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Five Fascinating Sub-Disciplines of Mechanical Engineering

Covering a wide array of projects from renewable energy generation to the construction of plug-in hybrids, electrical engineering is one of the fastest-growing engineering disciplines. An electrical engineer might fix the wiring system in your home or office – but she also might fix the wiring system on the International Space Station. Here are five fascinating sub-disciplines of electrical engineering.

Signal Processing. Dealing with the processing and analysis of digital and analog signals, an electrical engineer who specializes in signal processing might work on creating voice-recognition software, or help design a new digital camera. Signal processing experts may also analyze stochastic processes, which deal with signals involving random variables.

Mechatronics. Technically, this isn’t really a sub-discipline of electrical engineering – it’s a combination of several different disciplines. Mechatronics built Spirit and Opportunity, the two Mars rovers; it also built the anti-lock braking system on your car. Combining electrical and mechanical engineering with software design and computer programming, mechatronics engineers are responsible for the creation of new, complex yet reliable systems. As technology grows and becomes more synergized, mechatronics will become a more well-recognized field.

Instrumentation Engineering. An instrumentation engineer is an electrical engineer who works primarily on devices that measure things like temperature, volume, flow, pressure and weight. Often these devices are part of a greater system, so instrumentation engineers must have a broad vocabulary when it comes to designing and implementing new scales, thermometers and flowmeters.

Telecommunications. The transmission of communications signals across fiber-optic cables, cell towers and satellites is a delicate business, and needs a specialized set of skills to direct. Throughout history, telecommunications engineers have been charged with the design and maintenance of a spectrum of machines, from low tech (telegraph wires) to high tech (satellite phones and coaxial networks).

Microelectronics. This sub-discipline of electrical engineering deals with the study, manufacture and use of  transistors, capacitors, resistors, diodes and other very small electrical components. Electrical engineers working in microelectronics also design such components, meaning they must be well versed in using semiconductors, as well as chemistry and material science.
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