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Engineering Degree Advice


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#1 goldenboy

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 05:20

ok here we go...

After working the majority of my life in sales for a liquor company, at 29 I'm wanting to start a mechanical engineering degree as a mature age student. A few friends from high school became mechanical engineers and absolutely love it, which originally picqued my interest. Then of course as I became more of a fan of motorsport, my interest in engineering increased. After deciding on a career change and beginning work for an export company a few months ago, I've had a few discussions with our ports improvement project manager, who has made me realise that an engineering degree as a mature age student is not something I should discount as being impossible.

However, it is quite difficult to determine what course of action to take. I cannot afford just yet to quit my job and study full time, so ideally I would like to begin by studying part time while still working at my current employment but doing night shifts during semesters. However in the future it may be quite possible to finish off the last year or possibly the last 2 years as a full time student only.

Going off my grades and subjects in high school (studied advanced economics, business and legal instead of advanced maths and science) I cannot simply enroll in a course (I never expected this to be the case though). A university I have talked to - University of Queensland - have informed me the only way I can get in is to start off an arts degree and try to take units that would count as pre reqs for bachelor of engineering, although I would still have to study units related only to the arts degree as well. Not ideal as it's going to take me awhile as a part time student, but if that's the case then that's not really the end of the world. (I should also mention that UQ have a formula SAE program which I would want to be involved in if it was possible)

Another option is enrolling in an apparently less reputable - but still ok - uni (iniversity of southern qld) which offer engineering by correspondence. I would also have to do a bridging course in the required maths and physics. Don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to get out of learning the maths and physics pre reqs - in fact it's the opposite.

Yet another option is through a contact I received from the project manager at my employment. Had a chat to him yesterday and am waiting for a reply to my email next week. I believe he does a lot of training for people in the industry who have a lot of experience but no degree, such as the above mentioned project manager (I quite enjoy hearing about grad students that come in and give him their "professional opinion as an engineer" of which "he is not because he does not have a degree.' Unfortunately their professional opinion costs $600k and 3 months over budget - and won't work anyway :lol: )

Anyway I believe he is quite heavily involved with the mining industry (he also was once a lecturer I believe) and may try to steer me towards studying mining engineering. The money is incredible (grads can earn 90 to 100k straight away) and it is quite possible to have vacation work for a mining company which would allow me possibly to study full time then. However... it is probably a mistake just to study mining engineering over mechanical just because of the money, unless it is possible to still have pathways into mechanical engineering areas with a degree in mining engineering. In that case it may not be a bad way at all to obtain a degree. And I wouldn't have a problem with working in mining sites as many do.

Doing a mechanical engineering degree and being employed in the motorsport community would be a dream come true for me, and something I would be more than willing to become involved in regardless of the hours, pay or location (which says a lot to me), although I'm not so naive as to think it will be possible - I realise that I would have about as much chance becoming an astronaught in Australia (an austronaught?).

So realistically, the main objective is to become a mechanical or mining engineer, starting off with bridging courses, then studying part time with the aim of full time study for the last year or 2.

Anyone with any advice or who has ever done engineering as a mature age student would be hugely appreciated.

I live in Brisbane, Australia, but am married to a Swedish gal, which would possibly make study and employment in Europe a possibility. Open to any suggestions and advice as I'm sure there are a lot of engineers on this board!

Thanks in advance,

Matt.



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#2 gruntguru

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 06:26

Mining companys employ a lot of mech engineers too. Entry level motorsport is not much of a career for a married, mature-age engineer. Look at all the SEQ universities. QUT is the most successful FSAE team in recent years.

#3 PhilG

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 11:59

Over here, in the UK , there are so many specialised courses for Motorsport now, that they can pump out more graduates than the system can cope with, and with teams not capped for people, and the technical side getting more and more stifled, it makes for very few spaces.... add to that the fact that some of them will do it for peanuts just to say they are in F1 ... its not the best ..

That said , a good Mech Eng degree in industry, backed with good practical experience , and a supportive employer is a good way to go, but make sure you have opportunity to progress where you are, cos that will be the easiest path.

#4 goldenboy

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 13:51

yeah realised an engineering career in motorsport was pretty much out of the question, it was just what tipped me over into wanting to learn engineering over other degrees. However am still keen as mustard to get involved in a formula sae team.

After spending the last few days off work looking into it, the plan seems to change every couple of hours! A few challenges indeed in trying to mix up how to get into a decent course as a mature age student, full time work and a wife that wants to spend a year studying back in sweden!

QUT - Queensland university of technology - seems to be the best bet. They do the bridging courses at their uni for the maths and physics, and accept diplomas that can count and have credit towards much if not all of a 1st year BE (definately civil but maybe not mechanical though, am waiting for more info). And also have a formula SAE program. Also have the opportunity to eventually do a semester or 2 overseas.

Although I'm sure this plan will have to be torn down and begun again as soon as I check my inbox..

#5 faaaz

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 14:01

Do it overseas if you can...But since you are in Australia try doing it at a G8 uni, its our poor man's version of Ivy league. Probably more so if you want to work in motorsports around the world where your degree would be better recognised. I think university of QLD is G8. If I was you I would try and find the best university around for the engineering course you want to do. Try the top unis in UK, study all the GMAT and whatever other tests are required.

Once you get in to whatever uni, pretty much obtain a perfect GPA because as someone mentioned above the demand for engineers in motorsports is slim whilst the supply is relatively high.

#6 dank

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 14:37

I went through a similar experience a few years ago when, in my mid-twenties and thoroughly bored of how my career was panning out, I became a mature student at Oxford Brookes with a view to doing a motorsport-related degree.

I cannot understate how difficult any engineering degree is, and I take my hat off to anyone who has one.

I did okay in my A-levels, academically bright with sound knowledge of maths and physics, but the years I've spent out of the world of academia were my downfall.

Despite reassurances from several tutors prior to starting a Foundation Degree that it would bring me up to scratch, it quickly transpired that I was just an extra bum on a seat on the course.

So, I jacked it in before I forked out anything further and cut my losses, and before I died a death from PowerPoint presentations.

Essentially, what I'm saying is you need to ensure you have a good, nay brilliant, understanding of the essential elements that make up engineering: maths, chemistry and physics. If you don't, you'll find the learning curve to be steeper than you might imagine.

If you ideally want to get into the motorsport industry then it'll help you massively to study in the UK and spend a placement year at one of the teams that inhabit 'Motorsport Valley'; most of them recruit newbies that way.

#7 cheapracer

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 19:04

If you ideally want to get into the motorsport industry then it'll help you massively to study in the UK and spend a placement year at one of the teams that inhabit 'Motorsport Valley'; most of them recruit newbies that way.


Yeah with respect they ain't going to take on someone who is in their 30's and no previous motorsport experience just because they have a Mech Eng next to their name.

The quickest way is to do a extensive software course in 3D with FEA and/or fliud dynamics instead, good ones are much shorter on the ground than Mech Engs. Check out what software top racing teams use. Go work for a race team in the meantime and I mean at club level for free and work your way up to working for better teams.


#8 bigleagueslider

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 04:18

ok here we go...

After working the majority of my life in sales for a liquor company, at 29......I live in Brisbane, Australia, but am married to a Swedish gal........ Open to any suggestions and advice as I'm sure there are a lot of engineers on this board!

Thanks in advance,

Matt.


Matt,

So let me get this straight: You're a successful 29 year old booze salesman, married to a Swedish chick, and living in Brisbane, Australia, right? And you want to spend tens of thousands of dollars of your own money, and the next 4-6 years of your life working your ass off in school, to possibly get a 0.1% chance at being an engineer with a race team?

Here's some advice:

I'm an engineer, I'm 49 years old, I live in southern California, and I currently make quite a nice living working in aerospace. When I was 29 years old, I spent 2 years working for a factory race team, and at first I though it was my dream job. I worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week during the race season, for a salary of about $40K per year, which worked out to an hourly rate below the US minimum wage. With the pathetic engineering salary I was paid by this very-well-funded factory race team, I could only afford a crappy car to drive and a roach-infested apartment to live in. Thankfully, I had no (Swedish) wife or kids to support at the time. After the novelty of working as a race engineer wore off, I went back to work in aerospace, immediately doubled my annual income, and worked far fewer hours.

To make a long story short, all race teams understand that there are at least 100 applicants for every entry-level engineering position they have open. So they can offer engineering salaries that would be completely unacceptable in any other circumstance. It's just basic supply and demand.

So my advice to you Matt, is to stick with the booze sales (especially in such a rich market, filled with Aussie drunks like Brisbane), thus keeping the Swedish wife happy, eliminating the student loan debt, maintaining an additional 4-6 years of lost income, and avoiding the inevitable psychological depression period that accompanies your realization that working as a race engineer is not what you imagined it to be.

Seriously, at 29 years old, knowing what I know now, I would have gladly traded places with you. I'd be surfing east Oz by day, selling booze by night, and enjoying the charms of your Swedish wife. While on the other hand, you would be slaving away in poverty on your own, in your dream job as a "race engineer".

The grass is always greener, right?

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#9 goldenboy

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 07:20

guys I'm not actually looking at a career in motorsport as an engineer. I've always realised that was unrealistic. I mainly mentioned it just as an example of one of the reasons I am interested in engineering.

Dank, thanks for your advice, this is the main point I am dealing with now, the pre requisite and bridging courses in maths, physics and chemistry. If I struggle but still pass but only just that is probably not good enough for me. Even if I could get into the degree without doing them, I would still do it. Have basically accepted that I will be taking a whole year to do these before applying for a BE, and that I will be be doing nothing but studying and working night shifts with my company (quite a good job for a student, most of the guys that are doing that particular job at the moment pretty much just study anyway, and are paid ridiculously well). Rather than turn me off it, I actually can't wait. I feel like the most important thing is to leave no stone unturned in studying as much maths, physics and chemistry before I decide to apply for engineering.

Don't work for the booze company anymore, and won't be going back. It's not the fun time a lot of people think it is (like it was years ago). Average pay and having to pretend to be nice to absolute morons all day every day, and no challenge at all, which is by far the worst part.

Thanks for the replies though, it is more help than you imagine hearing other peoples experiences.

Edited by goldenboy, 12 September 2011 - 07:25.


#10 pugfan

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 23:50

Rather than turn me off it, I actually can't wait.


I know it seems a bit daunting at the start but the time goes quickly. My wife is finishing a part time bridging masters (3 years) to go from Science to Accounting whilst working full time for the first 2 years and for this last year of the course raising brand new twin boys. She's achieved a distinction average and has been offered her dream job already.

Making the most of opportunities that study provides and being an informed consumer of tertiary education is something I think mature age students do a lot better than the typical uni student.

As well as mining, the defence industry in Australia pays very well compared to other industries and typically has flexible working arrangements. Boeing has an office in Brisbane.


#11 mep

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 11:26

Ach goldenboy
I am an engineer but I wish I had a swedish girl, too.
In my class was a guy aged 35. Sure he had to spent more time with learning but in the end he got his degree and even did slightly better than I did.
So you can make it and it might be worth it. I think once you have got a job where you can live from you can try to do something which might not pay of in therms of money or for your career. You just do it for your own pleasure. If you want to study engineering then you should just try it even in the danger that you will die the hard way. If you don't try it you will ever regret a missed chance.


#12 DMX

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Posted 19 September 2011 - 22:52

I've been through a very similar thing myself. I left school with good grades at A-level, but ended up doing a business degree because I didn't know what else I wanted to do. I spent several years after that in office jobs that bored me to tears, and as I neared the end of my 20s decided I had to make a drastic career change while I still could.

Thing is, I went against a lot of the (very sensible) advice you'll get here, as well as the advice of a few of my friends, and enrolled on a Motorsports degree at Oxford Brookes (like dank) at the age of 30. It's worked out pretty well for me though. I got good grades in my first 2 years, partly due to a strong work ethic after having been in employment for a while, and partly due to my enthusiasm from doing something I actually enjoyed for a change. Having been there and done that with all of the sex/drugs/rock and roll and not feeling the need to repeat it also helped I think!

I have also been extremely fortunate, and have just finished a 13-month work placement at an F1 team before I head into my final year. Now, I fully realise that I might never set foot in an F1 design office again, but it was a once in a life-time experience and I enjoyed every minute of it. A good thing too as there were a lot of minutes for me to enjoy! I now feel like I've got my foot in the door to a certain extent when it comes to graduate jobs in motorsport or automotive engineering, and at the very least it's something different on my CV to catch potential employers' eyes.

It's difficult for me to recommend taking the same route I did as I know I've been very lucky, but I just thought I should let you know how things have turned out for me. Aiming for an engineering career in another field will probably get you a job more easily, with better pay, better hours and much better security. On the other hand F1/racing teams DO take placement students (even ones in their 30s), and they do hire graduates, so it's not necessarily an impossible dream.

I would advise people wanting to start a motorsport degree to seriously consider what they want to actually end up doing as their daily job though, as being an engineer in a motorsport team might not be quite what they expect. Certainly in F1 I've seen that it's remarkably easy to get pigeon-holed and basically stuck in a rut even as a design engineer, doing the same tasks year after year. It seems to me like you've already given this some thought, but I thought I'd mention it anyway while I'm here, thinking about these things.

I would also like to echo some of what dank said - engineering degrees can be very tough. I didn't do physics at A-level but did do further maths, and I would say that while a good understanding of physics is beneficial, being strong in maths is much more important. I've managed to pick up whatever extra physics and chemistry I've needed along the way, but if you struggle with maths then you'll find the going very hard. And as already mentioned, as a mature student in particular you should really be aiming to get the best possible grades to prove you've got something over the other graduates when it comes to applying for jobs.

Anyway, I've gone on long enough so I just wanted to wish you the best of luck getting on the course you want. It'll be tough, especially working to pay the bills at the same time, but worth it.

#13 bigleagueslider

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Posted 20 September 2011 - 01:22

guys I'm not actually looking at a career in motorsport as an engineer. I've always realised that was unrealistic. I mainly mentioned it just as an example of one of the reasons I am interested in engineering.

Dank, thanks for your advice, this is the main point I am dealing with now, the pre requisite and bridging courses in maths, physics and chemistry. If I struggle but still pass but only just that is probably not good enough for me. Even if I could get into the degree without doing them, I would still do it. Have basically accepted that I will be taking a whole year to do these before applying for a BE, and that I will be be doing nothing but studying and working night shifts with my company (quite a good job for a student, most of the guys that are doing that particular job at the moment pretty much just study anyway, and are paid ridiculously well). Rather than turn me off it, I actually can't wait. I feel like the most important thing is to leave no stone unturned in studying as much maths, physics and chemistry before I decide to apply for engineering.

Don't work for the booze company anymore, and won't be going back. It's not the fun time a lot of people think it is (like it was years ago). Average pay and having to pretend to be nice to absolute morons all day every day, and no challenge at all, which is by far the worst part.

Thanks for the replies though, it is more help than you imagine hearing other peoples experiences.


goldenboy,

OK, your original post makes more sense now. You are fascinated by the engineering that goes into a modern race car, and you want to learn everything you can about it, starting with basic underlying principles of math, physics and chemistry. A very noble and worthwhile endeavor! Many of history's greatest scientists were self-educated.

Modern race car engineering involves disciplines of mechanical engineering, aerodynamic analysis, composite structural design, dynamic analysis, electronics and software. However, each of these engineering disciplines has become very specialized, and one could not hope to become proficient at more than any one or two.

Regardless of which discipline you might choose to pursue, having a good knowledge of common software codes and being able to do some scripting is very important. Since all design and analysis work is now done digitally, and the complex software applications (CFD, FEA, etc.) used typically require some customization.

As for the course of study and classes you might consider, the basis for most graduate level engineering classes is a couple semesters of calculus, followed by a couple semesters of physics and chemistry, then some thermodynamics, statics, fluid mechanics, metallurgy, machine design, basic circuit design, etc.

If you don't actually intend to receive a diploma, and just simply want to learn, you can probably achieve your goal fairly inexpensively by eliminating unnecessary elective courses. I don't know about the college/university systems where you live, but where I live in California, you can take all of your engineering undergrad courses at night for about $500 (US) per semester.

Good luck.
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#14 goldenboy

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 07:02

guys, thanks for the advice, was really helpfull.

Looks like I will delay applying to university till beginning of 2013, and do the bridging courses in maths, physics and chemistry at Queensland University of Technology 1st semester 2012 (the uni has a good reputation, and have a great formula student program). Could have rushed and tried to have them done and applied for sem1 2012 BE course, but think it's better to be pretty thorough with it. If they have an option to begin during 2nd semester would be great, but not sure if they do that, something I'll have to look into. If not, may try and do a 1 year diploma elsewhere which they may accept to some degree for credit, but should give me an better understanding of what I'm in for at the worst anyway.

I'm probably going to try and find work in mining, and try to weasel my way into a fly in fly out job eventually. Although that's getting a bit ahead of myself for now!

#15 dank

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 07:09

A wise decision. No point rushing into these things and hopefully the bridging course will refresh and improve the skills you already have, whilst also gliding you into university life. Good luck.

#16 garoidb

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 19:43

Yeah with respect they ain't going to take on someone who is in their 30's and no previous motorsport experience just because they have a Mech Eng next to their name.

The quickest way is to do a extensive software course in 3D with FEA and/or fliud dynamics instead, good ones are much shorter on the ground than Mech Engs. Check out what software top racing teams use. Go work for a race team in the meantime and I mean at club level for free and work your way up to working for better teams.


FEA and fluid dynamics are part of mechanical engineering. It is necessary to understand the fundamentals of solid mechanics and fluid mechanics before proceeding to these more advanced computational techniques. These fundamentals would be (should be) covered in any decent Mechanical Engineering degree.

I would agree with your advice about getting practical club level experience (disclaimer: I have never worked in motorsport or wanted to).

#17 bigleagueslider

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 03:09

goldenboy,

Just remember, the core engineering courses you will take, such as heat transfer, fluid mechanics, strength of materials, etc., will require a thorough knowledge of calculus, physics and chemistry. Your instructors in these subjects will give lectures and coursework that assumes you have a thorough knowledge in these subjects. The problem you may run into as a part time student will be that unless you immediately continue to use the math, physics and chemistry knowledge you have gained, you will quickly lose it. As a part time university engineering student myself, I distinctly recall the embarrassment I experienced when my strength of materials instructor asked me to come up to the front of the class and perform a matrix transformation. I unfortunately could not remember how to do one properly since it had been about two years since I last did one in my calculus classes.

Good luck.
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#18 MatsNorway

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 05:49

I have made two "slogans" that i feel is suitable in this situasjon.

"if you have luck on a regular basis its called a skill"

"Your only garanteed to lose if you give up"

#19 bigleagueslider

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 01:05

I have made two "slogans" that i feel is suitable in this situasjon.

"if you have luck on a regular basis its called a skill"

"Your only garanteed to lose if you give up"


MatsNorway,

The great Kiwi golfer Gary Player had a similar quote: "The harder I work, the luckier I get.


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#20 gruntguru

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 01:28

(South African) Gary Player was one of the greatest exponents of the short game. I think it was after a round in which he "chipped-in" on a couple of ocaisions a reporter said to him "You seemed to have a lot of luck out there today". Player's response - "Yeah, the more I practice the luckier I get"



#21 desmo

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 04:09

That quote apparently originally can be attributed to Samuel Goldwyn.

#22 cheapracer

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 08:11

That quote apparently originally can be attributed to Samuel Goldwyn.


It was pretty common for many Hollywood Stars of the 30's and 40's to say "it took me *X* years to become an overnight success".


#23 bigleagueslider

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 07:04

(South African) Gary Player was one of the greatest exponents of the short game. I think it was after a round in which he "chipped-in" on a couple of ocaisions a reporter said to him "You seemed to have a lot of luck out there today". Player's response - "Yeah, the more I practice the luckier I get"


gruntguru,

Ouch! Sorry about that.

I apologize for labeling Gary Player a Kiwi instead of a South African. Of course, I believe Mr. Player now resides primarily in Florida. Which would make him a "cracker".

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#24 rolf123

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Posted 27 November 2011 - 20:19

goldenboy, the only advice I would give you is to be 100% sure you want to do it.

I have a mech eng degree myself but it was a big mistake in many ways. Like most others, I got the usual crap career advice and never really figured what would be best for me.

I was always good at maths and I enjoyed physics so why not engineering too? Plus I liked F1, including the technical aspects, learning about basic aero/mechanical, setting up the car, Autosport drawings, reading biographies etc.

However, I am very much a surface man and not a details man. I get bored of anything detailed very quickly unless I am super passionate about it.

I am more of a "why" person and interested in the bigger picture. My personality type is ENFP.


Engineering is basically hard core maths, mostly calculus. Yes, I found my degree interesting but it was rock hard. By the end of it, I had no desire to do engineering as a career. Thinking about the ground effects of an F1 car or being interested in how a double diffusor works is one thing. But doing the nitty gritty engineering calculations or day to day job is totally different to simply appreciating the basic aspects of how an F1 car works.

It depends on the person though. Most people can tolerate doing something they were not meant to do. Me personally, I cannot. It gives me incredible stress doing something that is not true to myself (also an ENFP trait) hence why engineering was a waste of time for me.


Just remember, half of your degree is calculus. I hope your existing maths is up to scratch. When I started my degree back in 1996, those without Further Maths at A-Level struggled.

#25 Greg Locock

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Posted 27 November 2011 - 21:53

There seems to be a recurring them here, calculus calculus calculus. The number of good able engineers who struggled through uni because they weren't slick mathematicians is ridiculous.

I'm a pretty hardcore numberologist and five years back astonished a small group at work by doing a double integral in a couple of minutes, when I had to. But the point is with mathcad matlab and excel at your fingertips, you never have to if you have your laptop. The ideas behind calculus are fairly easy, the endless tricks and so on have developed because it is a mathematician's playground. AS JE Gordon said, the worst thing that ever happened to structures analysis was when the mathematicians got interested in the 18th century.

Far more useful than endless calculus and matrix maths would be a good course in rewriting typical problems into spreadsheets and so on.

Edited by Greg Locock, 27 November 2011 - 21:54.


#26 MatsNorway

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Posted 27 November 2011 - 22:14

My impression of ENFPs is that they tend to get bored easier than most types.. i would not mind having some more info about your past pr pm...





#27 rolf123

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Posted 27 November 2011 - 22:16

Good point. Perhaps there is too much emphasis in a degree on mathematical proof rather than real engineering application.

#28 desmo

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Posted 28 November 2011 - 05:36

A lot of professional engineering can apparently be done by real dullards who are very, very adept at math according to my father who was an aerospace engineer and judging by some engineers I've met. Of course there are plenty of very bright, inventive engineers who can think and problem solve in new and innovative ways as well. Well, plenty might be exaggerating.

#29 Keith Young

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Posted 28 November 2011 - 06:21

What Greg said is spot on. I'm a Senior Mechanical/Aerospace Engineering student and knowledge of Calculus is crucial.

In my case, my Calculus 2, even my Algebra, is super rusty since I have a TI-89. I remember this semester when I wondered what the integral of 1/x dx was since I couldn't just use the power rule or something, and when I saw ln I was astonished at how much my ability to do the math itself had fallen.

What has gotten me through is my ability to APPLY Calculus. In Fluid Mechanics for example we had to find the force on a complex shaped dam. I hadn't gone to class (not even for the review day), or done the homework, but I knew how to set up the problem. Pressure was a function of depth, and force was Pressure times Area. Both of those fundamentals are obviouse to most people on this forum. I used my gut and experience, threw the equation in my magic machine TI-89 and got it right.

If you really want to be able to do anything an Engineer can do, learn Matlab and applications of math. When you understand the reasons math works you can do what I do. I start not knowing what I'm supposed to do to solve the problem given to me since I don't go to class, I make up some way to do it, then later find out I used a "Central Difference" or "Newton's Method" or a "Boundary Value" or something. Eventually after putting 2 and 2 together through trial and error you can remember "I need to use Boundary Values" grab the necessary book and get stuff done.

I'll get you a list of recommended books probably tommorow.

#30 Greg Locock

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Posted 28 November 2011 - 21:02

I had a bit of a look at MIT's online lecture courses yesterday. Sadly of the four I looked at, without the lecturer's textbook two were of marginal use only.

One of the others was certainly useful, but man was it tough.

Happily enough the internal combustion engine quiz looked doable, tho calling a two question exam with a time limit of 1.5 hours a quiz is pushing things a bit.

One thing that strikes me when referring to Heywood is that although the maths is there, you can still get a good understanding without it, due to the huge number of graphs, and the excellent text.



#31 PLAYLIFE

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 06:51

I'm an aerospace engineer of over a decade from Melbourne. I know you didn't mention it but if you happened to be checking out some Victorian universities, I would not recommend studying aerospace at RMIT. Monash Uni of recent years seems to have taken the mantle as the better aero course. A lot of us found it a tough slog even though we lived and breathed maths and physics. The sheer work load over the 5 years (I did a double degree) was intense and only ever increased. Be prepared for a jog in a muddy swamp!

Your OP sounded like you had quite a few different ideas floating about. As mentioned above, take your time in deciding what direction you want to take, don't rush these things because it could be a life changing decision. Until you are settled and are confident about the direction you want to head, then don't make any concrete decisions thus locking you in despite not being completely sure with what you are doing.

Good luck!

#32 rolf123

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 08:17

My impression of ENFPs is that they tend to get bored easier than most types.. i would not mind having some more info about your past pr pm...


You are absolutely right. I am on my 3rd career already and only in my early 30s :eek:

It's very important for me to do something that is true to myself, otherwise in the wrong job I feel like an actor bit-playing a part as someone who is not me. Not sure what you want to know but I will send you a PM. :)

#33 rolf123

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Posted 30 November 2011 - 08:21

What Greg said is spot on. I'm a Senior Mechanical/Aerospace Engineering student and knowledge of Calculus is crucial.

In my case, my Calculus 2, even my Algebra, is super rusty since I have a TI-89. I remember this semester when I wondered what the integral of 1/x dx was since I couldn't just use the power rule or something, and when I saw ln I was astonished at how much my ability to do the math itself had fallen.

What has gotten me through is my ability to APPLY Calculus. In Fluid Mechanics for example we had to find the force on a complex shaped dam. I hadn't gone to class (not even for the review day), or done the homework, but I knew how to set up the problem. Pressure was a function of depth, and force was Pressure times Area. Both of those fundamentals are obviouse to most people on this forum. I used my gut and experience, threw the equation in my magic machine TI-89 and got it right.

If you really want to be able to do anything an Engineer can do, learn Matlab and applications of math. When you understand the reasons math works you can do what I do. I start not knowing what I'm supposed to do to solve the problem given to me since I don't go to class, I make up some way to do it, then later find out I used a "Central Difference" or "Newton's Method" or a "Boundary Value" or something. Eventually after putting 2 and 2 together through trial and error you can remember "I need to use Boundary Values" grab the necessary book and get stuff done.

I'll get you a list of recommended books probably tommorow.



This is interesting. One reason I know I was not cut out for engineering was, given a problem, I never through my degree developed the ability to recognise how to start going about solving it.

Most others on the course did develop some abilities to know which equations to start with, how to begin the problem, then slowly work it out. I never had a damn clue. And I was pretty damn good at maths too, scored As at Maths and Further Maths, as well as an A for Physics (A-Levels). But engineering demands some fraction of Newey style abilities!

#34 Keith Young

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 07:46

This is interesting. One reason I know I was not cut out for engineering was, given a problem, I never through my degree developed the ability to recognise how to start going about solving it.

Most others on the course did develop some abilities to know which equations to start with, how to begin the problem, then slowly work it out. I never had a damn clue. And I was pretty damn good at maths too, scored As at Maths and Further Maths, as well as an A for Physics (A-Levels). But engineering demands some fraction of Newey style abilities!


At first 95% of the time I started a problem I started problems the wrong way. Now after doing it for years, I only start problems wrong 75% of the time.

Today's example: I'm making tables for space mission planning for my Astrodynamics Final. I've been working on it for 12 hours despite the fact that for each planet mission there are only basically 12 steps. Just finding the semi-major axis of an ellipse took me 5 tries. The key is knowing when you are looking at gibberish, and when you are, have a next guess at how to tweak your method to get gibberish that is less gibberish. Eventually with enough effort it comes out correct.

Getting a negative number when I expect positive, so I reverse the order of subtraction. Get an answer orders of magnitude off, so I convert seconds to years. So on and so on.

The key isn't knowing how to start the problem. The key is starting the problem and having an eraser handy, and not being afraid to use it.

#35 bigleagueslider

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 02:21

At first 95% of the time I started a problem I started problems the wrong way. Now after doing it for years, I only start problems wrong 75% of the time.

Today's example: I'm making tables for space mission planning for my Astrodynamics Final. I've been working on it for 12 hours despite the fact that for each planet mission there are only basically 12 steps. Just finding the semi-major axis of an ellipse took me 5 tries. The key is knowing when you are looking at gibberish, and when you are, have a next guess at how to tweak your method to get gibberish that is less gibberish. Eventually with enough effort it comes out correct.

Getting a negative number when I expect positive, so I reverse the order of subtraction. Get an answer orders of magnitude off, so I convert seconds to years. So on and so on.

The key isn't knowing how to start the problem. The key is starting the problem and having an eraser handy, and not being afraid to use it.


I would disagree with some of the posters who discount the importance of calculus in engineering. In the US university system, ME's must take 4 semesters of calculus and 2 semesters of physics during their freshman and sophomore years. In fact, the prerequisite for engineering physics class is a minimum of 2 semesters of calculus. The calculus teaches you how to resolve a set of equations for some inputs/variables. Basic science classes like physics on the other hand teach you how to apply the calculus (or trigonometry, geometry, algebra, etc.) that you have learned to mathematically describe a problem. And upper division classes like heat transfer, strength of materials, fluid mechanics, dynamics, etc. teach you how to apply both the calculus and physics you learned in your lower division classes for specific engineering analysis cases.

While it's true that modern digital analysis tools like MATLAB, Excel, ANSYS, NASTRAN, FLUENT, etc. make solving complex engineering problems relatively quick and painless. But unless the engineer fully understands the process used by the software to compute the result, then the engineer cannot have confidence in the result obtained.

The comments regarding the applied creative ability versus the analytical ability of engineers is also valid. The ideal engineer would be both a creative problem solver and a competent analyst. But due to human nature, the typical engineer is usually only good at one skill or the other. If you look at the average company's mechanical engineering department, you'll see that there are design engineers and analysts. The design engineers are the creative types that struggled with calculus, and the analysts are the ones that were good at calculus and physics but could not come up with an original idea if their life depended upon it.

And then, of course, there is engineering management. These are the engineering grads whose only skill is that of ambition.

Good luck to all you engineering undergrads. Work hard so you don't end up as managers!

slider


#36 ferruccio

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 03:34

I would disagree with some of the posters who discount the importance of calculus in engineering. In the US university system, ME's must take 4 semesters of calculus and 2 semesters of physics during their freshman and sophomore years. In fact, the prerequisite for engineering physics class is a minimum of 2 semesters of calculus. The calculus teaches you how to resolve a set of equations for some inputs/variables. Basic science classes like physics on the other hand teach you how to apply the calculus (or trigonometry, geometry, algebra, etc.) that you have learned to mathematically describe a problem. And upper division classes like heat transfer, strength of materials, fluid mechanics, dynamics, etc. teach you how to apply both the calculus and physics you learned in your lower division classes for specific engineering analysis cases.

While it's true that modern digital analysis tools like MATLAB, Excel, ANSYS, NASTRAN, FLUENT, etc. make solving complex engineering problems relatively quick and painless. But unless the engineer fully understands the process used by the software to compute the result, then the engineer cannot have confidence in the result obtained.

The comments regarding the applied creative ability versus the analytical ability of engineers is also valid. The ideal engineer would be both a creative problem solver and a competent analyst. But due to human nature, the typical engineer is usually only good at one skill or the other. If you look at the average company's mechanical engineering department, you'll see that there are design engineers and analysts. The design engineers are the creative types that struggled with calculus, and the analysts are the ones that were good at calculus and physics but could not come up with an original idea if their life depended upon it.

And then, of course, there is engineering management. These are the engineering grads whose only skill is that of ambition.

Good luck to all you engineering undergrads. Work hard so you don't end up as managers!

slider


I'm in the midst of hiring and forming an engineering team and I have to agree on this. :) I think it has to do a lot with the engineers personality. Some make great analysts, others are better at leading the analysts while another would probably work best leading the whole thing and contributing to the management of the firm itself.

#37 Keith Young

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 21:40

I would disagree with some of the posters who discount the importance of calculus in engineering. In the US university system, ME's must take 4 semesters of calculus and 2 semesters of physics during their freshman and sophomore years. In fact, the prerequisite for engineering physics class is a minimum of 2 semesters of calculus. The calculus teaches you how to resolve a set of equations for some inputs/variables. Basic science classes like physics on the other hand teach you how to apply the calculus (or trigonometry, geometry, algebra, etc.) that you have learned to mathematically describe a problem. And upper division classes like heat transfer, strength of materials, fluid mechanics, dynamics, etc. teach you how to apply both the calculus and physics you learned in your lower division classes for specific engineering analysis cases.

While it's true that modern digital analysis tools like MATLAB, Excel, ANSYS, NASTRAN, FLUENT, etc. make solving complex engineering problems relatively quick and painless. But unless the engineer fully understands the process used by the software to compute the result, then the engineer cannot have confidence in the result obtained.

The comments regarding the applied creative ability versus the analytical ability of engineers is also valid. The ideal engineer would be both a creative problem solver and a competent analyst. But due to human nature, the typical engineer is usually only good at one skill or the other. If you look at the average company's mechanical engineering department, you'll see that there are design engineers and analysts. The design engineers are the creative types that struggled with calculus, and the analysts are the ones that were good at calculus and physics but could not come up with an original idea if their life depended upon it.

And then, of course, there is engineering management. These are the engineering grads whose only skill is that of ambition.

Good luck to all you engineering undergrads. Work hard so you don't end up as managers!

slider


I don't think it's as important memorizing integration tables as knowing what assumptions can be made safely etc. When we calculate the downforce of a car, it's more important to know how to set up the pressure integral over the area and that the bouyancy force is negligable, than to remember whether it's Sin or Cos that swaps signs after an integration.

I'm not discounting the importance of calculus. I am discounting the importance of etching calculus 2 into our skulls. I'm discouting the emphasis of our academic system and it's pattern of teaching memorization over application and understanding. If my previous wording made it sound I was suggesting to the OP that calculus isn't important I blame my lack of writing skills. Of the many topics of books on my shelf, Calculus is the dominant title.

#38 Greg Locock

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 06:27

To be honest I meant calculus as is integration and differentiation, not whatever hodgepodge of maths is taught in USA universities.

My particular beef is that integration, in particular, once you have an understanding of the basics, then becomes an exercise in applying ever more complicated tricks to various equations, without increasing the basic understanding one iota. So why not do it numerically rather than learn tricks?



#39 gruntguru

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 11:10

In all things engineering, I believe understanding is more important than knowledge. You can re-acquire a piece of long-forgotten knowledge by flipping through a text or perhaps a Google search. That piece of knowledge is less useful and possibly dangerous if you have no understanding of the underlying concepts and principles.

It is 34 years since I last solved a D.E. using pen and paper and I'm not even sure engineers do that any more. It certainly isn't necessary with the tools available today as Greg and Slider have pointed out. The techniques used were obscure little pieces of information committed to memory (in my case forgotten soon after the exam).

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#40 TURU

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 01:28

I don't think it's as important memorizing integration tables as knowing what assumptions can be made safely etc. When we calculate the downforce of a car, it's more important to know how to set up the pressure integral over the area and that the bouyancy force is negligable, than to remember whether it's Sin or Cos that swaps signs after an integration.

I'm not discounting the importance of calculus. I am discounting the importance of etching calculus 2 into our skulls. I'm discouting the emphasis of our academic system and it's pattern of teaching memorization over application and understanding. If my previous wording made it sound I was suggesting to the OP that calculus isn't important I blame my lack of writing skills. Of the many topics of books on my shelf, Calculus is the dominant title.

I don't think I'm qualified enough (being a student) to really argue about anything here, but I don't agree that Calculus is about memorizing integration tables or memorizing anything actually - very far from it. It's about understanding. I don't know how it's being taught in other parts, but no amount of tables is going to help you if you don't have a clear understanding of the principles behind it, if it's proper calculus and not some 'for dummies' version.

Again, I'm not an engineer yet, but I would feel slightly uneasy knowing that a bloke I'm working with doesn't really understand the maths required in our daily job and is using all those computational tools without ever knowing how they work. And I'm sure there are many engineers of this kind nowadays.

To be honest I meant calculus as is integration and differentiation, not whatever hodgepodge of maths is taught in USA universities.

My particular beef is that integration, in particular, once you have an understanding of the basics, then becomes an exercise in applying ever more complicated tricks to various equations, without increasing the basic understanding one iota. So why not do it numerically rather than learn tricks?

Tools like mathematica or matlab are a blessing, but understanding is a key here. First understand, then use.

Edited by TURU, 05 December 2011 - 01:30.


#41 Keith Young

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 04:18

I don't think I'm qualified enough (being a student) to really argue about anything here, but I don't agree that Calculus is about memorizing integration tables or memorizing anything actually - very far from it. It's about understanding. I don't know how it's being taught in other parts, but no amount of tables is going to help you if you don't have a clear understanding of the principles behind it, if it's proper calculus and not some 'for dummies' version.

Again, I'm not an engineer yet, but I would feel slightly uneasy knowing that a bloke I'm working with doesn't really understand the maths required in our daily job and is using all those computational tools without ever knowing how they work. And I'm sure there are many engineers of this kind nowadays.


Tools like mathematica or matlab are a blessing, but understanding is a key here. First understand, then use.


I think you just said "I disagree with you" then you proceeded to say what I said.

I don't think I could have been clearer that it's important to understand, which is the exact word I used, and the exact word you used. Did it seem I was saying the opposite of that somehow?

You can "disagree" all ya want. Facts are facts, plus I'm not a licensed engineer yet either.

#42 bigleagueslider

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 05:36

To be honest I meant calculus as is integration and differentiation, not whatever hodgepodge of maths is taught in USA universities.
My particular beef is that integration, in particular, once you have an understanding of the basics, then becomes an exercise in applying ever more complicated tricks to various equations, without increasing the basic understanding one iota. So why not do it numerically rather than learn tricks?


Greg Locock,

"...whatever hodgepodge of maths is taught in USA universities"

That's not fair. The calculus taught in the US is the same as that taught anywhere else. Besides, all the best engineers from the UK or Australia eventually end up working in the US, right?

I work with some very good, experienced structural analysts and aerodynamicists. Their mathematic skills are usually quite impressive. During engineering meetings, many times I have seen them work out a matrix transformation or integration on the white board to explain how they approached a problem. And if you're familiar with most advanced FEA or CFD softwares, you'd know that using them to their full capabilities requires a thorough knowledge of both coding and mathematics.

As for "tricks", prior to the availability of cheap, powerful digital computer processing, "tricks" and simplified analytical approaches were the only way that engineering analyses could be conducted with a reasonable amount of effort.

slider


#43 Greg Locock

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 05:49

As for "tricks", prior to the availability of cheap, powerful digital computer processing, "tricks" and simplified analytical approaches were the only way that engineering analyses could be conducted with a reasonable amount of effort.

...and are no longer necessary if you have access to a pc. So the question is, given that degree courses are getting longer and longer, what do you leave out? Why not leave out the things the pc can do for you, (inverting matrices, most integration for example) in ord r to learn how to use the new tools better? I'm not saying drop beam theory because fEA does it better, for exactly the reasons you give, and more. I'm just saying that things like learning to invert a large matrix efficiently by hand is a huge waste of a lecture or two.




#44 TURU

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 10:10

@rough_wood Maybe I misunderstood your wording, but you made it sound like calculus was more about memorization than understanding and I don't think that's the case. [but it's more likely I misunderstood your post].

Edited by TURU, 05 December 2011 - 12:19.


#45 Keith Young

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 15:08

I am starting to think alot of people here have big misconceptions regarding what Engineering is about and how to do it...

You don't need to understand all the math behind how a CAD program defines a volume to know how to use CAD well. You need an understanding of what you are designing, and an understanding of things like Conservation of Energy and Conservation of Momentum etc to design the product.

Fact of the matter is I didn't know how to do alot of things in 8th grade, so based on my understanding of simple stuff like "rise over run" and common sense I invented quasi limits, newtons method, and riemann sums. By the way, each of the methods I invented in 8th grade are sufficient for most things short of orbital rendevus (and even that sort of stuff is being done numerically by computers).

Integration by Parts taught me nothing other than how off our academic system is. Yet one day I showed up for the exam (I didn't go to class lectures) and BS'd my way through Disk Method and Shell Method. Know how I did it? 2*pi*r and pi*r^2. I think they teach that to kids that can't drive yet.

It's common sense and understanding an Engineer needs. What he doesn't need is to memorize hyperbolic trigonometric substitution, yet that's what the exams are on, and that seems to be what too many people here think Engineers need to know.

Please guys, don't get a job at ABET.

#46 TURU

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 15:53

You don't need to understand all the math behind how a CAD program defines a volume to know how to use CAD well.

Frankly, this just sounds ridiculous to me. A magic wand springs to mind.

Fact of the matter is I didn't know how to do alot of things in 8th grade, so based on my understanding of simple stuff like "rise over run" and common sense I invented quasi limits, newtons method, and riemann sums. By the way, each of the methods I invented in 8th grade are sufficient for most things short of orbital rendevus (and even that sort of stuff is being done numerically by computers).

It's being done numerically by computers, because somebody who wrote the code knew and understood the maths behind it, and it's sort of not-right for an Engineer to just use it as some kind of a magic device.

Integration by Parts taught me nothing other than how off our academic system is. Yet one day I showed up for the exam (I didn't go to class lectures) and BS'd my way through Disk Method and Shell Method. Know how I did it? 2*pi*r and pi*r^2. I think they teach that to kids that can't drive yet.

I don't want to come off as a fan of integration ( :lol: ), but to say that integration by parts taught you nothing is a bit strange. There are many, many cases in which you just have to resolve to tricks like that to get any result. Either you are a genius or your exam was easy.  ;)

It's common sense and understanding an Engineer needs. What he doesn't need is to memorize hyperbolic trigonometric substitution, yet that's what the exams are on, and that seems to be what too many people here think Engineers need to know.

I don't remember saying that you have to memorize anything to be an Engineer, only that you have to know how the stuff is done before using any aids.


#47 Keith Young

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 19:12

Frankly, this just sounds ridiculous to me. A magic wand springs to mind.


It's being done numerically by computers, because somebody who wrote the code knew and understood the maths behind it, and it's sort of not-right for an Engineer to just use it as some kind of a magic device.


I don't want to come off as a fan of integration ( :lol: ), but to say that integration by parts taught you nothing is a bit strange. There are many, many cases in which you just have to resolve to tricks like that to get any result. Either you are a genius or your exam was easy. ;)


I don't remember saying that you have to memorize anything to be an Engineer, only that you have to know how the stuff is done before using any aids.


Maybe you shouldn't drive your car until you can calculate the mass and mole fractions of combustion.

In the mean time, I'll keep driving. Thanks for your input.

I stand by what I said.

#48 bigleagueslider

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 02:20

With respect but: No slider, not in my line of business [long span bridges]. And I don’t recall major American racing car designers either, while there are plenty of Brits, German, Australian, Italian and French ones I could mention.


Regazzoni,

I was just having some fun. There are certainly talented and competent engineers in various disciplines to be found in most any country. However, due to market demands and salaries, lots of foreign engineers come to the US to work, while very few US engineers leave the US to work. I mostly work in aerospace, and I've worked with Brits, Canadians, Mexicans, Argentinians, Brazilians, Kiwis, Aussies, Danes, Germans, Poles, Czechs, Russians, Chinese, Koreans, Indians, Dutchmen, Iranians, South Africans, Turks and Egyptians. All were good engineers and nice people.

slider


#49 bigleagueslider

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Posted 10 December 2011 - 03:08

Regazzoni,

Thanks for the comments.

One only needs to look at the most productive and successful designers (note that I did not say engineers) F1 has produced in the past few decades. They were usually not the ones with the most impressive academic credentials. Instead they tend to be the types that are good at surrounding themselves with other people that have complementary capabilities, and then distribute the design tasks to the individuals that are most suited.

The issue of engineering design skills versus analytical skills has been discussed. I would again argue that design skills are not something that engineering students learn in school. Design skills only come with experience, and the best designers are the ones that study and adapt what they see in other designer's work for their own efforts. One can refer to text books for questions of math, or physics, or analysis cases. But where does one go when faced with a design problem?

I personally don't have a high regard for career academics or professors. While they tend to be technically competent, I've never met one that was a capable designer. I suppose that's why they are professors, instead of working in the private sector. Over the years I have worked with dozens of recent engineering college grads. While they were all sharp, I can't recall a single one that had any decent design skills. And this is probably a result of being taught by professors who themselves had no design skills.

Regards,
slider

#50 Ninja2b

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 22:22

I personally don't have a high regard for career academics or professors. While they tend to be technically competent, I've never met one that was a capable designer. I suppose that's why they are professors, instead of working in the private sector. Over the years I have worked with dozens of recent engineering college grads. While they were all sharp, I can't recall a single one that had any decent design skills. And this is probably a result of being taught by professors who themselves had no design skills.


I appreciate that you differentiated between designers and engineers earlier in your post, but I think this statement is a bit harsh on the academic side of the profession. For example, I haven't met any non-academics who were any good at developing turbulence models for CFD code. For some reason as humans we feel the need to seperate everything into "us and them" and engineering is no different wit academics and more practical types (not sure what the collective noun is!) both sneering at the shortcomings of the other. I think it's important to note that modern engineering is as good as it is because of both of these broad types of engineer...