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Tech careers - random question

 
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dornole
Geocacher


Joined: 03 Apr 2006

Posts: 461

PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2012 6:11 pm    Post subject: Tech careers - random question Reply with quote

Non caching related, but this seems to be my best access to a significant number of people in technical careers, so if anyone has advice that would be great.

I have this 17 year old son who tests as smart and can do some (to me) impressive stuff math-wise, like rotate images in his head like a CAD program, "just see" answers for geometry or trig problems, do long calculations in his head etc. But man he struggles with the abstract math. Ever since algebra, it is so painstaking and he doesn't seem to really get it and keeps asking "What is this for?" - like a concrete example he could picture. He gets through with a B- only if I tutor him like crazy. He's interested in some kind of technical career however. He is doing FIRST robotics and likes to fool around with various programming.

So I have a couple of questions for those of you working in a tech field. I ask as an ignorant liberal arts major:

--Doesn't he need to be able to get through calculus and beyond to get into and complete an engineering program, and to work as an engineer?

--How about computer programming, any more flexibility there?

--Other ideas?

Thanks if you have any insights.
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Pear Head
Past MnGCA President


Joined: 04 Apr 2004

Posts: 5699

PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2012 6:41 pm    Post subject: Re: Tech careers - random question Reply with quote

dornole wrote:
So I have a couple of questions for those of you working in a tech field. I ask as an ignorant liberal arts major:

--Doesn't he need to be able to get through calculus and beyond to get into and complete an engineering program, and to work as an engineer?

--How about computer programming, any more flexibility there?

--Other ideas?

Thanks if you have any insights.


I don't work in the tech field, but I do have a BS in Computer Science (and a Math minor).

If you're considering college, then I'd suggest talking to the college or reading up a little online.

Here's UMD's Computer Science requirements:

http://www.d.umn.edu/cs/degrees/underGrad/bscs/

I would anticipate engineering programs to all have similar math requirements (the Computer Science program requires up through Calc II).

I believe when I took the program (a long time ago now) you basically ended up with a Math minor with the required coursework (or perhaps I had to take one or two more classes).

I will warn you though that when I left college I had very little time to find a job before I considered myself out of date. I have a friend who moved to the cities and got a job in the field but I wasn't willing to move out of Duluth. Duluth didn't (doesn't) have entry-level jobs (or very very few), so I wasn't basically done in the field at that point. The skills I learned in some of the classes did help me in the job market down the road although the degree itself did not.

I know there is more and more discussion about if college is really worth it or not.
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Bunganator
Geocacher


Joined: 09 Apr 2008

Posts: 277

PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2012 12:30 am    Post subject: Re: Tech careers - random question Reply with quote

dornole wrote:
Non caching related, but this seems to be my best access to a significant number of people in technical careers, so if anyone has advice that would be great.

I have this 17 year old son who tests as smart and can do some (to me) impressive stuff math-wise, like rotate images in his head like a CAD program, "just see" answers for geometry or trig problems, do long calculations in his head etc. But man he struggles with the abstract math. Ever since algebra, it is so painstaking and he doesn't seem to really get it and keeps asking "What is this for?" - like a concrete example he could picture. He gets through with a B- only if I tutor him like crazy. He's interested in some kind of technical career however. He is doing FIRST robotics and likes to fool around with various programming.

So I have a couple of questions for those of you working in a tech field. I ask as an ignorant liberal arts major:

--Doesn't he need to be able to get through calculus and beyond to get into and complete an engineering program, and to work as an engineer?

--How about computer programming, any more flexibility there?

--Other ideas?

Thanks if you have any insights.


I currently teach high school math and have several engineering friends. For just about any engineering degree, he will likely need Calculus 1, 2, and 3. In addition to that, he will need to take Differential Equations, a sort of applied calculus class.

For computer science, Calculus 2 might be the most advanced.

My dad is an engineer who works with FIRST students, so I see a lot of what they do. If he likes that, then maybe he needs to just keep chugging through it, trying to get comfortable with it. If he is asking "What is this for", then there may be a problem on the teaching end. I could go one for hours about what it is for, but if HE is interested in engineering and programming, then he may already knows what it is for in the big picture, but the struggles to see its use on a smaller scale.

Hopefully that answers some of your questions or is at least a tad helpful.
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KRedEP
Geocacher


Joined: 03 Aug 2007

Posts: 784

PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2012 12:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can agree with most all of what is said above. I have two kids earning/have earned engineering degrees both at different schools and had to go through Calculas III and Differential Equations, as well as other Engineering/Math classes (Statics). There is a value to learning Calculus, and as a computer/business degree I know for example, it was used in managing inventory.

Having his visual/spatial awareness is quite a gift and I wish you/him well in finding his nitch. Maybe finding one or several mentors that he could do some job shadowing could help with his inspiration? Maybe the high school counselor could help in this area?
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sir_zman
Past MnGCA Board


Joined: 30 Jun 2005

Posts: 1763

PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2012 4:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not much to add here...I was in a Computer Science Major in college and it did require calculas, but in my Jr. year I switched to a program called Business Computer Information Systems. This was at St. Cloud State, they offer something similar now but with a different name...I would say most degrees that are Information Systems based won't require Calculus, so Management Information Systems (MIS) or something like that will get you programming experience, and systems experience and are good all around careers...I started out as a programmer out of college, and now for the past 10 years or so, I've been a Database Administrator and really love doing that.
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dornole
Geocacher


Joined: 03 Apr 2006

Posts: 461

PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2012 5:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, this is all really helpful. I did look at some of the college sites and it's helpful to get the distinctions between some of the paths in terms of math chops, needed for example the MIS path that was mentioned. Looking into some technical college options as well. Need to get going with the HS counselor to start to plan. It sems like the strengths he does have should be good for something.

Thanks for the replies and I appreciate any more that people have to add.
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A-body
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Joined: 26 Jun 2009

Posts: 145

PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2012 8:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It seems like everyone is focused on going to college these days, and getting an engineering degree. That was not the case 40 years ago, more people went to technical schools. With the abilities you say he has, a career as a mechanical drafter may be his ticket. You need math, but I never took a course in calc. Most companies use a 3D modeling program called ProE. I moved away from the mechanical drafting to electrical drafting many years ago, and went into circuit board layout. An livable wage can be made in either field, and I have no regrets.
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Bunganator
Geocacher


Joined: 09 Apr 2008

Posts: 277

PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2012 8:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A-body wrote:
It seems like everyone is focused on going to college these days, and getting an engineering degree. That was not the case 40 years ago, more people went to technical schools. With the abilities you say he has, a career as a mechanical drafter may be his ticket. You need math, but I never took a course in calc. Most companies use a 3D modeling program called ProE. I moved away from the mechanical drafting to electrical drafting many years ago, and went into circuit board layout. An livable wage can be made in either field, and I have no regrets.


I agree. Dakota County Technical College has some sweet programs like auto work, nanoscience, and electrical work. That type of environment could be great for someone with a great visual mind.
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bflentje
Geocacher


Joined: 29 May 2006

Posts: 4041

PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 8:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bunganator wrote:
A-body wrote:
It seems like everyone is focused on going to college these days, and getting an engineering degree. That was not the case 40 years ago, more people went to technical schools. With the abilities you say he has, a career as a mechanical drafter may be his ticket. You need math, but I never took a course in calc. Most companies use a 3D modeling program called ProE. I moved away from the mechanical drafting to electrical drafting many years ago, and went into circuit board layout. An livable wage can be made in either field, and I have no regrets.


I agree. Dakota County Technical College has some sweet programs like auto work, nanoscience, and electrical work. That type of environment could be great for someone with a great visual mind.


DCTC also offers a couple of technical paths in network management, which given a good work ethic, can be quite lucrative.

I was an engineering student up until my senior year when I decided I was done. I was in the Chem Eng program at the UofM and the required Calculus was pretty heavy. The math was managable but getting much tougher for me into that 5th year. I wimped out and quit when I had enough for a B.S. in chemistry. Now I work in the financial industry as a .NET and SQL programmer. Strong math is still required but can't remember the last time I needed to do any work with multivariable differential equations. Ughh.
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RudeRat
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Joined: 09 Jul 2008

Posts: 796

PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 12:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a student, I took all the math including calculus. As a programmer, I coded the formulas. As a designer I incorporated the formulas into the systems, as a project manager I never touched them. While most mathematical formulas were usually provided by the users, it sure helped if you understood them. If you want something really challenging, try designing something from the goto logic of tax code. Nobody understands that stuff, not even the IRS. Three calls, three different answers to the same question. At least calculus is a constant.
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ghost640
Geocacher


Joined: 03 Nov 2006

Posts: 270

PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 8:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If he's good with spatial stuff, I'd look into Geographic Information Sciences - the math is sensible (sorry, I'm calculus-adverse too) and useful (you can find places 0.1 mi from other places). At higher levels it involves a fair amount of scripting and programming. And it's pretty decent career-wise, all kinds of agencies and corporations use GIS, and college certificate programs and majors are relatively new things - UMD is just developing one. Handy for puzzle caches too!
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