Engineers can do hands-on things?
By Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
December 19, 2017

Travis Johnson, Technical Systems Management student in the Department of ABE shares his #ACESstory!

Engineers can do hands-on things?

Yes – they can!

These days, companies are cutting back and looking for more versatile employees.  If a potential employee can solve engineering problems and also have hands-on skills, that’s the employee that an employer wants.  Plus, doing hands-on work ensures that the engineer doesn’t forget about critical things such as assembly processes and maintenance procedures. 

One of the biggest advantages of ABE at Illinois is the amount of hands-on work that you can do.  Many classes in both the ABE and TSM majors offer a number of classes where the engineering students are designing, building, fixing, and maintaining systems.  One class that teaches students both sides of the story is TSM 233 - Welding and Metallurgy Processes.  In the classroom, we learn the theory behind many types of welding processes and different metallurgy techniques.  These ideas are then applied in the lab.  That’s where the real fun is.

For my project in that class, I decided to build an acoustic guitar from steel.  Using sheets of 16-gauge steel and a gas metal arc welder, more commonly known as a MIG welder, I constructed the body of the guitar and attached a premade guitar neck.  A pickguard was cut from a copper sheet and attached to the front via rivets.  A trim ring was made from 1/8” steel rod and bent into a circle, welded together, and then forged flat. 

Who knew that in an agricultural and biological engineering class, you could weld together an acoustic guitar?  Not only is this cool, but these hands-on skills and experience are exactly what employers are looking for.  There has been a long-time gap between engineers who design the systems and the technicians that assemble and maintain the systems.  With this department, you can work on both sides of that gap, and become the bridge between the two.

In an industry environment where companies are constantly cutting positions, outsourcing, and looking for people who can design systems and people who can build them, why not give yourself the best advantage you can by having experience with both?