The term engineering is derived from the classical Latin ingenero, which means to implant, generate, or produce something (Feinberg, 1967). It is not clear when people started using the concept of engineering, but the Oxford English Dictionary (n.d.) describes the origin of the term engineer as
“denoting a designer and constructor of fortifications and weapons.”
The description indicates that engineers are involved in designing or constructing physical activities. The term engineering first began to be used in the Middle Ages to indicate builders and operators of machines (Mitcham, 1994). In the eighteenth century, the term engineer was evolved to indicate the operators of steam engines or military machinery. However, with the development of new nineteenth-century technologies, some engineers adopted scientific and mathematical knowledge to solve engineering problems, which led to the current concept of engineering (Layton, 1971; Noble, 1979).
The Standards for Technological Literacy (STL) elaborated on the field:
“Engineers […] use a particular approach called the engineering design process. […] The engineering design process demands critical thinking, the application of technical knowledge, creativity, and an appreciation of the effects of design on society and the environment” (ITEA/ITEEA, 2000/2003/2007, p. 99).
This STL definition illustrates that engineering requires solving problems using technical knowledge and creativity based on consideration of other societal and environmental factors. Pahl and Beitz (2013) defined engineers as those who
“apply their scientific and engineering knowledge to the solution of technical problems, and then optimize those solutions within the requirements and constraints set by the material, technological, economic, legal, environmental, and human-related considerations” (p. 1).
According to Pahl and Beitz (2013), engineering includes the use of scientific and engineering knowledge as well as design optimization within requirements and constraints.