Engineers and Their Problem-Solving Skills

Contributor: Jay Gregorio. Lesson ID: 13360

Are you interested in building, designing, and problem-solving? Explore the minds of engineers and discover how they built the most amazing structures in the history of mankind!


Physics, Technology

learning style
Auditory, Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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About 4,000 years ago, aliens from an intergalactic neighborhood descended onto our planet and decided to build the pyramids of Egypt as a symbol of their dominance.

  • What?

We know this is not true! Science has revealed that the ingenuity behind these amazing structures is astoundingly manmade.

Giza pyramids in Egypt

  • How did the early Egyptians build these structures?
  • What sort of engineering made it possible to put every piece together perfectly?

In this lesson, you will explore these pyramids as well as other iconic structures built by man. You will discover what engineers do and how important their jobs are in making the impossible possible!

Look around you right now. Everything you see serves a purpose.

It may be your smartphone that keeps you connected to the world through social media, or your television that entertains you, or this computer screen that allows you to read these words right now.

These electronic devices and many others were built for a purpose. However, their invention and construction had to go through a process of trial and error until they were perfect.

For every discovery, no matter how small, careful planning and execution are involved. Often, the term scientist is used to describe those who work on these discoveries.

While this is correct, some of these innovators should rightfully be called engineers because they are able to put together complex systems to make things work.

What Is an Engineer?

structural engineer and architect

An engineer is a problem-solver who uses knowledge of science and mathematics to create things.

Because they specialize in very specific engineering fields, not all engineers are the same. However, no matter how different these fields are, every engineer's goal is to make practical things that will help humans in many aspects of their lives.

Some areas of engineering specialty are:

  • Mechanical Engineer manufactures, inspects, and monitors the maintenance of machinery, equipment, and components to manage their status and performance.
  • Electrical Engineer plans, tests, manufactures, constructs, controls, monitors, and inspects electrical and electronic devices.
  • Civil Engineer plans, designs, constructs, and inspects large infrastructure projects such as highways, railroads, bridges, tunnels, dams, and airports.
  • Industrial Engineer involves the practice of optimizing facilities, equipment, systems, and processes for manufacturing and material processing.
  • Environmental Engineer designs systems preventing, reducing, and eliminating sources of pollution that affect air, water, and land.
  • Computer Engineer designs computer hardware components, computer systems, networks, and computer software.
  • Chemical Engineer designs equipment, systems, and processes for refining raw materials and for mixing, compounding, and processing chemicals to make valuable products.

To explore these more and discover other special areas of engineering, check out Engineering Jobs from Science Kids.

Engineering Wonders of the World

The Great Pyramid

If engineering specialities had existed back when the pyramids were built, the person responsible for putting every block on top of another would have been a civil engineer.

The pyramids are so massive and yet meticuously planned, which makes it even harder to believe that they are manmade.

  • So, how did they do it?

The largest and first pyramid at Giza was commissioned by the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu, and it stands at 455 feet (138 meters) tall. It consists of 2.3 million stone blocks made of limestone from a quarry near the site of the construction.

The thickness of the blocks was sculpted directly from the quarry, which follows the thickness of the limestone layer. Doing this made it easier to fracture the blocks.

Recent discoveries by scientists reveal the Egyptians used sleds along damp sand to move these blocks because it significantly reduced the friction by 50%.

The Great Pyramid was built over a span of 23 years.

Watch How Pyramids Were Built in Ancient Egypt: Engineering from Bottom Line Up Front:

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Eiffel Tower

A French civil engineer named Gustav Eiffel and his colleagues, Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier, were responsible for building the iconic Eiffel Tower in France as the main exhibit for the 1889 World's Fair.

This wrought-iron structure is composed of four arched legs set on masonry piers that curve inward until joining in a single, tapered tower. There are 18,000 pieces of metal assembled by 2.5 million rivets, which makes it a 7,300-ton structure.

Knowing that the project was set to expire and the tower meant to be dismantled after 20 years, Eiffel invited scientists to conduct experiments on electricity and gravity on its third floor. The tower was eventually found to be useful in transmitting wireless telegraphs, which saved it from being dismantled.

Watch How was the Eiffel Tower built? | Head Squeeze from BBC Earth Lab:

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Burj Khalifa

Modern technology has brought us many of the wonders of the world including the tallest structure, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

This building stands at 828 meters or 2,717 feet tall with 162 stories. Completed on 1 October 2009, this engineering structure was designed by Adrian Smith and cost $1.5 billion.

A special type of reinforced concrete is one of the most important building materials used in this building because it must support high pressure due to its weight and climate.

A strong foundation was built 15 meters deep (49 feet) with 192 columns each measuring 1.5 meters in diameter and 43 meters long. The construction took 22 million man-hours to complete.

Watch Dubai Creek Tower: Building the World's Tallest Structure from The B1M:

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Engineering as a Career

  • Have you ever considered being an engineer?

Engineering can be a fulfilling career. Aside from the necessary skills in planning and designing structures in great detail, there are some additional characteristics that an engineer should have to be successful:

  • An engineer is a creative thinker and a problem solver. Engineers provide ingenious solutions to many problems.
  • An engineer is a team player and a leader. Engineers work with many contractors, workers, business owners, suppliers, and many others.
  • An engineer improves the lives of people. Engineers design solutions and build structures that are helpful to the community at large.

If you think engineering is for you, there are many opportunities to build your career and make a difference!

Head over to the Got It? section now to review what you've learned.

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