Balancing theory and practical

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by l.morales, Feb 6, 2016.

  1. l.morales

    Thread Starter New Member

    Feb 6, 2016
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    Hi everyone,

    I'm an Electrical and Electronic engineering degree student on a gap year and starting my 2nd year of uni this Sept. I haven't really learned much in my 1st year of uni I just memorised things before the exam and forget them straight after.

    I need to know about electronics both practically (for real life use) and theoretically (for university). I was wondering what's the best way to prepare from now so that in September I am balanced between being both practically useful whilst also having knowledge of the theory to prepare myself for the theory that they will teach me at uni. Book and project recommendations would be highly appreciated.

    Thanks
     
  2. DickCappels

    Moderator

    Aug 21, 2008
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    Responses to a question you did not ask: A quick read suggests that you do not have a strong interest in electronic engineering other than as a job. Perhaps this is a good time to reconsider your choice of careers.

    Now on to your question: It might help to become interested in some particular aspects of electronics. I think people tend to commit things to memory more readily when they relate to a personal interest.

    One way get "into" electronics might be the path that many of us followed which was to work on our own projects that interest us personally.
     
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  3. l.morales

    Thread Starter New Member

    Feb 6, 2016
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    Thank you for the advice, where would I be able to find a suitable list of beginner projects that I could choose from?

    And yes you were right, previously I only wanted engineering as a job however I would now like to develop my interest in it as I see there are many beneficial applications of electronic engineering.
     
  4. Johann

    Senior Member

    Nov 27, 2006
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  5. l.morales

    Thread Starter New Member

    Feb 6, 2016
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  6. Dodgydave

    Distinguished Member

    Jun 22, 2012
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  7. tindel

    Active Member

    Sep 16, 2012
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    Practical experience is only gained by doing. Fortunately DIY projects usually give you some practical experience with electronics. Schooling gives you the theory to help things make sense. Unfortunately there are still business aspects to engineering that neither of these things give a young engineer. These are things like quality, marketing, total product cost, manufacturing considerations, interfacing with your mechanical designer and techician, etc. that can ONLY be learned from experience with a company that can fund these very important aspects of electronic design.

    For where you're at - I'd highly suggest building your own home electronics lab. You will need a ~60MHz scope, multimeter, function generator, and power supply. This can be assembled for less than $1000 USD pretty easily. When you are assigned a lab at school, try to do the same lab at home, but do it in a different way. For example - if you have to design a zener voltage regulator at school... build a voltage regulator at home that uses a different technology - perhaps a discrete linear power supply with a transistor. That's one good way to get practical experience and broaden your knowledge. There is usually more than one way to accomplish a desired design goall

    In my experience there is a very strong correlation between interest in engineering at home and success as a electrical engineer professionally. Most of my colleagues at my current job fiddle with things to keep other skills sharp at home and they are very good engineers. Most of my colleagues at my previous job only practiced engineering at work, and they were world renown experts at the one aspect that they did every day, but they couldn't do anything beyond that - and they are stuck working at that one job the rest of their life - whether they like it or not. The money is usually too good for most people in that situation to leave to do something else, and most don't have the broad enough experience to be marketable to another company.

    Electronics is truly a vast field with many areas to explore that can make you a decent salary and a comfortable lifestyle, but it takes work - lots of it. And don't get too upset when the sales guy owns a yacht on Cape Cod. He earned it. He's got the toughest job of all - convincing someone that the thing you made is the best thing since sliced bread even though they don't really need it.
     
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  8. crutschow

    Expert

    Mar 14, 2008
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    Try to find what aspect of engineering you find most interesting and concentrate on that.
    For example, do you like to tinker with circuits, or would you rather program a computer, or do system analysis, or something else?
    You will always be a better engineer doing something you find interesting.
    I always enjoyed playing with circuits, so I ended up being a (mostly) analog circuit designer.
     
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  9. l.morales

    Thread Starter New Member

    Feb 6, 2016
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    Thanks for the advice. Also, would you say I can go through 'The art of electronics' on my own or would you say 'Practical electronics for inventors' is more suitable for me, and what would be a good way to retain the vast amounts of information in them?
     
  10. tindel

    Active Member

    Sep 16, 2012
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    I am not personally familiar with 'Practical Electronics for Inventors' so I cannot comment on it. 'The Art of Electronics' on the other hand is a very popular book and the third edition has just recently come out. If you want to go through it - be my guest. It is a very popular book for a reason. It provides many of the practical aspects electrical engineering. It's not my personal favorite but I have used it as a reference on several occasions (albeit the second edition because it's available for free online).

    There are many starter kits available online... maybe start with one of those. Forrest Mimms has some electronics kits and beginner books that many people started with. The kit used to be available from Radio Shack. I'm having a hard time finding the kit online - but the books inside it are both available in pdf versions online. You could read through them, then order the parts you need online from digikey and you're in business.
     
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  11. Jony130

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 17, 2009
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  12. hp1729

    Well-Known Member

    Nov 23, 2015
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    I would agree with the hands-on building. A scope is certainly nice but you can do a lot without one. Yes, build your own lab setup, analog and digital. If you are uncertain what field you want to go in try a bit in all fields you can. Basic analog and digital stuff you will find in these forums. Communications? Find a group of ham radio operators.
    Trade magazines are filled with state of the art info.
    Military systems? COTS journal (Commercial, off the shelf) is a good magazine. Every industry has a magazine. Slot Machines (Casino gaming) ? Slot Tech Magazine is good but it is oriented more to the technician.
     
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  13. l.morales

    Thread Starter New Member

    Feb 6, 2016
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    Thank you very much I will have a look at these books
     
  14. l.morales

    Thread Starter New Member

    Feb 6, 2016
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    Thanks very much the advice about looking into specific magazines is very helpful. Would I have to subscribe to them or can I read them online?
     
  15. tindel

    Active Member

    Sep 16, 2012
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    I strongly disagree. If you have any desire to become a electrical engineer understanding how to use a scope and their limitations is mandatory. The sooner you get your hands on one and are able to start using one, the better you will understand what it is, how it works, and it's limitations. A scope does not need to be purchased right away, but the sooner, the better. Every engineer that I've know worth their weight in fecal matter has had at least one scope and lab bench at home - with one exception... but he was a freak of nature... and I'm not sure he didn't have a scope at home as well.
     
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  16. Sensacell

    Well-Known Member

    Jun 19, 2012
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    Learning this stuff without a driving passion is like pushing cinder blocks uphill with your face.

    If you love it, it flows into you like water.

    Make sure you are doing this for the right reasons- your life happiness depends on it.
     
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