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Learning Engineering

  1. Mar 2, 2016 #1
    How can I self-learn mechanical engineering?
    Some background:
    My dad has been in the business of Ball bearing for last 20 years. Whenever some smart-ass guy asks him any question he gives out learned answers(20 years of experience does teach people something). But apparently my dad doesn't understand anything what he says most of the time. Now, I'm planning to join the business. Due to some reason, I choose to do my bachelors in business rather than engineering. Can I still become self-sufficient by self-learning?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 2, 2016 #2
    Mechanical engineering is a very broad field and so you first need to identify which part of it interests you. From your post it seems that bearings/gears might be your area of interest.

    As someone who has read mechanical engineering at a very prestigious university, I can tell you that if you study hard enough there's nothing that you cannot gain (well.. apart from the engineering DEGREE document!) which someone like me will by going to a university. A university provides three things essentially:

    1) Teachers:
    The one good thing about university is that you can have an experienced person to answer your questions, but:
    a) even that can often (nowadays) not be a quality experience (university lecturers/professors/tutors are too busy with their own research that I think they just don't have the energy/creativity/humility to get down to the level of the student and labour to satisfactorily answer your questions)
    b) you have forums such as this one where there are people/teachers(!) willing to help you out

    2) Structured Curriculum:
    Sometimes, as a student, you feel that the volume and pace of work at universities these days is too quantity centred; I'd rather prefer a curriculum more suited to allowing for a deep and incisive study of a fewer topics. Perhaps you can chart your own structured study that can be more productive since you focus on the things most relevant to you and to the depth that you really need to get to for successfully managing your business!

    3) Practical experience:
    What even the top universities offer you as project work, you can do that on your own through the various DIY project guides available online - in fact in my final year at uni, many of the final year projects people had were really quite trivial and lousy projects (just not enough practical work available IMO....). If you, in your business, have or can set up a research department, then you can definitely learn a lot through hands on approach with colleagues/employees.

    In short, you can definitely become self-sufficient through self-learning - just try and keep yourself focused on the most important/relevant things. Never think someone with a degree will be any more self-sufficient than you.

    Two cents from someone who is still quite a fresh graduate...

  4. Mar 2, 2016 #3


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    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    One item I would add to the above list is:

    4) External Feedback
    I agree that it's "possible" to learn what you need to know, but one of the issues that people who try to go it alone face is that it's very easy to believe that you understand something, when you really don't. A university education will give you feedback on how well you understand a subject in terms of grades. Assignments, projects, lab reports, examinations, will all help you to identify misunderstandings that might otherwise go undetected. You can also get a sense of where you stand in relation to other people studying the subject.
  5. Mar 2, 2016 #4
    I think it's best to get a hold of the chart of courses for mechanical engineering from any university. You can skip the courses that are more general to engineering and start on courses that are specifically for mechanical. Buy the required books or download the PDF. There are institutions that have one or two month classes for hands-on courses for mechanical engineering, you can attend those.
    Hope I helped!
  6. Mar 2, 2016 #5

    Randy Beikmann

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    Gold Member

    I think there are two main parts:

    First, figure out what you want to end up knowing, and work backwards to find out what courses/subjects are required to support that. For example, if you want to understand how to make ball bearings, you'll need to study materials properties, manufacturing processes, engineering economics, etc. This will prioritize things and reduce your overall work. Each of these topics will have their own prerequisites to support them. Reading/skimming some more advanced texts will show you what you need to know before you study it in detail. Keep working the steps backward until you reach the point where you already know the necessary material.

    Second, start with those basic prerequisites and work forward, taking/studying the subjects you need to achieve your goals. While you're doing that, think about how you'll use each thing you'll learn. Since you have a definite purpose in mind, and experience in manufacturing, you'll have an advantage here. If possible, find books/websites that apply the subject matter in an interesting way while you learn it. This is how I approached every topic in physics, and it made things stick with me for many years.

    I recommend "Mechanical Engineering Design" by Shigley (and various co-authors). You'll need a mechanics of materials text to prepare for that, and a college-level physics book to prepare for that. That's part of working backward. For working forward (and at the risk of being self-serving), I'd recommend Physics for Gearheads (which I wrote) or another similar book. The reason is the approach. It starts from basic physics, but applies it to interesting automotive problems all the way through. It mimics the way I learned. It helps if you like and/or understand cars, but if you're mechanically-inclined, you're probably there.

    You can probably find books that apply physics in other ways if you prefer, but no matter what, keep thinking about how you could use it. By that I don't mean to jump ahead, but to anticipate what's coming down the road.

    I know there are also online courses (free or otherwise) that might be just right in your situation. "Engineering Explained" gives good, brief examples of using physics (but of course isn't an in-depth course).
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