Choosing mechanical or electrical engineering

I'm having a lot of trouble deciding whether I should go into mechanical or electrical engineering. I don't have much programming experience, but I did take an introductory class and I'm not doing as well as i had thought, but I still think if I work hard enough I can so well in it! I eventually want to get into robotics/mechatronics, but my university doesn't offer that, so which one in your opinion would bring me closer to my goal. I absolutely do not want to work at a power plant.

Thank you!
posted by Tanima on March 14, 2013

Answer by Ms. Megan Harrington

Hi Tanima! You sound just like I did when I was starting out, haha! Well, guess what? Robotics, or “mechatronics,” needs not only mechanical and electrical engineers, but also computer engineers! It’s a multidisciplinary application, so don’t worry if your school doesn’t offer a “robotics” or “mechatronics” class. In the first year or two of engineering core classes, engineers learn a little of each engineering field with courses like dynamics, circuits, computer programming, etc. So, when you take these courses, ask yourself how you can apply these principles to robotics. Similarly, I went to a school that didn’t offer courses in the application I was most interested in: aerospace. But like aerospace, robotics/mechatronics is built on the fundamental engineering courses that make up both mechanical and electrical engineering. So, I talked with the Dean of Engineering, who suggested mechanical engineering for its vast applicability in nearly every field of interest! I enrolled as a mechanical engineer major, took a few classes to try it out, and was hooked after my first LEGO robot in ME 101. With every project or assignment, I then asked myself, “How could this be applied to aerospace?” and kept learning as much as I could to the topics I liked most. If you like tinkering with electronics and sensing instrumentation, start out with electrical engineering; If you like building things that move and designing their interacting systems, start out with mechanical engineering. If I had to pick between the two, I’d suggest mechanical, as you take both basic kinematics and electrical circuitry. It truly comes down to what you find more interesting and fun, so immerse yourself in a robotics club (or start one!), project, research opportunity or competition. I would further suggest talking with an advisor at your school or the professors that teach the introductory courses in mechanical and electrical engineering…they might be able to share what projects and assignments you could do related to robotics! As for your programming course – do not get discouraged! I struggled through my first programming class as well and it wasn’t until the very end of the course that everything “clicked” for me and I started to enjoy it. Keep up the hard work and you’ll get farther than you’d imagined!