It’s finals time here, marking the end of my first semester as a TA, and it’s been an enlightening experience. I’ve discussed some of the gaps between what I expect junior-level engineering students to be familiar with, what the curriculum tells me they should be familiar with, and what they actually have learned over at my own blog. One of the biggest challenges for me has been the differences between how my undergraduate education was organized, and how things are set up at my current university.
In my undergraduate experience, we were generally taking major-specific courses in our second year. I remember getting design problems and more open-ended questions my junior year, because we already had a decent background to build from. Here, students are discouraged from declaring a major within engineering until the end of their second year, instead taking courses in general engineering and humanities.
In some respects, I like this approach, since it gives students more exposure to the various fields of engineering before they declare, but it also creates issues with trying to fit everything into a four-year framework. For example, students who may have intended to go into electrical engineering may not bother taking statics, as it’s not required by that program. However, if they change their minds, it can be very problematic to be missing that background. Because this is a very ratings-conscious school, administrators are very concerned with students graduating “on-time”, and will often wave prerequisites without consulting the instructors.
Currently, all engineering majors are required to take an engineering fundamentals course, a basic programming course, calculus, introductory Newtonian physics, introductory electromagnetics, chemistry and various humanities courses. What do you think of this list? Does it seem complete? What would you add, or what would you take out?