Electrical or Mechanical?

My uncle wanted me to be in electrical engineer, but I am not really sure if that is the one I want because mechanical is the one that describes what I want, which is to make things work, like a telephone, a robot, or a speaker. My uncle did that once. He had a board of just microchips. It looked like a city, and it had a tiny speaker. Then he did something like plugging things together and it worked as a speaker. I loved that idea, say if you opened up a phone and the things that make a phone work, then putting it together and making it work. It drives me crazy! lol! Because I love it. My dream is to someday make a robot, actually create it myself. It can just run back and forth or whatever, but I just want to build it.

Questions:
1. Electrical or mechanical?
2. Are there many jobs for me as an engineer in Portland, Oregon?
3. I live alone and I took a break after high school. Now at age 21, living alone and working, I fear I won’t be able to pay school myself. Do you know of any electrical/mechanical engineering scholarships out there?
posted by Nelva on April 2, 2012

Answer 1 by Belinda Butler-Veytia

Something that really seemed to help in deciding what type of engineering I and some of my friends wanted to do was take a broad variety of basic engineering classes: chemistry, physics, electrical circuits, whatever. Taking some of the basics that are required for the different majors can help you to figure out if you are interested in the basic building blocks of a degree. Also, working as an undergraduate research student can help you figure out if you are interested in some of the more 'real life' projects that people are working on. If you can get work study money from your school, you can ask a professor you admire or like in class if they need research support. I've found that most professors are usually short on money and students willing to start helping with whatever tasks need performed to help with a research project. As a work study student, it costs the professor nothing, they get a new worker for a bit of time each week, and you get to learn a bit about the interesting projects that are underway at the university. Commit to a semester or one year of working in the lab, and even if you're just washing glassware or cleaning electrical ports (?) you're likely to learn a lot about the degree.

Answer 2 by Sandhya Prabhakaran

It’s good to know that you possess the heart and mind of a 'doctor' of gadgets. I am afraid I cannot answer Q2 and Q3 but here is my answer for Q1. Mechanical engineering normally focuses on designing and maintenance of heavy-duty machinery as well as vehicles. In electrical engineering you get closer to things/gadgets of more daily use like fans, telephones, and mixers. There is also a better option if you take an Electronics and Electronics Engineering degree commonly called the EEE degree (in India). Here you get to know the internals of circuitry as well as flow of bits and bytes(electrical impulses). If you want to specialize in the creation of Robots/humanoids there are engineering courses in Robotics or Artificial Intelligence or Neural Networks which gives you the right concoction of electrical and electronics and computer engineering. You may work on these lines.

Answer 3 by Simil Roupe

I actually disagree with Sandhya here. While mechanical engineers can work on big equipment that is certainly not all they do, and building robots is a task often just right for a MechE. Usually mechanical and electrical engineers will work together on different parts of the same project. An electrical engineer may design the circuitry for a robot while a mechanical engineer has to make sure the arms work and move the way they are supposed to and that they can withstand the torques that will be applied to them. Even something you think of as purely an electrical device such as a cell phone has a mechanical component. (Someone has to make sure the case can withstand being dropped and all of the forces that will be applied to it!) So ultimately it is not about what you want to create but what parts of it you want to design. I think you need to explore your options like Belinda suggested. Once you have taken a couple of classes you’ll have a much better idea. As for jobs in Portland I really don’t know, but engineers work everywhere so I doubt you would be unable to find a job. You can get a better idea by talking to professors in your local university. You can begin you scholarship search there too. Talk to the financial aide office. I went back to school at the age of 21, and it takes work but is not as hard as it seems. You can look at these sites for scholarships too: http://scholarships.fatomei.com/ http://www.aauw.org/fga/fellowships_grants/index.cfm http://www.eng.umd.edu/wie/scholarships/