The back of our M&T shirts always say “Ask me why?” and few people understand what that means. Somehow, all M&T’s seem to give the same answer, “I just love them both.” When I enrolled at Penn, I had almost zero doubt that I wanted to study mechanical engineering. People tell me all the time that systems engineering has more overlap with business, or computer science is more practical in today’s economy, but regardless of the merit of these comments, I never doubted that I was choosing the best path for me. There is something about being able to solve out a problem for the sake of creating a physical device that leaves me in awe and inspired to continue learning.
So far, I have found most of my mechanical engineering professors to be not only brilliant (a trait pretty much every professor here possesses), but genuinely interested in teaching me what they know. I am blown away by how Professor Katherine Kuchenbecker will custom make homework and matlab assignments so that we understand the underlying principles behind how objects move. Professor Bruce Kothmann will spend hours helping us perfect our projects and jump between groups until everyone has a working model. The courses we take are geared towards making sure that we have both technical and practical knowledge, exactly what I believe mechanical engineers need.
At Penn, the relatively small Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics program (around 50-70 students a year) creates a strong sense of camaraderie amongst those of us in the major. The lesson I think we all learn best is that absolutely nothing works perfectly the first time around. You will do all the calculations possible to simulate how your heat engine will work and how to maximize its efficiency, only to see it not move when you start it the first time. Yet, we all help each other out to solve problems and bridge that gap between the theoretical and the practical.
Allan is a current M&T junior in the Class of 2015 who hails from Miami, FL. He studies Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics within Penn Engineering and has yet to declare his concentration in the Wharton School.