Mechanical Engineers

Posted by Patrick Dingle at 04/13/2001 11:41 AM EST

College Student on team #639, Red B^2, from Ithaca High School and Cornell University.

I recently decided to switch my major from computer science to mechanical engineering, and was just wondering what types of jobs you engineers have when you’re not working on FIRST. I know lots are in the automotive industry… what type of work do you do in that field? I’m also interested to hear what other types of jobs you can get not relating to transportation.

Patrick

Posted by Rob Zeuge at 04/16/2001 10:08 AM EST

Coach on team #121, Rhode Warrior, from University of Rhode Island and Naval Undersea Warfare Center.

In Reply to: Mechanical Engineers
Posted by Patrick Dingle on 04/13/2001 11:41 AM EST:

There is a great variety of jobs out there…
Try applying for internships at places that you dont normally think of as employers of mechanical engineers.
There are many fun things to do other than work on automobiles.

For example, try applying for an internship at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, RI. Not only do they do many interesting things, but they also have a FIRST team!

Robert Zeuge
rzeu0470@postoffice.uri.edu

Posted by Andy Baker at 04/18/2001 2:21 PM EST

Engineer on team #45, TechnoKats, from Kokomo High School and Delphi Automotive Systems.

In Reply to: Mechanical Engineers
Posted by Patrick Dingle on 04/13/2001 11:41 AM EST:

Welcome to the dark side, Pat!

I am a mechanical engineer (BSME - U of Evansville, '91), and I work as a machine designer for Delphi Automotive Systems - Delco Electronics. My company makes automotive electronics, and I work in a department that makes production equipment for our products.

Right now, I’m working on a small assembly cell that performs “final assembly” of a product. This cell consists of 4 axii: x, y, z, and theta. The cell is itself a robot that sits still while doing work on the product. This work could range from dispensing gel or glue, automatically driving screws, or performing an inspection of the product.

Also, I get to design conveyor systems for electronics while integrating vendors’ equipment into our production lines. Not only do I get to develop the equipment, I also get to specify and integrate equipment that we buy from outside vendors… it’s fun while stressful.

The “ship date” that FIRST gives us is just like what I get to deal with here at work. If a production line is waiting on equipment from my department, we do whatever it takes to meet our deadlines.

The nice thing about what I do is that I’ve been in the same job for 9 years, but I’ve worked on many different types of equipment… so it’s not too boring.

In order to do my job, I use Unigraphics CAD to design the equipment. Also, I make my own print packages and release them to a UAW machine shop, which is across the hall from our engineering department. I get to oversee the construction and debug of the equipment in our shop (but I cannot touch a tool!), and work with the skilled tradesmen who get the machine ready for shipment to our production floor… either in our plant here in Kokomo or across the world in another Delphi plant.

We use extrusions, motors, indexing assemblies, pneumatics, sensors, robots from other vendors, fasteners and many other things to make our equipment… . so it is a good fit for me to be on a FIRST team.

I gotta keep all of the prints updated and filed, and give assistance to our customers who want to develop a production process for the products we are to produce. Customer communication is key, because their needs may change throughout the life of the project.

I hope this helps a bit. If you have any more questions, please ask.

Andy B.

Posted by Lora Knepper at 04/20/2001 12:41 PM EST

Other on team #177, Bobcat Robotics - Adoptee, from South Windsor High School and International Fuel Cells.

In Reply to: Re: Mechanical Engineers
Posted by Andy Baker on 04/18/2001 2:21 PM EST:

Hey Andy,

Thanks to FIRST, I’ve been converted to the “dark side” as well, and next year I’ll be heading off to RIT for Mechanical Engineering…I wasn’t completely sure if it was what I was looking for, but after reading your post, I know that - at least what you do - is exactly what I’m looking for. :o)

~ lora the MechE wannabe

Posted by Chris Hibner at 04/23/2001 2:03 PM EST

Coach on team #308, Walled Lake Monster, from Walled Lake Schools and TRW Automotive Electronics.

In Reply to: Mechanical Engineers
Posted by Patrick Dingle on 04/13/2001 11:41 AM EST:

If you would like to meld computers AND mechanical engineering, you should check out either control systems or computational mechanics, which is what I do at TRW.

Control system theory is a branch of dynamic systems in which the main objective is to automatically control the dynamic system. The system is controlled using feeback sensors (typically potentiometers, gyros, accelerometers, etc.) and a control algorithm that uses the feedback to determine how to actuate the system. When you study control, you mostly learn how to write the control algorithms to perform the way you want them to.

Most modern control systems are digital, so it helps if you enjoy writing code in C. It is also increasingly important that you know how to work with MATLAB and Simulink. At work, I have MATLAB or Simulink open from the time I arrive until the time I go home. It is a great tool set and I would recommend that almost all engineers learn it.

If you want to study control system theory, you should concentrate your courses in dynamics, dynamic systems, control systems, and a LOT of linear algebra and matrix algebra (matrix algebra is a subset of linear algebra). It’s also helpful to study some basic electronics and computer programming.

If you really want to blend software design and mechanics, computational mechanics is where it’s at. In this field, you do a lot of mathematical modeling of mechanical systems (either structural, dynamic, or thermo/fluid) and create the solutions to the models using computers. Most of the solutions are approximate solutions using mathematical approximation techniques. A lot of pre-packaged solvers exist depending on the what you’re looking for (NASTRAN for Finite Element Analysis, ADAMS for dynamics, etc), but a lot of times you must write your own simulation package. I write quite a bit of simulation software here using C/C++, and MATLAB and Simulink.

The only thing about computation mechanics is that it is mostly only offered in graduate level engineering courses. You can take a finite element analysis course as an undergrad, but you don’t spend a whole lot of time studying the mathematics behind the solvers. When you get to grad school, this is mostly what you do. I’ve taken a couple of courses in this area in grad school (I just completed on this past semester) and I’ve thouroghly enjoyed them.

If you want to go into computational mechanics, you should take a LOT of math - especially take a lot of matrix algebra and linear algebra courses with your electives. You should also take a linear systems course and pay special attention to function spaces (this is the basis for approximation theory).

Before I got to college I used to love to write software for various things. I used to do this as a hobby. It’s great that I now get to combine this with mechanical engineering.

I hope this helps.

-Chris

Posted by Patrick Dingle at 04/24/2001 12:02 AM EST

College Student on team #639, Red B^2, from Ithaca High School and Cornell University.

In Reply to: Re: Mechanical Engineers
Posted by Chris Hibner on 04/23/2001 2:03 PM EST:

Chris,

Thanks very much for your post… sounds almost exactly what I’d like to do… In fact I found a undergrad concentration called mechanical systems which has courses such as robotics, feedback control systems, modeling / simulation of dynamic systems, mechatronics systems. What you describe sounds too good to be true – mechanical, math, computers all in one!

Thanks again
Patrick

: If you would like to meld computers AND mechanical engineering, you should check out either control systems or computational mechanics, which is what I do at TRW.

: Control system theory is a branch of dynamic systems in which the main objective is to automatically control the dynamic system. The system is controlled using feeback sensors (typically potentiometers, gyros, accelerometers, etc.) and a control algorithm that uses the feedback to determine how to actuate the system. When you study control, you mostly learn how to write the control algorithms to perform the way you want them to.

: Most modern control systems are digital, so it helps if you enjoy writing code in C. It is also increasingly important that you know how to work with MATLAB and Simulink. At work, I have MATLAB or Simulink open from the time I arrive until the time I go home. It is a great tool set and I would recommend that almost all engineers learn it.

: If you want to study control system theory, you should concentrate your courses in dynamics, dynamic systems, control systems, and a LOT of linear algebra and matrix algebra (matrix algebra is a subset of linear algebra). It’s also helpful to study some basic electronics and computer programming.

: If you really want to blend software design and mechanics, computational mechanics is where it’s at. In this field, you do a lot of mathematical modeling of mechanical systems (either structural, dynamic, or thermo/fluid) and create the solutions to the models using computers. Most of the solutions are approximate solutions using mathematical approximation techniques. A lot of pre-packaged solvers exist depending on the what you’re looking for (NASTRAN for Finite Element Analysis, ADAMS for dynamics, etc), but a lot of times you must write your own simulation package. I write quite a bit of simulation software here using C/C++, and MATLAB and Simulink.

: The only thing about computation mechanics is that it is mostly only offered in graduate level engineering courses. You can take a finite element analysis course as an undergrad, but you don’t spend a whole lot of time studying the mathematics behind the solvers. When you get to grad school, this is mostly what you do. I’ve taken a couple of courses in this area in grad school (I just completed on this past semester) and I’ve thouroghly enjoyed them.

: If you want to go into computational mechanics, you should take a LOT of math - especially take a lot of matrix algebra and linear algebra courses with your electives. You should also take a linear systems course and pay special attention to function spaces (this is the basis for approximation theory).

: Before I got to college I used to love to write software for various things. I used to do this as a hobby. It’s great that I now get to combine this with mechanical engineering.

: I hope this helps.

: -Chris