Mechanical or Electrical Engineering

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Edwinem
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Mechanical or Electrical Engineering

Postby Edwinem » Tue Mar 30, 2010 3:11 am UTC

So I will be attending GA Tech this fall as an engineering undergraduate. My question to xkcd is what type of engineering I should take? I enjoy both and if possible would love to do a double major, but I would like to graduate in under 4 years, and at tech something like that would not be possible. So I have to make a decision between the two. The reason I have picked these two is that they both involve bits of what I love to do Robotics. I was the engineering captain of my school's FIRST team, and have am even building my own robot, so I do have a passion for it. My fear as a electrical engineer is that I only learn how to wire and built circuits for devices, thus being the lackey to the mechanical engineers who get to actually design cool devices such as robots. ( I know this is probably a massive oversimplification of what an electrical engineer does.) However, on the other hand I do find electrical components interesting and cool. As a ME student I know I would definitely learn how to design, build a machines, yet it does not hold the same appeal to me as electrical engineering currently. This is also a question on to what types of careers Mechanical and Electrical engineers go into.

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Hawknc
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Re: Mechanical or Electrical Engineering

Postby Hawknc » Tue Mar 30, 2010 8:29 am UTC

It's a shame your uni doesn't offer a mechatronics degree, it sounds like exactly what you're after. That said, though, don't be too fooled into thinking that the two streams are forever separated. Beyond your first job, what will matter more to employers is what you're capable of, not what degree you graduated with. If you're a qualified mechanical engineer whose passion and skill is in designing circuits you'll be valuable because you're capable of understanding both the physical and the electronic requirements of a given task.

(Besides, I don't know why you think mechanical engineers get the glory on the robotics front - any fresh-faced graduate can resolve forces, the soul of robotics is the electronic logic driving it.)

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Zamfir
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Re: Mechanical or Electrical Engineering

Postby Zamfir » Tue Mar 30, 2010 3:20 pm UTC

Like HankNC, I would advice you to look to mechatronics. I quick google suggest that ME at Georgia does have some mechatronics courses, but not a full-developed mechatronics specialization.

Do you like robots in the sense that you would like to work in industrial automation later on, or in the sense that you like the kind of tinkering your FIRST project made you do?

If it''s the first, you want to work with robots later on, than ME is probably the better choice.

The tinkering with electronics on the other hand is very common for people in EE, so would fit right in. But keep in mind that tinkering with wires and circuits is not generally what EE's end up doing. A lot of the work is a bit more abstracted away from that, where people design circuits on their computer screen and the actual chips roll out of machine completely elsewhere. That's by the way true for ME too.

Edwinem
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Re: Mechanical or Electrical Engineering

Postby Edwinem » Wed Mar 31, 2010 12:38 am UTC

Yeah it does suck that GA tech does not offer a mechatronics degree. That would have been the best thing possible. I do want to work on robots in industry so it does seem like a better choice would be to go into ME.

What I might try to do is what a friend of mine does. He is trying to double major in EE and ME, but knows that he can probably not take the course load. So he has made ME his main major and is just taking fun EE classes. In the end he might not get an official EE degree, but he will be knowledgeable about the subject.

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Zamfir
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Re: Mechanical or Electrical Engineering

Postby Zamfir » Wed Mar 31, 2010 11:30 am UTC

Edwinem wrote:Yeah it does suck that GA tech does not offer a mechatronics degree. That would have been the best thing possible. I do want to work on robots in industry so it does seem like a better choice would be to go into ME.

What I might try to do is what a friend of mine does. He is trying to double major in EE and ME, but knows that he can probably not take the course load. So he has made ME his main major and is just taking fun EE classes. In the end he might not get an official EE degree, but he will be knowledgeable about the subject.

Don't forget programming. The dividing line between electrical engineering and computer programming is extremely vague, but robotics is towards the programming side of things. Robots are perhaps closer to mechanics+software than to mechanics+electronics.

Once upon a time, a lot of the logic in electronics used to be in the circuit designs, but as you've probaly seen in your projects, programmable microcontrollers have taken over a lot of that function. For more advanced machines, it's more common to see them controlled by basically full-fledged computers running a complete operating system. Purer electical engineering in robots lies more in the design of sensors and communication means.

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Re: Mechanical or Electrical Engineering

Postby bentheimmigrant » Wed Mar 31, 2010 7:50 pm UTC

Further to what Zamfir said, my university has a robotics lab that seems to be between EE and ME. The ME department puts a heavy emphasis on materials science, and there's a lot of nano-material work that goes into it, so the sensors and such seem to be coming from the mechanical side of things. I should point out here that I am in neither of these branches, so don't take this as the gospel.

Would you be able to minor in one of them?
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Edwinem
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Re: Mechanical or Electrical Engineering

Postby Edwinem » Thu Apr 01, 2010 3:21 am UTC

Don't forget programming. The dividing line between electrical engineering and computer programming is extremely vague, but robotics is towards the programming side of things. Robots are perhaps closer to mechanics+software than to mechanics+electronics.


While I do agree programming is important to robotics, I have done some in the past it is definitely not what I would like to do later on in life. I prefer building things more in the physical realm rather then the virtual.

Would you be able to minor in one of them?


That I do not know yet. In about 2 months or so I will start my orientation, and probably get an advisor. I could probably talk with them about it. Doing a minor would be cool, but I am wondering about the work load that it would give me. GA Tech is known for being one of the toughest colleges. On top of that I am probably already going to gain a German minor, so a ME or EE minor might just be too much for me to handle.

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Re: Mechanical or Electrical Engineering

Postby masher » Thu Apr 01, 2010 3:27 am UTC

Also, doing a double major in engineering in under 4 years? No chance.

A double science degree (both three years) takes ~4 yrs, a double degree BSc/BEng takes 5 years, so I'd say a full blown double degree BEng/BEng would take at least 5 years, probably 6, depending on the overlap.

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Zamfir
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Re: Mechanical or Electrical Engineering

Postby Zamfir » Thu Apr 01, 2010 6:53 am UTC

Edwinem wrote:While I do agree programming is important to robotics, I have done some in the past it is definitely not what I would like to do later on in life. I prefer building things more in the physical realm rather then the virtual.


In which case ME should definitely be your choice, EE becomes "virtual" very quick. But don't under estimate: most engineering disciplines nowadays are mostly 'virtual'. Stuff is designed on computers and largely evaluated on computers, and the actual production is a different step in the process. This effect is very strong in EE and other industries that require massively expensive production lines, like car and aircraft manufacturing.

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Re: Mechanical or Electrical Engineering

Postby Mr. Freeman » Fri Apr 02, 2010 7:07 am UTC

Hawknc wrote:(Besides, I don't know why you think mechanical engineers get the glory on the robotics front - any fresh-faced graduate can resolve forces, the soul of robotics is the electronic logic driving it.)


And any fresh-faced graduate can apply kirchoff's law and perform circuit analysis. The soul of robotics is the physical component for without actuation a robot is simply a computer.

Anyway, OP, I'm double majoring in ME and EE for pretty much the same reasons as you. I hope to land a job at a robotics-related company doing robotics-related projects. Graduating in under 4 years isn't really something you should put a whole lot of weight on though. Think about it, it's ONE more year to get both degrees (at least at my college, your millage will vary) that gives you a second specialty that will remain valid for your ENTIRE CAREER. In the grand scheme of things, it's really a good deal to stay the extra year and double major.

Your other option is to major in one and minor in another.

The other thing you have to realize is that you're not going to be "lackey" to any other kind of engineer regardless of what major you decide to pursue. I did FIRST for the entire 4 years I was in high school and mentored a team my freshman year of college. FIRST is absolutely nothing like real engineering. FIRST is a lot of people scrambling to throw together a robot in such a way that it'll hopefully finish three days of use without completely going to hell. Real engineering involves a lot more design, analysis, and testing. Not to say that FIRST is a bad program, but don't think that the real world works the same way as a FIRST team.

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Re: Mechanical or Electrical Engineering

Postby Windmill » Fri Apr 02, 2010 7:14 pm UTC

If you want to do both, don't put the 4 year deadline on yourself. Get both and then let your career choose the specifics later.

Edwinem
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Re: Mechanical or Electrical Engineering

Postby Edwinem » Fri Apr 02, 2010 8:58 pm UTC

Not to say that FIRST is a bad program, but don't think that the real world works the same way as a FIRST team.


I have noticed that already, with the way some of our mentors talk about the team. They complain all the time about how we need to plan more, and do more prototyping. So I do understand that real engineering will not be exactly like that.

Think about it, it's ONE more year to get both degrees (at least at my college, your millage will vary) that gives you a second specialty that will remain valid for your ENTIRE CAREER.


How much extra work did you have to take? The problem I expect is that not too many of the classes overlap. I am actually okay doing it a dual degree in 5 years, but I am slightly afraid of how much work I will have to do. As I mentioned before GA TECH is really tough.

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Re: Mechanical or Electrical Engineering

Postby modularblues » Sun Apr 04, 2010 6:45 am UTC

As per previous posts, a possible track is to major in ME and take hands-on circuit classes, like microcontroller labs or power electronics.

And yes, although programming may not be your focus, it's good to be proficient at it in the context of robotics.

Control theory, i.e. feedback is good stuff to know for robotics too, because the field is moving in a direction that emphasizes interaction with the environment.


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