Just had a great comment posted on one of my blog entries - the question was in regards to the Engineering Exploration experience and how quickly students in this engineering option get exposed to hands-on projects and lab. In response, I thought it would be helpful if I blogged about my first year experience in engineering exploration and how I finally decided on a major.
I attended a public high school with a fairly large technology program sponsored by Project Lead The Way (PLTW). PLTW is a program that helps support hand-on learning in high schools; most of the courses I took ended with transferable RIT credits.
I was never one of those kids who tinkered with electronics or took the lawn mower apart growing up... I choose technology courses in high school because I did not want to spend four more years in the school orchestra... so technology was the next best choice at the time.
After four years of high school I was faced with the college decision... and decided that I enjoyed engineering in high school and that it would probably be a good option in the college world as well. Because I choose engineering on such a whim, I only looked at universities that offered exploration programs so I could figure out what major I wanted before getting too deep in the course work.
Long story short I enrolled at RIT in the Engineering Exploration program.
RIT Year 1:
Engineering Exploration was probably one of the best decisions I made course wise. Fall quarter all the exploration students are enrolled in "engineering exploration" which is a ten-week lecture class. Each week sponsors a different engineering discipline (week 1: mechanical; week 2: electrical... etc). The head of the department speaks during the first hour about the major and job opportunities post-grad. The second hour is a Q&A with upperclassmen about their co-op experience and plans post-graduation.
Through the intro course I narrowed my choices down to two majors: Mechanical Engineering and MicroElectronic Engineering.
Winter quarter I enrolled in two lab courses to further investigate my options.
Materials Processing: I spent the quarter in the Mech Lab building a hammer
Into to Micro E: I spent 10 weeks in the clean lab (reppin' the bunny suit!) building a solar cell
Both courses were really beneficial and demonstrated what I could expect to see in industry later in life.
So with this knowledge I spent Spring quarter in mechanical courses until I officially declared Mechanical Engineering at the end of my first year.
RIT Year 2:
If I had to sum up my first year with one year it would be exploration. I spent the majority of the year testing out different majors and options for my RIT studies. When I officially declared my major, year two took a different path and was very information heavy in preparation for co-oping. The year was very heavy on the fundamentals of mechanical engineering (statics, mechanics, dynamics, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics...). Though information heavy, the courses often had a lab counterpart, or in-class demonstrations to go with the material.
Everything came together this summer during my first co-op. All the work I completed during my first two years culminated in my first project at work.
Needless to say, lab classes and hands-on projects are great for understanding material. But the co-op experience is invaluable and syncs everything together. As tough as courses may be, the co-op experiences show that everything has a reason and everything we are learning in the class room will eventually be used in the real world.
Hope this answers the Engineering Exploration question!
Here goes Year 3!