This article totally speaks to me. I seem to manage some level of competence with MCU hardware, software, schematic design and layout. My head does a pretty good job of envisioning what the mechanical components should look like and how they should operate. But, when it comes time to build mechanical things, I tend to struggle. It seems like it shouldn't be that big of a deal, but it is.
Realize that anything mechanical once one gets to the sub-atomic level is mostly empty space, and the color of an object is the response to light to the object's electromagnetic fields that help old the electrons in place with the nucleus -- it is what in part gives all these different properties like conductivity and dielectric constant and modulus of elastisity, and tensile strength in part to materials
I agree with you about the importance of being broadly educated. I come from the mechanical side of things and have since decided to learn more about microcontrollers, programming, and all other things electronics. Do I expect to become an expert in these fields, no, but I will attain a level of competence that will allow me to work more closely in other areas to build better projects. It also helps me to make project decisions, especially about if a vendor is truly competent, or if they are just bluffing.
This and it is just fun to learn. That is one of the reasons that I became an engineer, to learn more about how to control the elements around me to get them to work in a fashion that is useful.
I also find it interesting how sometimes one engineering discipline tries to elevate its importance above another. While it may be true in one type of product that a mechanical engineer is more important to the project than any other type of engineer, similarly an electrical engineer can be more important in a completely different product field. Understanding what role we can play and how to lift the entire project makes for a much better work environment where each tries to help even if it is outside of their area of expertise.
Martin I think this is one of the reasons that more students are pursuing mechanical engineering degrees than electrical engineering degrees. it is a broader-based curriculum, where students get exposure to almost all aspects of design. Now granted, it doesn't go as deep in some areas, but you do have a working familiarty with more topics.
Karen, glad to catch up with you again. It is certainly correct that some schools have failed to realize tat there is a whole lot more to electrical / electronic engineering than digital logic ICs. How could any allegedly wise organization be so dumb? I have wondered about that. My engineering courses included statics, dynamics, and strength of materials, as well as inorganic chemistry. Of course, if the schools listen to the HR people from some organizations, the whole course of study would cover some processor's applications interfacing, and the entire education would be obsolete in a year.
I did find that I had to do a good bit of educating myself in the mechanical realm, even after thos classes. Early on in my career I had to become educated on gearing to solve a design problem in a servo product which had been dumped on me because nobody elsewas able to solve the problems. Do you know how many difficulties can arise from just abit of pitch-line runout? So I was able to demonstrate the problem and launch others on the path toward a solution.
I can see that if an education is going to be limited to four years and a total of eight semesters that some would decide that anything besides digital electronics classes wold need to be cut back, but then the school is not really producing engineers, but rather a crop of specialists with a very narrow focus. Probably the best choice would be to expand the engineering curriculum to five years, but with tuition fees being so totally disconnected from the costs of an education that will probably not be what happens. I look at the school that I attended and as of two years ago the tuition had risen 72 times what it was when I started there. That is quite an increase, and it is not likely that it would be justified if a serious investigation were made.
@wketel You make some valid points here about the trade offs in deep versus broad. And if I could, I would make you an honorary "expert" or whatever the highest designation we give to our community members. :-)
I've been a big fan of the TV show "How It's Made" (check it out on Youtube, Discovery Channel, The Science Channel, or Netflix). It really gives us EE/CS types a better appreciation of the mechanical world.
Robin - I like the How it Works show too. I also used to like "This old House", which made everything look significantly easier than it really is. I used to like "Orange Country Choppers" until it became about everyone yelling at everyone. In the early years, you could actually get some undestanding of how they went about fabricating things. That part was interesting.
@duanebenson It's interesting that you bring up the Orange County Choppers situation, where it has descended into people yelling at each other. I saw a short video of Gordon Ramsey (The chef from Hell's Kitchen and Nightmare Restaurants) actually cooking, and a commenter said "Look how great he is when he's not yelling, but actually showing you how to cook something."
Most new products are multi disciplinary. It involves hardware, software, firmware and also mechanical, optics and materials technology. All engineering branch carry equally important challenges.
It is higlhy recommended to employ and utlilize mechanical and optics engineer from begining. This is very imprtant part of product success. It is not only hardware and software. If EE trys to solve all problems, problem may apparently looks very complex to them. Management may need to take help from other agencies too. Supply chain should also be involved from start to gain maximum out of product launch.