Advising a Future Engineer (Updated)

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NightOwl
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Advising a Future Engineer (Updated)

Post by NightOwl » Thu Sep 26, 2013 12:43 am

Hi Bogleheads,

I have been asked to help advise a gifted high school student who wants to become an engineer. I know that there are lots of engineers on Bogleheads, so I thought I'd ask for your help.

The specific question is: do you know of any summer internships -- in the NYC area or elsewhere -- that would be helpful for a high school student on an engineering path? Are there specific courses that he should try to take, or certain knowledge that he should try to acquire before starting college?

A more general question: where would you advise that I look for more information that might help a young student who wants to become an engineer? I would appreciate any advice that you can give me.

I hope that this is an allowable post for the Personal Consumer forum -- I assure you that the information I receive will certainly be actionable for me and for this student.

Thanks in advance for your help!

NightOwl

Edits to add pertinent information and reply to comments:
Thank you for all the ideas/links that all of you have provided so far -- I will research all of your suggestions. This student is definitely mathematically/quantitatively gifted, and will continue to take the highest-level math classes available to him in high school. It seems as though he's already outgrown his high school curriculum and is looking for something more challenging. Programming is a great idea, and I will certainly pass along that suggestion. A few specific responses:

ThatGuy (and others): RIght now by "engineering" I am certain that he means something along the lines of mechanical/structural (I know that those are different things). But because he's in high school, I don't think he knows what direction his interest will take him in, and I assume that he's one inspiring class away from applying his quantitative and analytical abilities to any particular discipline within engineering. One of my best friends in high school loved to tinker/build things -- he went to MIT and now he designs undersea drilling rigs. Another high school friend who loved to build things became a Chemical Engineer. I think that if one has a particular analytical/quantitative skill set, it can be applied in lots of directions. I want to encourage the development of a broadly applicable engineering skill set. Math and programming do seem like broadly applicable skills, though the programming language I'm sure varies by field.

Cheesepep: I agree that it is unlikely that anyone will offer a high school student a paying internship. This student is a low-income student but does have support that would allow him to take an unpaid summer internship. He does have some connections that will be useful once he targets a specific goal. He asked specifically about a summer internship, but it may well be the case that spending the summer learning a programming language would be a better option.

Nisi: Thank you for the book recommendations, and for your thoughtful advice about encouraging tinkering, etc.

Livesoft: You are, of course, right that asking someone to "advise" often means asking that person to provide an internship. My company is about as far from engineering as possible, though, so my advisory role came about for different reasons. Personally, I think I've justified my role by bringing the question here and getting the kind of advice I'm getting in this thread!

GED: Thank you for your comment about the humanities. I'm an English Lit Ph.D., so I definitely will encourage him to pursue a broad education. That said, this is a student with very specific interests and abilities on the STEM side that need to be developed, so that's a primary focus for now.

Sheepdog: Thank you very much for the links -- very useful!
Last edited by NightOwl on Thu Sep 26, 2013 12:45 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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WendyW
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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by WendyW » Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:03 am

I don't have a specific answer to your question.

However, you may want look at the question as: What could this young person get involved in that would improve their chances of getting in to the engineering school that they plan on applying to. For example, some kind of extracurricular that would address a weakness in their current profile.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by cheesepep » Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:23 am

No one is going to hire a high school person for a sumer internship that is engineering related unless the student is really superb and/or has connections.

I, as an engineer, suggest he go to programming camp. Learning C or one of its variants is always a good start.

edit* Definitely take physics in high school, skip biology.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by ThatGuy » Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:27 am

Engineering without modifiers is an incredibly broad field. What is this student interested in? What kind of engineering do they want to pursue?

For instance, civil engineering is vastly different from electrical engineering. Even inside EE, there's a difference between designing power components for large utility projects vs RF design for the next Android device.

I agree with the programming advice. I was surprised to recently learn that I had all of the algorithmic programming in my engineering degree that CS guys get, I just missed the database/networking classes. This will be vastly easier if the student already knows at least one language. The language of choice for universities appears to be MATLAB.

If they really want to help people and be associated with engineering, might I suggest the local student chapter of Engineers Without Borders.
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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by nisiprius » Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:30 am

NightOwl wrote:...A more general question: where would you advise that I look for more information that might help a young student who wants to become an engineer? I would appreciate any advice that you can give me...
Henry Petroski's books on engineering are WONDERFUL. I'm not quite sure whether a high school student would "get" them or whether they appeal to more experienced people, but he or she should at least open them and see if they find them readable.

The ones I thought I had on my shelf but must have lent to people were: To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design, The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance (Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden, a successful entrepreneur and engineer? who knew? :) ), The Evolution of Useful Things: How Everyday Artifacts-From Forks and Pins to Paper Clips and Zippers-Came to be as They are. Actually Amazon is showing me that he is a very prolific writer and he's written six or eight books I haven't read yet, and I will put them on my to-read list.

J. E. Gordon, Structure: Or, Why Things Don't Fall Down is really good, too. I understand that he or she might not be a civil or mechanical engineer, but... I am engineer, nothing ingenious is alien to me...

During one of my best jobs, spanning about fifteen years, I was a software "engineer" (phony, tendentious, propagandistic term, software is art, not engineering, but never mind), I was a close colleague of mechanical, optical, and electrical engineers, and had a fairly good inside of view of the process from team meetings. It was really fascinating to see the incremental way things unfolded, and the curious mixture of science, intuition, and trial-and-error that was involved. You know, they would have a successful product that was 18 inches wide, and decide to build a follow-on that was 24 inches wide, and after building it they would discover that some tiny little glitch due to the 18 inch roller not being perfectly rigid had become a tolerable but annoying glitch on the 24-inch machine, so when building the 36 inch wide machine they would order and try more rigid alloys and various design changes to mitigate the problem... the iterative process, build it bigger but just a little bigger so you could see incipient failure but not actual failure. Re-analyze, understand, re-design, then repeat.
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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by nisiprius » Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:34 am

P.S. Fund this young person's tinkering. One of the common elements in engineers I have known is that there is always a background in tinkering--they were always messing around in the basement with something, and I must say I don't know how anyone who lives in apartment ever gets to be an engineer. Unsupervised (or not closely supervised) playing around with technical stuff, with more error than trial, is the best elementary education there is.

Two of the sweetest gifts my mom ever gave me in high school were a VOM and an Heathkit oscilloscope kit. (I mention Heathkit so old-timers will understand this was a $39.95 gift, not a $999.95 gift).
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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by Tim_in_GA » Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:37 am

cheesepep wrote:I, as an engineer, suggest he go to programming camp. Learning C or one of its variants is always a good start.

edit* Definitely take physics in high school, skip biology.
I agree - learn some programming now. And take college-credit courses in high school if offered.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by livesoft » Thu Sep 26, 2013 7:20 am

In our area, the high schools (particularly magnet schools) and places associated with them (chamber of commerce) have programs to connect students with businesses during the summer. Our public high school requires students in the "advanced" program to have 80 hours of non-paid internship plus additional hours of community service. To make this requirement a reality, the high school has numerous local businesses including hospitals, physcians, engineering firms, law firms, etc signed up to provide such internships.

Also, colleges and universities also have summer programs for high school students.

Basically, if the student doesn't know about these programs then (a) they have no friends (since students one year ahead of them went to these programs) or (b) they don't have good teachers (since the teachers will steer gifted students into these programs and write letters of recommendation for them).

Many engineering students also participate in school-sanctioned activities like Robotics and/or Science Fair. There are international competitions for high school students in Robotics.

If one has been asked to advise a student, then one is being asked to provide them an internship at your employer.
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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by MathWizard » Thu Sep 26, 2013 8:40 am

I doubt a high school student is going to get an engineering internship, most college students do not get one between
freshman and sophomore year don't get one.

I'd like at other ways to gain experience.

My son loved Lego League in Middle School and FIRST Robotics in high school.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by mhc » Thu Sep 26, 2013 8:45 am

Try to narrow down what kind of engineer, so that you can get more specific answers to your questions.

Take all the math, science (physics, chemistry), and programming classes possible.

Try to find a local professional organization in the field of interest and speak with them. For example, look for IEEE for electrical engineering.

Go to a local university that offers engineering, and speak with someone in that department.

When I was about to go into college, my dad took me to his work to speak with people who do the hiring for the field I wanted to pursue.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by livesoft » Thu Sep 26, 2013 9:15 am

I wanted to add that getting an internship is all about connections. I know you and you have a teenager. You know me and I have a teenager. I will take your teenager as an intern if they have recommendations, but I expect that you will take my teenager as an intern if they have good recommendations.

To put it more bluntly, if you live in an area with lots of parents who are doctors, lawyers, engineers, professors, Indian chiefs, etc. then you and your children will have lots of connections and lots of opportunities. Needless to say, conversely, if you don't ....
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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by Kosmo » Thu Sep 26, 2013 9:28 am

FIRST Robotics is a good program. My company sends engineers to mentor high school students and help with their designs. It's a good way to interact with people in industry.

Definitely get on the track to take AP physics, calculus, and possibly chemistry if they are interested in oil/gas/materials production.

And I echo learning a programming language.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by greenspam » Thu Sep 26, 2013 9:31 am

check local universities, even contact specific professors in the field..

i have 'hired' several highly motivated high school students who emailed me their impressive resumes and when i interviewed them they were equally impressive, so i let them work in my lab for a summer.... volunteer, of course, no pay...

one of them got into my medical school and ended up with a great residency, who knows if that summer experience helped her or not, but it certainly didnt hurt...

btw, ignore any/all posts that say steer clear of biology....

as a biomedical engineeer, one of the most rapidly growing fields btw, i would highly recommend taking all the biology and physiology and systems physiology and biomaterials and biomechanics - related courses...

who wants to build bridges or bombs when we can re-build people ???
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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by nordlead » Thu Sep 26, 2013 9:49 am

ThatGuy wrote:The language of choice for universities appears to be MATLAB.[/url].
:confused

It depends on the coursework in my experience. If you are a Computer Engineer it'll probably be C++/C# (depending on the school), if you are Computer Science it tends to be Java. If you are electrical doing signal analysis it tends to be Matlab. At my R&D firm pretty much no software or VHDL engineers know Matlab. Systems engineers tend to know matlab but they are moving away to Python. Then again, if you go into AI could be LISP.

If you know what type of Engineering you want to go into, then you could start with a certain language. My general advise is learn C++ (not C, as mixing the two is bad practice) since it is a good starting point to learn the basics of object oriented programming and once you learn C++ moving to other languages is relatively easy.

But, you really don't need to learn programming in high school. I only knew very very basic programming in high school and learned all of my programming in college as a computer engineer. Even if you learn programming in high school you'll end up going over the basics again in a 100 level course or you can take it as an elective if you go into a field that doesn't require programming. And there were no AP classes for programming, so little benefit in taking it early. I'd also argue you are better off taking a logic course than an intro programming course (programming is all logic anyways).

For classes, I'd take physics (calculus based and taking an Physics AP course (again calculus based)) and calculus (again an AP class is nice), since physics and calculus are pretty much required for any engineering degree.

What I would also do is get into an explorer's club (or something similar like an unpaid internship, but the shorter clubs are more focused on fun projects) in the summer. Sort of like a mini boy scouts only for engineering and other fields. Lockheed Martin is right up the road from me and they had a program like this that I did robotics, programming, and I don't remember what I did for the 3rd round. My company does programs like this too but more like field trips rather than multi-week programs. It will give him a feel for what engineering is like and will help him understand which specific field he would want to go into.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by barnaclebob » Thu Sep 26, 2013 9:57 am

livesoft wrote:I wanted to add that getting an internship is all about connections. I know you and you have a teenager. You know me and I have a teenager. I will take your teenager as an intern if they have recommendations, but I expect that you will take my teenager as an intern if they have good recommendations.

To put it more bluntly, if you live in an area with lots of parents who are doctors, lawyers, engineers, professors, Indian chiefs, etc. then you and your children will have lots of connections and lots of opportunities. Needless to say, conversely, if you don't ....
This is not always true...at least not at the company I work at. It can be more about talking to someone who works at the company to see how to work their resume filtering system and how to "pass" the interview process.

In the case of the OP the best thing the student can do now is to pick up a hobby that involves tinkering and critical thinking. For me that was building and flying radio controlled aircraft. If the student really does want to be an engineer he or she should already be begging for these things to be honest. A part time job that involves customer interaction can be good too.

If the school has any engineering clubs such as FIRST robotics, solarcar, supermileage or anything like that, those are a huge plus.

They should take the most advanced physics and math courses that they can in high school, maybe chemistry instead of physics depending on what their interests are.
Last edited by barnaclebob on Thu Sep 26, 2013 10:05 am, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by sport » Thu Sep 26, 2013 9:59 am

My daughter is an engineer. During the early part of her senior year in high school, one of the local universities had an "Engineering Open House". She was able to talk to professors in various engineering disciplines and each department had demonstrations of the kind of work they do. My daughter had an idea of the kind of engineering she wanted to pursue. This open house experience really helped her to solidify her preferences. This turned out to be essential because the engineering discipline she chose, is not offered at all engineering schools, and she was able to direct her college search much more productively.

Accordingly, if there are any engineering schools in your area, it could be very worthwhile for the student to contact them to find out what programs they might offer for prospective students. A high school guidance councilor may also be able to help locate such programs.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by jf89 » Thu Sep 26, 2013 10:02 am

I'll echo what others have said in that "engineering" is one of the broader terms you can use. Whittle that down first.

Courses that help for most engineering disciplines are obviously the maths and sciences. I'd say make sure he/she is on a path to complete at least one calculus course in high school, but the further along with math they can get will help in the future. For science a thorough understanding of physics will help in most disciplines. Surprisingly the course I use most often in day-to-day engineering (I'm a structural engineer) is 9th grade geometry. It won't help by being on a resume or college application, but you can figure most things out with some basic knowledge of angles and shapes.

Others have mentioned programming, but I'll add Excel. I use it every single day. The more you can do with it (through programming as well as advanced spreadsheet-specific skills), the faster and more accurately you can complete a project.

As far as internships, most engineering firms won't bring someone on unless there's a payoff for them in the near future. High school students require too much time (money) to teach and are very likely to change interests before graduating college, so they're generally just not worth it.

For many engineering disciplines, various CAD programs are extremely useful. Knowledge here could be a nice way to get his/her foot in the door at a firm (once you whittle down the discipline, we could figure out the right program to learn). But make sure to be careful that any internship in the future isn't purely a CAD Technician position (unless that's what they want)... they'll learn little of engineering, won't work closely with engineers to build relationships, and will likely be pigeon-holed in the firm's eyes as a "CAD guy" and not an engineer.
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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by downshiftme » Thu Sep 26, 2013 10:06 am

For software internships, we've hired, and paid!, high school students with relevant experience, such as projects built on their own or open source work. If you are seeking an unpaid internship, that should certainly be possible. For paid high school internships, you need more specific info about what kinds of engineering. Also, consider becoming involved with local explorer posts. Ours had connections and often placed high schoolers with relevant career related job shadow and intern programs.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by barnaclebob » Thu Sep 26, 2013 10:10 am

Also for the sake of humanity attempt to direct this students attention towards a discipline that has a real benefit. Its sad today that many of the brightest minds the country has want to invent an app about raising fake farm animals or something like that.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by Ged » Thu Sep 26, 2013 10:16 am

Math courses are way more important than programming courses. Really programming is something an interested high school student can pick up on their own. Math is the universal tool, and the thing that separates a good engineer from the pack.

Science courses for an engineer in high school really only give a flavor of the real thing; without a year of calculus what you really don't have the tools to do any useful science. Do what you will need for college application but don't overload on them in HS. You will get your fill of these courses in college, and generally taught at a much higher level.

Don't neglect the humanities. They are important for quality of life and relating to people. These are important life skills no matter what your career is. Your college curriculum will be light on the humanities. So pay attention to these in high school.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by ThatGuy » Thu Sep 26, 2013 10:29 am

nordlead wrote:
ThatGuy wrote:The language of choice for universities appears to be MATLAB.[/url].
:confused

It depends on the coursework in my experience. If you are a Computer Engineer it'll probably be C++/C# (depending on the school), if you are Computer Science it tends to be Java. If you are electrical doing signal analysis it tends to be Matlab. At my R&D firm pretty much no software or VHDL engineers know Matlab. Systems engineers tend to know matlab but they are moving away to Python. Then again, if you go into AI could be LISP.
I'm not a software guy, or even electrical, but the only place I've encountered MATLAB was at university, actually multiple universities. Day to day work is use whatever we already have, or is free. I hesitate to recommend C++ because I had a real hard time getting my head around the basic concepts when I had to fight the terminology in my first course. Something that includes the kitchen sink, and is less divorced from the English language, would be vastly superior for a first language, in my opinion. Once you understand the basics, it's easier to pick up the next language.

Besides, any budding engineer should be doing things like Arduino, and pushing past these headaches because of passion for whatever their current project is.
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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by gatorking » Thu Sep 26, 2013 10:38 am

Learn Statistics. Engineers have to get away from the OFAT (one factor at a time) mindset.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by Ged » Thu Sep 26, 2013 11:24 am

gatorking wrote:Learn Statistics. Engineers have to get away from the OFAT (one factor at a time) mindset.
+1

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by Sheepdog » Thu Sep 26, 2013 11:24 am

Some engineering colleges have summer "camps" for soon to be high school seniors to help prepare them. One is Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology "Operation Catapult" summer program. See http://www.rose-hulman.edu/admissions-f ... apult.aspx. This one includes,

Living on a college campus and meeting students from across the country (and world)
To set up and run advanced experiments
Interaction with dedicated professors
A chance to see what engineering and the physical sciences are really all about
To use every bit of learning and ingenuity you've absorbed in 11 years of school
To have a blast the whole time you're doing it!


Check other engineering schools as I would suspect that many of them have similar programs. For instance, this one http://summer.rpi.edu/setup.do and this one from Purdue https://engineering.purdue.edu/Engr/Inf ... sitUs/STEP
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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by 3CT_Paddler » Thu Sep 26, 2013 11:45 am

nordlead wrote:Systems engineers tend to know matlab but they are moving away to Python.
I would recommend Python for an engineer. There are great numerical packages like Numpy, Pandas, SciPy, MatplotLib that close much of the gap with statistical languages like R or purely scientific languages like Matlab.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by NightOwl » Thu Sep 26, 2013 12:44 pm

Hi all,

Thank you very much for the replies thus far. I've updated the OP to address issues raised in the comments.

NightOwl
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Re: Advising a Future Engineer (Updated)

Post by livesoft » Thu Sep 26, 2013 1:18 pm

FWIW, high school curriculums nowadays (at least in our area) include separate AP computer science (Java, C++) and AP statistics courses, so these are no longer special anymore. Lots of students take these courses. Most of our high school interns have already completed these courses by the end of their junior year and taken the AP exams, too.

Our high school interns in recent years have made videos for our company to post on youtube that our clients and customers use for teaching their employees how to use the robots and other devices that we manufacture.
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Re: Advising a Future Engineer (Updated)

Post by KyleAAA » Thu Sep 26, 2013 1:19 pm

Calculus and programming are the two most essential skills, I'd say. Other than that, just a general intellectual curiosity will help a lot.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer (Updated)

Post by SemiconEngr » Thu Sep 26, 2013 1:27 pm

I'd also recommend First Robotics. He can focus on his interest in this club (mechanical, programming, etc).

I'd also recommend he toy around with MIT's OpenCourseWare courses. They are free and are a great way to get educated w/o the heavy tuition costs.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer (Updated)

Post by MnD » Thu Sep 26, 2013 1:43 pm

I would suggest they focus on getting good grades in demanding courses including the highest level math and hard science classes AND get any kind of paid summer jobs, preferably something that will teach them some hands on aptitude. Having demonstrated academic talent and demonstrated work ethic/motivation/references is what many internship employers are looking for.
The number and percentage of even "gifted" students entering college and later applying for internships when having never worked at a real job for a single day in their life is just staggering.
Everything seems to revolve around academics, sports, club sports, academic enrichment programs, camps etc, along with loads of doing nothing in the summer.

I was at a tool and machine rental and repair center last week and they are 5-7 weeks out on small engine repair. I asked what the deal was and why they don't hire some kids for the simple stuff. Everybody in the shop looked they were 40-65 years old. They said they can't get any kids interested in doing "hands on" dirty job work.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer (Updated)

Post by lightheir » Thu Sep 26, 2013 2:00 pm

MnD wrote:I would suggest they focus on getting good grades in demanding courses including the highest level math and hard science classes AND get any kind of paid summer jobs, preferably something that will teach them some hands on aptitude. Having demonstrated academic talent and demonstrated work ethic/motivation/references is what many internship employers are looking for.
The number and percentage of even "gifted" students entering college and later applying for internships when having never worked at a real job for a single day in their life is just staggering.
Everything seems to revolve around academics, sports, club sports, academic enrichment programs, camps etc, along with loads of doing nothing in the summer.

I was at a tool and machine rental and repair center last week and they are 5-7 weeks out on small engine repair. I asked what the deal was and why they don't hire some kids for the simple stuff. Everybody in the shop looked they were 40-65 years old. They said they can't get any kids interested in doing "hands on" dirty job work.
I'd agree with most above except the bolded area. Youth today are pretty motivated about building the resume, even in college and HS through productive HS ventures. It's wayyyy more productive than my parents' generation, when nearly nobody did things like summer internships, hardcore sports camps, or research programs, which are actually the norm now in middle class families.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer (Updated)

Post by 02sbxstr » Thu Sep 26, 2013 2:16 pm

I want to second the recommendation of being proficient in using Excel. I am a recently retired aerospace engineer and used it every day, not only for technical work but also as a project management tool. Excel is probably the most widely used tool in the modern engineers arsenal. It is incredibly powerful, especially when used with VBA.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer (Updated)

Post by ThatGuy » Thu Sep 26, 2013 2:19 pm

I think what MnD was saying not that high school students don't do stuff, but that they don't do stuff that anybody cares about at relatively low job levels. I may be projecting here, but I was absolutely floored by my peers at university who didn't even know how to solder or use basic power tools. How does one decide they want to be an engineer if they never built anything, or even just tinkered?

I think engineering has gotten too popular as that respectable reasonably-paid job in recent years. Now everybody wants to be an engineer, lawyer, or a doctor.
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Re: Advising a Future Engineer (Updated)

Post by livesoft » Thu Sep 26, 2013 2:28 pm

ThatGuy wrote:I think what MnD was saying not that high school students don't do stuff, but that they don't do stuff that anybody cares about at relatively low job levels. I may be projecting here, but I was absolutely floored by my peers at university who didn't even know how to solder or use basic power tools. How does one decide they want to be an engineer if they never built anything, or even just tinkered?
We need to go to the pub and discuss this. :sharebeer
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Re: Advising a Future Engineer (Updated)

Post by ThatGuy » Thu Sep 26, 2013 2:40 pm

livesoft wrote:
ThatGuy wrote:I think what MnD was saying not that high school students don't do stuff, but that they don't do stuff that anybody cares about at relatively low job levels. I may be projecting here, but I was absolutely floored by my peers at university who didn't even know how to solder or use basic power tools. How does one decide they want to be an engineer if they never built anything, or even just tinkered?
We need to go to the pub and discuss this. :sharebeer
Next time I'm in Texas :sharebeer
Work is the curse of the drinking class - Oscar Wilde

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by VictoriaF » Thu Sep 26, 2013 2:46 pm

gatorking wrote:Learn Statistics. Engineers have to get away from the OFAT (one factor at a time) mindset.
I agree with this recommendation. Once upon a time, a major company attempted a bidding war to get me, because I knew Statistical Quality Control.

Additionally, many engineers don't have good communications skills, and so those who do tend to stand out.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by Mudpuppy » Thu Sep 26, 2013 4:28 pm

Sheepdog wrote:Some engineering colleges have summer "camps" for soon to be high school seniors to help prepare them. One is Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology "Operation Catapult" summer program. See http://www.rose-hulman.edu/admissions-f ... apult.aspx. This one includes,

Living on a college campus and meeting students from across the country (and world)
To set up and run advanced experiments
Interaction with dedicated professors
A chance to see what engineering and the physical sciences are really all about
To use every bit of learning and ingenuity you've absorbed in 11 years of school
To have a blast the whole time you're doing it!


Check other engineering schools as I would suspect that many of them have similar programs. For instance, this one http://summer.rpi.edu/setup.do and this one from Purdue https://engineering.purdue.edu/Engr/Inf ... sitUs/STEP
Also just check with the local universities. They might have similar experiences, either generically in STEM or specifically in engineering. For example, our local state university has a summer camp in STEM (student selects one area to focus on, such as biology, chemistry, engineering, etc) and it also has a program where high school seniors can take a one year sequence in introductory college courses for free. That last one is a real bonus over AP classes, as the student could take the full year of calculus, in an actual college class (e.g. it's the same as what the college students take), for free. If you have something like that in your area, it's definitely a resource to take advantage of.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer (Updated)

Post by livesoft » Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:02 pm

Saw this today from CMU about internships for college students which may interest some folks reading this thread: http://hss.cmu.edu/dc-internship-insider.pdf
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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by livesoft » Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:21 pm

Mudpuppy wrote: For example, our local state university ... also has a program where high school seniors can take a one year sequence in introductory college courses for free. That last one is a real bonus over AP classes, as the student could take the full year of calculus, in an actual college class (e.g. it's the same as what the college students take), for free. If you have something like that in your area, it's definitely a resource to take advantage of.
I'm not so sure taking a college class like that is a plus. Here's why: In a high school there might be 15 to 20 students in the class. At a college there might be 100 to 300 students in such an intro course. So I would check out class size before getting carried away.
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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by Mudpuppy » Thu Sep 26, 2013 10:17 pm

livesoft wrote:
Mudpuppy wrote: For example, our local state university ... also has a program where high school seniors can take a one year sequence in introductory college courses for free. That last one is a real bonus over AP classes, as the student could take the full year of calculus, in an actual college class (e.g. it's the same as what the college students take), for free. If you have something like that in your area, it's definitely a resource to take advantage of.
I'm not so sure taking a college class like that is a plus. Here's why: In a high school there might be 15 to 20 students in the class. At a college there might be 100 to 300 students in such an intro course. So I would check out class size before getting carried away.
This is a smaller state university, so the class sizes are around 35 people. It might actually be a requirement of the corporate sponsor to keep class sizes small, but I am not positive on that point. The program is sponsored by the local branch of a national corporation, so I am sure they have similar programs in other parts of the country. I do know this corporation is heavily invested in junior high and high school STEM education throughout the county, and this program is just one part of that effort.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer (Updated)

Post by tigermilk » Fri Sep 27, 2013 7:12 am

Look for programs in the state or with federal/state/local/private business. I'm in Texas and a fed with NASA, who incidentally is also a structural engineer. In Texas, we have the Texas High School Aerospace Scholars program where HS students come to JSC over the summer for a few months to work side-by-side with the engineers. We have had several in my group over the years, and some of the past participants are now even full time with us after graduating from college. When the kid gets into college, look for internships/co-op positions. I did that when an undergrad with NASA, and it did a few things - gave me more experience and got me a foot in the door for a job after college.

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Re: Advising a Future Engineer

Post by technovelist » Fri Sep 27, 2013 3:59 pm

nordlead wrote:
ThatGuy wrote:The language of choice for universities appears to be MATLAB.[/url].
:confused

It depends on the coursework in my experience. If you are a Computer Engineer it'll probably be C++/C# (depending on the school), if you are Computer Science it tends to be Java. If you are electrical doing signal analysis it tends to be Matlab. At my R&D firm pretty much no software or VHDL engineers know Matlab. Systems engineers tend to know matlab but they are moving away to Python. Then again, if you go into AI could be LISP.

If you know what type of Engineering you want to go into, then you could start with a certain language. My general advise is learn C++ (not C, as mixing the two is bad practice) since it is a good starting point to learn the basics of object oriented programming and once you learn C++ moving to other languages is relatively easy.

But, you really don't need to learn programming in high school. I only knew very very basic programming in high school and learned all of my programming in college as a computer engineer. Even if you learn programming in high school you'll end up going over the basics again in a 100 level course or you can take it as an elective if you go into a field that doesn't require programming. And there were no AP classes for programming, so little benefit in taking it early. I'd also argue you are better off taking a logic course than an intro programming course (programming is all logic anyways).

For classes, I'd take physics (calculus based and taking an Physics AP course (again calculus based)) and calculus (again an AP class is nice), since physics and calculus are pretty much required for any engineering degree.

What I would also do is get into an explorer's club (or something similar like an unpaid internship, but the shorter clubs are more focused on fun projects) in the summer. Sort of like a mini boy scouts only for engineering and other fields. Lockheed Martin is right up the road from me and they had a program like this that I did robotics, programming, and I don't remember what I did for the 3rd round. My company does programs like this too but more like field trips rather than multi-week programs. It will give him a feel for what engineering is like and will help him understand which specific field he would want to go into.
Agree on learning C++ vs. C. C++ is easier for a beginner, given the right book, as proper instruction can avoid some of the peculiarities and intricacies at the start.
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Re: Advising a Future Engineer (Updated)

Post by bikenfool » Fri Sep 27, 2013 5:31 pm

There are a lot of good comments here. Probably so many it's overwhelming, so I'll pile on :D
1st, for the internship, look to the giant engineering focused corporations, like lockheed martin, or NASA. They have a good internship program. You have to apply early (maybe December?). Probably not until he's in college though, maybe after he's graduated from high school.
I wouldn't sweat the internship thing when he's still in high school though, any job is good experience, both for life skills and job skills. Something hands on like the small engine maintenance/repair that someone mentioned would be a bonus.
Get good grades in the demanding math and science classes. Study for the SAT's (or whatever they call them now).
I don't think he has to narrow down which engineering field yet, maybe 1st year, many folks change fields after the 1st year.
I agree and disagree with the comments on tinkering and you can't live in an apartment. It is definitely a plus, but so much of engineering is abstract that tinkering skills are not required. I'm a retired engineer & I can fix stuff, but I know many engineers who can't tinker.
He will do some programming, but depending on the field, and the language trends it's tough to pick just one.
In my field it was Matlab (& C). Excel is for managers and systems engineers :happy . There are free open source versions for both (octave and libreoffice). For matlab there may be a free student version and plenty of online tutorials, so that may be a good place to start.
Learn how to use your computer, at a deeper level than the average user. Use linux instead of windows (this is my bias, windows is dominant, but limiting).
I think the main thing is good grades in math & science, and a good score on the SAT. That will get him into a good college. That good college doesn't have to be a private or Ivy league school either. Many of the state universities are plenty good.

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