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The first 2 years of engineering vs the last 2 years

  1. May 7, 2014 #1
    First of all, thank you all for taking the time to read this. and yes I am assuming that most people do finish their engineering degrees in four years!

    So I am near finishing my pre reqs. All the maths an and the sciences. I think I have got two math classes and and a physics course left. It's been very very difficult for me because I was working full time while I took on 14+ credit hours every semester. My question here is how difficult is the second half of a typical mechanical engineering degree? I have not take statics, dynamics, thermo, thermofluids and etc.. I ran into a bit of thermo already and I despise that subject. These courses already scare me quite a bit and I don't know why. I am sure we have some Mech E. Graduates in the house, please share your experiences. Should I buckle down harder than I have? How much of the math and the physics will show up?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 7, 2014 #2
    I am not in engineering, but this is actually a slightly generic question, so I will attempt to answer it.

    The last two years will definitely be more difficult as you will take more difficult (generally) courses. You will obviously have to study more harder and better. As for the math and physics, I am assuming that quite a lot of it will appear (though not exclusively), but you have gone through them already.
  4. May 8, 2014 #3


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    disclaimer: I am an EE, however the difficulty of our work seemed to match the mechanical engineers every semester. Also the math is nearly identical when you compare some ME courses to some EE courses.

    At my school, junior year (3rd year) was the hardest for engineering students. Most of us found that we were in the labs studying, doing homework, or working on projects much more than we were in the past.

    As far as the math and physics, it comes up a lot, but not all at once. When I took fields and waves (similar to thermo) a lot of differential equations started popping up in the coursework. However that being said, in many of the problems assumptions can be made that greatly simplify the work. In any one given class you tend to concentrate on 1 main type of problem, therefore your math skills in those areas will expand greatly. As long as you were marginally competent in your math and physics classes, you shouldn't be too worried.

    The thing that makes the upper level engineering classes difficult is learning to solve open ended problems. Solving a problem like "Build a robotic arm" is much more difficult than "solve this 3rd order differential equation."
  5. May 9, 2014 #4
    I may be speaking the odd thing, but generally last years are not that tough as first few years. Generally, in first 2 years you study what are known as compulsory subjects (whether you like them or not). For last two years (especially final years), good programs allow you to choose from among elective courses which you select based on your liking. Anything you like studying becomes easy. And then you get to do final year project which is what you choose, not what is forced upon it.

    Also the final 2 years hold subjects which are more of application of the theory you study in first two. For example, we in Mechanical Engineering did Thermodynamics in 2nd & 3rd semesters. It was not that much interesting. But based on that, IC Engines was fun to study and never seemed that difficult since that was more about techniques and practices rather than mathematical explanations and numericals. Similarly we studied two courses each on Mechanics of Materials, Fluid Mechanics in first half of our undergraduate degree. In 2nd half, subjects were like Heat & Mass Transfer, Theory of Machines, Mechanical Engineering Design, Energy Resources, Vibrations, Power plants etc.

    Do not worry about 2nd half if you even had a decent 1st half covering basics of these subjects
  6. May 9, 2014 #5


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    There is a lot of merit to this. Even though, in my opinion, the work was harder junior year, the work was more enjoyable!
  7. May 10, 2014 #6

    They are probably more difficult but usually more interesting which makes it a bit easier. Statics is usually the prerequisite for most other engineering courses like strength of materials, dynamics, and mechanics of materials lab. With that being said statics is not a difficult course, it's almost like classical mechanics type stuff. Strength of materials is easy if you have a good grasp on statics. I didn't too much care for dynamics it's not overly difficult but you better have a good grasp on your calculus and physics 1 if you plan to do well. How can you despise thermodynamics? That was one of the coolest classes I have ever taken. If you take the time to see how some of these things actually apply to the world around you it makes it more interesting and fascinating. For example, you'll learn about reservoirs and condensers, and heat exchangers. You know how many of these things you use daily? The radiator in your car is a condenser for example. Not only that we analyzed real power plants and how they work. It's cool stuff. Heat transfer is difficult, but it's a fun course, again so many things we use everyday depends on things learned here. Fluid dynamics is a fun course too and is easier if you have a good grasp on thermodynamics.
  8. May 10, 2014 #7
    It's easier when it's fun. For someone even half interested in engineering, applications of things appeal more than the basics. Studying and understanding long derivations of some very basic concepts are necessary, however, one cannot find too much interest in it unless you get to know how it applies in the real world. The earlier is more relevant to scientists, latter is what appeals to what we call engineers
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