The Fascinating World of Mechanical Engineering
How it works
The May 2009 issue of Mechanical Engineering details an interesting addition to the alternative fuel market: the hydrogen-powered car. In contrast to the standard combustion engine present in most vehicles on the road today, hydrogen-powered cars have no harmful emissions and are powered by the most plentiful element in the universe. “PEM [Proton Exchange Membrane] fuel cells use hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity, with water and heat as byproducts of the electrochemical reaction.” The hydrogen fuel cell is an absolute marvel of engineering.
While many different types of engineering were likely utilized in the production of these cells, the most prominent would have to be mechanical engineering. The mechanical engineers not only had to brainstorm the idea for the hydrogen cells, but they also had to design and build a functioning prototype. This is the scope of engineering that has always appealed the most to me.
One major aspect of mechanical engineering is its broad scale. Mechanical engineering teaches people a rudimentary understanding of almost all engineering types. You learn a little about aerodynamics, structures, coding, materials science, chemistry, electronics, thermodynamics, and many other disciplines. Learning these disciplines on such a large scale provides the basis to learn anything you want. It is considered the mother of all engineering. The designing of hydrogen fuel cells took more than just a basic understanding of assembly. It required comprehension of the chemical energy transfer of oxygen and hydrogen. The designers needed to account for the thermodynamic transfer of heat from the release of energy.
When building the hydrogen cells, they had to understand what kind of electrolyte would be most efficient for the batteries. The engineers had to have a rudimentary understanding of metallurgy to decide what metal to use for the chassis. Other engineers had to have a strong understanding of aerodynamics to shape the body to have the least amount of air resistance. While many may consider a profession that requires expertise in so many fields a deterrent, I find it intriguing. I want to have the freedom to pursue any design that I find interesting. In other fields, I would be narrowed to limited expertise in a single discipline. Mechanical engineers can build their own path toward whatever they wish to pursue.
From research and design to manufacturing and analysis, mechanical engineering offers me the most versatility to adapt to any environment. It would allow me to create my own designs. It would allow me to explore different ideas and create concepts upon which others can build. It will offer me the ability to find creative solutions to problems nobody else has yet to solve. I want to be able to challenge the status quo and continuously look for ways to improve on the work of others and to have others improve on my work. Just like the men and women who challenged the view of what is accepted, mechanical engineering offers me the opportunity to shape the world of tomorrow.