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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

7 Tips for Engineering Students

I often get questions or concerns from engineering students about studying and being able to pull through college to reach their goals of becoming engineers. I have to admit going through engineering school is no light challenge, but at the same time it is an enjoyable experience.

Common comments are concerns of not being able to understand the questions in an exam, or not able to go through the needed steps, or just finding subject matter too complicated.

Here is my advice for of these folks and other future engineers.

1. Understand that engineering is all about problem solving for the betterment of humanity, through the use of scientific facts. This means that a good engineer must,
  • understand what the problem is (how it happens, why it happens, when it happens, where it happens)
  • analyze the problem - visualize it (use a pencil and paper to sketch, engineers are born to sketch)
  • determine its scope - (how big is the problem, who does it affect, under which conditions)
  • determine what information is given to us (data, assumptions, facts)
  • learn the sciences (calculus, physics, chemistry, etc..) to use in problem solving
  • apply these sciences to the appropriate solutions for the relevant problems
2. Never memorize, engineers are thinkers. Anything you learn must make sense to you. You must understand why a theorem or rule is the way it is, how it came to be so, this will help with critical thinking, and will enhance information retention.

3. Do not depend on calculators too much, understand how calculations occur, understand how the value for the various engineering functions are calculated, the meaning behind a differential, or integral, etc.. Then use the calculator to just speed up calculations - remember a fool with a tool is still a fool.

4. Develop mini-processes for yourself of things to do when you analyze engineering problems, make these processes adaptive to suit your thinking styles, analytical abilities and memory capabilities.

5. Practice makes perfect. Just like spending ours in the gym pumping those muscles up, or on the court perfecting those slam dunks. Engineers need to practice solving various types of problems (easy one, long, ones, short ones, complex ones, complicated ones, straight-forward ones, etc...).

6. Be organized - learn how to manage real-estate space on your paper. Organize data, analysis, scratch notes, results, conclusion in clear separate sections of your sheet. Be a good communicator, improve your writing and verbal skills, to allow you to effectively communicate your solutions to others.

7. Love the subject matter. You can never solve a problem, you don't care about. A good engineer can never design a bridge if he cares more or less of the importance of crossing the river. Love it, adore it, live it, immerse in it... be the engineer !!

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