10 September 2010

Advice for Engineering Students [not so humble]

I am an electrical engineering student at the University of South Florida.  I am also a husband, a father, and an employee of an engineering firm.

Here is some advice from me, take it for what it is:

-put the time in!  You are not a genius (neither am I), otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this post and I wouldn't be sharing it.  Too often, I see my classmates wondering why they don't pass (even me, once).  If you don't spend time with the material, you won't master it.  Period.

-share information.  Half the battle of getting through is knowing what to expect.

-save your math and science books and notes --you WILL need them

-save your "technical" English textbooks, too --you will need them SOMEDAY

-make sure that you have an innate curiosity about how things work; better yet, make sure that you have a desire to KNOW how things work

-be organized

-manage your time wisely; that's right when all of your friends are going out and having a good time, your ass better be at "home" studying

-consult with other engineering students about a proper course sequence; you may have the pre-requisite satisfied but there might be a lot of concepts you won't get

-USE THE TA; that's what they are there for, abuse the hell out of them

-join an engineering club; even if you don't participate at least you will have the opportunity if something strikes your fancy (if you don't join, you won't know what's going on)

-get a white board to work something out if you are having problems

-throw your graphing calculator away, you don't need it anymore

[this post is linked to reddit and my page views have gone through the roof!  thanks for that!  but then I read the comments and some are complaining about this statement.  well, I am sticking to it.  your graphing calculator is a crutch.  I was never allowed to use one on an exam after the pre-reqs for my major.  honestly, I feel a lot better about my school now that I know a lot of other schools do allow them.  on a more serious note, if you are going to be a serious engineer, I don't think you need your TI-8X.  there are myriad other tools that are much easier to use and integrate well with tools that are freely available (e.g. Octave, Open Office, Wolfram-Alpha, Python).  however, if you are so stuck on your graphing calculator then you are just proving my point.]

-pay attention in your programming class; many engineering students are under the impression that all they will be doing is crunching numbers and drawing things all day -- no, you will most likely be punching code into a computer -- get used to it

-examine your professors on a rating website (e.g. ratemyprofessor.com); there could be a lot of useful information there

-READ and understand the syllabus; it's the prof's contract with you

-take online classes if you can; it gives you the freedom to use your time the way you see fit -- what's your time worth?

[you can always go to class too and have access to the lectures while you are working out the material]

-work on developing your approach to solving a problem.  If something doesn't seem correct while your working a problem or your results are ridiculous, go back and evaluate where you could have made a mistake or start all over.  More often than not, you are graded on your approach, not necessarily the correct answer.  When you land that engineering job, you don't really "know" what the correct answer is.  However, you will have to know where to start and what method to use to solve that problem.

-when working problems, use one side of the paper and layout all of the sheets in front of you as you go along.  This helps with the previous statement.

-[electrical engineering] by the time you get to the point that you are designing your own circuits, think about the values of the resistors you use.  Try to keep your resistor values in the kilo-Ohm range.  Most of the time, this is easy to do because there is some other component that you can scale to make your resistor value larger.  I say this because, often, when you are working with active devices, they require a decent size bias point.  Because of this, when you use a small resistance (especially in parallel with a larger resistance), you will short circuit with the small resistor (e.g. instead of 20 ohm and 50 ohm, try 2k and 5k).

-when you get your interview, try to work in topics that you are very excited about.  It's much easier to talk about something you are passionate about and that makes your personality shine through.

-more to follow...    

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sweet buns.