A look at the present trends among students in choosing engineering disciplines.
Space shuttles and fighter planes have always fascinated him and the interest accentuated when one of his uncles, a commander with the U.S. defence forces, told him the nitty-gritty about the C-130, an old plane.
“I have an interest in physics and mathematics, which helped me understand its working and design better,” says Rahul Vishwanathan. For him, ‘aeronautical engineering’ was an obvious choice on his counselling date. “I would have ideally chosen aerospace engineering, but I wanted to be in a college under Anna University.” The student wishes to pursue research in aero-mechanical engineering after his course and has a plan ready. “I know it is silly to expect a job here after graduation. I have to make sure I get admission in one of the four reputed colleges in the U.S. that offer the specialisation.”
An inclination to research and tremendous interest in a specific field are not what you often see in class XII students, who are merely expected to join a particular course after school. While the popular courses such as ECE, computer science and mechanical engineering have never found fewer takers, niche branches of engineering such as aeronautical engineering, automobile engineering, ceramic engineering, transportation engineering, plastic and textile technology, biomedical engineering have come a long way in the last few years. An IIT- Madras professor recalls how a few years ago, students would never choose aerospace engineering, but now the discipline is one of the most sought after courses in the campus.
But is the situation is not the same everywhere. The recent Anna University counselling that ended last week showed that aeronautical, automobile and biotech engineering were the least preferred among students. V. Rhymend Uthariaraj, secretary, TNEA Admissions, said, “This time, students have chosen to go for core branches of engineering. Mechanical engineering after five years has emerged the top choice of students.”
A lot of it also has to do with the present trends on choosing courses. For instance, though students consider getting a mechanical engineering seat is an achievement, most would not go for production engineering in the university, and opt for a mechanical engineering seat in a self-financed college. “They think the degree would do but the college may not have the skilled faculty and the workshops to impart mechanical skills to them. The syllabus of production engineering is quite similar to mechanical engineering but students keep it as their last choice,” said Prof. Uthariaraj.
Is good college the only key?
Often, this is the case with other branches of engineering including rubber, plastic and ceramic technologies. “The idea is to get into a good college with a good campus record so that we get placed in an IT company, irrespective of the branch,” says a student who opted for ceramic technology in Anna University recently. Another student, Lakshmi Kumar, says “I like to know about processes to convert raw materials into useful products through the application of chemistry or manufacturing commodities in a safe and environmentally-friendly manner.”
“Ideally, I should go for chemical engineering, but I don’t know if the colleges that I can get into with my marks will have the facilities,” says the student, who chose civil engineering in a private college. “The safer thing is to go for the allied core course. I can always branch out later if my interest persists.”
Many senior professors are of the view that studying core branches such as electrical engineering or mechanical engineering is better than going for specialised branches. D. Gopalakrishnan, former professor, with Anna University, says more than giving a strong foundation to the student’s understanding of concepts, core engineering subjects can help him have a variety of options to choose from. “Four years give the student enough time to understand where his interests lie,” he says.
Keep the long-term in mind
Branches of engineering such as mechatronics, computer electronics, and instrumentation are not as popular here as they are in other parts of the country and even abroad. For students, though, ‘being safe’ seems to be high on the priority list. But for many like Ramya Jayakumar, who opted for biomedical engineering at SRM University, it is also about the long-term planning and a carefully-evaluated decision. “All engineering disciplines seek to further our quality of life, however, what interests me in bioengineering is that it can directly affect and improve health and well-being. But having a clear idea of how you would pursue this interest is important. Getting into an IT firm after spending so much on specialised education can be quite disappointing.”