I am a ME sophomore, when I look at senior projects, there are electric
car, or AI based
projects. So does it mean ME student should know electronics, like EE
More specifically, should mechanical engineers have electronics
foundations, or in
what extent? I think I begin to confuse how to differentiate between ME
and EE, I know they
are totally separated domains, but there are many mechanical devices
are powered by
please advise. thanks!!
You have hit upon a most important point when you say, "there are many
mechanical devices powered by electricity," and this is a key
observation. Your previous statement, "they are totally separate
domains," is just as wrong as can be. Mechanical engineers have needed
to understand electrical machines, specifically motors and generators,
for many years, and today that need is more critical than ever before.
The development of power electronics has made it possible to do things
with electrical power that allow the development of electrical forces
and torques in ways that were beyond imagination just a decade ago.
Without question, you as an ME student most seriously need to have an
understanding of basic electromagnetics and electronics, in addition to
all the traditional ME topics such as mechanics, machine design, and
thermodynamics. It cannot be avoided.
I spent many years as an ME faculty member, and now I work as a
researcher in a US Navy lab where I do work in electromechanical
systems. I can tell you without any doubt that you absolutely must
learn electromechanical systems in your undergraduate curriculum or you
will be out of date when you graduate. That is what is happening today.
Dr. Sam has offered an interesting response and I am in general agreement
that ME's should gain an appreciation of the electrical and electronic
systems that are likely to be associated with your mechanical systems. You
should also gain a general appreciation of other science areas.
By "gaining an appreciation" I consider that this is at the minimum to
understand the terminology, basic premises and how they relate to the
mechanical aspects you deal with.
As a Systems Engineer (from the electrical and electronic pools) I have
learned how to cope with some basic design work in many of the other
disciplines that I have worked with. This helps because, having a broader
view of the overall system, I can often suggest a more efficient direction
for each of the discipline areas to take to achieve a better overall system.
The benefits of increasing your breadth of knowledge of these other aspects
will make you more valuable in future job markets too.
Well, I can tell you that as an ME Junior, last year, my sophomore year,
I was required to take Electrical Fundamentals 1 (DC circuits) and went
ahead and took E-Funds 2 (AC circuits) even though it wasnt' required.
Learn the stuff! I used it a lot just this last term in a design course
building a robot. I needed that knowledge of DC voltage, vs. amps. vs
Ohms to figure out my best range of voltage input for my motors.
Plus it's just cool s**t. Especially the 3-phase stuff. If you like
systems and how they work, you'll like it. Probably. And those two
classes anyway were really straightforward. Do you have no req's in your
If your intent is to design moving things, absolutely. The broader your
knowledge (as long as you are comfortable with it) the greater your value
as an employee.
Originally, there were no engineers, only scientists. Then there were
engineers with NO specialization. There are few hard-and-fast rules. If
you will be designing ductwork and piping runs all your life, no you don't
In my opinion, the only interesting devices are ones that combine elements
of both mechanical and electrical expertise in their design.
Learn control theory. Learn opamps, and linear circuits. Learn a bit
about electrical power. It can pay off.
David A. Smith
Mechanical engineering is more than what you seem to think. I am a retired PE
machinery for the rolling mill industry. That machinery was powered by either
electric motors. I had to know how much power was required. In addition, the
equipment had to fit
into an area in a building located on soil which meant I had to know a little
about architecture and
geology because of equipment size and weight. The size and weight of that
machinery meant, in some
cases, that it had to be shipped across land and/or water and under/over
engineering requires awareness and knowledge of many engineering disciplines.
You may not practice
the other disciplines, but you must have the basic knowledge of those
disciplines that may involve
your field. Believe me, mechanical engineering touched just about every
engineering discipline at
one time or another.in my career.
You'll need both. Mechanical devices nearly always involve electricity.
They are driven by electric motors and controlled by electrical controls.
Most places I have worked (over the last 18 years) have required that I do
my own electrical design and programming.
You need to know about all electrical fundamentals, including three-phase
power. You need to know about all types of induction motors and about
stepper- and servo-motors and their related drives. You need to know about
relay logic, motor starters, speed controls, PLC's, all types of sensors,
operator interface devices (buttons, switches, readouts, touch-screens,
etc.), analog sensing and any other types of controls. You also need to
know about transformers and distribution networks.
Actual knowledge of board-level electronics is very helpful. You probably
won't be called on to design an entire complex electronic circuit much, but
knowing how they work helps you troubleshoot problems and interface
electronic devices with each other. You should have a good grounding in how
transistors work, op amps, a general notion of TTL and CMOS logic, how a
microprocessor works and a cursory knowledge of instruction code. You
should know how to use a VOM, an oscilloscope and a logic probe. Learn
about what "sinking" and "sourcing" circuits are and their implications.
Basically, if you are just as comfortable using a transistor to switch
something as you are using a switch or relay, then you're doing pretty well.
Don't let all this scare you too much. You won't be expected to know
everything when you first get out of school. A lot of this you'll pick up
in the field.
"Don A. Gilmore" wrote in
As I struggled with the various weirder aspects of electric motors and the
like, my only consolation was the thought of the poor electrical engineers
on my course having to learn about the the thermodynamics of steam engines.
As it turns out a reasonable knowledge of power electrics and
semiconductors has been very useful in my career, I certainly do not regret
having learned about them.