For a program such as that your computer choice will really come down to the programs and applications you'll need to run. Chromebooks are VERY limited, if you're going to need to run applications such as Matlab or macro-heavy spreadsheets a Chromebook is probably not going to work for you.
If you need additional help or have more questions or details to share, please join the site so you can reply in this thread. See this link for instructions on how to join Android Central.
Welcome to Android Central! I agree -- if you're in school, it'd be best to talk to the engineering professor to see what kinds of programs you may need to use. If a lot of it is done online/in the cloud, then you could probably get by with a Chromebook. But if you have to install programs that are only available on Windows or MacOS, then don't bother.
If you really want to have something to play with, I would suggest a cheap PC and put some kind of form of Linux on it. Then you can run WINE (which can run some windows applications), and dual boot into ChromiumOS. This kind of (sort of, but not really) gets you all 3 worlds.
All that being said, I would only do what I suggested as a hobby....not on a device primarily running for school or work. Because if all this breaks (and it WILL. Not maybe, not might, it WILL), you will be without a PC for who knows how long. As a software student, you can't afford any breakdowns. Trust me on the last sentence.