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Naval Architecture vs Mechanical Engineering?
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Phoeb3
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Mar 6, 2009, 1:35 PM

Post #1 of 13 (35173 views)
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Hello,
I'm a first year university student and I have received conflicting advice regarding what degree will help me the most in the "real world". A bit of background: I've raced Laser radials 420's and 29ers and my dream is to work designing boats. Preferably sailing boats. But I am also interested in engineering in general. I have been told to stick with Naval Architecture (my current major) as it will get me good marine jobs, and apparently also the option of Mechanical Engineering jobs. I have also been told the opposite, that Mechanical gives a broader base and I will be just as likely to get hired for the Naval jobs as if I had Naval Arch and far more likely to get Mechanical Jobs.

Does anyone have any advice?

thank you for your time

-phoebe


The Publisher
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Mar 7, 2009, 5:44 AM

Post #2 of 13 (35158 views)
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From Mark Mills, MILLS DESIGN:

I think that can be a fine hair to split as there are many factors that could affect the outcome. I would say that the NavArch is likely to be preferred for a job in a Design firm like ours which already has an engineering partner, unless he is only looking to specialise in engineering work which is a limited field. I don't know much about non-marine engineering fields, but I think only for that specific engineering/modelling oriented role in a large office the MechEng might be better than the NavArch.

In my own experience I found practical experience on the water and around boat construction and repair to be of similar value as the academic qualification - I think you definitely need both so I would encourage him to keep racing, maybe on big boats if he enjoys it, and pursue the NavArch with as much emphasis on the Mech Eng as he can.




The Publisher
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Mar 8, 2009, 3:38 PM

Post #3 of 13 (35145 views)
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From Rod Johnstone, J/Boats:

My best advice would be to take as broad a range of courses as possible your first two years of college and put off committing to a particular field of study until it is required. It's not the subject matter that counts, but the self-discipline to learn how to think straight so you can analyze and solve problems. As a first year student you can probably choose a dual major at this point. Who knows? You might take a course in the next year in some other field that gets you going in a totally different direction.

If you are already locked in to your NA "major" in your first year then stick with it. If you need to pursue Mechanical Engineering in addition to Naval Architecture to broaden your engineering knowledge then no one will know better than you whether that is a good choice. Alot depends on the variety and "reputation" of course program offerings in each discpline at your school, and the ability/reputation of the professors. These are all factors which should influence your decision. I am assuming, of course, that you are enthusiastically engaged in your study of naval architecture and engineering.

Don't count on getting a good job designing boats right out of college - no matter what your major.Your passion for designing boats will lead you there eventually. Proficiency in the study of Naval Architecture can do nothing but help, but there should be reasons other than designing sailboats for your wanting to study Naval Architecture. There are jobs out there for Naval Architecture graduates, but not too many right now in the sailboat business.

Whether the study of Naval Architecture or Mechanical Engineering is the best background for getting a job designing sailboats, I do not have an informed answer. My major was History.Whatever you major in you will learn how to think. Meanwhile you can study boat design on the side.





The Publisher
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Mar 10, 2009, 6:30 AM

Post #4 of 13 (35127 views)
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From Ioannis Moatsos, MEng (Hons), PhD, Reichel/Pugh Yacht Design:

In the real world even though the positions in yacht design, engineering and shipbuilding companies can be few and coveted there are many paths that one could take that will provide you the skills required for successful employment in a design office, whether this is for ship & yacht building & design or offshore engineering. At the end of the day, I believe, ideally you would want the subject of your studies to coincide with your engineering interests and what you would enjoy the most being involved with in such an environment. The positions in a yacht design office can vary significantly from the more traditional Naval Architecture related posts that look into the design of hull & appendage shapes to the design of systems (electrical, mechanical and hydraulic) to the even more specialized task of designing and engineering the composite structure of the vessel. All are design positions but each requiring a different skill set with certain skill areas overlapping.

A Naval Architecture (NA) degree is a little more specialized when compared to a Mechanical Engineering (Mech Eng) degree but even though the word "specialized" might sound restrictive in terms of career options, a degree in Aerospace Engineering can also be considered specialized and the pursue of either of the three degrees could potentially lead to a job in the marine, aerospace or any other engineering related positions in a widespread range of industries (medical, construction, sports equipment etc). The Mech Eng path could possibly provide you with more options to gain a variety of knowledge (not necessarily Marine related) if you're unsure where your interests lie but the subjects taught are so widespread that you will not necessarily gain the required knowledge that will allow you to successfully gain employment and be involved in the design and build of sailing and motor vessels. Focus on specific areas such as CAD design, structures, composite design and fluid dynamics would be a good alternative to an NA degree if you wish to keep your options open but application of the basic theory to marine specific problems might not be necessarily the focus of your studies unless the lecturers involved have such background and research interests. Options also exist to pursue a Masters in Naval Architecture after a Mechanical Engineering degree, if you would like to keep your options as open as possible, but the knowledge path is rather steep if you lack some of the basic marine related knowledge taught in undergrad classes.

Personally having studied NA in the UK it was sailing also that provided the incentive for choosing to study the particular subject and pursue a career in the design of yachts. My study paths run parallel with most Mech Eng students in the University of Glasgow (we took the same Composite Design & Structural Analysis classes taught by the same lecturers) even until the final year but this can differ depending on how engineering faculties are organized in different colleges. After graduation all of my NA classmates were employed in a variety of positions that were not necessarily marine related and ranged from Banking to Civil Engineering but over 80% were in marine related fields and all being offered jobs before or shortly after their graduation. I strongly believe that the specialized knowledge you gain studying NA is irreplaceable for a ship/yacht design position or employment in the marine industry as I find myself often digging deep into the knowledge gained as early as my freshman year of studies. All the skills and knowledge obtained while studying for a degree in NA has allowed me to be involved in all the areas of design that our company is involved including the composite engineering part, understand the different requirements that each area has, and easily switch between them when required.


The Publisher
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Mar 10, 2009, 7:55 PM

Post #5 of 13 (35076 views)
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From Alan Andrews, Alan Andrews Yacht Design, Inc.:

The most important point is to learn how to analyze and think about systems, parts, etc. Also learning the tools to analyze them is important; the tools will always improve with time so how to think about systems, parts, assemblies, etc. is the most important. Either Naval Architecture or Mechanical Engineering or a few other fields can lead to success in boat design. My degree is in Mechanical Engineering but most of the people who have worked in this office have had degrees in Naval Architecture. One of the reasons I went for ME was that NA wasn't offered at Stanford and ME had more options available to the young 20 year old who "knows" they are interested in yacht design. But how many of us really know at that age. Sailboat design is a sub-specialty of Naval Architecture and even most NA courses don't specifically teach a lot about sail boat design. It is understood by learning how to look at and analyze how boats sail in similar way to another fluid dynamic problem such as an airplane and analyze how structures work like many machines. Along with the formal education, continuing to sail and race is an important part of sailing yacht design. It makes so much of the design more practical if the designer is also out there "doing it" to help with the ergonomics of the design and practicalities of construction.






andyclaughton
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Mar 11, 2009, 12:30 AM

Post #6 of 13 (35035 views)
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No question,
Stick with the Naval Architecture, all my Mech Eng pals have moved into Naval Architecture !
Naval Architects are much sought after to coordinate multi-disciplinary projects.
Andy Claughton MRINA SNAME.


The Publisher
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Mar 11, 2009, 10:42 AM

Post #7 of 13 (34889 views)
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From Bill Lee:

I graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in Mechanical Engineering. Being interested in performance sailboats, if I had to do it over again, I would have done Aeronautical Engineering. They do a lot more with lift to drag ratios and a lot more with lightweight structures.




The Publisher
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Mar 11, 2009, 10:46 AM

Post #8 of 13 (34885 views)
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From Frank Whitton, BSME, MSME, PHD Drop out, X Associate Professor Mechanical Engineering:

Suggest you look into University of Michigan. Both programs are available there and my recollection is it is only school with this capability. Suspect duel program would require only a couple of extra semesters. Your desirability in the Marine field would most likely be compounded with both. I believe that any hobby or sport you turn into income producing is now a different animal and you have financial sacrifices to make unless you are talented enough to be at the top of your field. Also one should remember, work by definition is work and there are a whole lot of us who think fun and enjoyment don't include work. On the other hand there are those that do enjoy their work but you better be prepared to make some sacrifices if you want to follow your dream.


Phoeb3
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Mar 11, 2009, 11:03 AM

Post #9 of 13 (34878 views)
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Thank you everyone, I'm honoured you took the time to reply. I had thought of a double major, but financially I'm stuck in Canada, so that isn't really an option. Aeronautical had also been brought to my attention but Carleton is the only good school in Canada and it doesn't seem to have much else to offer. I think I will stay with Naval and, as suggested, take as many other courses as possible. And Mr Whitton, I thank you for your honesty, but being stuck in school for the next 4 years I'd like to get to at least be able to tell myself I'm going to enjoy my work eventually. Now if anyone is looking for a co-op student january-may 2010 I'd be delighted...

-Phoebe


deseymour
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Mar 11, 2009, 12:39 PM

Post #10 of 13 (34851 views)
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Hello,

I'm not sure if this was actually posted before. Anyway, I agree with the broad approach. As I'm sure you know that the 1st two years are the basics with a bunch of math and the last two in your major. I am a ME and have been fortunate to have worked in several engineering disciplines over the past several years including marine design. I now have my own firm specializing in structural engineering and Navy R&D. My advice would be to follow your dream and the rest will fall into place. Someone once said " We are only limited by ourselves". Best of luck, Dave


RunDMC
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Mar 13, 2009, 7:20 PM

Post #11 of 13 (34675 views)
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From David McCollough, Morrelli & Melvin Senior Design Engineer:

Hi Phoebe,
There is no right answer to your dilemma of Mechanical Engineering vs. Naval Architecture. Either degree can help you develop the basic skills you will need to work as a yacht designer. Any good engineering or NA program is going to teach you to take a big problem and break it down into manageable pieces that can then be attacked in a logical sequence. Really understanding and applying this lesson is one of the keys to successfully designing a boat. My recommendation is to seek out an academic program that does not just teach you formulas, but also teaches you to think like an engineer.

In addition to seeking a quality education, it cannot be overemphasized that the main ingredient to landing a job designing sailboats (the fast ones of course) is your own drive and tenacity. You have to be willing to work harder and smarter than other people that would also like to design boats.

I received an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from Trinity University in San Antonio, TX. I then received my formal yacht design training from The Landing School in Kennebunkport, ME. That is the path that lead me to working on a high performance multihulls. One of the cool things about this profession is that everyone has their own path.

My final recommendation is to grab a copy of Olin Stephen’s autobiography. He worked in a different time, but his wisdom still helps me. Maybe it can help you.

Best of Luck


verajolley639
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Mar 30, 2016, 3:13 AM

Post #12 of 13 (24770 views)
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Hello,

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Thanks,
verajolley
http://linkedengineer.com/


verajolley639
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Jun 16, 2016, 10:57 PM

Post #13 of 13 (23426 views)
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Hello,

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