In engineering, classes really start to build on them-selves. I am currently in Fluid Mechanics and there would be a lot of straight memorization if it weren’t for Thermodynamics, which I took last semester. The basic concepts are similar. Conservation of mass and energy is a topic that does not go away in Mechanical Engineering; conservation perseveres through the simplest and most challenging problems.
What I have learned in college is that if you can’t understand it in the simplest of terms then you probably don’t understand it at all. My physics 2 teacher would stop in the middle of class and say, “And this is how you would explain it to your kid brother or sister.” In kid’s terms the conservation of mass is “what goes in must come out.” The same can be said for the conservation of energy.
I’m currently studying for a Fluids four o’clock on Monday and one of the problems looks like this:
It’s a water stream directed at a dish that then sprays radially outward from the dish. The “real” math to this problem is all ideas that I learned in the very end of high school or the beginning of college, but the concepts behind it are much more fundamental. The volume of water sprayed at the center of the dish cannot be greater than the water leaving the dish if density does not change. Therefore VinAin=VoutAout.
While the mechanics might not interest you in this problem, I think it points to a truth about college. Yeah, some classes are really, really hard, but at the end of the day when you take the class you are usually already equipped with enough knowledge to understand the problem.