Engineering Exploration

What Is Engineering?

The ancient mathematician Pythagoras figured out that A2 + B2 = C2, much to the frustration of high school students everywhere who now have to learn about right triangles. He might have been proud of that accomplishment—but his idea wouldn’t matter without the work of engineers.

Over the centuries, the Pythagorean Theorem has been transformed by engineers into a bunch of useful, real-world applications. One team of electrical engineers worked out how to reduce power needs in wireless networks (like the Wi-Fi in your school or home) by building upon Pythagoras’ idea. Geospatial engineers, who make maps of the earth, use the Theorem all the time to determine the slopes of hills and mountains. A civil engineer working at a field site may use the Theorem to quickly confirm that a building’s corners are perfectly perpendicular.

So, what is engineering? Engineering is the transformation of mathematical and scientific ideas, like the Pythagorean Theorem, into practical applications.

The Different Types of Engineering

There are many types of engineering degrees and, depending on which degree you pursue, you will be qualified for very different types of engineering jobs. That’s why it is important to understand what you want to study.

The UAA College of Engineering has 5 departments and our list of engineering degrees includes 11 options, with choices for associate, baccalaureate, and master’s degrees. But don’t let all those options overwhelm you, because the differences between the different types of engineering are pretty straightforward.

What is Civil Engineering?

Civil engineering makes possible the roof over your head, the bridges you drive on, and the water you drink. Alaska’s highways, railroads, airports, and even sewage systems exist thanks to civil engineers. In short, civil engineering is the design, construction, and maintenance of the built environment.

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What is Computer Science & Engineering?

Computer science and engineering is responsible for some of the most important technological advances in human history. Software designed by computer scientists and hardware designed by computer engineers produced the internet, smart phones, hospital monitoring systems, air traffic control systems, video games, and so much more.

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What is Electrical Engineering?

Electrical engineers design, create, and maintain systems and technologies that are powered by electricity. Microchips, batteries, alternative energy (like wind and solar), radio, television, and power stations all comprise the domain of electrical engineering. From humble components like coils and diodes, electrical engineers power the world.

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What is Geomatics Engineering?

Geomatics—or geospatial engineering—is the measurement, analysis, and presentation of geographic data. Put another way, geomatics is all about making maps. You are probably already familiar with GPS systems like Google Maps, but geomatics engineers use lots of other technologies and techniques, such as LiDAR, remote sensing, and photogrammetry.

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What is Mechanical Engineering?

Mechanical engineering is the process of turning ideas into products—from everyday products like cars, refrigerators, and printers to cutting edge products like rocket ships, robots, and microscale sensors. If it’s a machine with moving parts, then a mechanical engineer had a hand in its creation.

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What Type of Engineer Are You?

Are you still not sure which type of engineering is right for you? The UAA College of Engineering has a personality quiz that may help you decide. In this quiz, you will choose between different hobbies, careers, and job duties. The results will tell you which field of engineering you are most suited for—but take the results with a grain of salt! Ultimately, you must look inward to decide which engineering career is right for you.

Take the Quiz

Still Want to Learn More? Schedule a tour of the UAA College of Engineering or make an appointment with one of our advisors to learn more.