Sunday, May 16, 2010

Freedom!... for a few months

Final exams for winter semester have come and gone, and I'm happy and proud to say that I survived first year engineering. Phew. I'm not gonna lie - the last semester was the hardest one I've ever had. With up to 10 hours of labs a week - which is practically a part-time job - I felt like I barely had time to absorb anything. My MO was to get shit done, which was easier once I found some people to work with... which leads to my next point, which is that the importance of teamwork in engineering coursework cannot be overly emphasized. A word of advice for anyone reading this going into engineering: find reliable people that you can compare/share homework with. If you're not confident that what you're handing in is already correct, by the time you get it back and find out it's wrong, you don't have time to relearn it.
Another word of advice: locate and use all possible resources. By this I mean solution manuals, teachers' solution manuals, a cramster account, former students' homework and assignments, etc. Trust me - when you know you have something reliable to double check your work with, life is much less stressful.
A run-down of my courses:

  • Math 101 (Calc 2) - The lectures were terrible and I gave up on them after the first 2 weeks. I basically taught myself out of the textbook. But that was actually not too painful except for the last few sections on expressing functions as power series and the Taylor series. Like most math courses, if you do enough practice problems, you're good. 
  • Physics 101 - This course covered a ton of material and it was pretty tough, by my standards, anyway. We covered gravitation, pressure, fluids (Bernoulli, buoyancy, etc.), thermodynamics, heat engines, wave functions, standing waves, doppler effect, beats, electric fields, gauss' law, point charges, dipoles... the list goes on. I'm sure half of it has already fallen out of my brain. The labs were totally unrelated to the lecture material - mostly about electricity - and were actually easier than the labs in Physics 100. Or maybe I just managed to follow their marking system. Sometimes, things are marked in a dumb way, but as long as it's consistent, you can give them what they want. That's all I will say about that. Also, they have this 24-hour due date policy with physics labs. It made a lot of people unhappy, but it didn't bother me that much. I wanted to get it off my plate as quickly as possible anyway, so I always just handed it in the same day.
  • Chem 101 - Pretty much followed the same format and style as Chem 100. Same professor (Dr. Whitcombe). We did a lot of acid/base/solubility ICE tables. He makes it pretty straightforward.
  • Chem 121 - This 1-credit lab course was the bane of my existence. The marking scheme was punitive and I found it discouraging, much like last semester. 
  • Ensc 150 (Environmental Engineering) - By far the most interesting course of the whole year. Dr. Helle is a great instructor - good lecturer, approachable, and helpful. We covered interesting topics like how everything is toxic, figuring out how much chemical is in or moving through soils/air/water, risk levels, mass balances, etc. I found this course challenging, but some of the 2nd years in the class said it was easy. Maybe some of the courses they had already taken gave them a big advantage.
  • Ensc 151 (Engineering tools) - Another 1-credit lab course. This one was not bad though since we learned how to use some presumably useful and important software: Excel, Visio, ArcMaps, and AutoCAD. I thought this class was interesting.
On a whiny note, I don't like that lab courses are only worth 1 credit when they are 3 hours a week just like lectures, and we end up spending the same amount or more time on them (particularly for chemistry). 
And now, back to my summer...

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