To some, the concept of an online mechanical engineering degree program may be entirely foreign. To be sure, mechanical engineering is a traditionally hands-on field, often involving direct oversight from instructors, both of which may seem impossible to achieve over the Internet.
However, there are numerous online mechanical engineering programs that still provide students with an interactive experience without the need for in-classroom instruction. And these programs may be the best option for certain candidates; specifically, those who may benefit from an online mechanical engineering program may include those who lack physical access to a quality program or those with busy schedules and are interested in completing courses at night, on the weekends, or in other periods of free time. That being said, individuals interested in such an online program should be self-starters, those who thrive in situations without constant guidance and the benefits that come with a classroom full of peers. Furthermore, these students should be able to adhere to deadlines without constant reminders from professors or advisors on campus.
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It may come as surprise to some, but online mechanical engineering degree programs certainly attract high-quality educators with significant experience in the field. The following is a list of five influential mechanical engineering professors who teach online classes.
Sunil Agrawal directs the robotics and rehabilitation laboratory at Columbia University in the City of New York. His research includes "free-floating space robots," "flapping-wing micro air vehicles," "cable-actuated robotic platforms," and more.
J. Keith Nisbett is an associate professor and the associate chair for mechanical engineering at the Missouri University of Science & Technology. He focuses on kinematics, mechanical design, and mechanism synthesis, and has received credit for eight publications.
Hashem Ashrafiuon is a professor and the director of the Center for Nonlinear Dynamics & Control at Villanova University. His research topics include autonomous surface vessels, sliding mode control, underactuated systems, and more.
Narayana Aluru is the director of computational science and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has held numerous academic positions at the same institution and has been the recipient of various awards for over 15 years.
David Barnett is a professor of materials science and engineering, and of mechanical engineering at Stanford University. In 2012 he received the A. Cemal Eringen Award from the Society for Engineering Science, and he is the author of over 125 technical articles on the topic of dislocations and waves in anisotropic elastic and piezoelectric media.
If you are considering applying for an online mechanical engineering program, it is important to know what to expect during the application process. Of course, specifics may vary depending on the institution, although the process may look similar overall.
For undergraduate degrees, the application can typically be completed online, and will generally require a completion of a personal essay, a completed resume and academic transcript, a record of SAT scores, as well as any other information pursuant to the school’s requirements. Prospective students should also expect to submit one or more letters of recommendation from teachers or other professional references. Although deadlines may vary, many schools have an early admissions deadline in November, a deadline for regular decision candidates in January or shortly thereafter, and a deposit deadline in May or in the early summer. The end of June or beginning of July usually marks the deadline for the submission of final transcripts for graduating seniors.
For graduate degree programs, the admission requirements are similar overall, although there will be certain key differences. For example, instead of requiring an SAT score for admission, a school will instead ask for the applicant’s graduate record examination (GRE) scores. Of course, the graduate institution will also ask for the prospective student’s undergraduate transcript, as well, along with a record of all undergraduate schools attended. Again, depending on the school, the admissions requirements may vary, although this should act as a basic guideline of what to expect when undertaking the process.
Like many other fields of study, mechanical engineering programs are able to receive accreditation by an accrediting body. In general, all highly-respected online mechanical engineering degree programs will receive an accreditation, generally through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Here, it is important to understand that accreditation is not achieved through any system of payment; instead, accreditation is considered a peer-review process, not facilitated by the government, that assures the quality of the education students are to receive. Schools are not forced to undergo the accreditation process; it is on a volunteer basis only.
Accreditation is also an important aspect if a prospective student hopes to one-day pursue a professional license as an engineer. To be sure, engineers are able to earn a license as a professional engineer from the National Society of Professional Engineers; however, these are only awarded to those individuals who have earned a four-year degree from an accredited engineering program. And while it is not necessary to earn a professional license to work as an engineer in the most basic capacity, this licensure is required for anyone who wishes to submit plans or have any semblance of responsibility for their work.
To earn a degree in mechanical engineering, the student must pass classes in all classes pursuant to the requirements of the individual school. And while this will certainly vary by institution, generally prospective students should expect to take classes in thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, engineering concept and engineering design, engineering mechanics, mechanics of solids, classical control systems, and more. Students will also likely be required to participate in various labs through the engineering program (although this may vary for specific online programs). Furthermore, like any other degree, students in the undergraduate level should expect to take elective classes as well to fulfill other requirements.
And while undergraduate degrees may not offer much in the realm of specialization (a degree in mechanical engineering is generally the ultimate outcome), those pursuing graduate degrees, either master’s or doctorate degrees, often have the choice to specialize in a distinct field. For example, a master’s student may decide to focus on energy systems or robotics and control, both subsets of the general study of mechanical engineering again, this depends on the specific institution. Those graduate students who choose not to specialize can expect to have a course load that mirrors that of the undergraduate level, albeit more intensified and geared towards the goals of the master’s program.
Not all online mechanical engineering programs are equal; in fact, some have received high acclaim from numerous sources and for a variety of reasons. The following includes a list of five of the most highly regarded online mechanical engineering programs available to students today.
Columba University in the City of New York allows students to pursue an all-online graduate degree in mechanical engineering. Students may obtain a master’s or a doctorate degree in mechanical engineering, as well as a certification in manufacturing engineering and in sustainable energy.
Gerard. A. Ateshian is a professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia University. He is the chair of the department and performs research in a variety of fields related to engineering.
James Hone was recently named the Wang Fon-Jen Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University. His group currently retains three research trusts on different fields of study.
Through the Georgia Institute of Technology, prospective students can obtain a master’s degree in mechanical engineering by solely completing online courses. This program is partially intended to help students “learn methods of advanced analysis appropriate for professionals to use when solving problems.”
Cyrus K. Aidun is a professor of fluid mechanics at the Georgia Institute of Technology. His research focuses on direct numerical simulation of suspension hydrodynamics, and was previously a senior research consultant at Cornell University.
S. Mostafa Ghiaasiaan is a professor of heat transfer, combustion and energy systems at Georgia Institute of Technology. He has performed research various issues involving thermal/fluid science.
Kansas State University allows students to obtain a master’s degree in mechanical engineering without ever needing to travel to the campus. Courses are available for students who reside both in and outside of the United States.
B. Terry Beck is a professor of mechanical engineering at Kansas State University. Along with authoring numerous articles in the past years, he has received four notable awards since 2002, including the Snell Distinguished Career Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
William Dunn is the department head and the Steven. M. and Kay L. Theede chair in engineering. His research focuses on radiation measurement and applications; Monte Carlo methods and applications; and mathematical modeling and inverse analysis.
Students may choose to pursue a blended degree from Michigan Technological University, in which they attend classes on campus and online; or they may simply choose to study online. The Department of Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at this school has been selected as the first mechanical engineering program in the Peace Corps Master’s International Program.
Jeffrey S. Allen is the John & Joan Calder Professor of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics at Michigan Technological University. He has numerous recent publications and specializes in capillary flow, interfacial transport phenomena, fuel cells, phase-change heat transfer, and microgravity fluid physics.
Ezra Bar-Ziv is a professor of mechanical engineering at the Michigan Technological University. His areas of expertise include clean coal combustion, fuel switching in coal power plans, and torrefaction and pyrolysis of biomass..
Southern Methodist University allows students to obtain a master’s in mechanical engineering through its online-only program; this is available for those who live outside of Dallas, or professionals in Dallas who dont want to disrupt their work schedules.
Ali Beskok is the department chair and professor of mechanical engineering. His research focuses on the theory, experiments, and numerical modeling of micro- and nano-scale thermal/fluidic transport processes.
Radovan Kovcevic is the director of the research center for advanced manufacturing and center for laser-aided manufacturing, as well as the Herman Brown Chair Professor. He has helped author over 560 publications..
Depending on the campus, the student may be required to visit once or more times per year for certain reasons, from general discussions with an advisor or for turning in final projects. Or, in some cases, students may choose to pursue the degree without ever arriving at the school. For example, both Southern Methodist University and Kansas State University offer programs wherein students are never required to set foot on the campus.
Finally, there are certain other factors that are highly important to consider when pursuing an online mechanical engineering degree. Students should aim to participate in a program that offers post-graduation job placement assistance, as well as the option to discuss questions or concerns with faculty or an advisor, either in-person or through other technological means. These will help ensure the student has a successful career after completion of the online degree.
As with other engineering disciplines, mechanical engineering is complex, and the success of a mechanical engineering project can often be mission-critical. Given that, it is essential to learn from the best, and these professors represent the most accomplished and involved in the field, ready to inspire and impart their knowledge to a new generation of engineers.