MyStemkits STEM job of the week: Environmental Engineers

 In S.T.E.M Careers

When it comes to environmental engineers, most people don’t know what they do. So this week we’re highlighting a field that is often misunderstood. Come with us as we explore the complex field of environmental engineering.

The Society of Environmental Engineering states that environmental engineering is concerned with the measurement, modelling, control and simulation of all types of environment. It is an interdisciplinary subject, bringing together aspects of mechanical, electrical, electronic, aeronautical, civil, energy and chemical engineering. It also draws from the fields of physics, acoustics, metallurgy, microbiology, and pharmacy as well as many other technical and scientific disciplines.

When people hear “environmental engineer” they often think of environmentalists. This misconception distracts people from the real purpose of environmental engineers.

Though they share the same base word, “environment,” environmentalists and environmental engineers are completely different. Environmentalists are concerned with the preservation of natural environments. Environmental engineers focus on applying scientific and engineering principles to protect the human population from the effects of various environmental factors as well as protecting the environment from effects that could potentially erase natural and human activities. Their focus on improving environmental quality targets both local and global levels.

Environmental engineering is a branch of applied science and technology that is designed to address the issues of energy preservation, protection of assets, and control of waste from human and animal activities. Environmental engineers are also concerned with finding plausible solutions in the field of public health. They develop solutions to waterborne diseases, and push for the implementation of laws promoting adequate sanitation in urban, rural and recreational areas. They also focus on waste water management, air pollution control, recycling, waste disposal, radiation protection, industrial hygiene, animal agriculture, environmental sustainability, and public health.

Environmental engineers study how technology affects the environment. They conduct studies on hazardous-waste management to evaluate the significance of such hazards, they advise on treatment and containment, and they develop regulations to prevent mishaps. Environmental engineers design municipal water supply and industrial wastewater treatment systems. They address local and worldwide environmental issues such as the effects of acid rain, global warming, ozone depletion, water pollution and air pollution from automobile exhausts and industrial sources.

Although environmental engineers have many responsibilities to manage, one of the most important responsibilities is to prevent harmful chemicals and biological contaminants to be released into the air, water and soil. To prevent such mishaps, environmental engineers must have an extensive knowledge of the chemistry and biology of the potential contaminants as well what industrial or agricultural processes might lead to the release of these chemicals. By knowing this, new processes can be designed and existing processes can be modified, to reduce or eliminate the release of pollutants.

Another important function performed by environmental engineers is determining the source of pollutants. Sometimes this can prove to be a very difficult task.  For example, finding the source of a lake contamination could be anywhere within several thousands of acres of land surrounding the lake. Contamination of oceans can present even greater challenges in identifying the source. Once the contamination is discovered, it must be stopped or significantly reduced. Environmental engineers often work with businesses to provide ways to avoid or reduce the production of pollutants. If impossible to sufficiently reduce the output of pollutants, they engineer ways to separate and dispose of the contaminants safely.

Environmental engineering covers a very broad range and requires the possession of the following critical skills:

  • A working knowledge of chemical engineering, fluid dynamics, geography, geology and hydrology.
  • Also, because of the numerous legal issues involved and the prevalence of litigation in environmental issues, environmental engineers must be familiar with applicable laws.

In addition to their role of pollution controllers, environmental engineers are also designers. They design systems, processes, and equipment to help clean the pollutants up. The systems they create restore air, soil, and water quality at sites that have already been contaminated.

The services provided by environmental engineers not only protects us but they also restores the resources we need for survival.

Environmental engineer is #11 on US News’ list of best STEM jobs. The Bureau of Labor projects that the field of environmental engineering will grow 12.4 between the ten-year span of 2014 to 2024. This growth will produce 6,800 more jobs for environmental engineers. MyStemKits strives to be a productive catalyst in restoring the excitement of STEM within our youth so that we can prepare them for those awaiting opportunities. That’s why we put passion into every kit that we create.

Check out some of our cool kits that are associated with the field of Environmental Engineering.

Water Filtration Kit

                 

Set up your own filtration experiments with this open-ended design. Simply place a filtering agent in a water bottle and let it filter into the bottom container, comparing the water quality before and after. Make it into an open-ended design challenge by having the students determine the most optimal filtration method! Designed to work with a variety of bottle sizes, set it up as best suits your needs. Lesson plans tackle such real-world issues as droughts and hurricanes on accessing safe drinking water.

Planetary Temperatures Kit

                                                                                     This multi-use kit features attachments for setting up a variety of experiments related to planetary temperatures. Use the markings on the meter sticks to record distance from an artificial sun and add bottles to simulate the effect of an atmosphere.

Urban Ecology Kit (Coming Soon)

Marble Tracks Kit

                                                                        Let your students discover principles of motion with this exploratory kit. Its open-ended design makes it perfect for both guided lessons as well as student-directed stations. Designed to fit a standard marble, simply insert the marble into the track, apply a force and watch the change in motion. Have students anticipate the behavior of the marble once it leaves the track and set up games and goals for students to accomplish. This kit also makes a great backdrop to investigate pipe and tunnel studies, investigating the benefits and disadvantages of different track designs. Sturdy, interconnecting pieces snap together and break apart easily, allowing for quick adjustments.

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