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Advice for Upcoming Classes

  1. Aug 13, 2017 #1
    Sophomore Intended Mechanical Engineering here. I have a pretty nice schedule this time around, all STEM classes. Most are easy but I have Differential Equations, Physics II, and Statics which are the hard ones. I have a lot of free time to study over the next few weeks and wanted to try to prepare myself for the hard subjects of these classes. If anyone has taken any of these classes could they please help enlighten me about what the hardest subjects in these classes are, so that I can study them in advance a bit to get a better grasp on them. Also any other advice would also be welcome, thanks.
     
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  3. Aug 13, 2017 #2

    scottdave

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    Find a few people that you get along with who are also taking the classes. Form a study group. Find out if there are help desks available, often run by one or more of the engineering honor societies at you university.
     
  4. Aug 13, 2017 #3

    scottdave

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  5. Aug 13, 2017 #4

    berkeman

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    Since you are heading down the ME path, I think you will find the Statics class pretty straightforward. If you like Physics, then Physics II should be a fun class, and probably won't present any big problems. Personally I would start in on your DE book (do you have it already?) and read ahead a few chapters to get an overall feel for how the class progresses. I wouldn't worry too much about doing many of the problems yet (maybe do a few of the early word problems for fun and motivation) -- I'd be more inclined to get an overview of all of the more useful methods used for solving the various types of DEs.

    One of the things that happened to me in my undergrad DE class was that I was a bit surprised at each new technique that we learned. I was just getting comfortable with one type of problem and solution, and the next day we were moving on to a different type. I did okay in the class, but would have gotten a lot more out of it, I think, if I had been a bit more "ahead of the curve" (car talk) by having a better overview of what-all we were going to cover. Also, I'd suggest keeping a "crib sheet" of the types of DEs and the types of solution methods as you go along. There are enough of them that it's helpful to develop your own study aid to use when studying for midterms and the final.

    Have fun! :smile:

    EDIT/ADD -- Do you have the syllabus for the DE class that lists the subjects to be covered in the class in order? Often the instructor will skip around the book, and not necessarily progress straight through the chapters covering each subject. It would be best for you to follow the order of the subjects that the inst4ructor will be using. If the syllabus is not published yet for the class, maybe e-mail the instructor, or try to find out what s/he taught in the class in previous years.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2017
  6. Aug 13, 2017 #5

    Krylov

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    In addition to the above advice: You might want to find out if your DE class uses any numerical software (it could be MATLAB, for instance) for the solution of analytically intractable problems. (One ME example I could think of, is an anharmonic oscillator.) You could then already familiarize yourself with this software, play around with the function calls, the plotting, etc. This way you can focus on the actual course material once the course starts.

    To berkeman and others: Does the typical undergraduate engineering DE course in the USA indeed focus mainly on analytical (closed-form) solutions, or is there also time allocated for the discussion of qualitative methods, such as basic phase plane analysis?
     
  7. Aug 13, 2017 #6

    berkeman

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    When I took undergrad DE back in the late 1970s, it was all analytical. It could well be different now, though, with the prevalence of computing power.
     
  8. Aug 13, 2017 #7

    scottdave

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    Hopefully your DiffEq class includes software interaction. When I took Differential Equations in the mid 90's, the course was lecture/lab, with a weekly computer lab. This was my first introduction to Maple, which was still fairly new. It provided an easy way to plot direction fields (I think it is similar to a phase plane), which I thought was a cool way to explain the behavior of a system. It is great tool for checking work, as well as having a programming language. We could write programs as well as use the built in symbolic math tools.
    It was an engineering DiffEq class, so all of my classmates were engineering majors. There were lots of application based problems and team/group projects. I really enjoyed it.

    We used MATLAB in some of the engineering classes, which came later. It was a great tool for numerical solutions, and had its own programming language, which helps to solve problems.

    While in school, I purchased the student editions of both programs (Windows versions), which helped with some projects, as output and graphs could be copied/pasted or exported for use with Word and PowerPoint.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2017
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