People of all ages are often unaware of the role engineers play in creating many of the conveniences and the essentials of modern life. The Royal Academy of Engineering in London is particularly concerned that young people don’t consider engineering as a career option because of this lack of awareness. The RAE launched a campaign called This is Engineering to remedy this situation.
This is Engineering developed a list of seven engineering wonders that have had great impact on life in the 21st century. The list is based on input from RAE Fellows, a panel of undergraduate and graduate engineering students and a survey of 2,000 teenagers designed to probe their awareness of the contributions engineers have made across many fields. Some of the wonders they chose may surprise you. Here’s the list.
Seven Engineering Wonders That Make Life Better In The 21st Century
by Kevin Murnane | consumer tech | april 7, 2019
Gore Tex Gore Tex is an excellent example of a technology that has become such a staple that many may take it for granted. I’m not one of those people because the value of Gore Tex was made clear to me in a most telling way. On a bicycle trip from Albuquerque to Denver I spent a day where a steady cold rain turned to sleet at higher elevations. My cold and wet weather gear wasn’t made from Gore Tex and it was totally inadequate for the conditions. The ride was not only miserable, it was life threatening. Whether on the bike or off, I haven’t gone outside in the rain without Gore Tex since.
Dolby Atmos Dolby Atmos has revolutionized the way sound is experienced in both homes and theaters. Instead of delivering sound through discrete channels like the left and right channels of a standard stereo setup, Dolby Atmos treats individual sounds as objects that can be located and moved anywhere in a three-dimensional listening environment. If the sound engineer wants you to hear a cat purring on the back of the sofa behind your head while someone sitting on your right is having a conversation with a person walking back and forth in front of you, they can not only do it but can make it sound utterly convincing. Dolby Atmos can be heard in movies, games and TV shows and can be experienced at home with speakers, soundbars and even headphones.

iPhone If you didn’t think the iPhone would be on this list, you haven’t been paying attention. Here’s what This is Engineering has to say about the device that changed everything. Apple’s iPhone launched a mobile communications revolution in 2007, introducing the world to apps and putting the internet in everyone’s pockets. Building on the enabling technology of the ARM chip that powers 95% of smartphones, the launch of the iPhone revolutionized the user interface on ‘smart’ devices, and their consistency and simplicity brought a whole new audience to smart devices. Smartphone development provided a catalyst for the miniaturization of processors and advances in screen technology, gyroscopes and GPS connection that have changed the way we live.

YouTube YouTube is another no-brainer for any list of innovations that have fundamentally changed our lives. Because Google’s video streaming service receives justified criticism for being a home for scammers who exploit children and video stars who promote hatred and prejudice because it’s “funny”, it’s easy to forget how useful and valuable YouTube really is. For every nitwit hoping outlandish behavior will make them the next video millionaire there are legions of people making thoughtful, helpful videos on how to do just about anything you can imagine. Providing a world-wide audience to everyone with a smart phone has played an important role in curtailing unacceptable public behavior. People do a lot of stupid things on YouTube, but sometimes they change the world.

Hawk-Eye Hawk-Eye is a visual tracking system that tracks the trajectory of a ball during sporting events. Professional tennis, cricket and Australian football are among the many sports that use Hawk-Eye to help officials make the right call. American sports enthusiasts may be more familiar with Major League Baseball’s Statcast system which tracks the position of every player on the field along with the movement of the ball. Movement tracking systems like Hawk-Eye and Statcast have revolutionized the way sports are officiated and the way athletes at all levels are evaluated and trained.

3D printed bone implants Here’s why This is Engineering named 3D printed bone implants as a modern engineering wonder. One of the most recent developments on the list, 3D printing technology is being used to create custom structures and scaffolds, made of ceramics similar to natural bone, that new bone can grow around. The latest implants are bioactive, encouraging bone regrowth and enabling the bone to integrate with the implant. These techniques are already in use for surgery on areas like the jaw and face, and it is also possible to inject bioactive ceramics into larger, load-bearing bones to help them heal.

Clean water This is Engineering didn’t point to a unique innovation that justified including clean water on their list of engineering wonders but the value of engineering contributions in this area can’t be underestimated. Clean water makes the difference between life and death. Diarrhea caused by dirty water and poor sanitation kills a child under five every two minutes, but one in six people around the world still do not have access to clean water. While engineering has been used to provide clean water in developed countries for centuries, engineering innovation continues in water sanitation, distribution and treatment, from reducing environmental impact by recycling energy from sludge treatment to developing smart filters made of graphene. This is Engineering’s list is surprising, instructive and thought provoking. For one thing, it makes clear how engineers have contributed to everything from enhancing our entertainment and showing us how to do things, to keeping us comfortable and dry and saving our lives. For another it suggests that if you want to help people, make their lives better, or keep them safe, you might want to consider a future in engineering.
December: Science & Technology
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