The current global technology revolution is changing the world and is offering challenging opportunities to specifically engineers. There is a clear emergence of multidisciplinary and synergistic trends in this revolution, including smart materials, agile manufacturing, nanofabricated computation devices and integrated microsystems.
Materials technology, for instance, has assumed a vital position in this technology revolution by producing products that are smaller, smarter and multi-functional. In addition, smart materials, agile manufacturing, and nanotechnology will change the way we produce devices and improve their capabilities. As computers can mimic human brain and robots can interact with humans, learn lessons from them and adapt their behavior, the future technologies offer the challenging careers to the engineers.
You would have watched a video clipping of a high speed train built by the Alstom rail group that shares the manufacturing facilities with the GE Energy Products Europe Gas Turbine group, in Belfort, France. The train hit 574.8 km per hour (357.2 mph or Mach 0.482) that means the speed train can cover Bangalore-Chennai distance in less than an hour or Bangalore-Mumbai in three hours! Try to answer which engineering discipline has involved in this marvellous feat. Is it mechanical, electronics, electrical or civil engineering?
The renaissance of Nanotechnology has opened up new avenues across many disciplines of science and technology. An article writes that Nanotechnology will be one of the most sought after career options available to Indian science and engineering graduates in future.
These two examples are just a fraction of many applications where engineers who belong to many disciplines work together. There is a high degree of intersection of various engineering branches. Therefore, if someone asks me “which branch of engineering is best for my son or daughter?” my reply will be “any branch!” We need to understand that one of the key reasons for the society becoming healthier, wealthier, better educated and increasingly connected is due to multidisciplinary approach. A mechanical engineering graduate cannot work, for example, in Computer Numerical Control or industrial automation, in general, only with mechanical engineering knowledge. He needs to know the basics of electronics as well. Many times, good knowledge in mechatronics is preferred over either a mechanical engineer or an electronics engineer in such technology companies.
Though many students prefer to join the traditional engineering disciplines like electronics, mechanical, electrical and civil, there are some ‘off-shoot' branches (also called non-conventional engineering branches) which are worth considering it. They are, to name a few, production engineering, environmental engineering, automobile engineering and construction management.
Some of the sectors like manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, nanotechnology, telecommunication, shipbuilding, aviation and tourism are showing strong potentials with higher growth rates. Therefore, these sectors are looking for engineering graduates who have some ‘first-level' specialisation in a particular area irrespective of their basic discipline. Many engineering colleges have enabled their students by providing additional training and education facilities in ‘technology-specific' areas for better employability.
Let me consider automobile engineering as an example. India is emerging as one of the world's fastest growing passenger car markets, second largest two wheeler manufacturers and the fifth largest commercial vehicle manufacturer. Almost all the global majors in automobile sector have set up their facilities in India. But the most critical challenge is building human capability to meet the requirements of this sector. Besides automobile engineers, the automobile industry is recruiting even fresh graduates of mechanical and production engineering who have some skill set in automobile engineering and technology.
Therefore, leading automobile companies are establishing state-of-the-art training centres in engineering colleges mainly to develop technical and human capabilities in specialized industry-specific technologies. Centre for Automobile Technology at National Institute of Engineering, Mysore is an excellent example that has been established by Volvo-Eicher, one of the leading manufacturers of trucks and buses.
Whether a student is from mechanical, production, automobile or electronics, the centre offers technical training on latest automobile technology with extensive practical classes. Therefore, a student of the production engineering stream learns more of engine aggregates or a student of electronics gets trained in autotronics, the most sought after specialization.
Further, the Visveswaraya Technological University (VTU) in Belgaum has established Centre for Industrial Automation in collaboration with Bosch Rexroth, the world leaders in industrial drives and control. VTU realised that the industrial automation technologies, involving hydraulic and pneumatic drives, find innumerable application in industries, such as aerospace, machine tools, steel mills, heavy machinery, power plants and material handling equipment.
Most evident in these technologies is the strong role electronics has gathered in many of the former purely mechanical machines and systems. The new generation of manufacturing systems needs to have people with a broad education and training, being able to look beyond the classical engineering disciplines.
An engineering student can only get this widened view by an appropriate training in hydraulics, pneumatics, robotics, sensorics, mechatronics and programmable logic controls. The student would have taken admission in less popular discipline like production or automobile, but he always has the avenue to enter into new intersection areas that give him a great deal of job satisfaction.
When Alexander Graham Bell developed the telephone and Guglielmo Marconi presented the radio to the world in the 19th century, no one dreamt that these two distinct technologies together would create yet another revolutionary product called mobile phone. Today mobile communication/computing is the most sought after area of research, development and application. The future, therefore, is in technologies that have high degree of intersection of many engineering disciplines. Let students select any engineering stream of his choice, but let them focus on a particular intersection area and get additional training and education to become a complete engineer in this competitive environment. We have entered into a new period of tremendous global innovation and change. Sky is the limit for ones growth in his area of interest.