When I was young, long ago in the 1860’s (just joking, it was actually the 1960’s) I lived in a very rural part of Missouri. The space race was in full swing, and I decided that I wanted to be an Engineer. The question then became “What do I do to get ready?”. I wouldn’t be surprised if you have the same question. Here’s the answer. Some of it is probably obvious, and some of it may be surprising.
First for the (probably) obvious part. I would recommend that in High School, you take courses such as Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus, and all of the Physics courses that your High School offers. Maybe not so obviously, I recommend that you take English Composition, and any other writing courses that your High School offers. Let me tell you why. I was the sixth of seven children in our large family. Mom and Dad were not wealthy, and when I told my Father that I’d like to go to Engineering school, He said “Your Mother and I want the best for you, but you know that we can’t help you pay for that”. I did know that, and I told him so. I would never have dreamed of asking them for money.
For seven years, I worked at various jobs, and saved for college. I worked as a night mechanic in several service stations. I worked as a “brush cutter” helping to clear land, and I worked as a machine operator in a machine shop. I worked on a framing crew, helping to build houses in Austin, Texas. while I worked in the machine shop, I taught myself to write software (at night), and this lead to a job with an office supply company doing database and software related work. This was in the very early days of what we then called the PC (personal computer) revolution.
I tell people now that when I worked on a carpentry crew, my product was buildings that didn’t fall down. When I worked as a machine operator, my product was machined workparts. When I worked as a mechanic, my product was vehicles that ran well.
Now I’m an Engineer. My product is written documentation that describes my analyses, and embodies the mechanisms and devices that I have designed, built and automated.
Writing is very important for an Engineer. So is the ability to speak to groups. I recommend that you take at least one Public Speaking course. Engineers are often called upon to make presentations, and the ability to both write and speak well will lead to promotions and pay raises over the course of your Engineering career.
Finally, a few other pieces of advice:
- Participate in extra-curricular STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) related activities. Join the Rocket Club, the Math Club, the Robotics Club, or any other group of this type that your High School hosts, and that interests you.
- Find the right Engineering discipline. If you like cars, robots, aircraft, spacecraft, or machines in general, Mechanical Engineering Technology is a good fit for you.
- Practice at being self directed and proactive. Good Engineers possess those traits.
- Get some real world experience. You can work on cars, participate in competitions through extra-curricular organizations such as those that I mentioned previously, or even hold the right kind of part time job to accomplish this.
I hope that this post has provided some useful information with regard to preparation for a Mechanical Engineering Technology degree. If I can provide any further information, please contact me at MET@MissouriState.edu.
Kevin M. Hubbard, Ph.D., CMfgE
Coordinator: Mechanical Engineering Technology
Missouri State University