1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Engineering My Senior Year- design engineering

  1. Dec 5, 2009 #1
    Well it's my senior year and I was pretty set on being an engineer. But an engineering student came in and talked to us about what it is like. He said that it was nothing like what he imagined; he became an engineer because he wanted to be active doing things and creating things. He said that it's mostly just sitting in an office going over papers and making sure that "nothing will go wrong". He is a civil engineer so I'm not going to stereotype this with all engineering careers.

    I was drawn to engineering because I loved the idea of designing new things and making them work. But all I really hear about it is some people working in a huge factory monitoring machine output and such. This may sound dumb, but is there any type of realistic engineering career in this age where you get to actively design new things? If there is then sign me up.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 6, 2009 #2
    "Designing things" is a little broad, is there something more specific you would like to design?

    Designing in Civil Engineering is generally done by Architects doing space planning, etc. Structural Engineers do structural design, (and a PE puts his name and stamp on the thing guaranteeing it wont fall down and if it does he's the one to blame).

    Architects generally do more of the "sexy" designing. Structural types do mainly the non-sexy. (CE). Here is a Design-Build firm that does "sexy" stuff near me http://www.creativeconstructors.com/projects/flamingo.asp

    In ME land, I've seen basically three schools so to speak (I'm sure theres more).

    1. System design engineers, for example, a team that designs a component of an automobile, (brake system). I have a friend that is on a system team for GM. He loves the **** out of it, but the system isn't that sexy in my opinion, (I honestly forgot, when I asked he treated me to a 30 minute dissertation - but he was sure exited about it, I think he was awarded a patent or three).

    2. Research and Development (R&D). Designing and building a new "thing" like a novel widget that does something cool and saves alot of money, energy, etc.

    3. Production Design. The manufacturer has a billion dollar contract to make X number of widgets (maybe from the firm from #2). Design a process that can meet or beat the production and profit goals.

    Since you said "Design new things and make them work" lets pick #2.

    So I'd recommend researching companies that design machines that improve energy efficiency, like solar panels, wind things, self-lubricating nano-metals etc. Google "green" jobs in your area and you can see what employers are looking for in a design engineer.

    Now, I preface this with saying "I love you man" but I'm going to have to knock you down a peg or two. Here's why.

    Lets say you really like rims. You want to design cool rims. Lets say not even automobile rims or ATV rims or rims that require SAE standards, or require any kind of standards at all. Lets say Golf Cart Rims.

    So you decide to work for a Golf Cart Rim manufacturer company that has been in business for 30 years. They have an internal design and engineering dept. But, for some reason even though they are a successful business for 30 years, they have no one that has a clue how to design a good golf cart rim. The shareholders of the company who have invested thousands / millions of their money into this business think you are a good fit for the future of their company.

    So you design some rims, show them to the marketing dept and the bosses etc and you get the green light for production.

    So as a good engineer you spec it out and have the drafter make up drawings. Some prototypes are made and you put them on the wall by your desk. Then you start working on the next rim design.

    So the company makes 100,000 rims and sells them all to golf cart manufacturers.

    Then one day you get an email. Its the golf cart manufacturer. They are getting complaints from their customers. The rims keep cracking at the lugs, which then the paint peels off too. Hmm weird they shouldnt be cracking, the steel thickness is fine. You walk down to the line and see workers grinding down the inside hub because it doesnt fit on the assembly machine, (no one told me I needed to supervise and QA the production process!). Then you look at the paint that purchasing got. Its to spec but unfortunately the supplier dumped their inventory of chinese paint that has lead in it (was a great competitive price though!)- and your purchasing guys and inventory guys missed it, (no one told me I had to QA every material and component of my design!). Then you get calls from lawyers of individuals and companies, and golf courses (your lead paint is littered on every golf course in the world now), you google your name and you see news articles, etc etc etc.

    The bottom line is, who the f--- is going to entrust you to design something right out of college? No one is. If you want to design something all by yourself start a company and design it. If no one wants to make it, the design sucks, and there is a reason why.

    Until then, look for a company or group of folks that make or design something you like, then join them. Maybe you'll find a small company founded by a guy trying to make floating bombs but his company is making bullet casings to pay the bills. So, he puts you on the bullet casings so he can focus on the floating bombs. So you figure out bullet casings then he asks you to help out with floating bombs. You design floating shoes while trying to make a floating bomb and get an investor, then you hire a new grad to do the shell casings so you can focus on the floating shoes. The new grad you hire says I want to design floating shoes, then you say - dude you dont have a clue on floating shoes, first figure out bullet casings then you will have a clue, then we'll talk floating shoes and floating bombs.

    You may be doing something you feel is mudane off the bat but later you will find it is important because its kinda a big and important thing designing something that other human beings use safely and profit from it.

    After a while you'll see what to focus on, what matters / what doesn't and you will probably be in charge of designing something, maybe sooner, maybe later, by yourself or you might have a team.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2009
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook