Saturday, 18 January 2014

How to Get Through “No-Break” November (Also Great for “All-the-Work” April)

By Virginia Dobson

At my college, the last few weeks of every fall semester have names. The week of (American) Thanksgiving is called Hate Week; because that is the week our (American) football team plays our arch rival, U (sic) Georgia. The week after that is called Hell Week. This is the last week professors are technically allowed to give tests, so naturally they all do. Penultimately there is Dead Week, also known as ‘the week preceding finals’ by those who are also trying to make ‘Fetch’ happen. And finally, no pun intended, comes Finals Week. In my experience now, at the beginning of November, is the best time to get a jump on last minute learning. This is really important, and has helped me make it through the semester by being the kind of student I probably should have been all along.

1. Plan: There’s a saying about how failing to plan is planning to fail. It’s completely true. At this point in the semester, everyone is either in denial or running around like a headless chicken. Plan out when you are going to study, what you are going to work on (homework, exam prep, review, etc.) and who you are going to study with. Be very aware of what you need to do. You know what works (or at least what doesn’t), schedule it down and commit. And just to be safe, take a page from the electric code and make sure to allocate 125% of whatever time and resources you think your workload is going to take. Stuff happens.

2. Commit: Sometimes I really hate commitment because it gets in the way of doing fun things. But when I think of how terrible my life will be if I don’t graduate, I make a very important exception (and so should you). My best friends right now are all in my classes, my mom is doing my laundry for the next month (thanks Mom!), and I had an important talk with my boyfriend (an understanding engineering grad student). Like some of you, if I don’t stay really on top of things I tend to have the attention span of a gold fish and things don’t get done. Have to lock yourself in the quiet room beside your advisor’s office and block everything resembling fun on the internet? It’s crunch time, you should do that. Do whatever it takes to get it done.

3. Be Flexible: This might seem odd, talking about flexibility, but it is crucial. In a strictly academic sense, you never know when you need to go to extra office hours or when a review session will pop up. Realistically, you are going to burn out and need a way to blow off steam when it starts to impact your rate of productivity. Reward yourself, sleep (occasionally), and just make sure that you don’t put off something off for more than a day.

Most of this information is very general, but I feel that this is necessary because everyone works and studies in different ways. Later, I plan on writing a how-to guide for engineering students on how to keep yourself accountable when you are easily distracted, which best reflects my personal experiences. I strongly encourage everyone to become familiar with their learning style and how they best learn the material, because it will help you out a lot in the long run. Remember, the first step is to plan.

Happy studying! And if you have any questions (or advice on your particular accountability style), please speak out in the comments!

Virginia Dobson is a senior electrical engineering student at Georgia Tech. She is a member of the Georgia Tech Honors Program and a sister of Alpha Omega Epsilon, an international engineering sorority. When she is not hitting the books or in class, Virginia enjoys doing research in machine learning and assistive technologies with the Opportunity Research Scholars’ Program and spending time with friends.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Failing the First Midterm in Engineering

Hey everyone, my name is Ash and I'm an undergraduate Mechanical Engineer in my junior year (which I believe is the hardest year). I recently just started blogging because I want to learn to organize my thoughts to express them intelligently, either on paper or face to face conversations. Now that I have introduced myself, let’s get started on this blog!

Today I wanted to bring up the topic of the "First Midterm Exam" that you take every semester as an Engineer. After taking my first three midterms for my classes this semester and straight up bombing them, I noticed there was a trend with me. I realized I always seem to fail the first exam for every class regardless if I have the same Professor. Now people are going to say, “oh that’s normal for many people because they get nervous”, but is that really the case? I mean sure everyone gets nervous during an exam, even if you did study the material long enough to feel confident, there is always going to be that fear of the unknown. You go in, then your classmates start shouting the information at your face which has nothing to do with the exam and then you start to doubt yourself.

Sometimes failing the first exam isn't a big deal since most professors make that the lowest percentage of your grade, but how does it affect you emotionally? For me, I heavily get discouraged for a good week or two which really impacts my focus in class. You get the feeling to change majors (maybe art?) and/or drop out because you feel like the disappointment isn't worth the trouble. I mean you start to wonder why you joined engineering because you feel that feeling like a failure is not worth it. Well everyone, it truly is worth it. As cheesy as this may sound you'll never be successful without failing. I'm sure you have heard from many people that it does not matter how many times you fail, but rather how many times you get up and try again and the strive you build to keep trying until you get it right. Yeah sometimes we wish we had a limitless pill on hand, but this isn’t a perfect world, so you have to fight for what you want. I'm still learning the ways of never giving up and it is not easy. Anyways to wrap things up I just wanted to send this message out to all my fellow engineers. Maybe some of you can relate to this and if you do, don't get discouraged keep going!

I want to thank Engineer Memes for letting me post as a guest. I really appreciate this opportunity to write for you guys. Thank you everyone at Engineer Memes.

-Ash

This article was written by Ashikur Rahman a mechanical engineering student studying in New Jersey.

Leave a comment about your first test/midterm experience in engineering!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Starting Graduate School, but what courses to take?!

As some of you know I recently got accepted into the Masters of Engineering program (electrical engineering). I decided to pursue a Masters of Engineering over the Masters of Applied Science degree because I no longer have any interest in doing research and continuing my studies in nanotechnology. I have decided I want to pursue a career in working with power companies.

Right now I have been researching about what courses I want to take that would help me after graduation (plus my professor wants me to send him the list of courses I plan to take asap!). I want to work in the energy sector dealing with 'power systems'. Here is the list of courses I have been looking at:

1. Power System Analysis

Transmission and distribution; phasors, complex power; balanced/unbalanced three-phase operation; symmetrical components, sequence networks; voltage regulation; short circuit capacity; circuit breakers; transmission lines, series/shunt impedance; short, medium, and long line models.

2. Computer Applications in Power Systems

Power system monitoring/control; large networks; automatic generation control; optimum power flow calculations; traveling wave transmission lines; EMTP and MATLAB programs for transients, short-circuit, and transient stability analysis.

3. Power Systems Protection

Analysis of disturbances, security of power systems, cascading and blackouts; role and impact of protection; transducers and measuring elements; protection of transmission and distribution systems; protection of generators, substation equipment, special protection systems and relays. Optimization of Power System Operation Application of linear and nonlinear optimization methods in power systems; constrained optimization; optimal power flow; economic dispatch; electricity market; local prices for active and reactive power; security-constrained OPF; state estimation, reliability analysis.

4. Decision Support Methods in Power Systems Operation

Principles; acceptable regions of operation; energy management systems; load flow methods; static and dynamic security; contingency analysis; transient and voltage stability; on-line stability assessment.

5. Dynamic Modeling of Electric Machines and Controls

Numerical aspects of time-domain simulation are reviewed. Dynamic modeling and analysis of power systems components including transformers, induction and synchronous machines, inverters, electric drives and associated controls.

6. Advanced Power Systems Analysis

Computer-oriented analysis of electric power systems with regard to multiphase line constants, steady-state analysis of single and parallel circuits, lightning and switching surges; large-scale solution of power-flow problems; optimal real and reactive power flow.

7. Advanced Power System Control and Dynamics

Synchronous machine modeling; excitation and speed governor systems; enhancing power system damping through excitation or governor control; linear optimal stabilization of power systems; load shedding, generator dropping and other emergency measures; asynchronous operation and resynchronization; nonlinear stability; power-frequency control.

8. Energy Storage Systems - Super Capacitors

Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage. Pumped Storage. Other possible technologies. System modeling and control.

Which of these courses would you highly recommend for someone who wants to go work for power companies and why? I have a rough idea of which courses I will be taking, but I want to confirm that they are the right courses to take. Leave a comment on what you think of these courses and why they are good to take. Thank you!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Dealing With Rejection… During an Interview

Looking for a co-op or internship is a lot like dating. You dress up, you meet new people in your field, and you try to convince them to pick you by highlighting the qualities that they are looking for. Sometimes things don’t work out. And whether it’s after the first meeting or the last round before making it official, getting rejected from a job opportunity you really wanted hurts. Here’s my horror story:

When I entered college I was an industrial engineering major interested in consulting. My freshman year I had an interview with a company I was really excited about. The on-campus interview went wonderfully. The interviewer seemed as excited as I was about the possibility of me coming to work for their company, and I got an email inviting me to interview at their offices the next week. I was told during my initial interview that they were continuing the process with the top four candidates from the on-campus interviews, so naturally I was ecstatic.

I arrived at the company’s offices dressed to impress and eager to please. After being called into the interview room, I met with the person I had interviewed with on campus. He was excited to see me and dove right into the first part of the interview. That part went as well as the on campus one had, and my heart was racing in the best possible way. I was one conversation away from landing a consulting gig at 18 that would lead me to what I imagined would be a glamorous career in consulting. The door opened and a middle aged man walked into the room. He gave his name, his position within the organization, and a bit about himself and where he went to school. He took one look at my resume and snorted at my GPA (3.4). Then he asked me, “What leadership roles have you held?” I started listing my roles from high school, and he stopped me. “What have your leadership roles been in college?” I paused. I had a leadership position in one of the clubs, but it was more of a prep position because the guy who held it was graduating that spring. As I thought about how to respond, my interviewer got up, walked out, and slammed the door.

I cried when I got back to my dorm after the interview. I was scared, scared that I was not employable despite having a good GPA from the #1 IE program in the country. What was wrong with me? What made me less desirable than the other girls on my floor, who by that time had all secured co-ops and internships with great companies? It wasn’t until I had landed a job with another company that I figured out it was him, not me. Like in dating, everyone is looking for something different. Some people are super picky, and there’s no sure-fire way to get around that. Just because you get rejected doesn’t mean you will end up alone or unemployed. The best thing to do is to dry clean your suit, practice your lines, and get back out there. When the right position comes along, you (and your new employer) will know. And then you’ll be so glad it didn’t work out between you and What’s-Their-Name.

This article was written by Virginia Dobson. She is a 4th electrical engineering student and in the honors program at Georgia Tech. She has done three coop rotations and was asked by her employer to do a fourth term with a major automation firm. As well, Virginia Dobson has experience in interviewing potential coop candidates with her bosses.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Make Something

Engineering has some long, strange paths with high rewards. I started out tearing apart broken electronics while I was in middle school, and in my freshmen year of high school I wanted to become an electronics engineer. My high school offered classes in QBASIC, and I actually found that to be more entertaining than attempting to reconstruct Frankenstereo. I moved on to Visual Basic and HTML/JavaScript thinking WIndows software and webpages would be my calling. Thank God I avoided that mistake of a path.

I left high school bound for an associate’s degree in applications development, AKA Visual Basic, but was too busy partying to attend class. I managed to squeak by with a .2 GPA with only attending the 1st month of classes plus the final exams. I passed every final, and have no idea why a teacher gifted me with a D in web design other than I helped her teach the class on the rare day I actually showed my face.

Fast forward a few years later it’s nearly impossible to get a job in any tech field without a degree. I ended up working many menial jobs to pay bills, and started my own computer services business thinking if no one else will hire me I’ll hire myself. Clients were hard to come by with low demand in a small town and a small set of established competitors. I switched over to the Linux world, and became more proficient in software, but this still did not help me grow my business.

I eventually caved and decided to go back to school. The problem was I couldn’t afford to relocate, and there was no computer programming degree at the tech school in my town. I settled for SCADA Automation Engineering because it at least involved some computer programming. I quickly found myself in a room full of people who wanted to become glorified electricians, but who hated the thought of touching a computer. The first year was a focus on electronics engineering, and I hung in there. Keep in mind that electronics was my career choice early on. When second year came around and the focus switched to programming no one around me understood just exactly what in the hell was going through by brain. That included my teacher.

At our first day of class he talked about separating the electricians from the programmers. He asked who wanted to go to different job sites every day and set up equipment. Most people raised their hands. He then asked who wanted to stay in the same building all day but still work with wiring. Everyone else but me raised their hands. He then asked who wants to sit in front of a computer all day and write code? I raised my hand. Well, that was awkward. Having one person to single out he said I can see that. We’ll just sit you in a cubicle, throw a sammich at you every couple of hours, and you’ll be good to go! I should note that having entered the workforce I have to go fetch my own sammiches.

Once we got to the lab I got off to a slow start. I was appalled by the software they were using to connect computers to logic controllers, so I sought out my own solutions. I decided on QModBus/libmodbus for connecting to PLC’s. This meant I could code in Linux. It did take me awhile to get the first application to work, and by the time I had success I was failing the class due to lack of projects completed. When I did complete my first application my teacher told me to “make it run on Windows”. That’s easy, Qt is cross-platform, so I simply installed my code on a PC. Then he wanted to see it run “from your house”. We had our own network bypassing the school’s firewall, and he wanted me to use that to connect from outside the school. I cheated. I simply connected up the Linux PC again, set up VNC, and used my phone as a VNC client to go over 3G towers and connect right to the port I forwarded. He came over to yell at me about being on my phone, and then realized I was using it as a remote to control a conveyor belt. Despite my lack of ambition he was impressed, and was surprised I accomplished both challenges in one day regardless of simplicity. Unfortunately his next request was brutal. Make the PLC communicate through a web browser. I never did successfully complete that task. Neither did anyone else, including him. I still accept that challenge today, and when free time permits I have a plan.

Since school I have ported QModBus to Android, and to the best of my knowledge I was the 3rd person in the world to successfully run a Modbus PLC on Android. I was probably the first using C++ as a language. I have had to focus on career before open-source work, and having been unsuccessful in my post-graduation job search I decided to go back to school. This time I took the risk and moved out of town for computer programming, even though it meant sleeping on a couch every day and rarely seeing my family. I completed one year of school to find my financial aid was denied and I could no longer attend until some debt that I couldn’t afford was paid.

This is the point in my life where I lucked out. I managed to land a job writing PHP websites and Android applications. My boss says, “Hey, can you write a program/website to X?” I always reply with the same answer, “I don’t know, lemme check.” This is true for all engineering. You won’t be asked to solve equations, you’ll be asked to provide solutions. Don’t just know the material, know the relevance. Go in with the mindset that you’re not there to follow orders, but to create.

This article was written by Mark Gullings 2010 graduate of Mitchell Technical Institute for SCADA Automation Engineering 2012 dropout of Southeast Technical Institute for Computer Programming

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Graduate School

How important is graduate school for engineers? I know in most cases engineers should be able to find a job with an undergraduate degree because of the amount of knowledge we acquire in school and how practical our degree is. Typically in our undergrad we take much more courses than other faculties in the span of four to five years. Many people choose to go work and start their career rather than go back to school for another two to five years.

I graduated with a nanotechnology degree in electrical engineering so I find it a lot harder to find jobs that are tailored for my option. Furthermore, most the jobs that are posted that fit my field of study typically requires a masters degree or even a PhD. I have been thinking of going back to school to do my masters, but I am not sure what field of study I want to go into now though. I have been looking at the different things I could study and there are a lot of options!

As well, in Canada when you do a masters you can take two different routes! Masters of Engineering or Masters of Applied Science. What makes them different is one is mostly course work and a small project based. The other (Masters of Applied Science)is thesis based and a lot less courses are taken. Another important factor to point out is you can only do your PhD if you do a Masters of Applied Science. There are exceptions to that though. At my school if you do a Masters of Engineering you can switch into the Masters of Applied Science program before hitting the one year mark in the program. Another thing is if you go into a Masters of Applied Science you can receive funding from your supervisor for your tuition and living expenses, but if you go into the Masters of Engineering program you receive no funding. Typically the tuition fee is much higher in the MEng program.

Here are some of the options I have considered:

Option 1:

I could apply for the Masters of Applied Science program in nanotechnology and learn more about carbon nanotubes and semiconductor devices. Some of my research interests would be working on solar devices and creating solar cells that would have a high efficiency to low cost ratio. I am not sure if I would want to continue this path though, because of the job market.

Option 2:

I could apply for the Masters of Engineering in electrical engineering and take some courses I didn't get to take in my undergrad. I could take more power courses such as Power System Analysis, Advanced Power System Analysis and Advanced Power System Control and Dynamics. This path would be a 180 turn for me. I am a lot more interested in this direction because of the job prospects and how practical this stuff is.

Option 3:

Masters of Engineering in clean energy. In this program I could take many courses that will help lead me on a career path to clean and renewable energy. This path is interesting because I could learn about alternative energy technologies and thermal energy systems.

Anyways I still haven't applied for graduate school yet. I already missed the deadline for September of 2013. I emailed the admissions and they said I still have a chance of making it. As well, I don't know how competitive the grades will be this year so I don't even know if I will get in. I also finally got confirmation from all my professors who will write a reference for me when I do apply to grad school. Hopefully I get into grad school and make the right choice in choosing what kind of education I want.

Are you a graduate student in engineering? Have you considered going to grad school? Did you start working after you finished your undergrad and then decided to go back to school? What do you think of grad school? Leave a comment below on your thoughts!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Engineering Methods in Life

Design, build, fix, as engineers this is what we spend the majority of our time doing. We enjoy problems, we enjoy solving problems, contemplating issues and devising eloquent solutions for them. I am sure that if more political types were engineers the nations of the world would run much smoother. There are a lot of situations in life where engineering best practices and methodologies can be easily applied and the results positive; however, there are those times when these applications produce somewhat undesirable, if not comical results.

To me some of the most humorous situations arise when engineering concepts are applied to social situations. I had a college friend who spent weeks designing a dating flowchart, that he was convinced would help him improve his success with woman. He never told any of the women who he went out with about his flow chart, or that it was a work in progress, though he did a good job of keeping true to the process. Oddly enough he is still single, but when we get together he always has the best stories about the single life. My understanding is that he is still working on perfecting his process; though he is in graduate school now working on a MS in systems engineering so maybe he can tie it into his thesis somehow.

I have had periods in my life when I have allocated a fair amount of time to exercising; and of course the engineer in me took over each of those times. I would do ample research on the best ways to work out and the types of things I should be doing in order to get the most out of each movement. Then I would start keeping a gym journal, and as I would thumb through the journal at night I would find areas where my data collection could improve. So, I would add more fields, then I started keeping timed records, by this point I think I was spending more time collecting data at the gym then actually working out. Before I knew it I was maintaining several spreadsheets of data and trying to figure out the best way to run a statistical analysis on my data. On the bright side, I am sure the people at the gym got a kick out of watching me fuss over my notebook after each and every exercise.

No matter how we apply our engineering knowledge we will learn something from the experience, sometimes even more so when the undertaking is not successful. Even though my friend is still single he has learned a lot about dating from working on his process, and I am sure he will meet the one for him at some point. And even though my excessive record keeping in the gym hindered my workouts at the end, it did help me to optimize much of what I was doing at the gym, so if I ever decide I want to work out that much again I will have solid experience to build upon. So, no matter what problem you might be facing do not be afraid to unleash your engineering mindset on it and be sure to let us know how it turns out.

This blog post was written by Dana Blouin who is a telecommunications engineer, technologist and geek currently living and working in Cleveland, OH, USA.

Feel free to leave a comment about what you think. Have you ever applied the skills you learned in engineering in real life/world situations?

Saturday, 5 January 2013

The Social Stigmas of Engineering

With every conversation with whoever it may be, every conversation tends to stray towards education: what, where and why you are studying what you are studying. I'm not sure about you engineering students out there, but I sometimes double take whenever someone asks me what I'm studying in school. Now, I'm not the type of person to actually care about what other people think of me (u mirin brah?) but we all have to accept the fact that there is a social stigma out there for people pursuing an education in Engineering.

That is, Engineering students tend to:

- Have no social life

- Constantly study

- Have an absence of female individuals in the faculty of Engineering

- Are just dope as hell

*Warning: All of the above points may be completely true

So basically, whenever someone asks about what you're studying in college/university, you have two choices essentially. You can take the easy way out and dance around the fact that you're in Engineering, effectively avoiding the nuisances which I'll outline in a second. However, if you do decide to be honest and admit that you're studying Engineering, here's what a typical conversation will be like:

Them: So, what are you studying?

Me: Uhhh... I'm studying _____ Engineering at _______.

Them: HOOOOLY! That's really tough man, how do you do it?

Me: I don't know honestly.. I cry every night while slitting my wrists. It provides lubrication for the rectal violations that occurs on a daily basis.

Them: Oh I see. Do you actually like what you're studying?

Me: I don't know, leave me alone! *Runs away crying*

Note: The above conversation was completely hypothetical. No pandas were hurt in this process.

Basically, there are intrinsic core values that are associated with Engineering, like it or not. Hell, I'm studying Engineering and I'll admit most of the stuff that I outlined at the top of this article is true, though we as Engineers joke about it a lot (refer to photos in Engineering Memes Facebook group). I have the opportunity to interact with a lot of strangers on a daily basis due to the nature of my part time job and there's usually two common reactions to which people have when you tell them you're studying Engineering:

1) Shocked

- Usually in awe of how a person is dumb enough to pursue an education in a grueling field of study such as Engineering

- Shocked at the presence of greatness they are witnessing of someone pursuing a god- tier field of study such as Engineering

- Common Phrases: "Isn't that really hard?", "How do you do it?", "Do you even sleep?"

2) Impressed

-Doesn't really follow the trend of this article, these type of people are usually impressed at the fact that you are studying Engineering and will compliment you accordingly

- Common Phrases: "You must be really smart", "You're going to be rich once you finish your studies.", "Your parents must be proud." Most of the time, I'll usually get the latter reaction. Sometimes, a mix of the two. I'm not really surprised that I get the "impressed" reaction most of time, due to the notoriety that Engineering entails being one of the more difficult undergraduate degrees one can pursue.

I do speak from personal experiences; however, I do understand that depending on the types of people you interact with will result in different types of reactions. I'd like to ask you all then, what are the types of reactions you get when you tell people that you're studying Engineering? Are they corroborative with the social stigmas associated with Engineering? Or are they more positive? Please let us know in the comments section below.

This post was written by James Reyes and he is currently studying Mechanical Engineering at Ryerson University located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.