Let me get something off my chest: I hate engineering. I really hate engineering...school. In the past year, I have been asked to do numerous assignments from various professors that amounts to no more than busywork. ONCE this year I have been asked to create something, and that was in a non-engineering class. My Chem 167 (chemistry for engineers) professor once stated that he was glad that we were becoming engineers instead of business majors because “we've got too many people selling things in this country, and not enough building them” - or something to that effect. But there lies the problem with the program I am currently enrolled in, I haven't been asked to create anything this year.
Freshman year was actually a lot different. One of my favorite professors, Dana Haugli, did his utmost to try and tie the concepts we were learning to things we were creating – in his classes. First semester he had us do group projects where we built rockets, then had us write a computer program where we modeled what was happening when the rocket flew. I did exceptional in that class. Second semester, we were again asked to get into groups and try to build a model airplane from foam (among other things). Our team's model didn't go so well, narrowly avoiding a soccer goal post before breaking itself upon the ground. But we were asked to create and test something. I also did well in this class, as well as most of the other classes I was enrolled in at the time.
Sophomore year in engineering college sucks, there is no other way to put it. Lots of theories, pointless memorizations, and looking through endless notes to find complex, archaic equations. I heard our new department head of Aerospace Engineering, Richard Wlezien say it, and I agree: “there's no reason that we should be learning the same things now that we taught fifty years ago.” It's true: the Kutta-Joukowski theorem dates back to the early 1900s. Bernoulli's equation dates back to 1738. I'm not saying that these are not relevant or that we shouldn't understand them, but we should look at them the same way we look at a rotary phone or a rangefinder camera – wow, that's clever – for it's time.
I went to an aerospace conference last year, AIAA region 5, and besides getting a major case of education envy (the guys at the Air Force Academy get to do some really cool things), I heard from a guy that works at Rockwell Collins. I overheard him say that to work for Rockwell Collins today, you would need at least a four year degree in engineering. He was a fairly important person at Rockwell, despite having a two year degree in electronics.
The sad part about this whole thing is that I still think that a career in engineering could be enjoyable and rewarding. The only problem is that I've had a taste of what a creative job can be, and it's awesome. Addicting, really. I am so much more confident in my skills as a photographer than as an Aerospace Engineer. I feel like if I interviewed at an aerospace firm and a photography studio tomorrow, I would be more likely to get the photography position, just because I want to.
Now I understand that I would be entering a relatively saturated job market, versus engineering, where I'm told that there are more positions than people to fill them (hasn't been my exact experience, yet). However, I feel like I will be more likely to succeed in a place where I have to push myself. The other thing is, if it doesn't work out, and I decide to become an Aerospace Engineer, I can come back and see if Richard has changed the program for the better.