Should I take small engine repair?
My school has a semester elective called small engine repair. I learn to tune up and fix small engines like ATVs, motorcycles, lawn mowers, etc. Once the class is over, I would be able to fix small engines around my neighborhood, where I can get really good money. But then I will have to take a class in the summer to catch up on credits. Is it worth it? I do think it would be a fun and easy class. I can also take intro to automotive where I learn about engines in cars. What's my best choice? Will the class help me in college/career of mechanical/robotics/aerospace engineering? Thanks!
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Well, you're talking to a biased judge on this. I'd say definitely so. One of the things that many folks have neglected over past decades is learning skills and trades and necessary problem-solving approaches in favor of university degrees. Often those degrees sound nice but don't have practical applications or help get a job. Small engine repair is one of those skills that people will be needing for a long time. You may have been convinced that electric cars and electric motorcycles and solar powered machines will take over, but that won't be for awhile yet. And while we wait for this, there are literally millions of small engines out there that will need to be serviced. And if you know how to fix a small gasoline or diesel engine, you'll have a big head start on fixing just about anything mechanical.
The thing about small engines is that they power a great portion of the entire activity of the industrialized world, so you'll likely never be short of work. And in my experience, they sure are a lot of fun. And their evolution hasn't stopped. And even if you decide not to make a living repairing engines, that skill will pretty much always come in handy.
Another thing is that, as I said, small engine evolution has not stopped. So if you're the person who comes up with some new trick or innovation, you can be pretty sure a lot of people will be interested in it.
At some point in your life if you can, always take classes that teach you how to fix things. All sorts of things. Many of the common base principals are the same across things like the cateorgy of "engines" is you just understand conceptually how they work. You have to decide if this timing is right for you but I will tell you that someone who is handy will always have a job at any age. And you will save yourself a ton of money as you grow up fixing your own things vs calling a repair person. People love their cars and toys and they will always be around and will always need to be fixed. It also is a skill set that translates into robotics and technology which is a great area to explore also to keep up with the changing needs in the workforce as we are all tasked to retool ourselves and our skill sets. And women love a man who is handy - and can cook so take those classes also (side benefit).
While I strongly support the skilled trades, if you are seriously trying to get into a military academy, I'd recommend keeping with a class load that is as rigorous as possible.
Also, I was just looking at the websites for the two US Senators from Idaho. If you are not familiar with the application process, I recommend you look at their sites, as soon as possible. You can ask each one for a nomination. You can also ask the US Representative from your district. You can apply to all 4 academies. Apparently, the academies host some sort of summer informational program. You may want to look into that as well. If I am reading it correctly (I could be wrong!) it appears that you need to submit your application to the Senators between March of your Junior Year and November of your Senior Year, with various deadlines in between.
Of the two courses, I would suggest you take the course on automobile engines. If you understand automobile engines, small engines which are less complex, would be fairly easy to understand and repair. The converse is not true. Secondly, understanding complex internal combustion engines would definitely help you in perusing a mechanical engineering degree. I have been a Mechanical Engineer for over 40 years - automobiles have been my hobby for over 50. Understanding the theory of why something works (which you learn in engineering school) is very important, but so is learning how something works, which you would learn in mechanical "labs" like engine repair.
Hope this helps,