It’s Cupid’s day to shine. But Valentine’s Day, like every other day, needs engineers to be successful. We’ll start with Cupid, more specifically with his weapon of choice: the bow and arrow, which humans (and cherubs) have been using for tens of thousands of years, has been called the first engineered tool.

But for many people, Cupid can be pretty unreliable. The National Retail Federation reports that cards are king for getting the message across, with 190 million greeting cards sold each year for Valentine’s Day. All those cards are another testament to the work of many engineers, from paper production to graphic design, printing and packaging. We even created some you can download and print, too.

Before you pop a bottle of champagne to toast your love, read up on what Chemical & Engineering News says about how those bubbles are engineered and ways to keep more of them in the right kind of glass.

Don’t forget the flowers. Estimates say about $2 billion worth of flowers are sold during Valentine’s week. Traditionally, red, long stemmed roses are the way to go to celebrate the day with your true love, but if you’ve got a less intense message in mind, here’s your guide to choosing the right bouquet. Some might appreciate the bio-tech efforts of the researchers trying to create a blue rose.

And if your day includes a jewelry gift of the most sparkling variety, you can appreciate the teams of people who helped gather those diamonds from the depths of the earth. From the mining process to the machines used to process the stones and tools for cutting and polishing, engineers help you bring that bling. (And industrial grade diamonds, too!)

an engineer’s tour of america

New York City

File:NYC-Skyline-1.jpgPhoto by Shmuel Spiegelman via Wikimedia Commons

From the Brooklyn Bridge, the George Washington Bridge, and the Bayonne Bridge to the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, and the subway system that started operating in 1904, many of New York City’s engineering achievements help millions of people get from here to there every day.  No matter how you navigate your way around the city, while you’re there, check out the Empire State Building, the Chrysler building, and Statue of Liberty, which was a gift from France in 1886.  These and many other landmarks stand tall as iconic symbols of the city and our nation while serving as lasting tributes to the legacies of the architects, artists, and construction engineers who built them.

oak ridge & Knoxville

Once the “City Behind the Fence,” Oak Ridge was constructed in secret on farmland taken over by the federal government for use in the World War II Manhattan Project.

Today, Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a world-renowned complex of Department of Energy facilities, centers of research, and supercomputers including Titan, recently ranked as the most powerful computer in the world. ORNL programs focus on neutron science, energy, systems biology and national security, and its Manufacturing Demonstration Facility is turning scientific discoveries into applications that support American manufacturing.

Just down the road, the city of Knoxville is home to the Tennessee Valley Authority, America’s largest public power provider, and the University of Tennessee’s College of Engineering, which celebrated its 175th anniversary last year.


Rich in southwestern culture and heritage, Albuquerque draws tourists to its architecture, artwork and cuisine – and engineers to the groundbreaking technical accomplishments at Sandia National Laboratories.

Sandia traces its roots to World War II’s Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic bombs. Today, it’s a diverse multi-program research hub, providing technologies to protect the nation’s infrastructure. Among its many achievements: clean room technologies, triggers for car airbags, high-resolution radars and satellite sensors, and computer chip cooling. Sandia also houses the Z Machine, the world’s largest lab-based pulsed-power facility.

Nearby, you’ll find established and emerging technology companies, including an Intel manufacturing center, and the University of New Mexico’s School of Engineering. Even sports get in on the engineering action here.  Minor League Baseball’s Albuquerque Isotopes team has called “The Lab” home since 2003.

Los AngelesLA skyline

Hollywood gets the hype, but Los Angeles is more than movie stars and Rodeo Drive.  It’s a hub of engineering, with top-notch universities like the University of Southern California and landmarks like the Los Angeles Aqueduct, and Griffith Observatory, the city where the space shuttle was developed is home to 318 aerospace manufacturing companies, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon, technology and digital media are boosting the entertainment industry, and L.A.’s universities are  educating future engineers.  UCLA is the Internet’s birthplace and a research leader. USC’s innovative approaches, including the Viturbi Startup Garage accelerate engineering entrepreneurship.



San Diego is California’s birthplace, and its history is rich in engineering innovation.  In the 1970s, the University of California San Diego (UCSD) helped revolutionize PC accessibility.  UCSD also helped grow the area into a biotechnology leader.  Hundreds of biotech companies, contract research organizations and non-profits have facilities here, including Integrated DNA TechnologiesMerckPfizer and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.  In 2010, the city became an iHub Innovation Center.  QualcommNokiaLG ElectronicsCricket Communications and Novatel Wireless are headquartered in San Diego.  Its coastline also services an impressive Navy, Marine and Coast Guard presence.  And comic and sci-fi fans know it as home to Comic-Con.



Engineers and environmentalists flock to Seattle employers like Microsoft, Amazon, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, with its cyber security focus and climate change, energy, and disease research. Boeing and T-Mobile call the Emerald City area home. Google and Facebook have offices here, along with clean tech leaders like McKinstry and hundreds of biopharmaceutical and medical companies.  Downtown, $1.4 billion in sponsored grants and contracts fund research at the University of Washington.  Visit the Space Needle for a 360-degree view of the city, Mt. Rainier, and the Cascade and Olympic mountains.  The Ballard Locks move boats between Seattle Harbor and Puget Sound.  Don’t forget coffee at the original Starbucks at Pike Place Market.



Columbus, Ohio is home to hundreds of corporate managing offices.  When it comes to engineering, you’ll find the world’s largest nonprofit research and development company, Battelle Memorial Institute, along with architectural, engineering, and environmental firm DLZ and infrastructure experts Burgess & Niple.  Business is important at The Ohio State University College of Engineering, too.  It ranks first in industry research expenditures among national engineering programs.  Around town, check out the Greater Columbus Convention Center’s sharp-angled architecture.  Families love the Center of Science and Industry.  Jack Hanna made the Columbus Zoo famous.  And we bet you didn’t know: there’s more than one Hoover Dam.



Space, energy and medical industries mean 59,000 engineers call Houston home. According to Forbes, that’s the second-highest concentration of engineers in the country. Many of them are educated by our Houston dialogue hosts, Texas A&M, as well as Rice University and the University of Houston. You’ll find ExxonMobil and other oil and gas “majors” in the Energy Corridor. Biotechnology is growing in Houston, which already has the world’s largest medical complex, the Texas Medical Center. And at NASA’s Space Center Houston, you can learn about space exploration and check out the new space shuttle replica, Independence.



Motor City is where Henry Ford built his first automobile and the “Big Three,” General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, are still headquartered here.  But Detroit is about more than vehicles.  It’s home to Compuware, DTE Energy and nearby top-notch engineering schools at Michigan State and University of Michigan.  Take the People Mover to explore the city.  Celebrate innovation at The Henry Ford.  See Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry frescos at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Tour the original location of Motown Records and check out the Detroit Science Center’s Science of Rock & Roll exhibit.  Cranbrook boasts an impressive natural history and science museum, gardens and art museum. For sports fans, there are the Pistons, Red Wings, Lions, and Tigers.

Raleigh & Durham

raleigh-ncThere’s no shortage of brain power in the Raleigh-Durham area.  Within a 30-mile radius, you’ll find Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel HillResearch Triangle Park (RTP) is one of the country’s oldest research and development parks.  From Fortune 100 corporations to start-ups and the Federal government, RTP is home to more than 170 companies and research institutes, many focused on biotechnology, information technology, and clean technology. For fun, study stars at Morehead Planetarium. Locals call Dorton Arena the “cow palace”; its innovative design is a civil engineering landmark. Celebrate the spirit of learning at Durham’s Museum of Life and Science and Raleigh’s North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. And sports fans, there’s Durham Bulls Athletic Park and NHL action at PNC Arena, home of the Carolina Hurricanes.

An engineer’s tour of Chicago

The Windy City was organized in 1833, incorporated in 1837 and quickly became an important hub between the eastern and western states.  Fifty percent of U.S. rail freight passes through the city and it’s the starting line for Route 66.  Chicago’s Midway and O’Hare airports make it the nation’s busiest aviation center. For a great view, head out to Navy Pier and climb aboard the 150-foot tall Ferris Wheel ride for scenery of Lake Michigan on one side and the city on the other. Get a closer look at the magnificent architecture on one of the boat tours along the Chicago River, where highlights include the Willis Tower, the John Hancock Center and Wrigley Building.  Or take a tour of sites designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. There’s plenty of brain power here, too.  The University of Illinois College of Engineering is home to 16 programs that are ranked in the top five nationally. And as part of the Manhattan Project, the world’s first controlled nuclear reaction, happened at the University of Chicago.

An engineer’s tour of Oklahoma

There’s plenty for engineers to do in Oklahoma. With companies like Phillips 66, Devon Energy, Continental Resources, Seventy-Seven Energy, Chesapeake Energy and more based in the state, it ranks third in the nation in natural gas production, fifth in crude oil production and is a top-ten producer of wind energy. Getting that energy into homes inspired the creation of Ditch Witch, which got its start in Perry in the 1940s when a mechanical engineer Ed Malzhan revolutionized trenching for gas, electric and plumbing lines from a slow pick-and-shovel process to one that could be done faster with his machine.


From the earth to the air, Oklahoma’s got it covered with the world’s largest airline maintenance base in Tulsa, where American Airlines houses its global maintenance and engineering headquarters. Frontier Electronic Services designs and manufactures electronics and systems for space flight, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army missile defense systems and commercial customers. And drone enthusiasts, take note: Successful Student website ranked Oklahoma State University’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology’s unmanned aerial systems program second in the nation. The University of Oklahoma’s Gallogly College of Engineering boasts the state’s largest engineering program with 3200 undergraduate students and 500 graduate students.


Biotechnology is big here, too. The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation is one of the nation’s oldest independent nonprofit biomedical research institutes with more than 700 U.S. and international patents. The Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology is helping grow businesses of all kinds, awarding more than 2,400 monetary awards to researchers, entrepreneurs and companies to fund research, get them through proof-of-concept, and support networking with investors and other researchers. When it comes to fueling all this innovation, stop by Oklahoma-based SONIC Drive-In where they can engineer you a burger and shake in a hurry.

An Engineer’s Tour of Orlando

It’s no secret – this central Florida city is a great place to experience engineering. A record-setting 62 million people visited Orlando last year. Here’s a look at how this region’s engineers are making work, fun and the future possible.

Among the main attractions here are more than a dozen theme parks, including the four parks and two water attractions at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando’s Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure – not to mention the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and SeaWorld. All that fun is brought to you by the engineers who push the boundaries every day as they come up with innovative, imaginative ways to thrill, entertain and surprise you. But it’s not all play and no work. The 7-million-square-foot Orange County Convention Center is the second-largest convention center in the country. It features a one-megawatt solar array and four smaller experimental photovoltaic systems. And if you’re looking for the future of engineering, check out the University of Central Florida. As the second-largest university in the country, UCF is the choice for more than 63,000 students. Almost 9,000 of them are enrolled in the UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science where the vision is to “educate the next generation of engineers and scientists and perform impactful research that advances the technologies of the 21st century.” UCF is ranked first among universities supplying engineering to the aerospace and defense industries by the 2015 Aviation Week Workforce Study. About an hour away in Daytona Beach, you’ll find Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, where the aerospace engineering program has been ranked number one in the country for 16 straight years.

An engineer’s tour of phoenix

Visitors often get here by way of the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, one of the ten busiest in the nation with 100,000 people arriving and departing every day.  Go green as you get around town on Valley Metro light rail and busses. Explore the Sonoran Desert by hiking, biking, on horseback, or by hot air balloon.  Exercise your mind at Arizona State University, which is one of the nation’s greenest universities and home to the Global Institute of Sustainability. Almost 17,000 ASU students are enrolled in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering where programs focus on problem solving and teamwork, entrepreneurship, and engineering’s impact on society, along with design and innovation.  Graduates have the opportunity to land a hot job in Phoenix’s growing industries like renewable energy, biomedical engineering and healthcare, data, technology and research, aerospace and aviation, manufacturing and distribution, and startups. And after all that exploring and education, be sure to sample some authentic Mexican and Southwestern cuisine.

An Engineer’s tour of pittsburgh

Pittsburgh’s history as an industrial hub began with coal mining, steel, and glass production. Until 1990, Pittsburgh engineers and steel were part of every 40-story–or-taller skyscraper in the world. Today, 1,600 technology companies, from huge corporations to hot new start-ups, maintain Pittsburgh offices, almost a third of Carnegie Mellon University students are enrolled in the School of Engineering, also known as the Carnegie Institute of Technology (you may have read about its respected robot reputation). Nearby, the University of Pittsburgh has one of the nation’s oldest engineering programs and the Swanson School of Engineering is renowned for being on the cutting-edge of biomedical engineering, energy, and sustainability. Because three rivers, the Allegheny, the Monongahala and the Ohio, converge in Pittsburgh, the city has some impressive civil engineering landmarks including the Davis Island Lock and Dam and the Smithfield Street Bridge. Experience 1800s engineering on the Duquesne Incline. The Carnegie Science Center offers inspiring STEM exhibits. The city’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center was the world’s first “green” convention center. And sports fans know, Pittsburgh’s home to Steelers, Penguins and Pirates. If you have time, 90-minutes away, you’ll find three Frank Lloyd Wright masterpieces: Fallingwater, Duncan House, and Kentuck Knob.

An Engineer’s tour of Raleigh & Durham

There’s no shortage of brain power in the Raleigh-Durham area. Within a 30-mile radius, you’ll find Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Research Triangle Park is one of the country’s oldest research and development parks. From Fortune 100 corporations to start-ups and the Federal government, RTP is home to more than 170 companies and research institutes, many focused on biotechnology, information technology, and clean technology. For fun, study stars at Morehead Planetarium. Locals call Dorton Arena the “cow palace;” its innovative design is a civil engineering landmark. Celebrate the spirit of learning at Durham’s Museum of Life and Science and Raleigh’s North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. And sports fans, there’s Durham Bulls Athletic Park and NHL action at PNC Arena, home of the Carolina Hurricanes.

an engineer’s tour of south carolina

SC state outlineCar enthusiasts can cruise into Spartanburg for a tour of BMW’s only American factory to witness the “blending of modern engineering and design aesthetics,” but you’ll have to wait until renovations are done and the BMW Zentrum re-opens later this year. No matter what you drive, there’s a pretty good chance your ride has a South Carolina connection. With 89,000 tires rolling off production lines every day at MichelinBridgestoneContinental and others, more tires are made in this state than any other.

In Aiken, engineers at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site process and store nuclear materials, and develop technologies to treat nuclear and hazardous wastes from the Cold War.

Boeing’s plant in Charleston is one of two 787 Dreamliner final assembly and delivery plants, and has Zero Waste to Landfill status and was the company’s first 100 percent renewable energy site. At Lockheed Martin’s Greeneville Operations aircraft get 15 to 20 years – or more than 15,000 flying hours – added to their lifespans as engineers do modifications, repairs, maintenance and overhauls.

Future engineers have great choices for getting an education here. Clemson University College of Engineering and Science offers more than 7,000 undergraduate and graduate engineering students the opportunity for “innovation through translation” with an emphasis on technical skill, communication and teamwork. The University of South Carolina’s College of Engineering and Computing offers 31 degree programs in everything from aerospace to systems design, including and the state’s only Nuclear Engineering graduate program.

For some fun, head to the low country and see the 1500-year-old Angel Oak Tree, and the Charleston Tea Plantation where you can take a factory tour to learn about green farming and tea production. And if you’re really adventurous, take Interstate 95 to the South Carolina side of the border with North Carolina and see the not-so-serious benefits of engineering. Billed as America’s favorite roadside attraction, South of the Border has been a pitstop for tourists for decades. A 360-degree view of I-95 and the surrounding countryside can be yours with a glass elevator ride to the top of the 200-foot high sombrero-shaped observation tower.

An engineer’s tour of spring

Spring brings warmer weather, longer days, and for many people, March is all about engineering the perfect bracket for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and then keeping a close eye on the games all day long. It’s also the season when hopeful students await college acceptance notices, some from U.S. News’ list of the best for engineering undergraduate studies. This spring brings the 48th annual celebration of Earth Day, on April 22. This year’s focus is on mobilizing the world to End Plastic Pollution. While you’re thinking about the environment, take to the skies, or at least imagine you can as you fly a kite, and take a moment to remember the most famous kite flyer ever, Founding Father and engineer Ben Franklin.