Mechanical engineering applies principles of mechanics, the study of heat and energy, an understanding of material behavior, and the application of design principles to create products and systems beneficial to society. The study of mechanical engineering is fundamental to all engineering disciplines. The major is broad-based, encompassing includes its applications in other areas of engineering. After completing the mechanical engineering program at the Naval Academy, one can study the structural mechanics of ships and aircraft, investigate the performance of gas turbine engines, understand the conversion of nuclear energy to power and develop advanced systems such as electromagnetic rail guns and directed energy weapons.
After taking fundamental courses in solid and fluid mechanics, materials, thermodynamics, heat transfer and design, a mechanical engineering major chooses elective courses to concentrate in one of three areas: energy and propulsion, structures and materials or nuclear energy. The major culminates with a capstone design experience in the first class year that provides midshipmen with a relevant, practical opportunity incorporating what they have learned into a single project. The program takes seriously the need to develop graduates who have a sound understanding of the design process and its importance in the success of engineering activities. Each capstone team is expected to design, build and test a mechanical system.
Laboratories and testing facilities dedicated to the mechanical engineering curriculum are numerous and varied. They include a subcritical nuclear reactor and engine testing facilities as well as materials, directed energy and a fluids laboratory. Capstone projects have included a solar powered boat, formula-style race car, hybrid fuel vehicle, robots, rail gun projectiles, human powered vehicles and composite bridges.
The mechanical engineering program prepares its graduates to assume responsibilities in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps which involve the operation and maintenance of highly technical systems. With a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, a Navy or Marine Corps officer is well prepared for a wide variety of career assignments both ashore and afloat. Operational sea billets in surface ships, submarines, and aircraft squadrons provide a wealth of opportunities for a mechanical engineer to develop practical engineering experience. The knowledge and skills of those with a background in mechanical engineering are in demand in naval service and civilian life.
As a student of mechanical engineering, learning will primarily take place via active problem-solving. Therefore, application and practice of analytical skills will be conducted in the classroom and laboratory. Written and oral communication skills are essential elements of engineering practice and are emphasized throughout the program. Computer programming skills will be employed to analyze and report data. Successful and satisfied engineering majors are often those that have a desire to understand how things work and how they can make them work better. In addition, a successful mechanical engineer must understand the mathematical and physical relationships that underlie engineering analysis and design.