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  • Writer's pictureAdeline Ghosh ('24)

What are the New Mechanical Engineering Majors?

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

Goodwin Hall

You may have heard that Virginia Tech’s Department of Mechanical Engineering has recently added two new majors to the list of degrees! For those who felt that they didn’t quite have the major that matched what they wanted to pursue, this could be the news you have been waiting for. For students who are still exploring majors, this might overwhelm you. Regardless, this article will provide more insight into what these new majors are.

Without further delay, the two new majors within the Department of Mechanical Engineering are robotics and mechatronics and automotive engineering. These majors provide specialization within the two highlighted subjects of mechanical engineering.

Student Perspective

In general, students that are interested in these majors believe that they’ll be beneficial to them in the future. Virginia Tech student Victoria Hardy was originally going to pursue a double major in computer science and mechanical engineering; however, the new robotics and mechatronics major has allowed her to get the experience she wants without taking the heavy workload of a double major. She says, “Having the robotics and mechatronics major is a great package for combining the two while avoiding a double major!” Hardy said. There’s also so many applications of robotics in every sector of engineering, so it’s a really unique, useful major!” The addition of these two majors also allows students to customize their classes as they see fit. This is done by choosing technical electives that match the interests of the student.

With regard to the amount of information that was provided, students have expressed that they wished they knew more about the majors. Since these majors were just added for the class of 2022, advisors and students have limited knowledge of the specific curriculum changes. The source of information was an email from advisors with general overviews of each as well as reference sources to find the courses of study. Unfortunately, there were no information sessions which left students feeling like they would “like to know more,” as one student mentioned. For others, just taking a look at some of the classes offered was enough to spark their interest. Virginia Tech student Kashyap Bhatt mentioned that:

"The check sheet and the classes gave me a fair idea about the concepts that would be covered in the new major which aligned with my interests."

check sheet for mechanical engineering students
Mechanical engineering check sheet

Prerequisites and Classes

For the class of 2022, two prerequisites are required to be fulfilled before the fall of 2021. They are Industrial Electronics (ECE 3254) and Programming in C (CS 1044).

Industrial Electronics focuses on device and electronic principles. It has been said to cover topics like “digital, operational amplifier, and analog analysis for industrial applications and magnetic circuits” (ECE 3254 Industrial Electronics: ECE: Virginia Tech). To take this class, students need permission from the electrical and computer engineering department unless they are already a part of the mechanical engineering program.

Programming in C focuses on the concepts of problem-solving within software. Adjunct Professor, K. Todd Stevens, also noted that some of the topics covered are “IDE use, the basic structure of a C++ program, [and] conditional (if, switch) statements.” This is an introductory class so it’s ideal for students with limited experience with the C++ programming language.

Kashyap Bhatt
Kashyap Bhatt (Photo taken prior to COVID-19)

In order to complete either major, students are required to complete 15 credit hours of technical electives. These can be personalized to an extent by the student to focus on a path which they are most interested in. For Bhatt, “the technical electives decided for the new majors are specifically tailored to provide more knowledge regarding the field of mechanical engineering, whether it be in robotics or automotive engineering.”

For robotics and mechatronics, some of the technical electives that students can choose from including Kinematics and Dynamics of Machinery (ME 3604) and Mechatronics: Advanced Topics and Applications (ME 4754). The classes that differentiate the major include the Robotics and Mechatronics Seminar (ME 4734) and Robotics and Automation (ME 4524). Some of the topics within the classes include the application of fundamental engineering principles and advanced medical technologies, electromechanical system modeling, and robot programming and design.

Within automotive engineering, there is a varied choice of electives like Kinematics and Dynamics of Machinery (ME 3604), Internal Combustion Engines (ME 4204), Advanced Technology for Motor Vehicles (ME 4554), Rapid Prototyping (ME 4644), and Mechatronics: Theory and Application (ME 4744). These classes focus on the design and analysis of engines, environmental issues and energy use of motor vehicles, CAD models, and the connection between societal and technological issues.

Goodwin Hall
Goodwin Hall, home to mechanical engineering

Relevance for the Future

Many students have only received a single email with a brief description from their advisors but as time passes, they will be given access to more information as well as data from those who completed the major. Additionally, there could be more majors created in the future. For the robotics and mechatronics and automotive engineering majors, there were technical electives with those specializations in the past but labeling them as a new major now gives students a leg up in the workforce. They are given more credit for their level of concentration within a subject.

With regard to the job world, employers review many students’ resumes when going through the hiring process. Having a major that stands out and is relevant to the job position gives students higher chances of getting an interview. Students have also expressed the same sentiment as one stated that specialized majors “give students a good little foot up in job opportunities.” Since these majors are more specific, it gives them experience with specialized topics, even before being exposed to the workplace. If you are interested in either of the new majors, the best course of action is to contact the Department of Mechanical Engineering, whether that be the department head or an advisor!

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