Advice for new EE Student

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by KatieL, Jul 2, 2011.

  1. KatieL

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jul 2, 2011
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    Hey all! My name is Katie, and I'm starting a BSEE program in the fall. I'm a bit of a non-traditional student as I have a BS in Biochemistry and a JD. However, I'm still nervous about starting over in something new. I'm taking the bar exam at the end of the month but after that I'll have a month to get ready for school. So, my questions are:

    1) I recently purchased a 15" MacBook Pro (2.3 GHz Quad Core, 8GB RAM, AMD Radeon HD 6750M with 1GB GDDR5). I plan to have Windows 7 on either parallels or bootcamp. Will this be sufficient for my needs for the next year or two?

    2) I took all my calculus and differential equations during my first bachelors but I feel like I've forgotten so much of it. Also, I just feel like such a newbie to this whole world. Are there any books or websites that y'all recommend to "brush up" on my math skills and or to get a head start on my EE program?

    3) Any other words of wisdom??

    Thanks so much!
     
  2. Georacer

    Moderator

    Nov 25, 2009
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    Your computer system is irrelevant. I have never found any problem running any simulation software in any modern PC. Also, the times such a software is necessary are scarce, at least at my uni.

    Calculus on the other hand is important. While it's not the subject of your studies, it has an immense hidden role, when you try to understand the validity of many electric/electronic/communication/informatic theorems.

    Pay special attention to differentiation, integration, differential equations, Fourier analysis and possibly some discrete mathematics, only a few, depending on your course program.
    Sadly, I don't have any recommendations on books.

    Finally, assuming that you 're a girl, keep in mind that Engineering studies are traditionally a male preference. The reason being their inclination towards hands-on problem solving. I don't mean to say that women are weak in this sector, just that they prefer other kinds of studies. If you mean business, be prepared to pick up tools and build if the case demands it.

    Good luck!
     
  3. KatieL

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jul 2, 2011
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    I was merely asking about the computer setup because some engineering classes demand software like AutoCad and MatLab. I am well aware of the importance of mathematics in electrical engineering. I didn't blindly jump into this from being an attorney with no concept of what I was getting into.

    You know, generally when people say things like "no offense" they're about to make an offensive statement. Just like when you say, "not to say that women are weak" you've followed it with a derogatory statement about women. Now, I'm going to choose to dismiss this as an uneducated sentiment or just poor communication skills but rest assured that I'm prepared to "pick up tools and build."
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2011
  4. Georacer

    Moderator

    Nov 25, 2009
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    I actually meant every word I wrote. Read more carefully:
    I didn't say that women are incapable of becoming engineers. We have some brilliant girls in our class. I said that statistically they prefer other types of education.
    I could be an excellent lawyer, but since I dislike law studies we 'll never find out.
    If you have the drive to learn electronics, so you will.

    By the way, your PC should run Matlab and Autocad just fine. I have just one reservation, since it's Mac. If you can make a clean installation of Windows you 'll have no problem, but simulating them could overload your system. I haven't used Mac once in my life, so I just speculate.
     
  5. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    Welcome aboard to the fray Katie. Don't be afraid to ask questions, it is never out of line. Our mods are very good about quashing flames, but if you find yourself targeted allow them to handle it and they will take care of it very quickly. I have a observed less than 1 out of 10 posters here are females, but the ones we get ask very good questions.

    The little yellow triangle is to report problematic posts. If I were a lot younger you would probably be flagging a lot of my posts, I find smart women very attractive (especially when they are smarter than me), but as is you are probably young enough to be my grand daughter. Guess I'll just have to answer questions as I am able.

    My college experience wasn't that great, but I am a very experienced tech. Technicians and engineers tend to approach problems differently, each with its own weaknesses and strengths.

    Have fun here!
     
  6. kevinarms

    New Member

    Jun 29, 2011
    6
    2
    Hey Katie - I'm also starting an EE program with a somewhat nontraditional background (although since my BS is in Mechanical Engineering, slightly less nontraditional than yours).

    As far as your computer concerns, a bunch of my friends in the ME program had macs and as far as I know didn't usually have any substantial problems running software. I don't know for sure about other programs, but Matlab is available for macs so you won't have a problem with that, which as a mechanical engineer was the only program that I used consistently/frequently during my four years. I'm not necessarily familiar with all the different types of EE software, but I'd imagine that in the worst case scenario there would be a computer lab/cluster available somewhere in the engineering school that would have whatever software you need to use. It also depends on the specific program that you're in - some schools/classes emphasize learning how to use applicable software/programs more heavily than others. Even with a Windows system, I also had to run a program once on a virtual system (for a program that didn't support a 64-bit platform), and I had no problem with that, besides the minor inconvenience of having to boot up the virtual system in order to work on homeworks for that class.

    As for brushing up on calculus/differential equations - I would say that also kind of depends on what specific track within EE you are going to focus on. Most of the digital/computer stuff won't really require any calculus background, while the analog circuits and signal processing tracks do require to at least be familiar with differential equations and calculus (although at the same time, I've forgotten probably 90% of the stuff I learned in my freshman year math classes and it never really mattered). I would check what the math pre-requisites are for the courses you are planning on taking in order to get an idea of how important brushing up on some math would be. From what I can remember, the textbooks I used were decent enough - Thomas' Calculus: Early Transcendentals was the book we used in my calculus class, and differential equations was Advanced Engineering Mathematics by Kreyszig. Someone else might have better recommendations, but I think these books were okay (although I don't really remember since I didn't do too much reading in them).

    Also, for getting a head start on the EE stuff, I would recommend the looking through the chapters on this website. I think for the most part they should be easy enough to follow, even without much background, and go into enough detail to give you at least enough background to make your classes a bit easier.

    Sorry for such a long post. Hopefully it helped at least little bit.
     
  7. kevinarms

    New Member

    Jun 29, 2011
    6
    2
    Oh yeah - under the "other words of wisdom" subject:

    Don't be nervous about starting something different. Your unique background will only be an advantage for you. Since you already have degrees in two very different areas (biochemistry vs law), you're clearly capable of learning new ways to approach problem solving. It might take a little while getting used to engineering, since it is pretty different from science/law, but once you adjust, I would say it will be the most useful thing you'll do. That's the biased opinion of an engineer, but it really is fun when you start learning how cool things work and even more fun when you learn how to make your own cool things.
     
  8. loosewire

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 25, 2008
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    @KatieL , I have been telling members for so long that they should put a law degree
    in your resume.It will always help you in any field that you choose,easier
    to change if you need to.You should be giving advise Instead asking for It.
    You appear to be on a positive track, there will always be the need for advise
    In anything you pursue.Some of the larger companies may want you on staff
    and If you become an expert in some field you can move up like the H.P lady
    and become a C.E.O..I am your greatest fan for your first comment about
    your bar exam.I have posted on that at least 6 times for posters looking for
    direction. Good luck..Loosewire.. you will get to know me.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2011
  9. KatieL

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jul 2, 2011
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    Bill, KevinArms, Loosewire:

    Thank you so much for your kind words and helpful responses! Bill, sadly I am a young lass at the tender age of 25 (okay, fine, that means I'm not a total spring chicken anymore, back off!! :D) and married so I'm off the market. However, I truly appreciate that you support strong, smart women. I think that engineering programs really suffer because of their lack of women and that we can offer some very unique "outside the box" solutions and contribute in a very positive manner.

    Kevin, I did some more digging around my school's website after your response about the computer and I'm pretty sure that I'll be doing some fairly heavy computing in a few of my classes, but like you said those classes will take place in computer labs and it seems most of the work needs to be done on the lab computers anyway. Thanks!

    Loosewire, I like to think the same thing about my law degree being nothing but a good thing on my resume. I went through law school thinking I would be a big attorney, only to realize that I was terrible at litigation (actually standing in front of a courtroom). During my last year in law school, I started thinking back to the differential equations class I took my first summer in college on a whim and how much I loved it. Combined with my love of patent law and taking apart toasters as a kid, I decided to venture out on this EE path. So I'm hoping this might take me on either a management path or in some aspect of intellectual property.

    So if you ever have questions about IP, law in general or law school feel free to ask away! As a disclaimer (I know, I know, we law-types are terrible with our disclaimers for everything!!) I cannot give legal advice until I'm licensed but I'm free to offer a non-binding opinion. :rolleyes:
     
  10. Kermit2

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 5, 2010
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    My only advice is to buy some solder/de-soldering equipment NOW and get busy ruining things. Take apart some old equipment and practice removing components from the boards. It takes a few months/years to get really good with the iron. Better to make some mistakes before you ever get into the classroom/labs. Your circuits will thank you and your projects will be easier as well, since you won't have the headaches that inexperienced assembly can cause. Learning when and where to use desoldering braid vs. solder suckers, and finding out how many ways there are to burn your fingers will keep you ahead of the curve.

    Also, welcome to the madness. :)
     
    JasonL likes this.
  11. FloppyDog

    New Member

    Jul 3, 2011
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    I'm also new to the board, so I hope any advice I can add will be of some use.

    I don't know about the math cad related software, but your computer should run AutoCAD just fine. Programs that are more graphic intensive like the 3D design packages (Inventor, Solidworks, etc.) tend to require a lot of memory but it's unlikely you'll be using these to any real extent. Even then, what you have should run any of them just fine. For most projects, and at work I use AutoCAD Light which has all the tools of the full-blown version but without 3D.

    As far as the math goes, you might consider reviewing the classes you will be taking to determine what type of review would be of benefit. I'd say concentrate more on what you'll need to finish your program.

    Kudos to you in expanding your education the way you're doing. I can't even tell you how many times I wish the company had a good attorney on staff.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2011
  12. #12

    Expert

    Nov 30, 2010
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    Ohhh...you can be prickly!

    Slow down with that. This is an international public forum and is often populated with ignorant or language challenged people (not that Georacer is ignorant) that are typing quickly and thinking slowly. You have to let the irrelavent comments slide. I like Bill Marsdens idea: "never attribute malice when stupidity will suffice". When you "choose to dismiss" something, just not replying to it works.

    Now for my helpful hint: There was never enough time in the college labs to finish my work. I fear that your plan to have plenty of time available on the school computers is in danger. I can also hope things have changed since I was in college and they now have plenty of computers and 36 hour days.

    My favorite thing from a lawyers office: a sign that said, "eschew obfuscation".
     
  13. KatieL

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jul 2, 2011
    1
    0
    #12

    Okay, okay, I admit it. I jumped down Georacer's throat a little too quickly. Public apologies to the board. I guess I've spent the past three years in a place (law school) where gender bias is so very abhorrent and unacceptable that it just got me a little fired up. I'm going to have to accept the fact that it exists and in this field I'm entering I'm likely to encounter it and I must learn to respond in an appropriate manner. I promise I'll be good from now on ;)

    As for the computer issue. Ugh. The school I'm attending seems to have an overwhelming number of computer labs in the engineering buildings but I also am pretty confident that this computer will be able to handle any programs I need to put on it. AutoCad, MatLab and Mathematica all have Mac versions but I also created a 250GB Windows 7 partition on my MacBook through bootcamp so I can go that route too. Thanks again!
     
  14. TBayBoy

    Member

    May 25, 2011
    148
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    What can I say... I'm a first year EE student who returned to school 25 years after graduation to do something else... I look around the room at the 15 or so women of the 100 in the program, or look at the front at the woman math / physics / software professors and glad it doesn't seem unusual but comforting in some way.

    Welcome aboard :)
     
  15. Georacer

    Moderator

    Nov 25, 2009
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    On Kermit2's advice:

    That was a very good piece of advice! Here's a very good video that explains almost all the ins and outs of soldering:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_NU2ruzyc4
    and another one for desoldering:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-_pnc-Qqm8&feature=BFa&list=SP0F8A5BB47E9CE8E6&index=7

    As far as equipment is concerned, I would recommend having a non-variable temperature soldering iron (adequate and cheap for starters), a stand for your soldering iron along with a sponge, solder (not necessarily lead free), a solder pump for de-soldering, some pliers, a wire cutter and optionally a bench vise.

    A multimeter is also a must for any EE, not specifically for soldering, but its uses are unlimited. I have bought mine for 60€ and I still haven't used it in its full capabilities.
     
  16. #12

    Expert

    Nov 30, 2010
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    A stand for a soldering iron can be as simple as a well fashioned coat hanger. I've been using one like that for 30 years! My sponge for wiping the tip is a leftover from the kitchen.

    Your computer seems to have plenty of everything.

    If you didn't mention that you were female, I wouldn't either.
    In fact, you can't tell from my "name" if I'm female!
     
  17. Georacer

    Moderator

    Nov 25, 2009
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    I 've heard that kitchen sponges aren't good for soldering irons, because they're made out of plastic, instead of the standard cellulose. Plastic will melt and stick to your iron little by little, while cellulose will not.

    I forgot to mention that you might want to not breathe the solder fumes. I try not to by holding my breath while the cloud rises from the solder, crossing my face, but I don't get crazy about it either.
     
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  18. #12

    Expert

    Nov 30, 2010
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    I've proven that kitchen sponges are good for soldering irons because I have the good sense to buy the packages that say "celluose" on them and tested them in action for 30 years.
     
  19. Georacer

    Moderator

    Nov 25, 2009
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    Oh, if they're cellulose made, then no problem.
     
  20. t06afre

    AAC Fanatic!

    May 11, 2009
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    Well moistened (clean) toilet paper. Can replace the sponges. As an tip for the field worker
     
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