I am an electrical engineering student currently in my pre-final year. I recently entered some robotics and circuit design competitions with my friends, and found the experience quite satisfying, applying the principles and theory I learnt in the past 2 years for the very first time. However, I find this activity to be highly impractical in the long run, I don't have the funds necessary to keep working on one project after another, the only reason I am able to indulge in it right now is because my friends are pooling in the money for some specific competitions alone. Is there some other way in which I can gain practical experience? I do not have opportunities to go for internships or help out professors with their work. I have been thinking of learning how to use simulation software to design projects, would this be helpful even if I don't go about implementing them in real life? Can anyone suggest some other ways through which I can practically apply the theory I have learnt? Or perhaps suggest some project ideas that aren't too simple, but do not empty my pockets either, so that I may be able to build on from there? I also wish to attend Graduate school, and perhaps get a doctorate and pursue a career in Academia. I realize that this means that I need to involve myself a lot with research. How do I get started with this, especially if I don't have the opportunity to help someone else with their work? I have been trying to look up possible sources of information concerning research, being an IEEE student member, I have access to Spectrum and Potentials magazines for example. What are the other sources I can use, especially if I wish to start writing papers and attend a decent number of conferences before graduating? I would also appreciate any recommendations of publications that an electrical engineering student or an engineering student in general might find useful.