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How smart exactly do you have to be

  1. Jul 17, 2006 #1
    I heard that out of engineering, Aerospace is probably the hardest. I also heard the people majoring in it have almost no lives whatsoever.

    Although I was in AP Calculus as a senior, I really didnt understand it very well, especially towards the end with that washer method stuff. I definitely wouldve scored a 1 if I attempted the AP test.

    I got a 660 on the math for the sat which I guess is pretty good...I also only made it to regular physics.

    Im terrible at understanding things that people try to tell me verbally, I absolutely HAVE to see it done and then do an example myself.

    Im really bad at figuring out how things work...or understanding how things work..such as cars or paintball guns or little pieces of equipment. This really sucks because I am quite certain that this stuff is CRITICAL for being a freaking engineer.

    Im entering the University of Washington this fall. A lot of very smart people go to that school. My GPA was only 3.2, well below the average high school GPA for the incoming freshman there. So I am basically thinking....I barely made it. I also was not involved in a single club or activity...didnt even have a job.

    So I am wondering...probably moreso than anything else in my life...how would the average sucessful Aerospace engineer do in the things I did? Did Calculus in high school and AP physics have to be quite easy in order to do well at a University when it comes to this stuff? Could I possibly make it? Would I have to have even less of a life than the regular no lifed aerospace students?

    When or if I get to the point of having no life, what grades would signal that I should probably switch majors? (ive heard that if you struggle like hell to get your bachelors, you probably wont do to well in the job world at what you majored in).

    Thank you all...and good luck
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 17, 2006 #2


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    Hi James. Wecome to PF. In my opinion, the need to see and experience something being done is probably a good sign. All of the theory in the world will get you bupkis if you can't equate it to reality. A drone with a photographic memory can probably ace any course you name, but that in no way indicates that he'd be a decent engineer. As the regulars here know, I never finished high-school, so my opinion might be a tad biased. Still, though, I know a ****load of farmers with almost no formal education who can build just about anything that they need with some scrap metal and a welder.
  4. Jul 17, 2006 #3
    I'll second that. My grandfather never finished high-school, and he ended up in management at Ford's. Every engineer he's ever met can't understand how he does what he does. He just understands anything mechanical. He can fix anything. He understands what it requires to complete a project, the hours, when people are BS'ing him, and who he should employ to get things done. If you ever need something to be finished, he is your man. He knows how to use resouces, and understand his own limitations and the limitations of others. I think the one key trait that makes him though, is he will work harder than anyone.

    So my point is this; if you want it, if you want to be an aerospace engineer, you must work for it.

    As Thomas Edison said,
    "Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration"
  5. Jul 18, 2006 #4


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    in most careers, how smart you are is less important than how dedicated you are, and how much you enjoy whaT YOU ARE DOING.

    you speak about having A LIFE. but in a career you enjoy, the work itself enhances your life.

    life is also very long. a person i knew who studied all the time in undergraduate school while i partied, wound up extremely successful a few years (4-5?) after that, with a good job, high reputation, girlfriend, etc.. while i was back to square one.

    try to find a field you enjoy thinking about, as success at it will require thinking abut it a lot.

    but a lot of us in profesional fields are not exactly geniuses. I admit we still worry about IT THOUGH, and wish we were smarter.

    i think my dad was smarter than me, and he also barely finished high school.

    And as for AP calc being hard in high school, I never even had calc in high school and in college i thught it was the hardest subject ever. Now I am a mathematics professor at a university.

    I loved it so I kept at it.

    good luck.
  6. Jul 18, 2006 #5
    It seems to be a pretty common misconception that you have to be really smart to get through an engineering program. It's not so much that the material is super hard, it's that it comes at you very fast and in great quantities.

    To get through an engineering program with a decent GPA you need to be at least slightly good at math and willing to work very hard for what you want. It's true that while a lot of your friends are out at bars and parties, you will sometimes have to skip it to study, but not every week. Just the weeks where you have 2 tests coming up, 3 lab reports due, and a paper due for some BS history class that you wished to god you didn't have to take :). Unfortunatly, that seems to happen just about every 2 to 3 weeks:cry: .

    Also, don't worry to much about not understanding everything you did in your calc class. As long as you got out with a very basic understanding of what a limit means, a basic understanding of what a derivative is, and depending on the class, a general understanding of what an integral is, your good. The stuff that is important will keep popping up over and over again. If your really concerned about it, get a good calculus book and go over it between semesters.
  7. Jul 19, 2006 #6
    If you want some great information (as well as some inspiration) on the subject of overcoming intellectual odds with determination and persistence, rather than natural talent and genius, check out the new august issue of scientific american magazine at your local bookstore. you won't be sorry, i promise!!!
  8. Jul 19, 2006 #7
    I feel that it takes just dedication and hard work. When I went to college the first time I was a journalism (mass comm) major *shivers and cringes at the thought* and I did horrible. It really hurt my GPA. I didn't care about what I was doing and didn't work at it. Now I'm a junior at a good school in an electrical engineering program with a 4.0 technical GPA. It isn't because I am smarter than the other students. I treat school as my job. I do the work it requires.
    I also worked active duty for the military as an Electronics technician. Before I left college and joined the military I had never seen a voltmeter. I didn't have a clue what ohm's law was or how my radio worked. Now I currently still work reserves and am a EE major. I guess my big thing is just because you know nothing about a subject doesn't mean you shouldn't pursue it. When you find what you love you will bust your hump at it because it is rewarding. When you work hard you typically do well. So try out calculus and science and see if it fits you.

    *raw talent is always a benefit though*
  9. Jul 19, 2006 #8


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    I hate to be the one to break it to you, but there's actually a law that you need a 142+ IQ to be an aerospace engineer
  10. Jul 19, 2006 #9
    Is that a federal law or some wacky state thing?
  11. Jul 19, 2006 #10
    Is 142 that high?

    What % of the average pop (UK or US) have that IQ?
  12. Jul 19, 2006 #11
    Ya 142 is pretty high compared to the norm. IQ scores are highly controversial. Some people feel they mean something. Possibly these are just people who are pissed because they got burned by Mensa.
  13. Jul 19, 2006 #12


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    anyone who believes any of this has an IQ of at most 10.
  14. Jul 19, 2006 #13
    Wow <= 10 is really bad :smile:
  15. Jul 20, 2006 #14
    Aerospace is the hardest to get a job in. Not only is it an incredibly challenging subject, the competition is fierce. Surprising number unemployed Aerospace doctors out there, I hear.

    I wish I had the article that mentioned it... this is all hearsay so, here, *offers grain of salt.*
  16. Jul 20, 2006 #15


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    I do not equate "low" with "bad". I am very happy with an IQ too low to understand world affairs.
  17. Jul 21, 2006 #16
    In the interest of helping James by getting back to the subject at hand...

    "Hardest", "no lives", etc... is all based on an individual and their own perception.

    Frankly, I think being a chemical or electrical engineer is much "harder" than being an Aerospace engineer because I personally hate circuits and chemistry :-)

    I am an Aerospace engineer, I took no calculus in high school, no AP classes at all in fact, and I did just fine at a college considered to be a very good one for Aerospace (CU Boulder). I worked through a concurrent degree program (began work on my M.S. as an undergrad) and graduated with a high GPA and a B.S./M.S. At the same time. It isn't because I am some genius but like others have said I love spaceflight and everything about it so it made slogging through Fluids 2 and chemistry labs all the more worthwhile because I knew I would be doing what I wanted to do when I got to the finish line. i.e. I worked very hard, not only because I had to, but because I wanted to since I loved what I was doing.

    As far as having no life again it's all based on perception. For the first couple of years in a university engineering program you will be in classes like calc, physics, chemistry, etc.. With all types of beginning engineering students, the basics in engineering are the same across the board. During this time you will quickly find out if this is something you like or not, some people call it "weeding out" but it's really more figuring out what you want to do and if you are willing to take the classes you are less interested in to get to the ones you really want to take.

    Some of my peers at university took AP courses in high school but found that the courses they took in college were handled better and things they struggled to understand in high school were much easier when taught in the university setting with recitations, study groups etc... However there were also those that found they really didn't enjoy all the prerequisite classes for engineering and switched to another college.

    If you want to party all the time or enjoy more time off than on with school work, ANY engineering degree is probably not a good choice. I certainly had a life in college and had fun, but there were admittedly many times that I had to trade going out on the weekends with buckling down and studying for an exam or working through a large homework assignment.

    I don't think there is any grade or evaluation that can tell you "Whoa, I think you should hang it up and try something else" You have to trust your gut and know if this is something you really want to do. Hope that helps you out some and good luck!
  18. Jul 22, 2006 #17
    i sucked at school and now i'm paying for it by being 22 and not even started the degree i want to do(physics). however that was mostly out of being young and lazy.

    oh and 142 is pretty high, you only have to be in the top 2% to enter mensa and i'm in with 148, so i reckon 142 would get you membership.
  19. Jul 22, 2006 #18


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    My hometown is Kodiak, AK, a big commercial fishing hub. (In fact, I used to be a fisherman, before I started pursuing a physics degree). Like your farmers, they are mostly excellent fabricators, because they always have to set up sein-handling systems (like powerblocks, wenches, and picking booms) in ways that won't tip their boats, break their hydraulics, etc.

    I have a friend who's a welder (also a fabricator, makes knives, jewelry, and tools) that claims that a good share of engineers never do any physical work, they just make plans, and the people who do the work are always complaining that engineers should have more hand-on experience before making plans and wasting their time on unseen technicalities.

    As a physics major, I don't expect to learn much about fabrication, just about theory. Fabrication is something you sort of have to handle on your own unless you want to hire out, then information gets lost when you're trying to explain what you want fabricated and how you want it fabricated.

    I want to be both theoretical and experimental, and I want to be able to build my own experments. It's a tall order, I realize, but I think tinkering around on your own is the best way to get there.
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