Mechanical Engineering involves the design, analysis, and manufacture of a wide variety of mechanical components and systems. While there are a number of disciplines within mechanical engineering, some of the major areas are energy conversion, materials engineering, design engineering, and manufacturing engineering.
A mechanical engineering curriculum is diverse because it is central to so many modern industries (e.g. aerospace, air conditioning, building, computers, plastics, power systems, transportation) and because individual mechanical engineers may be employed in a wide range of engineering endeavors from initial research and development of a product to manufacturing and marketing. Between these diverse activities, mechanical engineers integrate engineering sciences, conceptual product design, and manufacturing capabilities into a cost-effective, quality product.
Typical technologies in which mechanical engineers find employment are manufacturing processes, materials engineering, energy conversion and conservation systems, and mechanical design. In addition to employment in industry, mechanical engineers also work in government, management, consulting, and academic organizations.
According to The Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE), Industrial Engineering is "...concerned with the design, improvement, and installation of integrated systems of people, materials, equipment and energy. It draws upon specialized knowledge and skill in the mathematical, physical and the social science together with the principles and methods of engineering analysis and design to specify, predict, and evaluate the results to be obtained from such systems."
In general, engineering has to do with the design and implementation of technology. While other branches of engineering emphasize design aspects of physical systems, industrial engineering places equal weight on people, economics, and systems aspects of technology often neglected by other fields. In addition to the design of industrial engineering hardware and industrial environments, the industrial engineer is trained to design the administrative systems needed for the effective implementation of physical technology and to design the interface between the hardware and people.
In summary, industrial engineering has two particularly exciting attributes:
- It applies to all types of industrial, commercial, and government activities.
- It is concerned with people as well as with material things.
Industrial engineers are prime sources of management talent because they combine the aptitude of the engineer, applied mathematician, accountant, and business executive. A prospective IE/OR student should be interested in people and in the machines of industry, but above all, have an interest in creatively solving problems. This ability to solve problems includes defining the problem, gathering data, selecting and implementing the best solution, and evaluating. Industrial engineers must be able to express ideas in a clear, concise manner, both orally and in writing.