Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Difficult and Challenging Engineering Courses

Have you ever taken a course in engineering that you just could not understand? A course you barely passed and you still didn't know what was going? I have had that problem before. I passed the course thanks to scaling and projects!

How I Feel about These Engineering Courses

The course I had trouble with was Control System Design, under electrical engineering. It was taken in my final year and I thought I would like the course. I thought it would be very useful for when I graduated and started working in the industry. I took a course before it called systems and control. It involved a lot of math (laplace transform), state-space analysis, root-locus method, frequency domain analysis etc etc. That course was fairly easy ( I believe my professor was pretty 'chill'). So I was like okay I did fairly good in this course so why not take Control System Design in my final year! Bad idea!

At the start of this course I was doing alright. We were learning about PID control, PID tuning, and pole placements. That wasn't too bad,but then we moved into more advance topics and I just started getting lost.

We then started talking about the fundamental limitations of control design, control architecture, MIMO analysis, decentralized control, and decoupling control. I was so lost in the course. I think the professor was not teaching it properly or I just couldn't grasp the concepts. The text book we were using didn't help either. The textbook was called Control System Design by Graham C. Goodwin (Author), Stefan F. Graebe (Author), Mario E. Salgado (Author). I tried reading the chapters over and over trying get a better understanding of the material.

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Trollception by Engineer Memes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://engineermemes.blogspot.ca.

I found out I wasn't the only one who was finding it hard to learn the course material. A lot of my other classmates were having trouble as well. I think another problem that made it hard for us was there were no assignments. There were only 3 midterms (worth 25% each) and a final project (25%). There was no final. However, he did give us 1-3 past midterms for each midterm we had. He also allowed a single sided cheat sheet for the midterms. Those cheat sheets did not help at all. You really had to fully understand the course material if you wanted to do well.

Anyways, have you been in a similar situation? Is there an engineering course you took that you thought would be useful, but ended up not being useful and very challenging? Is there a course you passed with flying colours, but you still don't understand the material? If you answered any of these questions or want to share your experiences, feel free to leave a comment!

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30 comments:

  1. Yes, I had. I took computer hardware course previous semester (I am in the last year of software engineering bachelor)because my friend recommended to take it "because it is just SO AWESOME! It explains how computers work". NOPE. It didn't explain. 60% of the course was just introduction to electronics, voltamperistic(?) characteristics of electronic circuits, Kirchof's law and later on amplifiers... Seriously - what do amplifiers have to do with understanding how computer works? Later on we continued to triggers, well, I have to say it was the only thing that benefited to understanding computers - it kinda explained the CPU basic logic operations and the VERY primitive memory unit at work. The course also involved some introduction to computer networks, which wasn't truth at all. 30% of the material about computer networks were just lies! Nevertheless, exam hopefully didn't have anything to do with computer networks.

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  2. This semester I took Maths unit which was just a bridging unit as I missed a high school maths unit. The unit was run terribly. It was run by a 60 odd year old woman who teaches as though it's the '60s. She writes her unit notes on clear plastic sheets for the old school projectors (which she wrote the night before each lecture). Notes were given out in lecture and if we missed page we had to pay for them, even though we were paying $700 for the unit. Nothing was posted online and communication was by a rare email. We had 8am lectures each morning (not too bad) but would email us at 6am if the lecture location was changed or cancelled. In one lecture a student asked "Can you give us an example?", her response, "You make your own example."
    In case it wasn't implied, I failed the unit along with a lot of other people, the minimum number of people passed the unit, most on exactly 50%

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    1. Also the unit was called 'Calculus and Matrices', there were no matrices in the final exam. The unit covered irrelevent stuff for our degree, and included content which would not be covered in the next level unit.

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  4. I have been there. Statistic and Probability for structural engineering, I had no idea what was going on in this class. The concept was hard, and it required to have a strong logic and know how to apply to real life problems. The funny thing was that the final for this class was open book and notes and still average was 40%.

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    1. I too had issues with Statistics and Probablility. It was taught by a stats TA that had no idea what he was doing! I barely got by by the skin of my teeth!

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  5. The mechanics course that most first years in my university have to take is the "Wake up, motherfucker, you ain't in high school anymore" course. I think 5 different engineering programs (mech, chem, geo, enviro, civil) have to take it so that was over 600 students. 73% FAILED the midterm... after they adjusted the marking to raise the grades... I had a 7 in IB HL physics in high school and I BARELY passed with a 58% on the midterm (which is suprising because I'm sure I didn't even answer enough questions to even get to 50%). It was essentially DESIGNED for us to fail. It was horrible. I think one of my friends witnessed a girl break down and cry during the midterm.

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  6. our school has an advanced engineering math I and II. Advanced Engineering Math II is basically half PDEs and half statistics and probability. So basically it is fourier series, heat/wave/laplace equations laplace transforms the whole nine yards. then the last month was all statistics and probability. we had a teacher who could just not get the concepts across in a way that i could understand. i struggled with this class all semester long and was just relieved to get out of there. it was the first time i can truly say i had no idea what was going on all year long as an engineering student.

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  7. Omg. I just took a signals exams open book...pretty sure I failed it :(

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  8. I just took a stats course called Modeling and Analysis of Uncertainly (MAU for short). I had heard many horror stories about MAU. They proved to be right. Even with open book and open notes, it was STILL among the toughest courses I've taken, in terms of exams.

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  9. I'll take it you've never come across electro-magnetics before, interesting to say the least.

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    1. Yes, I have taken it before. Engineering Electromagnetics, Electromagnetic Fields and Waves, and Antennas and Propagation.

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  10. First year: electricity... started with Kirchofs law, network analisys, you know the drill... got a 95% on the midterm (I know right...)

    Then came electromagnetism... A woman of 60 years gave the course, she's double phd, still active researcher. The course was high-pace, very mathematical (with math we didn't even learn in math courses), and I still don't know about magnetism... finished electricity courses with a 60% grade, thanks to the high grade in the beginning :)

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  11. I've been through this meat grinder twice: Bachelor and Masters. If I understood half of what was thrown at me, I was doing well. Strangely enough, I did really well with Control Theory, but not so good with something like Electronics.

    I notice several people complain about the quality of teaching. Not to say that some instructors are not completely baffled by their subject, but understanding concepts takes a lot of time and work on your part. Oftentimes, it's just easier to do the problems and hope that the understanding comes later.

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  12. Same Experience. Same course. My course had a final exam worth 90% and 1 assignment (10%). Needless to say I failed the course with flying colors. First and only course I ever failed during Electrical and Computer Engineering. :-( Cost me an extra year there, a lotta bucks and worst of all my 1st Class Honors. Real horror experience. Regret the day I registered for that course.

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  13. There is certainly one more area of engineering that's seen a dramatic increase in relevance -- environment engineering. This field specializes in creating innovative techniques to solve several environmental issues. Since governing bodies are more cognizant of the necessity of sustainable development, they are in need of methods to help organizations convert to implementing sustainable resources. Engineers are specialists in this area.

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  14. In comparison with some other careers, engineers generate much more income. This could even be due to the academic qualifications that an engineer has to have to be a professional. Engineers have to have bachelor's degrees prior to proceeding to a specialty area course. After graduation also, engineers must be familiar with the type of their work, making it essential that they get experience first. Most of the time, the more exposure an engineer has on his area of study, the better potential he may have when it comes to career advancement and salary. So a master's or doctoral diploma in engineering could lead to an even more prestigious and lucrative job for an engineer.

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  15. If you are interested in studying Engineering, take a look at The University of Southampton’s Faculty of Engineering and the Environment which offers engineering degrees in the following disciplines: , acoustical engineering, aerospace engineering, civil engineering, environmental sciences, mechanical engineering and ship science.

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  16. up to this point physics has been the hardest req i had to take. i heard statics and dynamics are even worse. most of the people failed most midterms in my physics class. one of the tests was even take home

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  18. Hmm, as an international student in WMU, dynamics was my kryptonite. It was that course that hammered the fact that my usual style and pace of reading wasn't working. Coming from a country where homework was a rarity in university courses, I had a laizes-faire attitude. Like, If I wasn't done , too bad. Little did I know how not doing your homework reflects on the final. It took an E on the midterm for me to wake up but afterward I somehow managed to raise it to a c .In hindsight it wasn't that hard a course but being JOJ certainly did not help!

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  20. I would say up to this point, calculus. No matter how hard I study, I am yet to receive an average above 60% on any midterm.

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  24. Maybe one of the hardest subject that I've faced in Engineering is Differential Equation. I did understand the concepts behind it and can answer basic problems but in the exam, we were given difficult ones that I can't answer even when given a additional time for it. Wew. But maybe, it's still worth it to try those types of exams a caliber that can be comparable to top engineering schools here in the Philippines.

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