# Calculator for Mechanical Engineering

## Main Question or Discussion Point

Hi , I'm entering college this fall majoring in mechanical engineering and I need a graphing calculator. However , I am unsure of which one to buy. These calculators are quite costly so I want to be sure that I am getting the right one. I simply want a calculator that will be able to function through any math related courses. Could someone who is going through or has gone through mechanical engineering give me some advice here?

Thanks in advance.

Note : My apologies if this is in the wrong forums.

## Answers and Replies

Related Mechanical Engineering News on Phys.org
FredGarvin
Science Advisor
Not to sound like an old fogie here (I'm not that old), but why do you need a graphing calculator? A regular calculator with all of the scientific functions is plenty. I never needed a graphing function except to help me when I didn't understand a graph and then I would either borrow someones or go to the computer. I went through college with guys that paid hundreds of dollars for HPs and TIs that they never used 10% of it's functionality. My advice is save that money and buy a good sinle line calculator.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00004UG25/?tag=pfamazon01-20

http://www.makobusiness.com/texin30xiisc.html

http://www.hp.com/calculators/scientific/9s/

http://www.hp.com/calculators/scientific/30s/

Last edited by a moderator:
BillBLack
Wasper,
You'll need whatever the department uses. MOST Calculus and physics courses that I know of are taught with a TI-83. Great calculator...the Silver Edition is a very nice machine. I used an 83 and a Voyage 200 (which used to be called a TI-92) in Calc 1 and 2 last year. I like them both, but some colleges won't let you use anything over an 83 on tests and the like.
The Voyage 200 (TI-92) has too many options which will allow cheating- or at least an unfair advantage. Some colleges, I understand, use Hewlett Packard. If it were me, I'd either ask someone (e-mail would work) in the department at the college you are attending, or look at the college catalog to see if I could discern which they use.
Hope this helps

I absolutely love my YI-86. Harder to find but better for engineering than an 83. The 86 has a few built in calculus functions and diff-eq functions.

Tide
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Have you thought of getting a pocket pc? Some of them are quite good and it's easy enough to install software if you want to expand its functionality.

Clausius2
Science Advisor
Gold Member
FredGarvin said:
Not to sound like an old fogie here (I'm not that old), but why do you need a graphing calculator? A regular calculator with all of the scientific functions is plenty. I never needed a graphing function except to help me when I didn't understand a graph and then I would either borrow someones or go to the computer. I went through college with guys that paid hundreds of dollars for HPs and TIs that they never used 10% of it's functionality. My advice is save that money and buy a good sinle line calculator.
As I have seen some other different replies, I am going to repit what Fred has said, which is all gold. He knows what he is talking about, and I know too because I have survived 5 years of study with a CASIO fx922, which is a single calculator. To have a single calculator when studying engineering is a sign of braveness, it is as you would walk into the jungle with a fork instead of a machete and you survive. All students that I have met with HP and all these stuff of expensive calculators were all of them bad students.

My undergraduate project advisor is the dept of Fluid Mech. chairman, he does not have any calculator inside his room, do you believe it?. Always I have visited him, I see him doing numbers such as 0.145*sqrt(.7594)/5 with his head, or when they are too difficult he paces himself giving a good approximation of their value. Calculators are not for him. Well, the rest of human beings like me try to imitate him with the singlest calculator as possible.

A regular calculator with all of the scientific functions is plenty.
Fred and Clausius you guys are right. I've e-mailed a professor in the engineering department of my school and he has told me that I would only need a scientific calculator. Nearly all graphing will be done on the laptop with software supplied by the school, rather than on a graphing calculator. I was going to spend 150 bucks on a Ti 89 , but now I'll just get a much cheaper Ti 83. That's 70 more bucks into paying my tuition .. thanks guys.

FredGarvin
Science Advisor
Wasper said:
That's 70 more bucks into paying my tuition .. thanks guys.
Or $70 more towards pizza and coffee for the late nights. Good luck! I love my voyage 200, It's the best!! Note however that the TI 89 has a lot of the same functions. Such as solving DVQ's Complex algebra and matrix operations. The TI 83 sucks and you might as well just by a regular calculator for$10.

i cant believe noone has suggested the hp-48. this is by far, in my opinion, the best calculator ever produced. it does anything that you could possibly want and more. you should look into it before getting another one

I finished a two year engineering program with a TI-83 that will be about.....
*counts on fingers*

seven years old or so. And honestly, I didnt need much of the functionality available neither.
HOWEVER
Using your imagination to find out the purpose of the diffrent functions was half the fun. I tell ya, after I sold boxes and boxes of candy to get my TI-83, I dived into that sucker and programmed the pygathorean theorum the first night I got it.

Ah memories.

All students that I have met with HP and all these stuff of expensive calculators were all of them bad students.
Please don't make general statements like this. I have never gotten below an A in any class in which graphing calculators were permitted (including all of my physics and engineering classes), and I use a TI-89. As with every tool, it all depends on how you use it. On the one hand, if you only do simple calculations with it, then you are obviously not utilizing it fully. On the other hand, if you're using it to perform numerical integrations which might otherwise by cumbersome, or you're using it to simplify complex statements which might take a long time to do, then you're using it wisely. I can't begin to tell you how much time that thing saved me during exams.

Clausius2
Science Advisor
Gold Member
Manchot said:
Please don't make general statements like this. I have never gotten below an A in any class in which graphing calculators were permitted (including all of my physics and engineering classes), and I use a TI-89. As with every tool, it all depends on how you use it. On the one hand, if you only do simple calculations with it, then you are obviously not utilizing it fully. On the other hand, if you're using it to perform numerical integrations which might otherwise by cumbersome, or you're using it to simplify complex statements which might take a long time to do, then you're using it wisely. I can't begin to tell you how much time that thing saved me during exams.
I am not making ANY GENERAL STATEMENT!!!!!!!

Re-read my sentence again!!!. I am not saying: "all students that have those kind of calculators are bad students". Not quite. I am saying: "all students that I HAVE MET and have this calculators were bad students". Where is the general statement?, I don't see it. It's a pity you know how to handle your calculator but you don't know how to comprehend the comments of the rest of the people. :yuck:

FredGarvin
Science Advisor
Wrench said:
I finished a two year engineering program with a TI-83 that will be about.....
*counts on fingers*

seven years old or so. And honestly, I didnt need much of the functionality available neither.
HOWEVER
Using your imagination to find out the purpose of the diffrent functions was half the fun. I tell ya, after I sold boxes and boxes of candy to get my TI-83, I dived into that sucker and programmed the pygathorean theorum the first night I got it.

Ah memories.
I can see where you're coming from on that one. The only thing I see with these types of calculators is that they are marketed primarily to students, especially high school students. I have NEVER seen an add for them that depicts an engineer or engineering student churning out integrals as part of an ad campaign. I see this as a real pitty. IMO it's another step in dumbing kids down for the sake of expediency and ease. In most people's hands, these are small idiot boxes that the kids simply punch buttons and parrot what comes out. We're bringing kids up through the ranks already dependent on something other than their brain.

Off soapbox....opens floor for old foagie comments and such.

russ_watters
Mentor
Just a minor nitpick here - though practicing engineers don't often use graphing calculators (I don't either), schools often require them, so the best advice really was to find out what the department (and that means your math department too...) recommends.

FredGarvin
Science Advisor
russ_watters said:
Just a minor nitpick here - though practicing engineers don't often use graphing calculators (I don't either), schools often require them, so the best advice really was to find out what the department (and that means your math department too...) recommends.
If I had a kid who said his math teacher is making him spend $120 for a calculator simply because it graphs, I would be standing on that teacher's desk demanding to know what the hell they are trying to accomplish. Actually, now that that has been brought up, does anyone know why some places require an expensive calculator like that? I am interested in hearing the reasons why. It will be good preparation for if I ever have a kid. brewnog Science Advisor Gold Member I've been happy with my £5 sharp for the past 8 years or so. Never had the need to use a graphing calculator, and especially not for anything I did for my engineering degree! Don't let BobG see this thread, he'll have us all using slide rules. russ_watters Mentor FredGarvin said: If I had a kid who said his math teacher is making him spend$120 for a calculator simply because it graphs, I would be standing on that teacher's desk demanding to know what the hell they are trying to accomplish. Actually, now that that has been brought up, does anyone know why some places require an expensive calculator like that? I am interested in hearing the reasons why. It will be good preparation for if I ever have a kid.
A google reveals Drexel University's Engineering dept's policy on calculators: http://www.physics.drexel.edu/pfe/courseinfo/CalculatorF99.pdf [Broken]

In general, I don't see the use of a calculator as being wholly different than using Matlab (or Excel) to solve a problem for you. Its just another tool.

Last edited by a moderator:
FredGarvin
Science Advisor
Non graphing scientific calculators are not allowed? Are they high? I agree to make the playing field as level as possible, but that is just rediculous.

Brews, the one nice thing about slide rules is that you can actually argue that 2+2=3. I don't think I'd want to go back that far in time. From what I have been told about the old days though, it kind of looked like the old west with all the engineers' slide rules dangling off their belts.

Clausius2
Science Advisor
Gold Member
FredGarvin said:
If I had a kid who said his math teacher is making him spend \$120 for a calculator simply because it graphs, I would be standing on that teacher's desk demanding to know what the hell they are trying to accomplish. Actually, now that that has been brought up, does anyone know why some places require an expensive calculator like that? I am interested in hearing the reasons why. It will be good preparation for if I ever have a kid.
Well said! I'd do the same!.

Brew said:
I've been happy with my £5 sharp for the past 8 years or so. Never had the need to use a graphing calculator, and especially not for anything I did for my engineering degree!
Don't let BobG see this thread, he'll have us all using slide rules.
yeah, I was imagining that. You and your sharp riding across Manchester fields, like Clint Eastwood in the ugly, the... and the.... (don't remember).

TA-NA-NA-NA-------NA-NA-NA (BSO Ennio Morricone :rofl: )

I do admire some of my professors who didn't have any calculators available and employed those fatal slide rules.

And Russ, there is a crucial difference about using Matlab and a graphic calculator. While you must switch on the PC to use Matlab (it takes time and effort), you can make an undiscriminated use of the calculator and you will be soon acostumed to use it when you will face a difficult equation instead of solving it with your hands.

I would like to make the statement that anybody that is wasting time doing number crunching by hand is retarded and I would personally like to welcome them into the 20th century. After which the 21th might be the next step. I see this allot when Nerdy teachers at high schools try to impress their students.

Everybody is talking about graphing. Nobody uses that. What people use is the solve function.
solve(f(x)=g(x),x)
this can save tremendous time on a test. Plus unit conversion. and the fact that you have a lot of data easily accesible and presented on a big screen.

I am a 4.0 student in grad school with a voyage 200 calculator (Cluassius) and I doubt if this would have been a 2.5 without it.

Last edited:
BillBLack
Well..I don't want anyone having a stroke about 100 dollar calculators. I'm 49 and springing more than 25 bucks for a calculator was painful for me. With that said, in Calculus 1 and 2 we were required to use them. If a student did not have a TI-83 (or better) the instructor would loan you one. Mostly the calculator was used for graphing, but we were also taught how to do differentiation and integration via the calculator as well. I surely never felt that I was cheated by learning to do some things on the calculator after we had learned the techniques with a pencil, nor did I ever think that I was saved from a poor grade by the use of a calculator. The calculator was presented as a timesaving tool, not as a crutch.
The whole point to this is learning and understanding the subject being taught. Mnemonics, jingles, writing equations on strategic spots onPenthouse pinups to help visualization ( I really know someone that did that) singing the ABC song..whatever it takes to be able to learn to use mathematics is what counts to me.

I own a TI-92, TI-86 and a TI-89. The 86 is what was recommended to me by my Calc I professor. I went to purchase this and the stores were sold, the 86 had just been released. So I decided that I didnt want to go with anything less powerful then what the teach recommened so I went with the TI-92. Misstake! They would barely let me in the classroom with that thing After I was done with calc I,II,III I was able to use the TI-92 in most of my engineering courses but got tired of lugging that thing around so I went with a TI-89, and I love it!

On a side note, the Fundamentals Exam and the PE exam will not allow you to use aforementioned graphing calculators.

BobG
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Almost, brewnog, almost. Blame jaap for resurrecting the thread. :rofl:

I'd go for the Faber Castell 2/83-N Novo-Duplex. It's slightly longer and wider than your traditional 25cm device making it easier to read at 3 in the morning (but not nearly as cumbersome as though 24" monsters). It has 8 log-log scales and does just about anything you need, including solving quadratic equations. The only odd thing is it follows the European custom of putting the trig functions on the body instead of the slide.

Actually, I'd recommend the TI-86. Complex numbers, the ability to solve simultaneous equations, and the constants (built in and custom stored) make it a lot more useful than just a standard scientific calculator.

If you're forking out for the TI-89 or one of those big clunky blue things, learn how to use them! I amazed at how many people are cursed by a calculator they don't know how to use! When I hear them cussing out their TI-89, I get this urge to rush out and buy one - I feel like I'm missing out on some incredible experience.

BobG said:
Almost, brewnog, almost. Blame jaap for resurrecting the thread. :rofl:

I'd go for the Faber Castell 2/83-N Novo-Duplex. It's slightly longer and wider than your traditional 25cm device making it easier to read at 3 in the morning (but not nearly as cumbersome as though 24" monsters). It has 8 log-log scales and does just about anything you need, including solving quadratic equations. The only odd thing is it follows the European custom of putting the trig functions on the body instead of the slide.

Actually, I'd recommend the TI-86. Complex numbers, the ability to solve simultaneous equations, and the constants (built in and custom stored) make it a lot more useful than just a standard scientific calculator.

If you're forking out for the TI-89 or one of those big clunky blue things, learn how to use them! I amazed at how many people are cursed by a calculator they don't know how to use! When I hear them cussing out their TI-89, I get this urge to rush out and buy one - I feel like I'm missing out on some incredible experience.

EXACTLY!!! Anyone going into engineering should serously consider the Ti-86 IMO. The custom menu is great quick and easy to use along with the calc functions and Bob's points.

PS. I hate 89's becuase they are little computers withouth the keyboards---unweildy.