The Most Difficult Subject in Mechanical Engineering: Ranking the Toughest Challenges

Choose the subject you think is the most difficult!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Apr 7, 2024 06:41
Mechanical Engineering marvels have shaped our world, but have you ever wondered which subject within this fascinating field is the most challenging? At StrawPoll, we're diving deep into the gears of Mechanical Engineering to rank the toughest subjects that truly test the mettle of aspiring engineers. From Thermodynamics to Machine Design, Fluid Mechanics to Material Sciences, we've assembled a collection of subjects that truly push the boundaries of knowledge and skills. Now it's your turn to cast your vote and let your voice be heard as we seek to discover the ultimate challenge in Mechanical Engineering! Don't see your nemesis subject on the list? No problem! Suggest a missing option and join the heated debate. Click below to participate and uncover the most arduous subject in the realm of Mechanical Engineering!

What Is the Most Difficult Subject in Mechanical Engineering?

  1. 1
    It is a fundamental subject that deals with the relationship between heat, work, energy, and temperature. It is difficult because it involves complex mathematical calculations and abstract concepts that are hard to visualize.
    Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with the study of heat, energy, and their transformation in various systems. It focuses on understanding and describing the behavior of macroscopic systems, such as gases, liquids, and solids, in terms of their thermal properties and equilibrium states.
    • First Law of Thermodynamics: Conservation of energy: Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred or converted.
    • Second Law of Thermodynamics: Entropy: In isolated systems, the entropy (degree of disorder) never decreases.
    • Thermodynamic Equilibrium: A state where macroscopic variables, such as temperature and pressure, remain constant.
    • Enthalpy: A measure of heat energy within a system, including both internal energy and pressure-volume work.
    • Carnot Cycle: The most efficient cycle possible for converting heat energy into work.
  2. 2
    Fluid Mechanics
    Hoo0 at English Wikipedia · Public domain

    Fluid Mechanics

    Leonardo da Vinci
    It deals with the study of fluids, including their behavior, properties, and interactions with different surfaces. It is challenging because it involves complicated equations and requires a deep understanding of mathematics and physics.
    Fluid Mechanics is a branch of engineering that deals with the behavior of fluids, both liquids and gases, at rest and in motion. It involves the study of fluid properties, fluid dynamics, and fluid flow behavior in various engineering applications.
    • Fundamental Concepts: Fluid properties, such as density, pressure, and viscosity.
    • Fluid Statics: Study of fluids at rest, including pressure distribution and buoyancy.
    • Fluid Dynamics: Study of fluids in motion, involving forces, velocity, and acceleration calculations.
    • Conservation Laws: Application of mass, energy, and momentum principles to fluid systems.
    • Flow Analysis: Analysis of fluid flow patterns, including laminar and turbulent flows.
    Fluid Mechanics in other rankings
  3. 3
    It involves designing and analyzing complex systems that control the behavior of mechanical devices, including robots and machines. It is challenging because it requires a strong background in mathematics and electrical engineering.
    Control Systems is a course in Engineering that focuses on the mathematical modeling, analysis, and design of dynamic systems. It deals with the study of how to control the behavior of systems using various techniques and strategies.
    • Complexity: Control Systems is known for its high complexity as it involves advanced mathematical concepts and nonlinear dynamics.
    • Mathematical Modeling: The course emphasizes the development of mathematical models to represent real-world systems and their behaviors.
    • Feedback Control: It explores the principles and techniques of feedback control, which play a crucial role in maintaining system stability and achieving desired performance.
    • System Analysis: The course teaches methods to analyze the behavior of control systems, including stability analysis, transient response, frequency response, and stability margins.
    • Controller Design: It covers techniques for designing controllers that can effectively regulate the behavior of systems and meet desired performance specifications.
    Control Systems in other rankings
  4. 4

    Mechanics of Materials

    James M. Gere, Barry J. Goodno
    It deals with the behavior of different materials under different loads, stresses, and strains. It is challenging because it involves complex equations and requires a thorough understanding of material science and mathematics.
    Mechanics of Materials is a branch of mechanical engineering that deals with the behavior of solid objects subjected to various external forces. It involves the study of the relationship between the external forces acting on a body and the resulting deformation and stress within the material. This subject plays a crucial role in designing and analyzing the performance of structures and mechanical components.
    • Stress and Strain: Analyze the behavior of materials under applied forces and deformations.
    • Axial Loading: Study the stress and strain caused by axial forces on structural members.
    • Torsion: Examine the twisting effect on solid objects subjected to torsional forces.
    • Bending: Analyze the behavior of beams and other structural components under bending loads.
    • Shear Stress and Deflection: Understand the shear stress and deflection in beams due to applied forces.
  5. 5
    It involves designing and analyzing mechanical systems and components, including gears, bearings, and shafts. It is challenging because it requires a deep understanding of material science, physics, and mathematics.
    Machine design is a branch of mechanical engineering that focuses on the design, analysis, and creation of machines. It involves applying engineering principles and concepts to design efficient and reliable machines for various industries and applications.
    • Interdisciplinary Nature: Machine design integrates knowledge from various engineering fields, including materials science, dynamics, kinematics, thermodynamics, and others.
    • Design Process: Machine design follows a systematic design process that involves problem identification, conceptualization, analysis, detailed design, and evaluation.
    • Functional Requirements: Machine design focuses on understanding and meeting the functional requirements of the machine, including its intended purpose, performance, safety, and reliability.
    • Structural Integrity: The design of machines should ensure structural integrity, considering factors such as load capacity, stress analysis, and material selection.
    • Material Selection: Machine design requires selecting appropriate materials based on their mechanical properties, durability, cost, and other considerations.
  6. 6
    It involves the design, development, and operation of robots and robotic systems. It is challenging because it involves a wide range of disciplines, including mechanical, electrical, and software engineering.
    Robotics is an interdisciplinary field of science and engineering that involves the design, development, programming, and application of robots. It encompasses various aspects of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, and artificial intelligence. Robotics aims to create intelligent machines that can perform tasks autonomously or with minimal human intervention.
    • Sensing: Robots are equipped with various sensors, such as cameras, microphones, and touch sensors, to gather information about their environment.
    • Mobility: Robots can have different types of mobility, including wheels, legs, or even flying capabilities, allowing them to move and navigate in their surroundings.
    • Manipulation: Robots can have arms, grippers, or other types of end-effectors to interact with objects and perform physical tasks.
    • Artificial Intelligence: To enable autonomous decision-making and learning, robotics heavily relies on artificial intelligence algorithms and techniques.
    • Programming: Robots can be programmed using various programming languages and software frameworks, allowing users to define their behavior and tasks.
  7. 7
    It deals with the study of motion, including the forces and torques that cause it. It is challenging because it requires a deep understanding of calculus, physics, and mechanics.
    Dynamics is a branch of mechanical engineering that deals with the study of motion and the forces that cause motion. It involves analyzing the behavior of objects and systems in motion, including the forces that act upon them and the resulting accelerations. Dynamics plays a critical role in various fields such as robotics, aerospace engineering, automotive design, and structural analysis.
    • Newton's Laws of Motion: Fundamental principles governing the motion of objects.
    • Kinematics: Study of the geometry of motion, describing positions, velocities, and accelerations.
    • Forces and Moments: Analysis of forces acting on bodies and rotational motion.
    • Kinetics: Study of forces causing motion and their effects.
    • Mass and Inertia: Measurements of mass and resistance to changes in motion.
  8. 8
    Materials Science
    Ludvig14 · CC BY-SA 3.0

    Materials Science

    Dr. Robert W. Cahn
    It involves the study of the physical and chemical properties of different materials, including metals, polymers, and ceramics. It is challenging because it requires a thorough understanding of chemistry, physics, and mathematics.
    Materials Science is a multidisciplinary field that focuses on understanding the properties and characteristics of substances, both naturally occurring and synthetically created. It involves studying the structure, processing, behavior, and performance of materials in various applications.
    • Interdisciplinary Nature: Combines principles from physics, chemistry, engineering, and biology
    • Structure-Property Relationships: Investigates how the atomic/molecular/structural arrangement affects material properties
    • Design and Development: Enables the creation of new materials with specific properties or improved performance
    • Characterization Techniques: Involves the use of advanced tools to analyze materials at different length scales
    • Materials Processing: Focuses on controlling and manipulating materials to obtain desired properties
    Materials Science in other rankings
  9. 9

    Machine Learning

    Arthur Samuel
    It involves the use of algorithms and statistical models to enable machines to learn from data and make predictions. It is challenging because it requires a strong background in computer science, mathematics, and statistics.
    Machine learning is a field of study that focuses on the development of algorithms and statistical models to enable computer systems to learn and make predictions or decisions without being explicitly programmed. It involves the usage of various techniques and algorithms to train and improve the performance of the models based on data and patterns.
    • Supervised Learning: Algorithm learns from labeled data and predicts outcomes.
    • Unsupervised Learning: Algorithm learns from unlabeled data and discovers hidden patterns or structures.
    • Semi-Supervised Learning: Combination of supervised and unsupervised learning where some data is labeled and some is not.
    • Reinforcement Learning: Algorithm learns by interacting with an environment and receiving feedback in the form of rewards or punishments.
    • Classification: Algorithm predicts discrete class labels based on input data.
  10. 10

    Finite Element Analysis

    J.R. Irons and R.W. Clough
    It involves using numerical methods to solve complex engineering problems, including stress, deformation, and heat transfer. It is challenging because it requires a deep understanding of mathematics and computer science.
    Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is a numerical method used to solve complex engineering problems. It is a computational technique widely used in Mechanical Engineering to analyze and predict the behavior of structures and systems under different loading conditions. FEA divides a complex problem into smaller, simpler units or elements, and then uses mathematical methods to solve these elements and obtain an approximation of the overall system response.
    • Numerical Method: FEA is based on numerical approximation methods to solve and analyze complex engineering problems.
    • Structural Analysis: FEA is commonly used for structural analysis to determine stresses, deformations, and failure modes in mechanical components and systems.
    • Mesh Generation: FEA requires dividing the system into smaller finite elements and creating a mesh to discretize the problem domain.
    • Boundary Conditions: FEA requires applying appropriate boundary conditions to simulate the real-world operating conditions.
    • Material Properties: FEA requires accurate input of material properties for predicting the behavior of components under different loads.

Missing your favorite subject?


Ranking factors for difficult subject

  1. Conceptual complexity
    Assess how complex the underlying concepts are in a specific subject. Subjects that involve advanced mathematical theories, elaborate physics principles, or convoluted design methods can be considered more difficult.
  2. Practical application
    Gauge the level of difficulty in applying theoretical knowledge to real-life situations. Subjects that require intricate and precise calculations, as well as comprehensive understanding of system dynamics, can be perceived as harder.
  3. Learning curve
    Determine the time and effort required to grasp and excel in the subject. Subjects with a steep learning curve may necessitate more dedication and practice, making them more difficult.
  4. Pre-requisite knowledge
    Recognize the subjects that require a strong foundation in previous courses or disciplines. Subjects with multiple pre-requisites may pose a challenge and could be considered harder.
  5. Interdisciplinary connections
    Examine the extent to which a subject integrates ideas and principles from different fields of engineering. Subjects that demand a broader understanding of several disciplines can add to the difficulty.
  6. Software tools and skills
    Assess the proficiency needed in different software tools or programming languages associated with a subject. Mastering specialized software or programming skills can be time-consuming and might contribute to the subject's difficulty.
  7. Problem-solving skills
    Identify the level of critical thinking, analysis, and problem-solving skills required to excel in a subject. The more complex and open-ended the problems are, the more difficult the subject may be.
  8. Laboratory and hands-on work
    Evaluate the intricacy of laboratory experiments, simulations, or hands-on work related to a subject. Complex experimental setups or practical tasks can add to the difficulty of a subject.
  9. Course workload
    Consider the amount of coursework, assignments, projects, and examinations included in a specific subject. A higher workload can make a subject more challenging.
  10. Student experiences and performance
    Investigate the experiences of previous students and their performance in a particular subject. Subjects that generally have lower passing rates or where students struggle more with the content can indicate a higher level of difficulty overall.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most difficult subject in Mechanical Engineering. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or Subject is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 180 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each Subject once every 24 hours. The rank of each Subject is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.

Trendings topics

Don't miss out on the currently trending topics of StrawPoll Rankings!

More information on most difficult subject in mechanical engineering

Mechanical Engineering is a field of study that combines principles of physics, mathematics, and materials science to design, develop, and analyze mechanical systems. It is a broad discipline that covers a wide range of topics, including thermodynamics, mechanics, and materials science. As a result, Mechanical Engineering can be a challenging subject for students to master. It requires a solid foundation in mathematics and physics, as well as the ability to think critically and problem-solve. One of the most difficult subjects in Mechanical Engineering is often considered to be thermodynamics. This is because it deals with complex concepts related to heat transfer, energy conversion, and thermodynamic cycles. Other challenging subjects include mechanics of materials, fluid mechanics, and control systems. Despite the difficulties, studying Mechanical Engineering is rewarding for those who are up to the challenge. Graduates of Mechanical Engineering programs are in high demand, as they possess the skills and knowledge necessary to design and develop a wide range of mechanical systems that are essential to modern society.

Share this article