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I want to become an engineer but I'm not sure which engineering field I should pursue, how can I narrow down my choices?

I love science and math, and roller coasters are what got me inspired to become an engineer. #math #maths #mathematician #mathematics

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Amanda’s Answer

Hi Abigail,
I love how you have a passion for rollercoasters and you're already exploring the engineering field. Way to go! I'm a mechanical engineer and I would agree with Dexter. Generally, mechanical engineers are responsible for designing things that move. This includes not only vehicle design (Motor specs, hydraulics, vibrating structures, brake suspension, etc.) but other systems like robotics, HVAC (AC systems through buildings), biomechanical designs (Which can also be a separate major too), and green energy design. In fact, mechanical engineering is so broad that even specializations between universities may differ. For example, I went to UC Irvine and they have 4 specializations: Aerospace Engineering, Energy Systems and Environmental Engineering (Like Fuel cells & wind turbines), Flow Physics and Propulsion Systems, and Design of Mechanical Systems (Robotics).

One thing I would consider though is be open to other fields of mechanical engineering besides roller coaster design when you go through your classes. For example, when I first started, I thought I wanted to be a ride mechanical engineer with Walt Disney Imagineering. But, I really enjoyed the field of robotics. Fortunately, I did an internship with the show mechanical teams in Fl (Back then, the Animation training Center & Show Systems design- Now under Design & Engineering), where I learned that there is a separate group in charge of designing & maintaining the Audio-animatronic figures of the park. Wow, I was hooked. How many people can say "I worked with Davy Jones today" and actually mean it?

But there are many other mechanical engineers who do very different jobs (Or "Roles", as we call it at Disney). There are mechanical engineers who ensure parts are made to spec in quality control (Aka they get up close to rollercoaster chassis, bolts, etc. & make sure assemblies were made correctly or investigate a component if it breaks), on site engineers who help oversee installs or on the job situations that maintenance may run into. There are also Live Entertainment engineers who design parade floats or show action equipment for the stage. There are waste management engineers (Which may not sound glamorous at first but after you see how HUGE & magically intricate the systems are, they are incredible!). Also, simulation & analysis engineers who use CAD (Computer aided design) tools to check if either ride vehicles &/or show elements can perform the tasks 18 hrs a day, 365 days of the year (Or more). There are R&D mechanical engineers who design dinosaurs that walk & interact in real-time (Lucky the Dinosaur). There are even engineers who design water pumps for irrigation systems or night spectaculars like World of Color or Fantasmic. The list goes on & on- & these are just roles I've run into at the parks alone! There are incredible engineers outside of themed entertainment design, like aerospace, defense, transportation, additive manufacturing, ergonomics, etc. (A lot of mechanical engineers are needed in these fields). Heck, even one of my friends works for a hamburger making robot company! Like I said , mechanical engineering is quite broad.

So needless to say, I (Highly) recommend mechanical engineering. Good luck! ^w^

Amanda recommends the following next steps:

Find a university with a specialization or lab you're interested in
If there is a specific company you're interested in, what internships do they offer (Is it in line with mechanical engineering or is there another field that sounds more interesting to you?)?
Look for connections of those who are doing what you're most interested in (Aka contact someone at a rollercoaster design company like Vikoma) to see what their perspective is like working in the field..

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Dexter’s Answer

Hi Abigail,

If you love roller coasters and want to design your own one day, I would recommend pursuing a mechanical engineering degree.

However, if you're unsure, a path that might work for you would be to apply to a school of engineering with an undeclared major. My university (UC Berkeley) had a program like that and I personally was undeclared. It took me two years to decided to pursue an Electrical Engineering degree.

Otherwise, I would also look at computer science, which will teach you tools that will be useful in any field (I believe). The ability to program and interface computers will give you flexibility in your job search (also, a great backup career, IMHO).

I wish you the best of luck! Let me know if you have any questions!


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Brian’s Answer

There are so many different applications in the field of engineering, it's impossible to know them all. Engineering includes buildings, ships, automotives, manufacturing, aviation, electronics, medecine, government, private enterprise, agriculture...the list goes on. You do not want to limit yourself...ever! Best thing to do is study those areas of engineering that excite you the most while in college. Then when you search for internships and later a job, those opportunities will find you. Even after you start your first job, yo will discover opportunities that may not even exist today. Keep your eyes and ears open. Learn new skills, constantly, and you will find a passion...and that passion will find you!

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Andrew’s Answer

Roller coasters are related to mechanical engineering. If you are fascinated by machines and construction of them, mechanical engineering may be your preferred field.

However, you may not want to narrow down your choice this early yet. Mathematics, physical sciences, and engineering are closely related. Based on my experience, mathematician and physicists are also engineers in the sense that they need to tackle practical, aka engineering problems in their real work.

Therefore, if you want to be an engineer, take your time to strengthen your background in mathematics and physics. You will find a great future in engineering, should it be mechanical, electrical, civil, chemical, etc.

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Chau’s Answer

My daughter is also very interested in Math/Science and has very diverse interests. What I have recommended is that she explore her options to discovery her interests and/or passions via school or local technology clubs or even potentially looking to opportunities for local companies for mentorship programs (maybe one that sparked your interest in Roller Coasters!). During her Junior and Senior years in High School, she was a part of and then became co-captain of the local Rocketry club and discovered that though she had originally wanted to mainly focus on medicine, she also has an interest in being more hands on with her engineering pursuit. She plans to combine the two as part of her college pursuit.

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GUANBO’s Answer

Although lots of majors can be named as 'engineer' major, but they are quite different. Some of them are focused on large scale experiment and more traditional, for example, some branch of civil/mechanical/material engineering; some of them are more computational based, for example, applied math/computational biology; some of them need memory and small scale experiment, for example, chemistry/biology etc.

You first need to ask yourself: do you like sitting inside and be in front of computer everyday, or you'd like to do lots of hand-work, e.g.: making some wood work.

If you'd like to deal with a computer and like logical programming: computer science/electrical engineering/computational biology/computational physics/astronomy etc.
If you like mathematical derivation: applied math/statistics/quantitative finance.
If you like memorize things and do some small experiment to explore pure science discovery: biology/chemistry/physics/material/
If you like large scale traditional engineering: civil/mechanical engineering.

Hope this helps.