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Which major for actually building stuff?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by Journey55, Feb 23, 2014.

  1. Right now I'm a freshman in college with engineering (electrical) as my major but I'm becoming more aware that most engineers don't actually build them, they just design them and have someone else build them. While that might be ideal for some people, I want to physically build things...so what major is that? Ideally it'd be building instruments and such however there probably isn't too good of a market there. Basically what does one need to study in college to get to the profession of physically building stuff (designing too but not just solely designing)
  2. DerHoggz

    DerHoggz I like cats :| Banned

    Feb 13, 2009
    Western Pennsylvania
    Some field that does one-off type stuff maybe, so you could do design and implementation? Motorsport? Start your own business is probably the best bet. I think you'll find little overlap in most places.
  3. Stewie26

    Stewie26 Supporting Member

    The engineers at the company I worked for were always getting their hands dirty working on prototypes, product tooling and jigs, and such. Just sayin.
  4. While I was doing low voltage electrical work in Texas, I spent 3 months working in a semiconductor plant that had it's R&D facilities co-located. Plenty of the engineers had test equipment in their cubicles, prototype boards, etc. It's not necessarily about the degree, it's what position you inevitably land. I would suggest finishing the degree plan and then trying to land in a company that designs and manufactures equipment on-site.

  5. will33


    May 22, 2006
    Physically building things would likely be structural and/or mechanical...and probably some acoustic engineering. Still, you'd likely be building models and prototypes, having construction crews or manufacturing facilities building the actual products, and you inspecting their work.
  6. rfslick


    Dec 31, 2008
    Benicia, CA. USA
    I would say finish the electrical program and add mechanical/acoustic engineering to it.
    The mechanical end would put you into the manufacturing process.
  7. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011

    Barring that, get you a good paying job as an EE so you can afford to buy some small machine tools and a place to set them up. You can either read up and learn to operate said tools, or find a local Jr college/tech school that has classes on machining.

    I know several guys who work white collar jobs and scratch build car and motorcycle parts as a hobby. One guy I know builds working scale model steam locomotives modeled on actual old engines, another guy who rebuilds old brake parts for show cars where OEM parts are required. He also scratch builds complete brake systems for cars and motorcycles. I thought about tooling up to manufacture custom fly reels, but I'm unable to have a hobby that I am not compelled to turn a profit on and I'm just not interested in starting up such a business at this point in my life.
  8. atgronkvist


    Feb 14, 2011
    Nashville, TN
    I'd recommend industrial design for hands on design build at a human scale. Virginia Tech has a great program for reference.
  9. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    This is good advice. My workplace includes a manufacturing facility. Our engineers spend a lot of their time getting their hands dirty, prototyping, testing, etc., across all disciplines. You will find your niche based on your interests.
  10. Industrial Design
  11. P Town

    P Town

    Dec 7, 2011
    Don't worry about a lack of hands on work. When you are just starting out, you will most likely be expected to gain practical experience by doing such work.
  12. will33


    May 22, 2006
    Might be something to be said here for our own narrow perceptions as musicians......

    In the short time I was in collegr, I majored in music. As far as I knew at the ripe old age of 18-19, I had no idea there were so many different career paths in the music industry.....I figured you could make a classical music ensemble, teach, or become a star. Turns out there's tons of things that need doing in the industry aside from those things.

    Take an electrical engineer as an example. When we musicians think of EE's, we (or I, at least) think of people who design and build amplifiers. Turns out there's a whole bunch of electricity flying around outside of amplifiers.

    Take an acoustical engineer for example. Us musicians (or I, at least), may think of people designing speaker systems, or recording studios. Turns out a whole lot of acoustical engineers do things like design walls/ceilings/floors or ventilation systems for apartment buildings so you don't hear your neighbor flush their toilet or hear their voice echoing through the ductwork. Or consult with cities and municipalities for writing city noise ordinance codes.

    Think past what you already know.
  13. bigfatbass

    bigfatbass Banned

    Jun 30, 2003
    Upstate NY
    Endorsing Artist: Karl Hoyt Basses
    Industrial design. V Tech as mentioned, Syracuse, Pratt, RISD, Arizona Sate, Ohio State, Auburn

    All amongst the best, and all are 5 yr undergrad programs.

    If you REALLY want to learn how to make stuff
  14. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011
    Unless things have changed, an EE will make quite a bit more than an IE.

    Not to mention the fact that if you build something really cool and innovative at work, it's most likely going to be the property of your employer and while they profit off it you will get a nice certificate, an atta-boy and pressure to repeat your performance.

    If on the other hand you come up with the same cool widget in your backyard shop, it's all yours and if it's cool enough to be popular and profitable, you can quit your corporate job and spend all day coming up with your next cool widget.
  15. strictlybass_ic

    strictlybass_ic Mediocrity is a journey Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    Northern Indiana
    I felt the same way as you, and became an engineer only to realize all too late that we rarely get to build anything. And sadly, if you want to do the building yourself trade school is much more appropriate. Every engineering/technical major with which I am familiar has little if any "hands-on" time in the real world.

    Now, depending on where you end up, you can still find jobs that allow you to be more hands-on and actually do some "real work". But, in my experience both jobs where I was more hands-on were not very good jobs. You can also get more hands-on time if you're at small start-up companies, or niche companies (places like source audio, avatar, etc come to mind). But small companies means not a lot of seats to fill, so getting those jobs is difficult.

    I'm not entirely sure what your end goals are, but I will say this, it is much easier to learn how to solder and do basic assembly, than to learn how to design your own electrical systems. With enough practice and patience most anyone can solder, but it takes a lot of time and/or instruction to grasp concepts like signal processing and circuit design. Plus, EE's are fairly lucky as sourcing electrical components is relatively cheap and easy.
  16. Might I suggest calling up a few engineers and asking them? Most people would be happy to spend a bit of time answering questions of that nature.

    Other ideas, perhaps new: Industrial engineering. Packaging engineering. Mechanical engineering. Chemical engineering.

    Some of it, too, has to do with the company you go to work for. Some places expect engineers to get their hands dirty. Others expect you to get no dirtier than a lawyer in court; You leave the dirty stuff to the tradesmen.

    Take care,

  17. experimental bassist

    experimental bassist

    Mar 15, 2009
    Depends on what kind of company and specific position you accept.

    I've worked at companies that engineers indeed did fabrication and test production of prototypes.

    However, the majority of engineers I've worked with overall do project management type work.
  18. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    Real Life.

    That's a joke, son.
  19. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    If you want to work with your hands you should go to a trade school, not a university.

    University people only get their hands dirty in science. Trades schools only run on dirty hands.
  20. Legos