You may be able to obtain part-time or summer work in a machine shop or factory. This type of work usually consists of sweeping floors and clearing out machine tools, but it will also give you an opportunity to view the field firsthand and also demonstrates your interest to future employers. Field trips to industrial laboratories, drafting studios, or manufacturing facilities can offer overall views of this type of work. Hobbies like automobile repair, model making, and electronic kit assembly can also be helpful. Finally, if you are in high school and interested in the engineering field, consider joining the Technology Student Association (TSA), which provides students a chance to explore career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, enter academic competitions, and participate in summer exploration programs. TSA administers a competition called the Tests of Engineering, Aptitude, Mathematics, and Science (TEAMS, https://tsaweb.org/teams) that allows high school students to demonstrate their technology skills.
Mechanical engineering technicians are employed in a broad range of industries. Technicians may specialize in any one of many areas including biomedical equipment, measurement and control, products manufacturing, solar energy, turbo machinery, energy resource technology, and engineering materials and technology.
Within each application, a technician may be involved with various aspects of the work. One phase is research and development. In this area, the mechanical technician may assist an engineer or scientist in the design and development of anything from a ballpoint pen to a sophisticated measuring device. These technicians prepare rough sketches and layouts of the project being developed.
In the design of an automobile engine, for example, engineering technicians make drawings that detail the fans, pistons, connecting rods, and flywheels to be used in the engine. They estimate cost and operational qualities of each part, taking into account friction, stress, strain, and vibration. By performing these tasks, they free the engineer to accomplish other research activities.
A second common type of work for mechanical engineering technicians is testing. For products such as engines, motors, or other moving devices, technicians may set up prototypes of the equipment to be tested and run performance tests. Some tests require one procedure to be done repeatedly, while others require that equipment be run over long periods of time to observe any changes in operation. Technicians collect and compile all necessary data from the testing procedures and prepare reports for the engineer or scientist.
In order to manufacture a product, preparations must be made for its production. In this effort, mechanical engineering technicians assist in the product design by making final design layouts and detailed drawings of parts to be manufactured and of any special manufacturing equipment needed. Some test and inspect machines and equipment or work with engineers to eliminate production problems.
Other mechanical engineering technicians examine plans and drawings to determine what materials are needed and prepare lists of these materials, specifying quality, size, and strength. They also may estimate labor costs, equipment life, and plant space needed. After the product is manufactured, some mechanical engineering technicians may help solve storage and shipping problems, while others assist in customer relations when product installation is required.
Some engineering technicians work with tool designers, who prepare sketches of designs for cutting tools, jigs, special fixtures, and other devices used in mass production. Frequently, they redesign existing tools to improve their efficiency.