Author Topic: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?  (Read 6479 times)

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Offline S. KarimTopic starter

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As the title states, is it worth getting into if I want to learn how to build machines (not industrial ones, but smaller ones). Someone told me its a lot of math and awkward stuff that doesnt really teach how to design or build but more how the physics in it works.

How's electrical engineering? Im serious about building my own circuit boards and electronics/sensors/devices so insight on that will help too. Thanks!

Offline sdk32285

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2008, 09:45:25 PM »
Any engineering degree will have a lot of theory (which includes math) as well as a few "design" courses which are usually electives. Many of the theory classes will teach you a few useful things (and a lot of things that you personally don't need).

Useful highlights:
ME - Statics, materials, machine design, Finite Element Analysis, thermodynamics
EE - analog/digital circuit design, microprocessors, controls, power tech. (motors etc..)

Some things that they probably will not teach but you need to learn:
machining, soldering, making connectors, and practical design

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Offline JesseWelling

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2008, 10:51:47 PM »
Some things that they probably will not teach but you need to learn:
machining, soldering, making connectors, and practical design

That's what Internships are for  ;)

Offline AndrewM

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2008, 11:10:19 PM »
As previously stated, you will have a lot of math and theory in any engineering discipline, but it will be well worth it in the long run.  The more formulas and theory you learn, the more you will find it easier to understand and make use of the things they do not teach you.  For instance, I was able to use the electrical theory and basic physics taught in Nuke school to understand fluid dynamics.  The simple proofs I learned in trig and precalc opened my eyes to easier ways to write algorithms for programs.  Etc.  Etc.

A lot of good electrical engineering programs will cover basic soldering, at least to some extent.  And practice makes perfect when it comes to things like that.

In direct answer to your question.  Yes.  If you are serious about pursuing the building of machines for a future career, then something like a EE degree would be a great choice.
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Offline bukowski

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2008, 10:53:12 AM »
Quote
A lot of good electrical engineering programs will cover basic soldering, at least to some extent.  And practice makes perfect when it comes to things like that.

Not in my experience. If you want a class in soldering, look to your local JC for an electronics assembly and fabrication class. The one Im finishing up right now is great, we solder down to microminiature (not my strongsuit), and we got to use our own ideas to design, etch, and solder a pcb. Great experience.

Offline S. KarimTopic starter

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2008, 06:34:22 PM »
Not in my experience. If you want a class in soldering, look to your local JC for an electronics assembly and fabrication class. The one Im finishing up right now is great, we solder down to microminiature (not my strongsuit), and we got to use our own ideas to design, etch, and solder a pcb. Great experience.
Local JC? Whats that?

I'd love a class like that.

...

My problem right now is debating whether to take Mechanical or Electrical engineering. I want to build machines real well and I want to create my own electronics really well. Just not sure what to do.

However, seems like electronic gadgets have always fascinated me more...

Offline sdk32285

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2008, 08:07:16 AM »
Some schools offer a degree in mechatronic engineering so that might be of interest.
Also you can find a school that lets you take EE (or ME) classes as electives while you are registered in a different program.
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Offline SixRingz

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #7 on: May 29, 2008, 10:12:23 AM »
Is it crucial to have an engineering to be able to build robots? No.
Does an engineering degree help you in building robots? Definitely.

The choice of ME or EE is not extremely important as you get great tools from both to help you continue to learn more math, fysics and more. I'm soon an Engineer in Media technology and I can't encourage you enough to get a degree! This will not only help your electronics/robotics as a hobby, but also give you a more challenging job and hopefully a much better paycheck!
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Offline JesseWelling

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #8 on: May 29, 2008, 03:57:19 PM »
Computer Science isn't a bad option either. Just pay really good attention in physics and calculus so you can go back and build upon them. I wish I had paid more attention in those two areas. :-\

Offline S. KarimTopic starter

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2008, 04:39:46 PM »
Why computer science? Software dev?

Offline JesseWelling

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #10 on: May 29, 2008, 08:53:37 PM »
Can't have autonomous robots with out Artificial Intelligence...

Offline emmannuel

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2008, 09:42:41 PM »
I sorta dropped out of College when I was faced with some of the higher end math and physics for my CS degree.

Took time off and found a JC near by was offering the classes I wanted to take but I ended getting interested in the Mechatronics program they had.
Taught me a lot of basic stuff about electronics, machining, very basic programming.  The electronics and machining stuff was lots of fun and very interesting.
From the stuff I was doing in my CS classes I found the programming a joke, but I found that they taught assembly and microcontrollers using AVR chips.
I sat in both of the classes cause of my GPA was so horrible I couldn't add the units.  The teacher was super nice and supportive of me and got me really interested in robotics.

So I'm now a year after starting the Mechatronics program and got a 4.0 gpa and have been fixing some of my previous mistakes so my overall GPA is looking rather nice.
After talking to lots of smart teachers and finding out most don't ever use 90% of the math and physics, some even told me their own tales of almost dropping school because of it.
They all made something very clear about the high level match and science its all basic knowledge that we need the people who work and calls themselves engineers to know.
The other thing they made clear was that it was a "rights of passage" kind of thing.  If I wana be where they are I have to go through all the same crap they did.

I'm finishing up the math next semester as well as starting the physics after being exposed to electronics I can at least say it applies more to what I want to do now than what I programmed before.

My brother graduated with a computer engineering BS, and he agrees that I am probably getting more exposure to things than he did because a lot of what I did at the JC is more hands on, his was theory.
So now I plan on going back and learning the theory stuff now that I'm interested. :P

No matter what you learn in college they will make you take a lot of stuff that you may not use, all I can recommend is to just learn it, and move on so you can get to do what you want.

Offline JesseWelling

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #12 on: May 29, 2008, 11:03:45 PM »
I look at it like this: Everything... I mean everything you take in college can be used as a tool to make yourself a smarter person. Don't discount any part of it. I took 3 years of Japanese and Japanese Lit, and I think in some ways it made me a better programmer and software engineer.

I kinda got down on my classes midway through college too, and I really really wish I would have paid more attention in statistics, matrix theory, calculus, and physics. I slacked off way to much in those classes even though I managed a B- over all. I would give my both my pinky fingers (who needs the a and l keys...) to have the time to go back and brush up on it all.

Offline AndrewM

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #13 on: May 30, 2008, 06:34:11 PM »
I look at it like this: Everything... I mean everything you take in college can be used as a tool to make yourself a smarter person. Don't discount any part of it.

Very well said...Knowledge is power, even if it just means winning at Jeopardy some day (joking)  ;D
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Offline awally88

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2008, 01:28:19 AM »
I have to (arguably) that I have the best robot building course ever! I'm undertaking a double degree in Mechatronic Engineering / Maths and Computer Science. I have no idea if that course exists where ever you are but I thought i'd put the idea out there. 

So far it hasn't helped me at all but were starting to get into more practical rather than theoretical content now!

Offline sonictj

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #15 on: June 07, 2008, 04:16:53 PM »
I'm studying at the University of Florida to become a ME.  In our program we are required to take a machining class where we CAD and build a robot (really just a glorified rc car) using the FIRST robotics microcontroller board.  Thats how I really got interested in robotics.  I started visiting this site as soon as I finished that course.   

Offline Admin

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #16 on: June 07, 2008, 06:47:47 PM »
A few thoughts to help you make your decision . . .

I'm a mechanical engineer ;D

I wanted to be an electrical engineer since 2nd grade but was rejected from the program at CMU . . . I tend to get rejected from departments at CMU often lol . . .

Electrical engineers get paid on average $10k+ year more than mechanical engineers.

Mechanical engineers can work on just about anything, from harddrive design, medical equipment, to air/space craft.

If you choose one, no one will stop you from taking classes in the other as electives.

In fact, I took tons of programming and electrical engineering classes to supplement my mechanical engineering degree.

Offline S. KarimTopic starter

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #17 on: June 07, 2008, 10:06:05 PM »
A few thoughts to help you make your decision . . .

I'm a mechanical engineer ;D

I wanted to be an electrical engineer since 2nd grade but was rejected from the program at CMU . . . I tend to get rejected from departments at CMU often lol . . .

Electrical engineers get paid on average $10k+ year more than mechanical engineers.

Mechanical engineers can work on just about anything, from harddrive design, medical equipment, to air/space craft.

If you choose one, no one will stop you from taking classes in the other as electives.

In fact, I took tons of programming and electrical engineering classes to supplement my mechanical engineering degree.
This post made me feel a lot better...I stopped reading at $10K and I was like "wtf, 10K a year? thats dirt!" lol until I read the "more than" part.

How did you get rejected by EE dept. at CMU but got into ME? I thought undergrad was like, if you get into one department you can take classes elsewhere?

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #18 on: June 08, 2008, 10:32:22 AM »
The ECE dept had a much lower acceptance rate. And you can take classes in other departments, just can't get a degree unless you are accepted.

Offline Centaur

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #19 on: June 16, 2008, 06:17:15 PM »
Just so you know where I'm coming from, I'm a mechanical engineer.

Mechatronics is a great up and coming field which studies combined systems of electrical and mechanical components.  Unfortunately that are not to many undergraduate mechantronic curriculum's.

If you do take mechanical engineering, you will still get some information on programming and computers just not as in depth.  Once you get a mechanical engineering degree you can still do pretty much anything you want.

In general, a mechanical engineer is more likely to know more cross disciplinary stuff than an electrical engineer.  It's less common for an electrical engineer to go back to school to learn more about mechanics than it is for a mechanical engineer to go back to school to learn more about electronics.  Most (but not all) companies designing mechatronic products have mechanical engineers leading the product design teams. (the key word is mechatronic products)

A good saying for engineers is "an engineer can do for one dollar what any old fool can do for two".  For example, a mechanical engineer can design a mechanical system for 1 dollar when anyone else would need two dollars, and an electrical engineer can design an electrical system for 1 dollar while it would take anyone else two dollars.  So you can still do what the others can, it's just you will be much better in a specialized field.

In robotics i would say a mechanical engineer might be concerned with predicting acceleration, forces on robotic arms (will your arm break under x stress?), mathematical calculations to determine a robotic arms location, gearing for motors or servos, or what type of motor/servo you should use to meet your torque requirements.  You can also study vibrations, controls, heat transfer, thermodynamics, fluid dynamics etc.  If you are interested in anything with flight, a ME degree is a must.  You'd be pretty lucky to be able to design a stable flying robot without studying flight characteristics and stability.

Someone else would have to fill in on specifically what you can study with EE, but I'd imagine it consists of - programming, what battery do you need for your robot, what sensors you need and how to have your robot make simple decisions based on sensor feedback, how to communicate with other robots, how to design a circuit to power your robot and turn your microprocessor instructions into actions. 

Then if you get into advanced "thinking" you're looking at software engineering.  Artificial intelligence, complex decision making etc.  (alternatively software engineering can be something like designing a computer program like Microsoft Office or Mozilla Firefox) 

Software engineer makes the most, then electrical, then mechanical, (in general and just starting out with an undergrad degree) and engineers make more money than almost every other undergrad.

If all else, nothing will stop you from switching careers 10 or 15 years down the road if you get bored.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2008, 06:20:31 PM by Centaur »
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Offline benji

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #20 on: June 22, 2008, 01:28:48 AM »
im doin now the 5th and last year of EE
,robots to my view are

60% programming (software)

25% electronics

15% mechanics

good ol' BeNNy

Offline ceruleanplains

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #21 on: July 09, 2008, 09:06:00 PM »
If you are interested in anything with flight, a ME degree is a must.  You'd be pretty lucky to be able to design a stable flying robot without studying flight characteristics and stability.

I'm an aerospace engineer with undergrad from Virginia Tech and graduate from USC.  The majority of knowledge learned from my degrees was through applications outside the classroom.  I did a number of undergraduate projects in Design, Build, Fly (an AIAA - American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) and undergraduate research in the spacecraft simulator lab at Tech and wrote papers on various other things (like re-entry dynamics and some stuff on ballistic missiles). 

In designing the aircraft you work on all the different subsystems to a high degree and see how they all fit together in a working, flying part... to improve them you get into testing and theory... talk to professors for advice, etc.

The point is that your experience as an engineer while at school is best when you take what you learn in the classroom, question it, apply it, use it to do something from model and simulation to hardware, and getting engaged with peers and professors to make improvements. 

Some schools (apparently Admin's CMU) like to reject people based on test scores for admission into their departments instead of advisement, projects, and acceptance.  Granted, I'm baffled by Admin's rejection from his choice dept's from the research professors point of view alone.  At Tech, professors were lining up for students interested in research projects and willingly fund that research... ( so you don't work at McDonald's or whatever, but in the labs doing cool things ) especially students that can get the projects done and advance the research significantly.  I know some schools you apply from highschool into the program directly, but some you apply to general engineering from which you can choose (and may be accepted or denied based on your GPA/interview with advisor(s)).  So your experiences will be varied by where you go as well. 

Offline Cotowar

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Re: What does mechanical or elec engineering teach in undergrad?
« Reply #22 on: July 10, 2008, 12:33:32 AM »
Well, I started in Aerospace Engineering, but after my first semester I dropped that crap and switched to software engineering. I would say this about all engineering degrees. You will learn all the same fundamental concepts in every discipline, but as you get more advanced they break apart. To be honest, I have a feeling any software engineer could design you a machine, and any ME could build you a circuit, its just the complexity of the machine or circuit that makes the difference. What is considered "normal" in the field of EE is hard to everyone else, and so forth.

I would suggest you look at a degree like EE or Comp E, as there are less of them out there than ME, and if you really find you are interested in ME still, go major in it.

Conversely, you can get your BS in ME, and get a MS in Comp E or EE...they will call it something like electronics of a machine or some bullshit, but basically it says you can do both.

Might also consider getting a single degree, and then getting certified as the other.

For example, I'm getting a software engineering degree, but I like the hardware aspects of computers too, so I'm getting my A+ certification in order to let companies know I know about both sides of the matter.

Some universities will even let you build your own degree, allowing you to incorporate classes from many disciplines into a single coherent unit. Usually with this you have to take more classes than with a normal degree, and these are highly uncommon in my experience, but they do exist.
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