. The list goes on! And one branch that supports all of them is
industrial engineering. Engineers in this field design and optimize
the facilities, equipment, and systems that many
other engineers use to create their products. Think of them as the support class of the
engineering world. They provide the all-important groundwork
for many of our engineering advances. We’ll need some industrial engineers to help us with
our factory when we start manufacturing our cool new
products based on whatever this blob is made of. With the power of engineering at our fingertips, we’ve
already been able to do some pretty amazing things. We’ve built spaceships that have sent people
to the moon and given Mars a few rovers, which are
fantastic works of engineering themselves. We’ve made artificial hearts to pump blood
through the human body and artificial limbs
to replace the ones that were lost. We’ve designed giant skyscrapers that wave
at the clouds and show the world just how
high we can reach. And we’ve only just begun! In the future, it’s very possible that we’ll
see advances like an artificial pancreas that
would effectively cure Type 1 Diabetes. And new nanotechnology that will show the
might of being small, and rockets that will finally send
people to Mars to hang out with those rovers. This and much more could all come from engineering. Maybe one day you’ll be the one to create
something truly amazing! As for the blob you found on the pavement,
I don’t know what that thing is. Maybe it’ll turn out to be a huge wad of
used chewing gum. Or maybe it’s a new lifeform. No matter what, it won’t be the first, or
last, mysterious object you’ll encounter
as a student of engineering. The world is full of strange things with great
potential for solving problems. When you use your engineering mind, everything
suddenly seems both perplexing and exciting. So, over the next forty-odd weeks, we’ll
show you how to build things. Design things. We’ll show you how to solve problems. We want you to be able to make things better
and figure out what’s next for the world. Because we all live in a world of creation,
and we want you to be a creator. Next time, we’ll continue our journey by
diving deeper into civil engineering. We’ll learn more about its history and the types
of work that civil engineers do, getting you one step
closer to being an engineering master of the universe. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you then! Crash Course Engineering is produced in association
with PBS Digital Studios. You can head over to their channel to check
out a playlist of their latest amazing shows, like The Origin of Everything, Infinite Series,
and Eons. Crash Course is a Complexly production and
this episode was filmed in the Doctor Cheryl C. Kinney
Studio with the help of these wonderful people. And our amazing graphics team is Thought Cafe.

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