Electrical Engineering as a College Major and Career

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saxmachine582
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Electrical Engineering as a College Major and Career

Post by saxmachine582 » Sun Apr 13, 2003 8:25 pm

Hello! I'm a junior in high school who suffers from the classic case of boredom in class. Spanish, religion, all fail to capture my interest. I've always had a "thing" for wires, though. Now as I approach college, I am scooping out major midwestern engineering schools. In order to get a feel for the field, I'd like to undertake some projects to get started. What would be good, instructional, hands on activities I could complete? One primary concern for me is the lack of guidance, as no individuals seem to share my interest in tinkering with electronics. My creations have never included solder or PCBs, so all the advanced schematics in Nuts and Volts are inaccessible. What advice do you gurus have to offer? I'd would especially appreciate any EE's sharing their thoughts on the matter of electrical engineering in general. Much appreciated in advance!<p>Mike Clarke, '04

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haklesup
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Re: Electrical Engineering as a College Major and Career

Post by haklesup » Mon Apr 14, 2003 10:40 am

Mike,<p>Although I cannot underestimate the usefulness of hands on projects for learning, fostering interest and lets not forget the simple pleasure of a hobby, there are plenty of EE disciplines that require no soldering skills at all.<p>Take for example the Semiconductor industry which dominates the EE field right now. Designers use CAD systems, Manufacturing (or Process) engineers control equipment, Reliability Engineers study defects and do testing, and Failure Analysis engineers do the forensic work using chemistry and electron microscopes. There are many other EE functions also.<p>Power Systems Engineering has to do with Generation and Distribution, again no soldering. EE who eventually pursue Software engineering as a career ofter get more $ and can work on projects that require an EE's understanding of the problem.<p>Sales or Application Engineer is an interesting blend of sales and engineering and can include some world travel. Both small and large companies need people who can understand and talk to the customer on a technical level. This can earn lots more $ than regular engineers ultimately but may start lower.<p>Don't get me wrong. I think you should do some hands on projects, I just wanted to take the opportunity to show you a broader point of view. I've just outlined a few I am familiar with but there are many more.<p>Good Luck
Chris

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Re: Electrical Engineering as a College Major and Career

Post by toejam » Mon Apr 14, 2003 3:42 pm

hi Mike;
If you want some good hands on electronics, Forrest Mimm's engineering handbook can't be beat. Unfortunitally, it goes for .about 25.00 but it is worth it. After that go for the art of electronics.That will get you a decent underststanding of hardware and introduce you to the wild world of programing. Both fields are totally fascinating, enjoy.

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Re: Electrical Engineering as a College Major and Career

Post by russlk » Mon Apr 14, 2003 4:06 pm

If you find math and physics are interesting subjects, you probably will do well in engineering. One way to get started is to buy a kit and not only build it, but understand how it works. Look up the data sheets of the components, learn Ohm's law, etc. Get a book from the library on AC and DC electricity.

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Re: Electrical Engineering as a College Major and Career

Post by saxmachine582 » Mon Apr 14, 2003 4:50 pm

Hey thanks to all of you guys so far. You make an excellent point about distinguishing between hobby and career. How does one decide which area of engineering, or more specifically EE, to pursue? Do you take special classes in college or is it more of an on-the-job type learning situation? What are the ups and downs of EE? Thank you once again for answering the questions of an inquisitive young mind :)
-Mike Clarke '04

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haklesup
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Re: Electrical Engineering as a College Major and Career

Post by haklesup » Mon Apr 14, 2003 5:44 pm

A career is sort of an evolutionary process. Don't worry so much about exactly what job you will have when you get out (unless you do have a clear goal). That first job will be a function of what is available and where you live as much as it is what you want. I had to move from Baston to San Jose to find a job suited to me.<p>Most engineering schools offer a straight BSEE curriculum and may also offer tracks for Power Engineering, semiconductor or other specialties but this is not a minor just a recommended course of study. I would take the straight EE degree and worry about the specifics when you get to your junior and senior year when your elective courses will drive the direction of your education. You have little choice during the first 2 or 3 years, most classes are required and standard curriculum, electives will be non-technical.<p>A Co-op curriculum is quite valuable. You may need to go for 5 years but the extra hands on job experience can make a big difference when you graduate and look for a job. You'll actually have something on a resume to start off with and have had a chance to try out some job functions. Besides it may be 5 years before the next high tech "bubble" gets going and the job outlook improves to the point where college grad, new hires are getting great offers. It's tough right now even with experience.<p>Once you are out of school, the bulk of your day to day activities will be on the job training. We used to say "see one, do one, teach one". Depending on your job you may need to use more or less of what you learned in school but the whole background education will prove useful over and over again.<p>Another good way to get your hands on (the theory but not the parts) is to use a simulator like Microsim student version. You can build all sorts of circuits and find out in detail how they work and what substituting components will do. Another way to survey the engineering fields is to subscribe to trade magazines in your areas of interest. They are mostly free if you fill out the card as if you are already an engineer at a qualified company. I can suggest some if you list your areas of interest.<p>Chris

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Re: Electrical Engineering as a College Major and Career

Post by jollyrgr » Tue Apr 15, 2003 4:44 pm

What schools have you considered? I strongly suggest that you go to a junior college and take your first two years of school there. Just in case you find out you don't like engineering. Engineering is not so much project building, mostly it is complex math classes. If you have taken calculus you will have some idea of what engineering school is like.<p>Be sure all the classes transfer if at a junior college. There are MANY classes called "weed out" classes that you will have to take. It is much easier to take these classes at a junior college than at a "four year"* university. While project building is fun, you will see very little of this in school. If you don't like math, forget engineering. Take your Statics, Dynamics, Physics, Chemistry, Calculus, Diff. Eq, English etc. at a junior college. As well as English, music, history, and the other basics. But watchout! Make sure the engineering school you go to does not require specific classes in a linked pattern. In other words PSYC 101 might need to be followed by PYSC 102 AND PSYC 103. Just because you have the right number of credit hours does not mean you have the proper class links. If you can get into a smaller engineering school, do so. Usually you will be taught by the professors there. Watch your course load. At the same time watch out and find out what classes are offered every semester and those that are offered only once every two or three semesters.<p>*Engineering is NOT a 120 credit hour program. If you want to get out in four years, forget skipping the summer semester.<p>[ April 15, 2003: Message edited by: Jolly Roger ]</p>
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Re: Electrical Engineering as a College Major and Career

Post by russlk » Tue Apr 15, 2003 6:33 pm

College will teach the tools needed to do engineering, but the details will be learned on the job. The learning process is never ending, I have been in electronics for 50+ years and am still learning. When I was in college, transistors were new enough that the professors did not know how to teach, they treated them like tubes. All I know about semiconductors, I learned on the job. I happen to like design, but you may find marketing more interesting. Follow your interest.

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Re: Electrical Engineering as a College Major and Career

Post by graves » Wed Apr 30, 2003 5:50 am

Hi Mike,<p>When I graduated from undergraduate school and got my first job, I realized that I didn't know jack about real-life engineering. The school didn't teach me anything practical. Like most engineering schools, they were concerned with theory. I did not know anything about component specifications, printed circuit board layout, reading design specifications, project management, etc. I knew math, physics, circuit analysis techniques, etc. very well but I found that there were many things I needed to know that were left out of the education.<p>I learned more in the first year of my first job than I did in my entire undergraduate career. However, my undergraduate experience taught me how to learn on my own. This was very valuable when I had to pick up the practical stuff on my own.<p>If you can get a GOOD co-op position, it can be very valuable. A lot of co-op jobs are worthless as far as experience goes. Try and get one at a small company where they let you work as a lab electronics technician. This way you will learn the practical things to go along with the theoretical stuff you learn in school. A co-op job shuffling paper or even simulating circuits is not worth very much IMO (except for the always useful income!). Knowing the practical things will give you an advantage when it comes time to get a job. Just being familiar with the lingo will let you perform better in interviews. It will also save you some potential embarrassment on your first job.<p>Good luck,<p>DRG

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Re: Electrical Engineering as a College Major and Career

Post by bwts » Wed Apr 30, 2003 6:48 am

My advice is get a good soldering iron and start messing around with the more interesting stuff (esp microcontrollers) it will give u a good feel for the subject + invaluable practical experience with electronic components. I started with virtually no knowledge of priciples but just got on with building things that I liked the look of and now I have no knowledge (<--joke in case u missed it) <p>B)
"Nothing is true, all is permitted" - Hassan i Sabbah

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Re: Electrical Engineering as a College Major and Career

Post by Will » Wed Apr 30, 2003 8:27 am

Mike,
I agree with BTWZ - If you have a real interest then the soldering iron is a good way to confirm it. Not only that, if you are at the same time studying engineering then you will have a better idea of what it all means in practice. I also agree with him about about the micro-processor angle - I have just learned, via this forum, that an English form sells what appears to be an incredible microprocessor (The PICAXE) for upwards of $1.50 with an experimental kit for about $20.00. They have an enormous amount of information on-line, including full specs, applications and price info. I suggest you take a look at them at www.picaxe.co.uk
BB

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Re: Electrical Engineering as a College Major and Career

Post by manuka » Tue May 06, 2003 12:31 pm

Yes- these PICAXE micros are brilliant for inspiring youngsters- we've seen all manner of BIG SMILES from students using them here in New Zealand ( all ages- pre teens to grandpa)! Circuits usually WORK first time = a big boost for learners confidence! Check all manner of pix & links at www.picaxe.orcon.net.nz . They're the most exciting goodie I've seen in 40 years of electronics ( & I thought LEDs were great in 1971 ... )

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