Tag Archives: teaching

I got a call last week from the electrical engineering department on campus asking if I would teach a class this semester.  The class has the potential to be one of the most important classes that they will encounter in school. No, it’s not circuits 1.  It’s University Studies. You see, our university requires every freshman to take a class to orient them to living life at a university.  My sister went back to school when I started my master’s degree, and she complained to me over and over about how irrelevant the class is.  There was a section on, for instance, talking to your roommate about making living arrangements.  At this point, she’d moved out of my parents’ house and been living with someone for 12 years! The custom in electrical engineering has been to try to use this class for something better: what specifically do you need to…

Read more

Lately, I’ve been discussing a lot about proposals (see here and here) and some work outside of academia but I’ve only briefly touched on the some of the other aspects of being a professor. Presently, I’m finishing up a young investigator proposal which is due shortly and consuming most of my time (hence my lack of posts at GEARS). Well, the fall semester starts at the end of August so as soon as I’m done with this proposal, I’ll have to focus more on teaching preparation. Luckily, at SnowU, I only have to teach one class in the fall and one in the spring. Unluckily, however, my first class will be a senior comprehensive lab-project course. In addition to a class full of seniors, there are usually about 10 graduate students who take it who did not go through UG at SnowU. Now, many new profs negotiate to have their first semester off from…

Read more

Over the last few weeks I’ve been talking about the Schools Contest held by Chelmsford Engineering Society (CES). The first week I explained the basic background of the contest and then how I take part in the judging process. Well this week its awards time and we get to see who has won! Once again our hosts are Anglia Ruskin University who help out lots with this and other CES events. There was also lots of support from the sponsors including my company ebm-papst UK Ltd who also supply one of the trophies (full list of sponsors at end). The award winners came along and one again put on a great show of the work they have done. For me like some of the other judges it was our first opportunity to see some of them or have a long chat about the work. Its hard to take in 50…

Read more

Last week, I discussed my initial thoughts on submitting my first proposal. One of the comments I received was from Chris Gammell via twitter stating that most engineers never write proposals and certainly not large proposals. I was actually quite shocked for two reasons. The first reason was  because I know there are some academic types that read this blog that probably see large proposals on a regular basis. The second reason was because my impression about industry is they have a lot more money to work with than academia and so large proposals should be fairly common. Since there was this misconception, I thought I would discuss and breakdown an academic position (in engineering) to show how each facet works together. The overall breakdown is shown in that nice little figure to your left. Roughly speaking, research topics should consume 50% of your time, teaching 30%, and service 20%. This…

Read more

I was lucky. I had someone who was able to teach me electronics and I’ve been lucky to work with others that had a real passion for it too. However it is sad that kids are not getting a chance to see engineering for what it really is. This week I posted a blog about how Uni students were not getting the right attention and being given a PHP unit to pass when it really had little to do with their course in my option and that they had no support from the Uni to learn. This has the effect of pushing people away from engineering as something they do not understand and is difficult to even do that basics. The truth, however, is that engineering is built from lots of small building blocks. And that with passion, it’s easy to learn–even for kids. Over the last few years I’ve…

Read more

This week’s Theme Week at Engineer Blogs is dealing with cross functional engineering material. Like most mechanical engineers, I’ve had to do my fair share of other engineering disciplines, mainly civil/structural (on the small scale) and electrical (basic circuits, signal processing). Because ME, EE, and Civil are all what I would consider core engineering disciplines, I think most engineers in one of those three fields should understand the basic concepts of the other two fields. Typically, the fundamental concepts in Civil are easier to understand for a ME. (I mean, you have to know your target to make the right bomb 😀 ). Basic concepts on the EE side are a little harder to grasp because they tend to be more abstract. But if you’ve had to do any programming, you understand Paul Clarke’s underlying argument, even if you don’t get the complete package. As we divert from the core…

Read more

Hi Everyone! I’m GEARS which stands for Grads, Engineering, Academia, Research, and Students. I’m a newly minted PhD student who has accepted a tenure track position at a small Tier 1 private university (dubbed SnowU) starting at the end of this semester. Rather than looking back retrospectively and getting caught with shoulda-coulda-wouldas, I thought I start blogging about my experience transitioning from a wide-eyed PhD student to a refined, distinguished assistant professor. (Well maybe I’m getting carried away here but you get the point.) Blogging helps me jot down thoughts and ideas which will (hopefully) help me mentor students more effectively and run a successful research group while actually reaching students in the classroom. Yesterday, I harped on how Knowledge Learned doesn’t show up anywhere on a company’s balance sheet. That makes it very difficult to explain and justify why you should do something yourself, as a researcher, in a…

Read more

So being an engineer is not all fun and games. Personally I think engineers are wired up a little different from others, and our social skills don’t quite fit with what some call normal. I may be talking totally from a personal viewpoint, but as a child at school I think this odd wiring and way of thinking can seriously hamper your abilities. I think that from an early age we are all wired to enjoy and understand different things in different ways. So what did I struggle with – Humanities. So for people who have not come across the high school lesson from hell that is Humanities then I can only explain it as follows. Basically, the school needed to cover a number of subjects and noted that having a set lesson for any one of these may cause a break down in the space time continuum and therefore…

Read more

Sometimes we go through an experience that makes us wonder if it’s really worth it to continue on our current path. I had one such experience when I was nearly done with my master’s. If I hadn’t been so close to finishing, I would have quit. That experience was a class. The worst part was that it was an undergraduate class. Going into engineering from physics, there are, as in any field, a few core classes I was lacking. I was not prevented from taking any grad classes due to this deficit, but I was required to take about four undergraduate classes before I could graduate. The third one of those was one that I felt reasonably good about. I had taken a couple upper-level math courses that were relevant. With that sort of preparation, significantly more than most undergrads in the course, I felt like the class shouldn’t be…

Read more

When we look at the people around us, we often take it for granted what they can accomplish with minimal effort.  In my experience, this is most true in a college classroom.  College professors are often people who have been very successful in the educational system.  Because of this, they are very reluctant to change how things have traditionally been done as they fear that doing so will lower standards. Until I started my MS, I tended to agree with this perspective.  However, a few things came together that changed my opinion. The first was that I was taking a class, and the professor announced that they needed a note-taker.  No one volunteered, so I spoke to the professor after class and said I would.  It turns out that the person needing the notes has a serious disability preventing her from writing.  I also made friends with another engineering student…

Read more

20/20