Steering Students Toward Mechanical Sciences

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You know the kids who would rather be taking something apart and putting it back together again. The kids who are happier in a workshop than in a traditional classroom. Isn’t it exciting that there’s a career path perfect for them?

Enjoyment, fulfillment and success don’t always come from sitting behind a desk – these students know that already. For those who need to work with their hands, feel the rumble of machinery under their feet, and experience the satisfaction of a broken system whirring back to life, careers that fall under the mechanical sciences designation are tantamount to success.

A lot of times, the people who feel stifled in a traditional classroom will feel the same way in a suit and tie. Fortunately, many mechanical sciences careers begin with training that’s hands-on rather than theoretical – students and apprentices can spend time under the hood of a car, atop a wind turbine or on a construction site rather than in a lecture hall.

Mechanical science work isn’t all oil changes, forklift operation and rewiring – it’s working on Formula One racers, electric cars, solar and renewable energy sources, or being involved in building a new football dome. It’s a field full of problem-solving, the culmination of years of experience, and the upkeep of enviable, specialized skills. It can be solitary, almost meditational work, or jovial, boisterous collaboration.

It means helping others stay safe and comfortable, combining a passion with a profession, and job opportunities almost anywhere.

Because the world runs on mechanics – from cars to airplanes to pipes and refrigeration units – those able to service them will always be in demand. Even as technology promises to change the way our vehicles, homes and offices run, the need for mechanical science persists. In 2014, there were an estimated 260 million running cars on US roads. Construction of homes and commercial buildings is flourishing. New energy-efficient technology is opening up new career opportunities every year – employment of wind turbine technicians, for example, is fastest-growing occupation in the US.

Many people who choose a mechanical sciences career path have felt drawn to it since childhood, when they spend Sunday mornings under the hood of a classic car with a grandparent, but others might not realize they’re a perfect fit. As a counselor, it’s your job to help steer them toward a career in mechanical sciences. Which of your students is a best fit?

Personality traits of successful mechanical professionals

When it comes to helping students decide on a career path, written personality tests alone can only help so much. While they may provide a handful of career options the student had never considered before (or confirm options he’d already been considering), the questions are often either too specific or too vague to be truly helpful. Plus, it’s common for test-takers to answer based on what they wish was true of their personality and predilections, rather than what is actually true – whether consciously or not. Admissions professionals can work with students to discuss aspects of their personalities, work habits and life goals to determine which fields would be right for them, and which specific professions within those fields.

For students looking to begin a career in mechanical sciences, the following personality traits can help predict happiness and success in the field:

Active and tough: Mechanical science workers are far from sedentary. While there is generally some desk-based work involved in the job, like ordering parts, filling out forms and invoicing, the majority of a mechanic’s job is hands-on. Whether their days are spent under the hood of a car, on the wing of an airplane or driving around town to service varying HVAC systems, mechanical workers are often getting their hands dirty and working up a sweat.

Customer-focused. Mechanical science workers have a skillset that is foreign to many people. It can be intimidating for the general population to take their cars in to get serviced, because they worry about being confused, taken advantage of, or surprised with an exorbitant bill. A great mechanic is someone who can put these customers at ease and treat them all fairly and equally. A warm, friendly personality, the ability to translate technical jargon into understandable terms, and compassion for customers who feel out of their element are all crucial to success in the field.

Technically-minded: These days, mechanical science isn’t all physical parts like gears, wires, filters and ducts. As technology infiltrates more and more systems, things like motors, thermostats, pumps and fans are all run by computers. So while mechanics still need to be comfortable tightening, fastening and retrofitting, they also need to be comfortable reading and understanding the technology that supports so many car, airline and buildings systems.

Mechanically intuitive: Diagnostic computers can only do so much – being able to see, hear and feel how an engine or system is running, and understand a problem or potential problem is almost second nature to many mechanical scientists. Often, this ability is innate, but the right training and experience can turn it into a true skill.

Practical and logical: Being able to isolate where and why a problem started and how it affected the systems around it is a crucial skill for almost any area of mechanical science. The ability to think through breakdowns and solutions in the correct order is vital to mechanical problem-solving.

Patient and composed: Workers in this field often run into situations where their first (and second, and third …) attempt to solve a problem or fix an issue doesn’t work. As an expert on mechanical systems, this can be frustrating – but the best employees don’t deal by throwing tools or kicking tires. They let the stress roll off their backs, call in a coworker or supervisor to talk through new potential solutions, and try again. The satisfaction of eventually getting it right is thrilling to most mechanics, technicians and operators.

Enjoying the journey: Teaching Mechanical Sciences students

Sometimes, school can be stressful for the kids who end up in mechanical sciences careers. Traditional learning methods might be difficult for them to sit through, and normal testing might not show off their exceptional skills. But school doesn’t have to be stressful! Work with your students’ teachers to ensure they’re getting instruction in ways that help them blossom.

Kids who choose mechanical sciences careers are often best taught in the following two learning styles:

Physical: Physical learners do best when they’re able to use their bodies and hands in the classroom. Instructors can use hands-on learning, working models and professional computer programs to simulate real-world mechanical science. These students thrive in instances where real-world aviation, automotive, electrical and metalwork equipment and tools can be used for training purposes.

Logical: Logical learners aren’t necessarily afraid to think outside the box, but they want to know why and how it makes sense to do so. For them, problem-solving isn’t about throwing solutions at the wall to see what sticks, but rather about understanding why A+B=D, when it should equal C. According to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory, these learners need to “understand the underlying principles of some kind of causal system.”

Need additional resources to help guide your students toward success in the mechanical sciences field? Contact the Imagine America Foundation today!


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