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What should my son do with his life?

What should my son do with his life?

What should my son do with his life?

Hi, I just want to start by saying that I am not an engineer and please feel free to delete this post and ban me if you feel it's necessary. If so I appologize.
My 15 year old son is interested in engineering and I want to know what I can do as a dad to help.
He is on the honor role at school.
Does very well in math and science.
Seems to have a good eye when figuring out how things work, how they broke etc.
So what can I do to help? I will be enrolling him in the University of Western Ontario's summer camp for engineering. I also have solidworks software for his computer coming. I gave him my project MG Midget and we'll be attempting to put a 2.3 turbo Ford in it shortly. The project car should give him a basic understanding of computer management, wiring, mechanicals etc etc. and give him some experience with welding, basic tools etc, and putting square pegs in round holes.
What's a good type of engineering to get into for the future.
What else can I do?
Thanks for your time, and ANY tips or advice about where engineering is going, how to get ready for the job market etc. would be really appreciated.... absolutely anything that you as engineers think would help.
Dad (Jeff)

RE: What should my son do with his life?

Sounds like your son will pick up engineering easy enough.  Meanwhile, he should go out, have fun, make friends, play sports, meet girls, and acquire the skills that those things entail before he enters the dungeon.

RE: What should my son do with his life?

Look to being involved in the Green Energy market, especially after the State of the Union address last night and the likelihood of permanently high gas prices in the forseeable future.  

Sorry for the trite expression, but whe writing is on the wall.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering
Motto:  KISS
Motivation:  Don't ask

RE: What should my son do with his life?

Tell him to study Mandarin or Cantonese as his foreign language requirement for college.

RE: What should my son do with his life?

I wouldn't worry too much about pushing the engineering type subjects/hobbies, they will come with time if he goes down that path.

I would definitely push him to learn a foreign language though. Any one would do, but perhaps Spanish, Mandarin (as btrueblood says) or Japanese would be more useful than some others.

I think knowing another language helps you to think slightly differently about various problems than you otherwise might. Doesn't matter if you never use that language in your engineering life or not.

Is he into sports or anything? Got to have a life outside engineering too.  

RE: What should my son do with his life?

Make sure that he does not loose focus on communication skills.  From my experience, engineers seem to be able to communicate well in their world, but typically they are interviewed by non-engineers as well.  Also, their clients will not be engineers either (more than likely).

Basically, I agree with the tick.  

RE: What should my son do with his life?

Just keep on being a good Dad.

The kid will take care of the rest.

... as soon as I finish my time machine, I'll be at your door, hoping you'll adopt me.


Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: What should my son do with his life?

Sounds like you've already done a darn site more than my parents managed, although I was vacillating between Engineer and Pilot at that age.  The summer camp sounds like it might be great.

Maybe a few trips to relevant 'technical museums' like aircraft museums, or the like.  My favorite was probably Bovington Tank Museum but Hendon was darn cool too and several others.  Maybe some airshows or the like - obviously depending what facets of Engineering fascinate him the most.

Practical skills are some of the things that don't always get covered great in more academic settings so any time in machine shops and the like he can get is great - maybe local technical college or similar has something.

Another thing is if they have any technical drawing or similar classes as again, that's something that often gets minimal time at university but can be very useful in the the job place.

When he's old enough encourage him to take relevant internships/summer placements or whatever he can get as this is often looked on favorably by first time employers.

Similarly taking part in various design classes to 'build the most fuel efficient car' or 'Battle Bots' or whatever the latest ones are.

Lego mindstorms looked fun too, our local community college had a class on it.

As to what area of engineering, well Biomed gets pushed a lot as well as 'green energy' as being the future if you believe the pundits.  Both make use of a range of different types of engineers including mechanical.  However, who knows what'll be hot by the time he's 50 or so!

On the Mandarin thing, maybe, though Japanese was being pushed a couple decades back but didn't become as big a deal as some expected.  Spanish may be as useful, or more so, with the anticipated demographics of much of the US.  Chances are some folks in the office or especially the shop floor will have Spanish as a primary language - certainly a bunch of folks on the shop floor here do.  Or I'd guess French may be the most useful in Canada.

Plus, make sure he has some time to be a kid.

I envy you, I'd love for my son to be into some of this stuff.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: What should my son do with his life?

WOW, Thanks everybody.
All I can say is THANK YOU.  

RE: What should my son do with his life?

Introduce him to this web site, but remind him that student questions are discouraged.

Peter Stockhausen
Senior Design Analyst (Checker)
Infotech Aerospace Services

RE: What should my son do with his life?

Look for trends, not fads.  Green energy is full of both.  The important thing is that he get an education that is thorough enough that he can exercise discernment.

Pick a good school that also has liberal arts and nursing programs.  That way he can meet more people in more fields.  Also give him a chance to explore more interests like music or writing.  Exposure to journalism majors is important, as it exposes just how weak the base intellect of our media really is.

RE: What should my son do with his life?

are you really putting a 2.3lt turbo into a MG midget ?

let me know when you plan on firing it up, so i can look up as you orbit by ...

if he enjoys messing with cars, great.  but there's more to life than engineering ... make sure he has the chance to do the extra-curriculum stuff too [maybe you only mentioned things relevant to this forum]

RE: What should my son do with his life?

Well, you could tell him that the wildest "party schools" are the engineering schools, and that the cheerleaders inevitably pick the engineer students over the football players, but you may eventually find a credibility problem with him down the line.

On the other hand, you could point out that only a few of the unemployed 20-35 yr old kids living in their parent's basements are engineers. Less credibility issues there.

RE: What should my son do with his life?

I'd suggest FIRST figuring out a way for your kid to survive becoming an organ donor as a result of the combination of teenage boy hormones and feelings of invincibility, a 2.3L turbo and a Midget! (I've got a Triumph Spitfire myself, but the late 70s Toyota Celica engine I put in it is unfortunately a piece of garbage rivalling the original Leyland junk that I took out!  Unlike your son, my Dad did help but provided no funding on that project, and we didn't tackle it until I'd graduated from uni)

I'd suggest giving to and steering your kid less and letting him do more for himself.  The project car is a great way to encourage learning by doing, but man, your kid is a lucky little b@stard if you're funding all this fun and games!  Either lucky and grateful, or lucky and hopelessly spoiled.  I hope it's not the latter for both your sakes!

While the summer camp is a great idea to help him see whether or not engineering is really his bag, I'd suggest Waterloo or McMaster or maybe Toronto as eng schools instead- especially if you live in London.  Western's missing the most important thing for educating an engineer:  a co-op program.  Toronto doesn't have one either, but they do at least offer and encourage an experience year- not nearly as good, but better than nothing.  Co-op helps fund the program, helps you find that key first job, teaches you things that are valuable to your career WHILE you're gaining your education, and most importantly gives you exposure to engineers and engineering so you can figure out whether or not it's really what you want to do with your life.


RE: What should my son do with his life?

UoT does have a co-op program, of sorts.  it may not be official, but we hired on a 3rd yr summer student, kept her on for a year, she went back to complete 4th year (did a project of interest to us), then we hired her on full-time ... sounds like a co-op program to me

RE: What should my son do with his life?

Don't forget to encourage some of the technical trades as well, if he is disposed to being highly talented with his hands and troubleshooting skills.  When I was going through high school (10 yrs ago graduated) they pushed College College College, Bachelor's Degree, etc. etc.  and now I'm finding that the trades are definitely in need, there are needs for very technical and smart people in those areas, and they often times pay as well or better than engineering... Depends on what a person wants... you want to design or build/troubleshoot?  If Management is ever in the cards as an interest, degree is the way to go though.

RE: What should my son do with his life?

"Pick a good school that also has liberal arts and nursing programs.  That way he can meet more people in more fields.  "

Good advice Tick.  Implied that "people" includes those of the female persuasion, which are still tough to meet in technical-only schools.

RE: What should my son do with his life?

It sounds like you're doing about all you should be doing. As a parent, it's less about trying to steer his interests and more about supporting him when he's having problems and weaknesses. If you're making the tools available to him, that's all you need to be doing other than keeping your eyes and ears open to any problems he might be having that he cannot solve himself.

RE: What should my son do with his life?

With my own sons, I am not worried about intellect or creativity.  They have plenty of those.  I am trying to help them develop "soft" skills that will help them work with others as they pursue whatever goals they are after.  Can't get away from working with people. (Me?  Coaching interpersonal skills???)

My son is in a design and problem solving group at his school (5th grade).  He was very frustrated by the group dynamics, how everyone has an idea but no one stops to listen to his or anyone else's.

I've been encouraging him to stop and observe how the group behaves, remain quiet and wait for the right time to speak.  Also encouraging him to find ways to help the group work more as a team and less as a gaggle.

RE: What should my son do with his life?

rb1957:  two years of experience gathered throughout the educational process, at 3-6 different employers (UW, Mac), versus perhaps 12-16 months at one place (the U of T experience year)- I'd say there's a BIG difference.  Unless you've got a dad like the OP to help you find great summer employment, a real co-op program is far more useful to the student.  

From the perspective of an employer, we'd rather have kids here for four-month terms, and take the good ones back for a 2nd term after more study.  For a small-ish company like ours, being stuck with a poor selection for 16 months is difficult, whereas you can put up with anybody for four months.

RE: What should my son do with his life?

I'd say it'd be a good idea for your son to learn computer programming language (ie. c++). Even though your description of your son seems to point him more mechanical, he may find the programming aspect interesting too. I was mechanically oriented through high school and then decided to take mechatronics at waterloo. I had never touched programming until then, but I like it a lot now (but struggled because I had never programmed). Not enough to do pure software for a career, but enough to appreciate its potential in robot design.

As for co-op, I feel the co-op program at waterloo is great. I've been able to have different types of jobs (ie. pure software, pure mechanical, robotics) and this would greatly help your son decide what he wants to specialize in during his upper years. He'd have 2 years worth of RELEVANT work experience once he graduates, so that has to be an edge when job searching against students who worked at mcdonalds.

RE: What should my son do with his life?

Send him to Vassar or Bryn Mar.  Tath way he can meet a girl with money. Problem solved.  

RE: What should my son do with his life?

Put him through flight training until he gets a pilots license.    It will show him there are outdoor, electrical, mechanical, physics, aerospace, weather etc sciences way cooler than couch potato CGI eye candy stuff.

If you want him to get really comfortable meeting women, set him up to be a musician in a band.

RE: What should my son do with his life?

Like other replies, your involvement with your son's career path is beyond what many of us have experienced when we were kids.

When it comes to promoting his interest in engineering, you have already done more than anyone can reasonably expect from a father. Now comes the hard part as a parent, let him continue (mostly) on his own.

Let your son's motivation to be an engineer (or any career for that matter) drive him from this point forward. While a 15 year old isn't going to declare a career path, he is old enough to pursue what interests him. If those interests include engineering, then you will be able to see this pretty easily.

Provide your son with the opportunities to tinker and learn about the physical world. Guide him with a gentle hand. But let him drive towards whatever result he is comfortable with. This may be a greater test for the parent than the child.

RE: What should my son do with his life?

HPR makes a great point.  Some of the better enginering jobs in the next decade might not even exist yet.  And, the chances of picking a carrier at age 15 that you don't burn out on at age 35 are remote.

It's probably more reasonable to help him build the self sufficency and wealth he needs so he has something to work with when he does really discover himself and needs to make the transition.

Of course hard won wisdom isn't easily transferred.

RE: What should my son do with his life?

Let him go to a school away from home. It's what I did. Aside from engineering I learned other important things in life. My parents hated me for it as I could have stayed at home and chosen any school around there ect.
Do your son a favor, don't hate him for it if that what he chooses. In fact you should encourage it.  


RE: What should my son do with his life?

Lots of great advise above. It's great fun to take stuff apart to see how it works. Learn to use tools, weld, solder or maybe even build a robot or something. The car is a great idea. My dad and I rebuilt the engine in my first car before I was able to drive it.

One thing: I'd recommend that he take a drafting class in high school if he's interested in engineering. They did a horrible job teaching any type of technical drawing skills at my university. It's something that I use all of the time in my work.

RE: What should my son do with his life?

Car stuff and tinkering with things always feels like Mechanical Engineering to me.  I was told around that age that if I was interested in how opening a soda can worked, I might enjoy engineering as a major in school, specifically Mechanical Engineering.  Turns out I wasn't so into it, but switched into Civil Engineering as I liked buildings too.

B+W Engineering and Design
Los Angeles Civil and Structural Engineering

RE: What should my son do with his life?

I've been an engineer for 35 years. My personal suggestion is to discourage engineering and encourage him to go into medicine. Your son seems smart and intelligence sets someone apart in any profession.

My children are: Physician's Assistant, Pharmacist and Doctor. Needless to say they have a brighter future in their chosen professions than they would have in engineering.

I'm sure you have noticed the massive amount of outsourcing going on. With the lower need for engineers due to the manufacturing going overseas, the domestic engineering being done in foreign countries and the large number of foreign born people working as engineers in this country, engineering has taken a severe beating wrt wages and opportunities. I see this trend increasing in the future.

People will always get sick and they are not likely to ship people overseas to get them better. Engineering will always exist somewhere, usually where costs are cheaper - overseas.

2 of my kids earn more than me and the third is very close. I've been in engineering for 35 years and they're just starting.

RE: What should my son do with his life?

Encourage them into what they enjoy to do. Not what makes cash!....that's my opinion.
Being happy is much more important than having an extra bit of cash. (if you care only about the money there are other ways to make even more money....)


RE: What should my son do with his life?

Sure, encourage him to smoke drugs and play video games...there's a great future in that!  Not so much cash in the playing or the smoking, though- more in the making/growing and "distribution"...

Kids have to follow their passion, but with their brains engaged the whole way along.  And passions change- especially in young people.  Most people are not so limited and closed minded that there's only one career they could ever consider to be interesting enough to be any good at.  The only thing that's a given is to not limit your options by dropping math or science too early.  

Engineering is still a very good gig, for some, and the smarter and more passionate you are for the work, the more likely you are to succeed in any profession.  But engineering is nowhere nearly the great gig it was 60 years ago, when all you needed was a degree and the world was your oyster.  Encouragement of people wh are already passionate about it is fine, but recruiting kids into our profession is idiotic.


RE: What should my son do with his life?

Yda Yda Yda same old cynical arguments who is comparing apples to oranges. You're comparing a Bachelors degree in engineering to people who had to go thru another 4 or 7 years of L/M SAT/school/intership/state board exams (retake board exams) to become lawyers or doctors.  How unfair.  First off, Engineering students get the highest start pay compared to other bachelor degrees.  Second, if you do desire going into the law or medical field, your Bachelors degree in Engineer (I've heard) will give you a better chance to land you in the program than Poly Sci or Bio/Chem degrees.  In any case, if your son has a knack in engineering, go with an engineering degree, if he decides to go further in law or MD, he has a better chance to succeed.  For me, I've excelled to the top 10% of our salary range (six figures) and enjoyed the trip there.

"If you avoid failure, you also avoid success."
"Luck is where preparation meets opportunity"  

RE: What should my son do with his life?

I was thinking of this thread the other day. I'm not sure if you're still following it, but if you are you may want to look into a television series called "The Secret Life of Machines" from the late 80s/early 90s. Tim Hunkin discusses how everyday things work. Telephones. Radios. Car engines. It's a great series, and you might get an idea or two for fun experiments to build with your son. It's be cool to put together an Edison microphone or build a radio from graphite and razor blades.

The series is available on Youtube, or at their website: http://www.secretlifeofmachines.com/

RE: What should my son do with his life?

If someone wants wealth, then engineering is not the place for them. It's nearly impossible to become rich.

If someone values life experience, engineering is a great profession because, if you are flexible and look hard, you can get a job that allows you to travel the world and experience things that are beyond your dreams.

Everything people like in the world today was made possible by engineers, from medical equipment, to Ipods, Facebook, cars, electrical power, clean water. When your son looks back at his life as an engineer, he will be able to say that he made a difference. If he is crafty and gets all the opportunities it presents, he'll be able to say that he had fun doing it, too.

RE: What should my son do with his life?

Quote (indme):

If someone wants wealth, then engineering is not the place for them. It's nearly impossible to become rich.
I disagree with that. Engineers working for a big company? Sure, you're probably not going to do as well as the hot-shot marketing guys. You'll still do well, though.

On the other hand, engineers starting their own company can make quite a good living, either in consulting or in invention. Imagine the potential to create that comes with an engineering background. Computer Engineering skills allowed Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, and Paul Allen to create companies which define the computer industry. Dean Kamen has been very successful, and certainly created game-changing technologies relating to personal mobility.

Engineering degrees are something that many CEOs have in common, as a matter of fact.

For engineers, the sky really is the limit.

RE: What should my son do with his life?

I agree with flash, there is plenty of scope to make some serious coin as an Engineer. It all depends on your skill level, but more importantly your personality and ability to deal with people.

And if you are that way inclined, it is pretty easy to move from Engineering to Management and really rake in the big bucks. Though Management/Project Engineering definitely is not everyone's cup of tea.   

RE: What should my son do with his life?

People who responded to my post about engineering not being the way to get rich:

Dean Kamen, Gates, Jobs and the like are not doing engineering. They are doing management. My point was that if you are a purist and want to deal with the details of engineering and design, you'll not be getting rich. You'll be making someone rich, and that someone is a manager or other type of non-technical/no-longer-technical person who isn't involved in the day-to-day engineering work. To become wealthy, you have to focus on soft skills and remove yourself from the commoditized engineering work. I've observed this, but yet to do it, hence I'm still an engineer doing the physics and detailed design. I make ~10% of the profit of my effort and non-engineers take the balance. So while I feel like the smart technical guy who makes the product possible, I am really the moron in the chain that does the hard work for the guys who reap the benefits. :)

RE: What should my son do with his life?

I don't think you can call Steve Wozniak anything but a computer engineer. All of the folks that I mentioned got wealthy using their engineering skills. Apple computers is a great example of a group of technical people coming up with a great idea and using their engineering know-how to make it happen.

Now, it's certainly true that it's difficult for a solo engineer to change the world... but get a few like-minded, energetic, intelligent engineers together and they can create great things... and become quite wealthy in the process.

That's not to say that you won't do just fine working for a company... but it's just a job. It's safe. Entrepreneurs are the ones who take the risks, and are rightly rewarded when they make the right calls. Engineering entrepreneurs have a leg up, because they have the ability to create things.

RE: What should my son do with his life?

I would also encourage him to study music, art, and history. Engineering isn't all mathematics and making CAD models.

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