I noticed that one of the criticisms was that the schools concentrated too much on research. I initially studied physics at a large state school, and that was the criticism then (early 1970s). My son is at the Illinois Institute of Technology and they are on the list. Therer was a long and heated discussion on the IIT LinkedIn group about that. Now IIT has about twice the number of graduate students as undergraduates in many departments. It is definately a research school. That might be one of the issues, although I got the impression from my son's friends that they liked being there. It is hard to tell.
Lou, I went to IIT and so did my father. I was also the one that started the LinkedIn discussion. What came out of the LinkedIn discussion were two people that didn't like IIT and a whole lot of people, including myself, that started in the workplace much more prepared than any of their peers from just about any major. We do have one of the toughest curriculums in the country and the immediate location is not Malibu. And yet most people were able to find a good time in the few hours they had left from studying. We also made our way into downtown Chicago often. Here's a story that says a lot. When I was there in the 80's one of the students was carjacked. The thief had a gun and drove him into an alley a few miles from campus. When the thief ordered the kid out of the car he asked the robber if he could have his books as this was finals week. The robber pointed the gun at him and said, "what do you think this is?" but gave him the books anyway. I will leave this discussion at that. On a positive note that LinkedIn discussion opened the way for me to get more involved with IIT's Alumni Association and we are doing some good things!
You raise some good points, dbull. I've always suspected that some of the engineering schools do poorly because of their gritty urban locations. IIT's setting isn't exactly pastoral and it takes some students a longer time to appreciate it, especially given stories like the one you've told here. As you also point out, however, downtown Chicago is close by. I suspect many of the senior engineering students learn to appreciate the setting.
I have to agree that it's just a tough road to hoe. My youngest son is an Engineering student and it's definitely hard for him because of the scheduling commitment. His friends have chosen, shall we say, lesser disciplines and have much more free time than he can afford.
I agree, tekochip. I believe one of the reasons for the unhappiness is that other students seem to have more time to go out on the town, while the engineering students are hitting the books. It makes them wonder why they're doing it. The answer to that question doesn't get revealed to them until they start interviewing for jobs.
Charles, this heavy demand can often continue after graduation: larger salary yet much longer work hours, enticing technologies yet exhaustive road travel, tangible project successes yet no path to upper management (CxO are usually from Sales staff). And let's not overlook those companies/industries where the management makes all these heavy demands of their engineering staff but never invests in them... maybe threatening to offshore such functions to India or China. While sometimes there is no way around the hard spots and you simply have to put your nose to the grindstone, both students and employees in engineering will find that sometimes the good of the vocation is badly undermined by those entities whom control our daily functions.
Interesting that the 10 top-rated schools (US News & World report rankings)--MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Georgia Tech, Caltech, U of Illinois Urbana Champaign, Carnegie Mellon, U of Michigan Ann Arbor, U of Texas Austin, Cornell--aren't on either list.
Actually, Ann, several of the schools that you mentioned -- Stanford, California-Berkeley, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, Cornell -- wouldn't have been counted as engineering schools, anyway. For the purposes of this list, I counted it as an engineering school if 50% or more of enrolled students are in engineering. In a sense, that makes it all the more amazing that so many e-schools made the list. The group of schools that have 50% engineering enrollment is very small.
The Princeton crowd wouldn't know a tech school if it bit them in the butt. I'm an EE from U of Michigan which is a university, thanks, with a fine College of Engineering. We nerds partied as much as the lazy dopers in the next-door Liberal Arts college, and nobody fretted about "happiness" or sniveled "it's haaaard". Either you're fine with being a grind, or you downshift into Advanced Basket Weaving. "We got jobs!" was the motto of the class of '80.
Chuck, thanks for the clarification. I was wondering whether students in those top 10 schools were working so hard they didn't have time to notice they were unhappy, or working so hard they didn't have time to take surveys :)
Through my numerous major changes and several transfers I noticed that all the schools had something in common, they treated engineering curriculum as honor student courses and graded much, much tougher than any of the other classes. I think they failed to realize that there are honor student dorms with students taking honor classes. I had even been told we grade the way we do to protect the engineering professions from a flooding of people. I think it's the only curriculum that allows 25 steps of correct math operations to result in an F because the number at the end is incorrect. hmm.. I thought the professional certification at the end was to keep those not so good engineers from making big mistakes much like the BAR and CPA exams. Gotta love the way the fella in the article brushes off student unhappiness.
I went to IIT and we've got to be close to having at least 50% engineering students. Last year when we made the list, however, we found Princeton Review had not used current surveys to rank us. I'm going to have to look that up again. However, we were just ranked as the 24th most rigorous curriculum in the U.S.
It's good to see other IIT alumni here. We've moved up and down in the list of "least happy students"; this year we're number eight and last year we were number nine, but when I was a student, we were number six. So maybe the $48 million dollar student center paid off... or maybe everyone's just happy that I'm not around anymore!
Seriously, college was one of the most enjoyable times of my life. Sure, I worked hard; in fact, I worked full-time and went to school full-time, and did most of my homework on the El on the way to and from work. But I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
The purpose of school is to learn; you should go to school if you enjoy challenging yourself and learning new things. If you just want to go to parties, drink, hook up, etc., why bother wasting money on tuition?
I have a slightly different take on this. The four-year undergrad grind for an engineering degree is hard! Mentally, Physically, and Socially. You definitely have to chose your priority.
What made me unhappiest about the undergrad exerience was that I never really got to apply what I was learning until the summer or winter breaks, and by then I was too tired, hungry, and starved for human interaction. Always, it was race through the chapters and problem sets and regurgitate it on an exam a few weeks later. If you struggled with something, there was no time to catch up.
I did fine - I had a rich experience as a kid, building things and taking them apart... turning all the resistor bands brown, making parts squirt smoke... a foundation too many of my peers lacked. My youthful experience provided me the gifts of intuition and insight that helped immeasurably when I slammed head-first into the theory and math. This is why I know STEM activities are important to future engineers and scientists.
I don't have any answers - I think undergrads need time to tinker and explore (use!) the tools they're developing. But there is no time for this in the four year program, and seemingly little time in our kids lives for the kind of "tech play" I enjoyed in my youth. I had the most fun in grad school, where alongside a solid grad course load, I was designing, building, testing, and fielding sensors - to me, this felt like what an education should be.
I think that all serious engineering students intuitively understand that their chosen course of study represents a trade-off of happiness, near-term vs. long-term. I can't remember too many 'happy' times in my Purdue EE journey, except the simple gratification of receiving good marks. The rest of my memories are filled with 'unhappy' times spent in libraries, study rooms, lecture halls, labs and evening/weekend cash labor jobs.
Choosing a needed, practical and useful profession and the sacrifices that went along with learning the discipline have all paid off rather quickly for me; full employment, competitive employment options, global demand and the ability to add value to society.
Underwater basket-weavers, by contrast, are quite happy to be in school (brats escaping from parents rule??) but too many end up camped out on their parents couch or working at the local burger joint. Further evidence that nothing worthwile in life is free.
"The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you're willing to pay the price." Vince Lombardi
Underwater basket weaving is a noteworthy degree, but it is similar to a friend of mine that majored in Ancient Greek and minored in Russian. He is now working as an insurance salesman in Iowa. I am pretty sure that his Greek and Russian are really helping. While I had a good time as an engineering student at Penn State, he was definitely happier with less stress and more pleasant company than I had.
@OldRadioNut I know this feels like direct advertising, but since National Instruments a current advertiser of design news and a popular vendor in engineering, I figure its OK to point out that NI miniSystems to get applied systems into education are really very innovative. They recently produced a video showcasing the technology that allows engineering students to "use what they learn".
Really cool idea that takes advantage of existing technology.
@williamlweaver - I like it. I wonder about the affordability (at the middle - high school levels) and will definitely look into it further.
I think you help make my point - many of us enginneers got into the field not out of a love of math and science alone, but out of a love of the creative process supporting the scientific method (and being blessed with curious, mathy/sciency minds to get us through the classroom part of the educaiton.) Anything that can bring the practical, hands-on, creative processes closer to the classroom work merits consideration.
You obviously have a lot to add to this discussion but you did wander a bit. But that's okay I tend to do that also. It would be fun to sit and talk to you for a while as you obviously have had a lot of experiences. I disagree that it (student happiness) depends on the environment. I think it is what you make it.
I wanted to be in car design also. I remember when I was excited about my interview at Ford. But when I got there I realized it wasn't for me. I became an engineer because I was fascinated with alternate energy sources, namely fuel cells that I first heard about during the space program years. I only recently got to get involved in that industry. My point here is that I had very little contact with engineers in it for the money. Those few that showed up as freshmen did not last.
As far as the Volt, while I think the design is clever, I'm not so sure it is leading the way. It's not solely a partisan issue either. Having driven a Tesla and watching the buzz they are creating I think they are leading the way in more ways than one. I'd take a Tesla S over a Volt any day. What's my story here? We have too much mediocrity, too many things are made to be good enough. Whether a government bureauracy or a corporate one innovation is being stifled more than ever before. So we don't just need good engineers we need good engineers that can think and communicate and get into positions of power where they do the good they ought to be doing.
@dbull--I can only wholeheartedly agree with your statements. Mediocrity is far easier to reach than technical excellence, even if all the specs are met. I have been stifled from creativity from the corporate side, and agree that leadership is something we and future engineers should consider as a valuable tool in our box of knowledge
Ann, thanks for mentioning Georgia Tech. I grew up in Atlanta suburbs, got a BSEE in 1975, MSEE in 1981, and worked at the Experiment Station from 1976 to 1983 (while they paid for my MS).
I've told my kids (grown now), to find a job that they enjoy, in preference to dull work that pays well. My own career has worked out that way, though I admit, the pay has kept up as well. I was asked by my company's CEO when I plan to retire. My answer was "I don't plan to." For about 37 years I have been fortunate to have creative, design oriented work at five different companies. The creative aspect of engineering is rarely understood by outsiders, and there are many people with engineering degrees which act as glorified clerks. I think the difference for me began in elementary school, with science projects, inspiration from the space program, and maybe even 'working on' an old alarm clock when I was little.
It seems to me a good thing that the engineering profession be populated with people who enjoy its creative aspect, and recognise and appreciate good, elegant design.
Keith I agree people who enjoy engineering so go into that profession. It is unfortunate that I had so many class mates taking engineering because someone else selected it for them or because saying I'm an engineer sounded better than what they were really interested in doing. Personally, I don't think engineering was that difficult (graduated with honors) challenging and exciting yes. It would have been an entirely different story if English was my major, probably wouldn't have graduated.
I did find my final two years of engineering school, (Lawrence Institute of Technology) to require a lot of effort. That is a bit different than hard, but it meant that a great deal of attention was required, and a fair amount of effort as well. Nothing was handed out without working for it.
That school no longer exists, it has become a technical university and it offrers an MBA,which seems to have been the first advanced degree they offered. Now they have state-of-the-art laboratory equipment as well. JUst like any university.
And the tuition costs 72 times as much as when I started there. I could not afford to attend that school today, and, amazingly enough, if I did, my education might not prepare me as well for any of the jobs that I have had since graduating.
But was I happy while attending classes? Yes, or at least, not terribly unhappy. I simply didn't have much time for a lot of anything besides school, no time at all to be bored. It seems that much of the unhappiness does come from boredom of one kind or another, which is probably the result of unrealistic expectations. One other thing is that I did not find any of it "competitive", such as those law school students seem to suffer so terribly from the competition. I felt none of that at all.
This brings to mind what my daughters's 9th grade peers are facing, namely having been pressured into the STEM track by pony-tailed liberal science teachers. 2/3 of the applicants to the local high school's Biotech "Academy" -- honors-level science, math etc. with pared-back curriculum in non-STEM subjects -- are girls, fulfilling the progressive agenda of displacing males from those disciplines.
My kid has known since 6 she was going to tell stories as writing or in movies, and has been allowed to pursue this, despite getting very good math & science grades, winning top honors in two science fairs, and having an encouraging engineer father. She has zero interest in STEM, and after the bruising tech job market since 2008, I'm alright with that.
We aleady know the unintended consequences of this forced approach: huge dropout rate, shortened careers, lower productivity, bad to no home or family life, and (bringing it back home) Unhappiness At Work, not only for the larger percentage of women for whom it's tragically wrong, but also for the men bumped off the technical track as boys.
Academic wants you to work your butt off for that BS. I took 6 years. I did all my own work, no study group. Either I figured it out or I didn't. What a hard head. I just could not rely on any one. My Dad asked me several times if I was not studing too hard and staying up too late. I had to repeat a couple of classes but I got it and did the job myself. I just wish I could have planned on 6 years and taken a lighter load so I could understand better and sooner. I went back to community college when I was out of work. My 1st test in statistics I got so low of score it was not measurable. So then I when back over the tests. I had forgoten it takes me five times through the calculations to produce two correct answers. I cant seem to hit the right buttons. Ya, you got it, dyslexia. Or hand eye condination. Turned out I could not see because of a cataract, this time. Down to one eye. I had honor scores after that.
I will definitely go to altenergy and read your articles. Also, I hope you had a chance to do some mentoring in your career. I think you'd be a great one. I had two good mentors but none were engineers. As far as Lutz I find him pretty fascinating. I notice he's a marketing guy. We need to train engineers to be like Lutz. Either that or convince guys like him to team up with engineers more equally. Either way will work.
"Some idiots managed to get in charge at times". This happens too often these days.
As far as car platforms I'm not demeaning the Volt platform. I just find the all electric range of the Tesla to be more exciting. Even if it's not as practical in some ways because of the time it takes to charge vs. the dual nature of the Volt. As far as batteries, I don't know enough about the volt battery treatment. I do like that Musk kept it simple basically using laptop batteries. And then designing a great temp management system. I believe strongly in keeping it simple. I'm not sure what Volt did about temperature management of the batteries but I hear that some new batteries in development might not need that.
If I was to vote for the overall best car for balancing fuel economy, ride, luxury and price would be the Ford MKZ Hybrid. I saw them going for $33K the other day, you get fuel economy in the low 40's and it's a true luxury car.
Let me know if you'd be interested in doing some mentoring.
I agree many students in engineering school may not be as happy as their non-engineering friends. Engineering school is tough. It's not for the faint at heart. You don't have nearly as much free time as many of the other students do. However, if you have the unique personality type that matches this role, it can lead to great job satisfaction for many years to come. I know a several engineers in their 60's who still find great satisfaction in going to work and solving technically challenging problems every week. Yes, like many endeavors in life, engineering school is hard (and sometimes you can feel unhappy), but if you are one of the few who have a true passion for this field, it can be very rewarding long after college is over.
Greg, I think you make an important distinction. Engineering, as a discipline, is exacting and requires a significant investment of time to do it well. But like all great endeavors hard work carries a high degree of satisfaction, especially if done well. It would be interesting to ask, say five to ten years down the road, of this same group how they fare in terms of job satisfaction. The answer to that question would be very revealing.
I suppose I was one of the lucky ones. I knew during my junior year in high school I wanted to be an engineer. I suspected mechanical but that took some consideration after I entered the university. I will tell you what I did not expect. Classes were held MWF AND TuThursSat. Yes, we did have classes one-half day on Saturday. They were a bit more lay-back but we did have them. My three boys were absolutely amazed that anyone would conduct a class on Saturday. I found engineering to be remarkably time consuming and just down right hard. You all know that when others were partying, we were in studying. That's just the way it was and that's what you had to do to survive. One other thing, there were no 4 point guys in any of my classes. I feel most of the professors wanted it that way. With that being said, I would not trade my engineering degree for any other degree nor any other profession
Good points, bonjengr, especially with regard to "most of the professors wanting it that way." A few years ago, I interviewed an engineering professor who had previously worked at a major university in the Southeast. That university always asked students to rate their teachers. When her students gave her good reviews, she was called on the carpet by the college's administration. They told her,"If your students are that happy with your class, then it must not be rigorous enough."
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