Chemical Engineering Fun for Kids

How many man-made objects are around you right now? Chances are good that there are quite a few. There is the electronic device you are currently looking at, your clothes, furniture, books, papers … the list seems endless. All of these objects were made from very different materials for specific purposes, even if that purpose is only to keep you entertained. Did you ever wonder where they come from and how they were made? Many of the objects we use every day contain substances that were discovered by chemists and then were designed and refined by chemical engineers. Whether it is the table you are sitting at, the clothes you are wearing, or the food that you eat, somewhere along the line, a chemical engineer probably helped to make it possible.

Chemical engineering, like all sciences, helps you learn how to think critically and form judgments based on your observations using the scientific method. It is a broad field that requires years of study and hard work but has many rewards. A well-education chemical engineer can work in fields ranging from pure chemistry to nanotechnology, waste management, or mining. It is also a hands-on discipline, requiring students to learn in different settings and get experience with different materials and machines. Chemical engineers help us solve real-world problems with exciting ideas, like recycling plastic bottles into fabrics that are used by high-end fashion designers.

Chemistry and chemical engineering may seem like the same thing at first glance, but they are very different. Chemistry is the study of matter: what it is made up of, how it interacts with other matter, and how to combine it to form different compounds. It is often the bridge between physical sciences like physics and natural sciences like biology and geology, helping us to understand how biological and other natural processes work. Chemists don’t just stand in labs all day pouring things into beakers, though many chemists do just that every day. Ideally, a chemist observes, asks questions, designs experiments to answer those questions, and gains useful information from the results.

In contrast, chemical engineering is less concerned with discovering new substances than it is with finding ways that those substances can be useful and figuring out how these products can be created and transported. It combines knowledge of physics, microbiology, biochemistry, math, and economics. Chemical engineers design processes that transform the raw materials chemists discover into things that we use every day. For instance, a chemist might discover a new type of adhesive, and a chemical engineer would figure out how to make a large amount of it and what sorts of products it could be used for, determining whether it might end up being bottled as glue or applied to paper to make tape. Chemical engineers also oversee the processes of making these products and are often involved in the construction of chemical plants as well as their daily operations.

In this way, chemists and chemical engineers go together: Without chemists, chemical engineers wouldn’t have raw materials to work with, and without chemical engineering, we’d have the raw materials but no one to figure out what we can do with them and create products that use them. But this isn’t to say that chemical engineers never discover new materials: There are some chemical engineers who also work in labs alongside chemists doing just that.

Since what chemical engineers do can help almost any company in any industry, they can find a job almost anywhere and are in high demand, even in fields that don’t seem connected to chemistry. If you want a rewarding, challenging career that can open up a lot of possibilities, then chemical engineering might be the path for you.

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