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More fun ? mechancial vs. electrical

  1. Feb 20, 2012 #1
    More "fun"? mechancial vs. electrical

    I am currently a student at a university finishing my last semester completing a BS in mathematics and a concentration in physics (engineering emphasis). After I graduate, I am going to pursue a BS in engineering before going to graduate school for engineering. I am struggling with the decision of whether I should pursue mechanical or electrical engineering. I have taken related courses outside of my math degree such as

    - Statics
    - Dynamics
    - Thermodynamics
    - Circuit Analysis
    - Engineering Physics I & II
    - Electromagnetism
    - Modern Physics
    - General Chemistry I & II
    - Intro to computer science (C++)

    I am not interested in making a choice based on salary. In the future, I would like to create something practical and useful and start a company with a friend, who is currently going to graduate school for mechanical engineering. I would like to take my math degree into consideration when making my decision, but ultimately, I want to choose what I will enjoy most.

    I have been struggling with the decision greatly, and I believe more insight on both fields would help me a lot.

    Essentially, why do you think mechanical will be more “fun” than electrical engineering, or why do you think electrical will be more “fun” than mechanical engineering?

    Also, what advice might you have for making this decision considering my mathematics background?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 20, 2012 #2
    Re: More "fun"? mechancial vs. electrical

    First and foremost, what you think is fun is really subjective. From a general standpoint, I would presume you may find electrical engineering more "fun" primarily based on your background. Electrical engineering is a lot more mathematics (signal processing, control theory etc.) than physics; although there is plenty of physics involved.
  4. Feb 20, 2012 #3
    Re: More "fun"? mechancial vs. electrical

    I apologize if I am not clear. I am just curious to hear what other engineers and engineering students personally find most fun in their respective area of engineering whether it be electrical or mechanical.

    I appreciate your comment; it does seem that electrical is much more mathematical than mechanical.
  5. Feb 21, 2012 #4
    Re: More "fun"? mechancial vs. electrical

    I am about to graduate in ME and I have taken electrical courses for 4 semesters (Circuits, Electric Machines,Electronics, Digital Logic Fundamentals). EE mathematics is very easy compared to mathematics in Mechanical Engineering and I can say that with 100% confidence. We have taken 6 math courses (Calculus,ODEs & linear algebra,Vector calculus,PDEs & Fourier Analysis,Numerical Methods, Probability & Statistics) and during all these courses, I found their application in mechanical engineering much more than EE. Pick any advanced mathematics book and you will find problems related to modeling of flow, structural analysis, geometry which are all studied in ME much more than problems related to EE. Try to look into Finite Element Method and you will realize the level of mathematics involved in ME
  6. Feb 21, 2012 #5
    Re: More "fun"? mechancial vs. electrical

    It depends on your interest. I choose EE because I wanted to know how a computer worked. After getting into EE my interests branched out into other EE fields, but the computational/algorithmic side of things always was the most interesting to me. Figure out what interests you and what field that is in...

    Math wise you can get really deep no matter if you go mechanical or electrical. In fact, in many cases the math is very similar between some mechanical and electrical areas. For example, Laplace's equation and all the methods involved in solving it are used for electrostatics, steady-state heat conduction, and incompressible fluid flow. The same methods of Fourier analysis used to study mechanical vibrations are used for signal analysis. Even finite element analysis is used in both fields: for antennas, microwave circuits etc for EE and heat transfer, stress problems, etc in ME. One of the cool things about the physics behind both is that the equations that describe two totally seperate things are so similar.

    If you choose to get away from the mathematical/physics base, EE has more area to cover. Areas such as communication theory primarily rely on probability and statistics and areas such as computer architecture can involve little physics based math.
  7. Feb 23, 2012 #6
    Re: More "fun"? mechancial vs. electrical

    I am very interested in the computational/algorithmic side of things too. One of the most interesting classes I've taken is numerical analysis. I am not so interested in fluid dynamics and heat transfer.

    I feel that the overall course work for electrical engineering seems more interesting than mechanical engineering, but looking at curriculums from different universities, I find the course on mechatronics to seem the most interesting, which is a mechanical engineering class more on the electrical side.

    I am afraid if I pursue electrical engineering, I will never learn how things work mechanically. For example, if I took apart a watch, RC car, or some small mechanical/electronic device, would I be totally lost as an electrical engineer?

    I don't mean to seem ignorant, but I am trying to make a decision, which will affect my future career, and I really want to be doing something that I enjoy. I appreciate the comments; they are definitely helpful.
  8. Feb 24, 2012 #7
    Re: More "fun"? mechancial vs. electrical

    Something like mechatronics might be a good compromise. One of the main attributes you should have when you graduate is the ability to teach yourself what you need to know (including other engineering areas besides your own).

    For example, one project I worked on I created a Simulink model of a hydraulic system to test control algorithms. Going in to it I knew almost nothing about hydraulics except a very high level view of the components involved. But you get a couple of books/papers and start crunching through the math behind how servo valves, pumps, and actuators operate and build up a model. I still am not a hydraulic expert but I probably know as much as someone who has taken a couple of undergraduate classes in it.
  9. Feb 24, 2012 #8


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    Re: More "fun"? mechancial vs. electrical

    Go for electrical engineering all the way!!! Certainly not all, but a huge portion of mechanical engineering is building HVAC systems including all the duct work!!! Maybe that's your thing....maybe its not.

    As far as not understanding mechanical....that's impossible! All engineering ties together in some type of way.

    As far as an RC car for example...yes I get the electrical....but I certainly get the mechancial as well. I may not be able to write differential equations for it...but I understand it has a axles, rims, tires, bearings, steering with tie rods, suspension with springs and shock absorbers, it has a main frame.....etc. And if i really put my mind to it I probably could write a differential equation for the shock abosorbers and so forth. Engineering is engineering.

    Same thing goes if you were mechanical.....you would at least understand the electric part of the car fairly well.....maybe not as good as an EE....but close enough!
  10. Feb 29, 2012 #9
    Re: More "fun"? mechancial vs. electrical

    Thanks. All the comments have been very helpful.

    psparky, I will take that into consideration for sure; HVAC, duct work doesn't sound like fun to me.

    I have been doing a lot of thinking, and currently, I am a math major, and I enjoy it a lot. So, it makes sense find an area in engineering where I can make use of it. Numerical analysis and advanced calculus, the more algorithmic type of courses, are the most interesting to me.

    Looking at the different technical areas of engineering, I feel like dynamic systems and controls seem the most interesting for me. I do not know a lot about them, but it seems like they have a very mathematical aspect, and I notice that in a lot of different curriculums, controls are sometimes in mechanical and sometimes in electrical. So, could this be a good middle ground? What do people in dynamic systems and controls study in mechanical or electrical engineering?
  11. Feb 29, 2012 #10
    Re: More "fun"? mechancial vs. electrical

    Mechanical engineers in dynamics labs frequently study non-linear vibrations. Really neat stuff. You get to do fun math.
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