Engineering Merit Badge – Engineers work to solve problems. They may build roads or cars, design factories or computer games, or study traffic problems or the best way to make a chair.
They find ways to make life easier, safer, and more productive by putting new knowledge and skills to work or by more efficiently using established methods and processes.
Creating better methods and products is important because, besides meeting people’s needs more successfully, innovation also can save money.
Engineers are always looking for ways to cut costs and improve efficiency. That allows companies to sell their products at a lower price, which stimulates competition and improves consumers lives.
For example, a typical desktop computer costs a third of the price it did 15 years ago.
Engineering Merit Badge Requirement
- Select a manufactured item in your home (such as a toy or an appliance) and, under adult supervision and with the approval of your counselor, investigate how and why it works as it does. Find out what sort of engineering activities were needed to create it. Discuss with your counselor what you learned and how you got the information.
- Select an engineering achievement that has had a major impact on society. Using resources such as the Internet (with your parent’s permission), books, and magazines, find out about the engineers who made this engineering feat possible, the special obstacles they had to overcome, and how this achievement has influenced the world today. Tell your counselor what you learned.
- Explain the work of six types of engineers. Pick two of the six and explain how their work is related.
- Visit with an engineer (who may be your counselor or parent) and do the following:
- Discuss the work this engineer does and the tools the engineer uses.
- Discuss with the engineer a current project and the engineer’s particular role in it.
- Find out how the engineer’s work is done and how results are achieved.
- Ask to see the reports that the engineer writes concerning the project.
- Discuss with your counselor what you learned about engineering from this visit.
- Do ONE of the following:
- Use the systems engineering approach to make step-by-step plans for your next campout. List alternative ideas for such items as program schedule, campsites, transportation, and costs. Tell why you made the choices you did and what improvements were made.
- Make an original design for a piece of patrol equipment. Use the systems engineering approach to help you decide how it should work and look. Draw plans for it. Show the plans to your counselor, explain why you designed it the way you did, and explain how you would make it.
- Do TWO of the following:
- Transforming motion. Using common materials or a construction set, make a simple model that will demonstrate motion. Explain how the model uses basic mechanical elements like levers and inclined planes to demonstrate motion. Describe an example where this mechanism is used in a real product.
- Using electricity. Make a list of 10 electrical appliances in your home. Find out approximately how much electricity each uses in one month. Learn how to find out the amount and cost of electricity used in your home during periods of light and heavy use. List five ways to conserve electricity.
- Understanding electronics. Using an electronic device such as a mobile telephone or portable digital media player, find out how sound travels from one location to another. Explain how the device was designed for ease of use, function, and durability.
- Using materials. Do experiments to show the differences in strength and heat conductivity in wood, metal, and plastic. Discuss with your counselor what you have learned.
- Converting energy. Do an experiment to show how mechanical, heat, chemical, solar, and/or electrical energy may be converted from one or more types of energy to another. Explain your results. Describe to your counselor what energy is and how energy is converted and used in your surroundings.
- Moving people. Find out the different ways people in your community get to work. Make a study of traffic flow (number of vehicles and relative speed) in both heavy and light traffic periods. Discuss with your counselor what might be improved to make it easier for people in your community to get where they need to go.
- Building an engineering project. Enter a project in a science or engineering fair or similar competition. (This requirement may be met by participation on an engineering competition project team.) Discuss with your counselor what your project demonstrates, the kinds of questions visitors to the fair asked, and how well you were able to answer their questions.
- Explain what it means to be a registered Professional Engineer (P.E.). Name the types of engineering work for which registration is most important.
- Study the Engineer’s Code of Ethics. Explain how it is like the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
- Find out about three career opportunities in engineering. Pick one and research the education, training, and experience required for this profession. Discuss this with your counselor, and explain why this profession might interest you.
Each field of engineering applies different sciences, formulas, and techniques. Designing a bridge takes different knowledge than creating a fire hot enough to refine iron ore.
The way an engineer figures out how to make large batches of chemicals is quite different from how another engineer plants to manufacture automobiles or computer chips.
The special scientific ideas and mathematical formulas needed by each type of engineer can be collected and made available to all the people doing that kind of work.
These include information such as:
- Tables that show how materials behave when cooled, heated, or melted.
- Mathematical formulas that describe how air, water, or electrons flow.
- Computer programs to help engineers understand how these things will happen.
The First Engineering Specialties
Five early fields of engineering emerged to meet the growing needs of a society that were brought about by the industrial revolution in the 1800s.
These engineering fields were civil, mining and metallurgical, mechanical, chemical, and electrical.
1. Civil Engineering
Civil engineers meet society’s needs for infrastructure things like roads, railways, bridges, dams, water supply systems, and sewage systems.
A critical part of designing these structures is making sure they will stay where they are put that they will not tilt, shift, or sink into the soil over time. Therefore, civil engineers often apply knowledge of geology and physics in their work.
2. Mining and Metallurgical Engineering
Mining and metallurgical engineers work to make mining and refining metals more predictable, safer, and less expensive.
They do this by applying the principles of materials science the study of the properties and behavior of solids, liquids, and gases.
Metallurgical engineers have advanced the ore refining processes by creating new mixtures (alloys) tailored to meet specific needs.
Examples are hard metals that can hold a sharp edge, soft metals that can be stamped with an artistic pattern, noncorrosive and weather-resistant metals, and metals that can withstand very high or very low temperatures.
The metallurgist strives to meet the project’s goals by delivering alloys with just the right properties in such areas as cost-effectiveness, weight, durability, and strength.
3. Mechanical Engineering
Mechanical engineers apply the principles of physics to design, build, and maintain mechanical systems.
That can mean anything from designing a collapsible cardboard box for holding doughnuts to constructing the most advanced jet engines.
Some mechanical engineers specialize in converting energy into more useful forms. Boilers and generators convert heat to electricity in coal-fired, gas-fired, and nuclear power plants.
The energy in falling water can be used to generate electricity. Heat from the sun can be collected and used to heat water or even generate electricity.
Many mechanical engineers specialize in moving heat to where it is wanted and away from where it is not wanted.
They design boilers, gasoline engines, and gas turbines (jet engines) that can operate for long periods without overheating, or fans to cool the microprocessors in computers.
Other mechanical engineers take the converted energy and devise machines to do useful things with it: Automobiles, lawnmowers, micro-engineered medical equipment, aircraft landing gears, and machines to mold plastic toys or fill soda bottles are all examples.
These engineers learn how to use shafts and bearings, pulleys, gears, and mechanisms (collections of levers) to make things move around or back and forth or in special patterns, at specified speeds.
4. Chemical Engineering
Chemical engineers develop useful things based on the newest advances in chemistry. In process, they harness their knowledge of chemicals, chemical reactions, and raw materials.
When chemists create a new medicine, plastic, fiber, fabric, or glue, they normally make only a small amount in the laboratory.
Chemical engineers devise ways to adapt these small laboratory experiments into full-scale productions in processing plants that can efficiently make tons of the new substance every day.
5. Electrical Engineering
Electrical engineers discover how to harness electricity to do more for people. They study and apply electronics and electromagnetism (the physics of electricity and magnetism).
Electrical engineering had its start during the latter part of the 19th century. The original focus was on generation and distributing electricity widely, to replace steam and water as sources of power and gas as a fuel for lightning.
Along the way came inventions like electrically powered trains, microwave ovens, and other modern conveniences that have dramatically changed our lives, as well as communication devices that have brought people around the world closer together.
The specialties of modern electrical engineering include:
- Power generation and distribution
- Electrical machinery (motors and things run by motors)
- Communications (telephones, radio, TV, and data)
- Computer systems, sometimes called information systems
- Control systems (like those that guide robots)
- Electronic devices (integrated circuits, microprocessors)
Other Fields of Engineering
As technologies have become more complex and the products based on them more complicated, more modern engineering specialties have developed.
1. Aerospace Engineering
Aerospace engineers are specialized mechanical engineers that study the way airplanes and rockets interact with the air to fly, develop lightweight structures for airplanes and space vehicles, and design the high-powered engines needed to propel airplanes and lift space vehicles clear of Earth’s gravity and atmosphere.
Aerospace engineers specializing in aerodynamics design specially shaped wings, tails, and airplane bodies to move through the air with the least possible resistance.
2. Agricultural Engineering
Agricultural engineers design farm and food-processing equipment and develop systems for irrigation, drainage, and waste disposal.
Some experiment with new ways to grow crops more efficiently, like hydroponics (growing plants without soil).
3. Architectural Engineering
Architectural engineers work with architects on the systems that make buildings functional, such as elevators and escalators, heating and cooling systems, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems.
They also work with earth scientists to understand when, how, and at what strength natural forces such as wind, rain, and earthquakes will affect buildings.
Bioengineering combines biology and engineering and also relies on the principles of biomechanics the study of the mechanics (or workings) of living organisms.
Bioengineers work with medical doctors to design surgical instruments, artificial organs like heart valves and hearts, implants to replace weakened bones, and prosthetics like artificial legs to help people who have been hurt in accidents.
5. Ceramic Engineering
Ceramic engineers work with processes that convert clay and nonmetallic minerals into ceramic product such as dishes, protective tiles for the space shuttle, and solar panels.
During production, ceramic products are heated in very hot ovens, making them among the best materials for parts that will be exposed to high heat such as inside a jet engine, or on the surface of a spaceship that must fly through the atmosphere to return to Earth.
6. Computer Engineering
The amazing rate at which computers have progressed is due in large part to computer engineers, who continue to find ways to make memory storage devices smaller, to fit more circuits the circuits on a microchip, and to move data faster and faster through the circuits.
Devices for holding dan and software programs, as well as media files such as photographs and movies, have exploded in capacity while their physical size has gotten smaller.
The computer that controlled the lunar lander when Apollo astronauts landed on the moon in 1969 cot more than a million dollars. Today, the cheapest home computer has far more power than the Apollo computer and costs a fraction of the price.
7. Software Engineering
Software engineers apply the findings of computer science to design complex software systems and products from the systems that control airplanes in flight, to the systems that watch over our money in banks, to exciting new computer games.
They learn or create different programming languages to do different kinds of tasks. The fast-moving graphics action of a computer game is quite different from carrying out a detailed mathematical analysis.
Creating photograph like images, complete with shadows and reflections is different from searching a huge database for related items of information.
8. Systems Engineering
Complex systems like an airplane or a power plant require the expertise of many kinds of engineers.
Systems engineers figure out how all the many parts of a complex system work together, so that a plane will fly safety or a power plant will generate power steadily, safely, and cleanly.
Systems engineers often are the first engineers on a new project. They translate the customer’s needs (like high quality surround sound for a home theater system) into requirements and specifications that other engineers can follow as they design the product.
They then design tests to ensure that the finished product actually does what it was designed to do.
9. Petroleum Engineering
Petroleum engineers are specialized chemical engineers who develop efficient ways to extract crude petroleum from the ground.
Near the coast of Southern California, oil-drilling rigs on the land actually branch out under the sea to find oil deposits. It is difficult and complex to drill more than a mile straight down into the earth.
Can you imagine the extra engineering problems of drilling sideways?
10. Nuclear Engineering
Nuclear engineers design systems that operate in the presence of nuclear radiation, from power plants to medical instruments to weapons.
They specialize in applying materials that are not weakened by radiation, and in making the systems safe.
Handling nuclear materials must be done safely and surely, whether the materials are tiny “seeds” to be implanted under the skin of a cancer patient, or new fuel supplies for a power plant.
One task of nuclear engineers is to design containers that will safely shield the radiation under normal use, and will not break open if they are involved in an accident while they are being shipped.
11. Materials Engineering
materials engineers work with all kinds of materials, natural and synthetic, to create new materials that meet specific needs for strength, flexibility, durability, and resistance to corrosion.
Composites are excellent examples of what materials engineers are capable of creating. Composites can be strong enough for use as i beam or flexible enough to be formed into just about any shape, from airplane parts to bicycle frames.
12. Manufacturing Engineering
Mass-producing large quantities of products requires special knowledge of high-speed machinery (including automated machines and robots) to make sure the parts and finished products really are identical.
This is the task of manufacturing engineers. They understand how machine tools wear out, and how assembly robots can consistently make good products day after day.
13. Industrial Engineering
Industrial engineers are concerned with how manufacturing plants are organized: what machinery there is, how materials and the things being made flow through the factory, and how people are organized to make the factory as effective as it can be.
They often are involved in managing warehouse operations such as tracking inventory, routing conveyors, and overseeing materials handling.
They use the branch of mathematics called statistics to design efficient systems.
Just as special skills are needed to create vehicles that move through the air, designing ships also requires unique knowledge and mathematical tools.
Marine or naval engineers design equipment for a structure that is constantly moving, twisting, and being slammed by environmental factors such as weather, salt water, current, and marine life.
15. Environmental Engineering
Environmental engineers study the quality of the air, water, land, and develop systems to reduce pollution and help restore Earth to good health.
Increasingly complex computer programs now allow environmental engineers to create computer models of the movement of air and pollutants.
This lets engineers pinpoint the worst sources of pollution and how to improve air quality for the entire area.
Once environmental engineers identify which polluting chemicals are coming out of the exhaust stack of a particular factory, for instance, they can design special equipment to clean up the exhaust and improve the air quality around that factory.
The Engineer’s Work
Besides specializing in particular fields, different engineers have different responsibilities.
The design engineer uses a combination of new and existing ideas to solve a new problem or to solve an old problem in a new way.
These engineers find solutions that work according to the project’s requirements, stay within the budget, and are easy and safe to use. The solutions must be doable, long-lasting, practical to maintain or repair, and environmentally safe.
The analytical engineer is mainly responsible for creating mathematical models of physical problems. Analysis is the process of using the methods and tools of mathematics to simulate (mimic) how a physical object will behave in response to the forces acting upon it.
The goal of the analysis is to understand the object’s behavior without the time and expense of building and testing physical models. Computer-aided engineering tools are used for simulation and analysis.
The test engineer develops and carries out tests of a new product to make sure it meets the design requirements for structural integrity, reliability, and performance under all expected conditions.
Test engineers also perform quality checks on existing products.
Research engineers conduct research and seek out new materials, methods, and tools for other engineers to use. Together with research scientists, they explore advanced ideas and opportunities.
Innovative products such as microrobots to help medical doctors in surgery, improved car aerodynamics (streamlining) to reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency, and computer microchips are direct results of research done by research engineers.
The sales engineer is a liaison (or go-between) between the company or organization that creates a product and the customers who use it.
The sales engineer must understand the customer’s needs as well as how the product or process works and why it will satisfy the customer’s requirements.
An outgoing personality and solid technical knowledge are important to be a successful sales engineer.
Successful engineers with strong communication and leadership skills often become managers project managers, department managers, chief engineers, engineering vice presidents even presidents of companies and organizations.
The role of the engineering management staff is to supervise the work of engineers assigned to them and ensure that projects are completed successfully, on time, and within budget.
A consulting engineer is an independent, self employed engineer who provides services to companies, organizations, (including the government), or individual clients on a contract basis.
A contract may be for one specific project or for long-term services. Consulting engineers serve in all fields of engineering, including management.
An engineering professor is involved in teaching, research, and service. Teaching includes classroom teaching, supervising student research projects and papers, and developing courses for colleges and universities.