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Student's Frequently Asked Questions

Every year we receive multiple emails from students researching engineering as a career choice and/or have questions related to a class project. Every list of questions is slightly different and when we receive many of these requests the replies become very time consuming. Rather than responding individually to each email, we have created this FAQ page that addresses the most common questions. The answers to the following questions are coming from Billy Wight, President of Luxon Engineering. Billy's perspective is somewhat different from the average mechanical engineer as he is not only responsible for some of the engineering tasks, he is also responsible for running the business.

Schooling and Preparation

What engineering discipline did you graduate in?

I earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California at San Diego.

When you study one type of engineering, do you experience any of the other types of engineering?

Yes, most engineering disciplines overlap to some extent. Since we are in product development, there is a lot of overlap. Many products are not only mechanical, but also utilize electronics and firmware/software.

To what extent do the knowledge and principles of that discipline apply to your job?

I am constantly using mechanical engineering principles in our work. The projects we work on vary with each client, so sometimes we’re working in one area of mechanical engineering; fluid dynamics with heat transfer and thermodynamics for example, then we’ll move on to a different project that is in a completely different area of mechanical engineering like materials science and structural mechanics.

Is mechanical engineering as hands on as they make it seem?

It depends on how you classify “hands-on”. While most work is done on the computer, it is usually analysis or design work directly related to the project. Of course there is time spent manufacturing and testing designs so that is very hands-on.

I have been taught in school that creativity would be one of the biggest factors in engineering; how true is this?

Creativity is extremely important in engineering. The ability to come up with solutions to a problem is what engineering is all about and this requires the engineer to be creative.

Work Life

What are some of the projects you've worked on?

We work on a variety of projects ranging from medical and laboratory devices (genetic sequencing, tissue harvesting, etc.), consumer electronics (cell phone chargers), energy related projects (industrial solar installations, nuclear fusion reactors), racecars, and much more.

Do you have long projects, or are they usually pretty quick?

It’s highly dependent on the project. We’ve had projects that last only a couple of hours and other projects that have lasted multiple years.

Do you work alone or with people or in teams?

It is project dependent, bigger and longer projects typically have a team involved.

In what kind of environment is work done, indoors or outdoors?

Most work is indoors behind a computer.

How much of your time is spent on the computer?

The majority of my time is spent on the computer, I would estimate about 80%. The remainder is typically spent manufacturing and testing prototypes.

What percentage of your time is/was spent in the various engineering job functions (design, test, development, management, etc.)?

It is very project dependent. Some the projects only require basic design work, others we mostly perform testing or analysis. In most projects we do a bit of everything. All of them involve some sort of management to ensure the project is moving in the right direction, on schedule, and within budget.

How many hours do you work per week?

I work a lot since I’m the business owner, typically 60-80 hours per week. An average engineer would work 40-50 hours per week.

What are the advantages of this occupation?

The wide variety of projects keeps things interesting as you’re not always doing the same thing. Our work environment is quite laid back so it’s a fairly relaxed atmosphere.

Are there disadvantages?

Long hours and high stress at times.

What is your most satisfying experience so far?

I would say that the medical device projects are the most satisfying. It feels good to know that these products are going into market and helping people. Most of the work I do has a positive effect on people in one way or another so it’s all pretty satisfying.

Are there advancement opportunities?

Yes, from an employee standpoint an engineer starts at a basic position doing basic things, and can advance through to senior engineer doing more advanced design and analysis, and finally up to project manager responsible for management of the engineering projects and the engineers working on them.

Does your profession require traveling frequently?

Travel requirements are largely dependent on the project. Most travel, if required at all, is in the US, and most of that in California. I probably travel once every few months.


Does where you live make a difference in your salary?

Yes, this is pretty typical for most industries. In general, the higher the cost of living, the higher the salary is.

Were there any tests or licenses you had to get before becoming an engineer?

Aside from the college degree, there is the FE (fundamentals of engineering) certificate you can earn, and after that a professional engineering license. These are generally not required, but are certainly nice to have and can bring more opportunities.

Do you know about employment opportunities for people my age? (High School)

It’s hard to find employment in the engineering field at that age. You will probably have better luck with a year or two into college trying to get an internship, but in the mean time I recommend learning some basic fabrication skills like machining, welding, etc. Hands-on experience and understanding how things are manufactured is very important in engineering.

Do you have advice for someone coming into this field? Any general tips or advice? What are the requirements? What skills do I have to build up? What kind of training I need?

Here are a few tips:

  • You will want to get a degree in Mechanical Engineering – a bachelor’s degree at the minimum, but that is typically enough to get you a decent job in the field.
  • Get as much experience as possible throughout school. An internship working for a local engineering company is a good idea. Also look into engineering clubs or societies at the school.
  • Hands on experience working with tools are a definite plus. General hand tools and general mechanic knowledge is good. Also, fabrication experience is a big plus – machining, welding, etc.
  • You will need a heavy math and physics background. The school will guide you through all the classes you need to take.
  • Have good social skills and don’t be afraid to talk in public or to people of a high authority. Most engineers have a lot of trouble with this…
  • It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but try to resist the urge to simply just get by and do well in your classes. Every engineer has passed their classes and gotten a degree. You need to do something to set yourself apart from all the others.
  • The number one thing is to make sure you enjoy what you and the rest will come easy.