Saturday, September 2, 2017

Which engineering degree?

In my last post, The travelling engineer, I suggested that the topic of engineering travel destinations would be good for discussion at the beginning of an academic semester that follows the summer holiday. A recent article I read provides a good topic of discussion for the beginning of semester - specifically, engineering students' first semester in their field of study. Why did they choose to study engineering, and how did they choose which particular field of engineering to enter? The article, Which Engineering Degree Should You Choose?, is on the website "Interesting Engineering."

The link:

The introduction states, "The key to success in engineering is figuring out which degree path suits you best and which one will eventually lead you into a sustainable career." Presumably, students considered this when deciding which engineering degree they wanted to pursue. Incidentally, it would be interesting to have them explain what they think is meant here by a "sustainable" career (since the word has a number of meanings and connotations).

The article then gives a brief description (one paragraph) of 6 engineering fields:
  • biomedical engineering
  • chemical engineering
  • civil engineering
  • electrical engineering
  • manufacturing engineering
  • mechanical engineering

The descriptions generally include an explanation of what the field involves, the various industries it works in or with, examples of what engineers in this field do, and some positive aspects of the work.

For engineering students who are beginning to study in one of these six fields, they could discuss such questions as:
  • Why did they choose their particular discipline?
  • Do they agree with the description of their field in this article?
  • What would they change or add to this description?

Students who have chosen a field different from the six mentioned could write a short paragraph about their engineering field that follows the pattern of those in the article. Focus on:
  • Common fields this type of engineer works in;
  • Description of what the discipline does or how it's used in the real world;
  • Some examples of what engineers in this discipline do;
  • Positive aspects of this discipline in particular.

To focus students on the correct use of verb tenses in their descriptions, they can notice the tenses used in the descriptions in the article. Mostly the present tense is used (to explain what is true about each field), but there is also the use of will to refer to the future (what students will be able to do as engineers). But there are also other phrases used that refer to the future. For example:
  • This degree path could involve
  • If you decide to choose
  • If you want to
  • ... you could always choose
  • ... is forecasted to be
  • ... you could end up working in
  • ... where you can see yourself working for the rest of your life

The few uses of other tenses provide a contrast to the two tenses already mentioned.
  • You will likely be working inside of a lab
  •  Chemical engineering has seen huge growth
  • ... electrical engineering is fast paced and is constantly innovating
  • ... a manufacturing engineer likely had something to do with it
  • While the manufacturing industry in many places has hurt in recent years
  • ... students feeling like they haven't focused in on anything
  • ... if you haven't made it that far

In the students' discussions or writing, it would be particularly empowering for them to notice the comment in the article's introduction:

"Each specialty of engineering cumulatively contributes to nearly every aspect of our physical world."

That thought should certainly assure them that they have made the best decision for themselves.

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