Launch Pad for a Dream Job on Mars; Education: Electrical Engineering

Article excerpt

Byline: SARAH SNYDER

ENGINEERING student Clint Swart believes in aiming high. He would, for instance, like to control a landing on Mars.

Clint has completed the first year of an electrical and electronic engineering degree at the University of Hertfordshire.

'One of the best things about this course is the way it teaches engineering in context,' says Clint, 26.

'Engineering cannot take place in a vacuum. If you don't understand the end use of a product, including its retail value, how can you begin designing the concept?

'We are being introduced not only to the engineering principles behind manufacture, but also the way businesses operate.' Before starting the degree, Clint, from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, completed a one-year foundation course.

'That was excellent preparation, covering everything from computing and maths to electronics, mechanics and materials,' he says.

'But the pace picked up rapidly once the degree course began, with more practical sessions and a huge amount of information to absorb during lectures.

'The first year of many courses covers ground common to several engineering disciplines. So it is possible to transfer from one to another.

'One of our projects incorporating mechanical principles with electronics was to design a digital torque wrench. After working out the concept, we used the computer to draw the design. Then we built the electric circuitry and calibrated it before using milling wheels and lathes to fashion a piece of metal into the wrench.

'For me, engineering is transforming the natural and material environment to man's advantage.

This course provides the right combination of theoretical and practical skills to begin doing just that.' Clint has already become interested in robotics and would like to become a project controller, seeing the job through from early design to finished product.

'I suppose my ideal project would be to control a space vehicle that landed on Mars,' he says, 'to work out how to communicate with it and provide all the supporting sensory data.' Such challenging aspirations are typical of the enthusiasm generated by engineering

students.

The success of most new inventions relies on the talents of electrical and electronic engineers who are in great demand once they graduate.

Choosing a course that includes a year's work experience is a good way to gain firsthand knowledge of the commercial and industrial applications of what is being studied. …