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Engineering Most fun Engineering Discipline?

  1. Nov 26, 2008 #1
    Currently in 2nd year of college, and just now being exposed to calculus based physics: my intended major was computer science, but now I'm not sure.

    Basically, I want to build stuff that makes people say "holy crap". The problem is that I'm not sure what would be best.

    If I go mech engineer, I'd probably be working somewhere in the auto industry, and what I make would be heavily restricted to focus groups of consumers... but I'm not sure.

    The thing that worries me is how far away from pure science "computer science" is now. There are so many software layers on top of the hardware now, that it seems like all people are doing is just figuring out how to make someone else's software do something differently. Is it really even science if you're just memorizing protocols and syntax someone else made up?

    Honestly, I just want to be Iron Man. That pretty much sums it up. I'd like to build stuff on an unlimited budget with undeserved government money. Is that unrealistic?

    Advice appreciated.

    *note: this post may seem goofy, but I mean it in all seriousness. I'd like to pick something where I can work 18 hour days, 10 of them on my own time, building something "woah"-ish. I don't mind hard work as long as there's creativity involved.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 26, 2008 #2
    Get a degree in mechanical or aerospace engineering and go work for a defense contractor? They make plenty of crazy stuff.
  4. Nov 26, 2008 #3
    Most definitely. But just because you have a degree in CS doesn't mean you can't build crazy cool stuff too. Have you ever seen the movie iRobot?
  5. Nov 28, 2008 #4
    Good luck with the end result. I've reached the point where I get paid to research and design interesting things and let me tell you, it's fantastic.

    The hard part is getting there. If you only want to do the 'interesting' parts, you'll have to get through all the mundane things you'll be taught during your education. As a mechanical engineer, I was more interested in the materials side of the course - but I still had to learn advanced fluid mechanics and several programming languages that I now no longer use. It will be the same in every course, even CS. Luckily you might come across something that you never thought you'd enjoy but suddenly do.

    I personally think engineering degrees are generally more rounded than pure computing courses, and I think most people probably stand a better chance of doing something really innovative if they were to study engineering. As for which one would suit you, my suggestion would be to get in contact with a good university near you that offers a variety of disciplines and ask them if you can come for a tour of each of them.
  6. Nov 28, 2008 #5
    Thanks for the info. If you don't mind me asking, what do you do on a daily basis?
  7. Nov 28, 2008 #6
    I'd get an electrical degree and then do embedded software with things like robots. That is a blast.
  8. Nov 30, 2008 #7
    I would say mechanical engineering because I feel its the broadest of all the different types. I would say never pursue anything related with weapons, because although it's very lucrative, the world doesn't need that. The world needs problem solvers to fix its problems.

    I am currently majoring in electrical-mechanical engineering.
  9. Dec 2, 2008 #8
    I research the dynamic behaviour of a variety of new materials - for example some of them show negative Poisson's ratios (materials that grow laterally under uniaxial tension as opposed to shrinking), extreme rate dependence, nano-scale structures etc. The experimental side of the work involves ballistic, explosive, and impact testing. And the analytical side involves designing structures and devices with commercial or military uses, generally with a view to saving lives.

    I enjoy it, mainly because it's working with novel materials, in a field with potentially life-saving applications, and it requires a mix of different skills and techniques. So I'm not just in front of a computer designing a railway bogie or a pump!
  10. Dec 2, 2008 #9


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    Is that a degree programme under the EE department or Mech-E department?
  11. Dec 3, 2008 #10
    Wow... that actually sounds AWESOME. Don't you have like, 500000 other people trying to get a job in that field? I always thought about mech engr, but I don't want to have to compete with PhD's for 40k a year.

    p.s. Hire me. I'm awesome at taking orders for Starbucks.
  12. Dec 3, 2008 #11
    The best way (in my experience and those of my colleagues) to get into a research job in something that you enjoy is to find something new and interesting in your early years at university. I was quite lucky in that I had a literature review project early on in my degree and I chose to do it on crashworthiness, which got me interested in the area of high speed testing and materials. That kinda snowballed and the projects I kept taking were always somehow related, generally ones that I devised myself. Through one of my projects I got involved with a pretty big company, and they were kind enough (and interested enough commercially!) to sponsor my research position.

    Don't know how the system works where you are, but in the UK most PHD students themselves are funded to the tune of approximately $35k - $40k equivalent (when you take into account that you're not getting taxed). So a lot of the PHD students here are getting paid a reasonable wage, have guaranteed funding for 3 years and get to work on projects that interest them and that they can take in whatever direction they choose.

    Unfortunately in this country, most research jobs do tend to be taken by PHDs, then Masters. Certainly in engineering research, most of the Tony Starks of this world seem to have a doctorate!
  13. Dec 3, 2008 #12

    You can build cool stuff like this:

    Anyways, don't worry to much about Job competition and focus more on obtaining knowledge and skills to apply to the working environment. When you're an Engineer, you get your butt into the Industry, gain your experience, make the big money and then try to get out on your own terms. The worst thing you want to have happen is to stick around (the 40 - 50 yrs of age) for too long only to be phased out by the young, up and coming Engineering Puppies that are fresh out of school. Get a position in management, go into business, and or even academia to research and teach. No matter what career you choose, always have a exit plan when things don't turn out the way you want it.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  14. Dec 3, 2008 #13
    How much would you guys think a nanotechnology minor or a math minor help an electrical engineering major skill wise or in developing a better knowledge for the work enviorment out there?
  15. Dec 4, 2008 #14
    Aerospace engineering crew holla!
  16. Dec 9, 2008 #15
    Who do you think is more useful: a 24 year old that knows the latest software and just graduated, or the 40-50ish person who has been doing engineering for years?
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  17. Dec 18, 2008 #16
    This is the best advice I have heard in a while.
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