Engineering is the creative application of scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes that safely realize solutions to the needs of society. To put it simply, engineers apply scientific principles to solve problems for the advancement of mankind.
Engineering through its various branches or disciplines is largely responsible for so many of the everyday things that we take for granted in our lives: Cars, the roads we drive on, aircraft, ships, phones, TVs, computers, houses, clean running water, sanitation, central heating, electric light. Engineering, which is "the application of scientific principles", has made and continues to make all of these things possible.
But here comes the real challenge! Can we continue to have all of these comforts and conveniences and just take them for granted? Many people in the world's developing countries also aspire to have this standard of living, but does Earth have the resources to provide it? Consider that in 1950 the world's population was under 3 billion. By the year 2010 it had more than doubled to approximately 6.5 billion and by 2050 it is predicted to reach 10 billion. In order for us to survive, humanity must reorient its industrial development so that our lifestyles can continue without endangering the lives of future generations. This is what is actually at the root of "sustainability" and if we are to be serious about a sustainable future then we must look to engineers, scientists and technologists to solve the problems that act as barriers to that future.
At the moment there is a very real tendency to "green wash" everything. The term "green washing", like "white washing" a wall to cover up the cracks and imperfections, suggests that if we simply call something "green" or "sustainable" then it begins to look like it's environmentally friendly and will make a great contribution to saving the planet. The thing is that sustainability is a serious business and it should be treated seriously. It will only be through engineering and science that genuine sustainability can be attained. There has been much talk about the "green economy". The government believes that the green economy can provide over 80,000 jobs between 2010 and 2020. In 2010 the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs issued a report titled " Future Skills Needs of Enterprise within the Green Economy in Ireland". That report identified the six main sectors with potential for expansion as being; renewable energies, efficient energy use and management, water and waste water treatment, waste management, recovery and recycling, and green ITC applications and software. The reality is that these are not new study areas, but are all branches and sub-disciplines of recognised engineering.
Engineering delivers serious solutions to the sustainability question. How is this so? If we are to be serious about our futures, sustainability must mean
- Better design
- Efficient energy consumption
- Alternative energy sources
- Reduced environmental impact
- Product life cycle management
- Practicable solutions to real problems
These things are only achievable through the application of scientific principles, otherwise known as ENGINEERING. Engineering has always been about Sustainability. All of our programmes from the Engineering Trades to Masters Degree have sustainability at their core. Fundamental engineering principles do not change with fashion; however the problems that need to be addressed do change as new challenges arise.
The four engineering departments are:
- Department of Electronic and Mechanical Engineering
- Department of the Built Environment
- Department of Engineering Trades & Civil Engineering
Dr Thomas Dooley, Head of School of Engineering