Mechanical Engineering is the discipline that applies the principles of engineering, physics, and materials science for the design, analysis, manufacturing, and maintenance of mechanical systems. Mechanical engineering is a diverse subject that derives its breadth from the need to design and manufacture everything from small individual parts and devices (e.g., micro scale sensors and inkjet printer nozzles) to large systems (e.g., spacecraft and machine tools). Mechanical engineering involves skills that are required for virtually everything that is made, and is the oldest and perhaps the broadest and most diverse of engineering disciplines
The main role of a mechanical engineer is to take a product from concept to the marketplace. Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal devices, including tools, engines, and machines. Perhaps the one skill that is the mechanical engineer’s exclusive domain is the ability to analyze and design objects and systems with motion.
Mechanical engineers generally work in professional office settings but occasionally visit worksites where a problem or piece of equipment needs their personal attention. Mechanical engineers work mostly in engineering services, research and development, manufacturing industries and even the federal government.
Mechanical engineers play a central role in such industries as:
- Automotive (from the car chassis to its every subsystem—engine, transmission, sensors)
- Aerospace (airplanes, aircraft engines, control systems for airplanes and spacecraft)
- Biotechnology (implants, prosthetic devices, fluidic systems for pharmaceutical industries)
- Computers and Electronics (disk drives, printers, cooling systems, semiconductor tools)
- Micro-Electromechanical Systems (sensors, actuators, micro-power generation)
- Energy Conversion (gas turbines, wind turbines, solar energy, fuel cells)
- Environmental Control (HVAC, air-conditioning, refrigeration, compressors)
- Automation (robots, data and image acquisition, recognition, control)
- Manufacturing (machining, machine tools, prototyping, micro-fabrication)
The fundamentals of the mechanical engineering discipline allow students a variety of career options beyond some of the industries listed above. Regardless of the specific professional path they desire for themselves after they graduate, they are provided with creative thinking skills that allows them to design an exciting product or system, the analytical tools to achieve design goals, the ability to overcome all constraints, and the teamwork skills needed to design, market, and produce a system. If the world of academia is preferred, those interested in applied scientific and mathematical aspects of the discipline, graduate study in mechanical engineering can lead to a career of research and teaching.