What to read up on before starting electronic engineering degree?

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by big5824, Jul 24, 2010.

  1. big5824

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jul 15, 2010
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    Im starting an electronic engineering degree at the university of sheffield in september and was wondering what topics I should read up on/learn before i start? Iv done a lot of work with PICs (serial servo controllers, sensorless brushless ESC, etc) so should i be covered in that area for at least the first year? Also how important is logic etc? As currently im relatively clueless with karnaugh maps etc.

    Thanks in advance

    Matt
     
  2. Ghar

    Active Member

    Mar 8, 2010
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    Personally I think any experience at all gives you an advantage.
    You tend to start from near 0.

    My program started with various math courses (some we already knew) and physics, along with intro programming (using Java or C++). I don't remember anyone knowing what a karnaugh map was before we had the logic course. The first electronics course I had (aside from the stuff in the physics course) was circuit theory. That's just straight up math analysis of circuits... it's drudgery and I hated the course.

    General tip - look at the courses you'll be taking. There must be a course calendar.

    It's actually kind of underwhelming what you learn about... in my experience you'll be covering a lot of basic structures in explicit detail. It's very interesting and still challenging but you're not exposed to a huge variety of things. For example, my curriculum barely mentioned zener diodes, while SCRs and TRIACS were never mentioned. We skipped JFETs, never studied unijunction transistors, focused on CMOS almost exclusively over BJTs. Never touched TTL or ECL.

    Really the degree is just a foundation for learning more on your own in the future.
     
  3. mikeysela

    Member

    Jul 24, 2010
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    I am doing ECE and ill tell u what to read. Read on how to keep yourself sane when all your ARtSci buddies are going out clubbing on a friday night and you have to sit at home and do Node Voltage and Circuit mesh analysis until you die and fade into oblivion. And when thats over, they make you do dreadful multistage amplifier analysis, and thats when they just really send you to hell. Good Luck.
     
  4. someonesdad

    Senior Member

    Jul 7, 2009
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    Ghar's last sentence is right on -- once you're a few decades out of school, you'll realize you know little practical stuff when you get out of school. All that stuff you spent time studying in school was really a foundation to build real knowledge out in the "real world".

    One of the most important pieces of advice I feel I can give young folks is to get as much training outside of your specialty as you can. If I was starting school right now and know what I know now, I would take four years of a foreign language (probably Chinese) as well as study the culture. It isn't terribly unlikely you'll wind up at a job where there's some kind of interaction with a Chinese company somewhere. Or get some exposure to law, business, biology or chemistry or biochemistry. It doesn't matter -- the cross-training may prove useful to you at some point in the future. In fact, I'd bet most technical folks at some time in their career said to themselves, "Boy, I wish I had paid more attention in X because I sure need it now". Here, X is some course they were required to take outside of their specialty and they hated it.

    One other skill that is valuable is spend effort to learn how to write technical material well. In my career, the majority of technical folks I worked with didn't have very good written communication skills and this didn't help their careers. I can specifically remember one interview team I was on where I found a few spelling and grammatical mistakes on a person's resume. I pointed this out to the hiring manager and a subsequent investigation turned up that this person had some real problems in the written communication area -- and, thus, didn't get the job (written skills were considered important for the job).
     
  5. Ghar

    Active Member

    Mar 8, 2010
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    You wouldn't be from Toronto would you? Sounds exactly like our situation... ;)

    It definitely isn't enjoyable on its own. Without getting a real interest in it (which is near impossible in the first 2 years of fundamentals) it is quite a bit of suffering.
    Having your own projects and goals in mind is a huge help. That way school can be a complement to that rather than just a brutal trudge.

    It is an extremely rewarding career though and very, very interesting. I'm picking up textbooks and doing problems now just because I want to.
     
  6. timrobbins

    Active Member

    Aug 29, 2009
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    I'd also suggest doing an hour or two 'googling'/'wikipediaring on subject topics that are coming up, or you are just starting on. The intent is to try and get a view of the topic from a worldly wise position, not just from the subject matter presented in the course itself. Starting with a general understanding of what a topic is and where it is used and why (or why not) helps put the theory in context, and perhaps even makes you appreciate why you are plowing through equations that came from the dark ages, and got put to some use at some time in history (even if they are now embedded and buried out of sight in simulation software).

    Ciao, Tim
     
  7. Markd77

    Senior Member

    Sep 7, 2009
    2,803
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    I did Mech Eng, but this might still apply. I found the maths to be really hard, they seemed to assume a level that was higher than I had covered in A level. Everything else was covered from a very basic level; programming, electronics, materials.
     
  8. mikeysela

    Member

    Jul 24, 2010
    87
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    Close. I am doing ECE at Queen's (Kingston of course). Are you doing ECE in UT?
     
  9. Ghar

    Active Member

    Mar 8, 2010
    655
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    Sort of, I graduated from UT a while ago
     
  10. mikeysela

    Member

    Jul 24, 2010
    87
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    i hear its pretty grusome and tough experience, but im sure you got a well paying job now.
     
  11. Ghar

    Active Member

    Mar 8, 2010
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    Not as well paying as OPG or Hydro but it's pretty good.
    Those guys get unionized $60k+ with 35 hour weeks straight out of school, my friend just got such a deal...
     
  12. gootee

    Senior Member

    Apr 24, 2007
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    OK, maybe I'm weird, but during the first one or two years of non-EE "drudgery", and having come in with very little in the way of math and science knowledge, I literally fell in love with the mathematics and physics, and remember fighting off a group of friends trying to pull me away from my desk at 11:30 pm on a Saturday night to go to a party. [A petite beauty wanting affection would have been a different story, of course.] In the first year, the calculus and analytic geometry course and the physics course really woke up my mind. In the second year, I discovered that Differential Equations were more beautiful than music! In the third year, I didn't have to work nearly as hard because my exquisite interest and labors in learning the pre-requisites carried me forward very well. But in our signal and system theory course, learning about transfer functions, Fourier series and transforms, and Laplace transforms, I felt as if I was going into a profound state of nirvana. Then we had probabilistic signal and system theory! And on it went.

    Since we're also talking about careers and getting jobs, and communication skills might be an issue for most engineers, I thought I had better comment on the mention of "unionized". I can't speak about Canada, but, in the USA, engineers are typically salaried (i.e. not hourly) professionals, and belonging to a union is therefore often thought of as "unseemly". I'm only mentioning that because I wouldn't want someone asking about union membership during a job interview, in case it might hurt their chances of getting the job.

    But, personally, I probably wouldn't want to work any place where the engineers were unionized. As engineers, we are very well paid. Why would we want a union? Maybe the slackers would like one. (No offense meant to our Canadian friends. I don't know what it's like to work there, or in other environments with governments that are even more socialist than in the USA.) But as far as I'm concerned, after each pay period ends and I get paid, my employer and I are squared-away. If I then decide to walk away, or they decide that I am no longer needed, it's all fair. [I might not like it. But I have enough confidence in my knowledge, skills, and abilities to believe that I can always find another job, or start a company, and survive and thrive no matter what. (I AM an engineer, after all. <grin>)] (Aside: I'm sorry if this paragraph violates some rule against discussing political ideas, here. But, if it does, then so does implying that being unionized is a good thing.)

    While we're on the subject of communication skills, there's another important point that should be mentioned to new EEs: Technicians. There are many electrical engineers, where I work, who came from what is supposed to be one of the best engineering schools in the U.S., who openly look down on the many electronics technicians with whom we work. That is "a bad thing". Our professors at Purdue must have been wiser than theirs, because they told us that once we were out in "the real world", there would be these people we would work with who would be called "technicians", and that we should treat them as if they were worth their weight in gold, and that they would probably often know more than we did about whatever hardware or systems we might be involved with. That has proven to be very good advice.

    One last thing: Learn to COMMUNICATE, extremely well. It is at least as important, for engineers, as technical knowledge! Think about it: You could have the greatest ideas the world has ever known. But they will not benefit you nor anyone else and will be completely useless(!), UNLESS you can persuade other people to listen, believe, appreciate, take action, finance, buy, etc.

    It's a huge tragedy when someone knows all of the right answers but no one else will ever understand or act on them, simply because the person doesn't know how to effectively get people's interest, explain, persuade, crusade, or whatever is needed.

    So don't take just the required 100-level Interpersonal Communications course. Also take things like Rhetoric. And if you're already out of school and your company offers a training course in something like "Giving Better Presentations", take it!

    Looking at it slightly differently, if you want to advance in your organization, do you even realize that management sees it as a very good thing when someone can stand up and loudly proclaim how things ought to be done? It helps if you are correct, but that is not as important. No joke. But do we want the loud-mouthed idiots running things, and getting all of the rewards, and making messes of everything, for us to clean up and complain about? I, for one, vote NO. So if you are smarter than most people, and engineers usually are, you had better be able to out-gun them, in terms of effective communication. If you are shy, get into assertiveness training. Do whatever it takes. And remember that you will also often need to communicate about engineering issues with non-engineers, and about non-engineering issues with all kinds of people. So learn to pique and hold their interest, play them like violins even, and get things done how you know they should be, or even just how you want them to be. Then you can enjoy the better product or better world you helped to create, or your higher salary, or better position, or more respect, or more sex, or whatever it is that you want, which effective communication skills can help provide.

    Sorry to have blathered-on about all of that, for so long. Carry on.

    Cheers,

    Tom
     
  13. big5824

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jul 15, 2010
    9
    0
    My course choice is sounding less and less appealing with every post :p Although as long as I have time to follow my own projects i guess i can put up with the maths and theory :)
    Anyway, from looking at your replies and the module outlines i think im going to try and learn node voltage and current mesh analysis to get ahead in the circuits and signals module, and for the electronic devices module im going to look further into semiconductors and PN junctions etc. Do you guys think these are good choices? Also am i right in thinking that since iv programmed brushless escs etc from scratch i should be covered for the first year C module? And yes the reason im doing all of this is to ensure i can spend as much time enjoying myself as possible once i get there :D

    As for the communication area, i like to think im someone who is happy to share his opinion in a debate, although i will keep an eye open for communication orientated modules :)
     
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