What to Expect
Working in a shop with mills, lathes, drill presses, hand tools and cut-off
saws helps mechanical engineering technology students learn how to make engineers'
designs come alive.
"The hands-on experience with tools and actually applying what you
have learned to real-world applications is enjoyable," says Scott Britt, who
took mechanical engineering technology at Central Washington University. "We
have a lot of labs that provide great experience with this, and it makes
the subject come alive."
Derk Nelson took the program at a community college. He also enjoyed the
hands-on work. "I enjoy focusing on the manufacturing of a part," he says.
"Designing various parts, clamps, molds and fixtures helps you understand
Of course, there's academic work too. "We encounter concepts such
as shear, bending of beams, velocities, vectors and integration of parts,"
Students spend many hours at home working out solutions. "On average, we
have six hours of homework a day," says Nelson. That's on top of the
30 hours of class time each week.
But don't be scared by the heavy workload. "It all depends on the amount
of work you are willing to put into projects before the due date," says Nelson.
How to Prepare
"You should be comfortable with algebra and math because it's used
a lot," says Britt. "Good homework skills are a must."
Nelson advises high school students to attain a high level of math,
physics, chemistry and calculus. "Definitely a computer-aided design course
would also help," he says. "If cooperative education is available, take your
work term at a machine shop, a design office or something related."