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Civil Salad with EE on the side.

  1. Jun 7, 2008 #1
    Okay, I've decided to pursue Civil Engineering (Just finished my first year and part of my sophomore year) and focus in Environmental Engineering (for water/wastewater treatment). I've been operating a plant for about 8 years now, so this degree will give me a real boost in this field with more challenging work and greater responsibilities.

    But I have a personal interest in electrical engineering as well - specifically control systems. I'd like to learn how to create control systems (such as SCADA systems) for controlling wastewater processes.

    I've stripped the UMass EE curriculum down into it's core classes (removing redundant general education classes, mathematics that I'm taking for Civil, and extra electives). I'd like to put together a self-study curriculum for myself to pursue on the side during breaks, summer, etc. I just finished taking Linear Algebra (got an A-) which is required for EE at UMass but not CivE. I have a rough guide as to what I should pursue, but I'd appreciate the recommendations from current EE students, EE's, and anyone knowledgeable. I've been picking up EE textbooks at used bookstores as students dump them. Some of them are brand new and look like they haven't even been opened!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 8, 2008 #2
    So I was considering the texts for the following classes to pursue in my own time...

    Java Programming (incl. Data Structures & Algorithms)
    Introduction to Electrical Engineering (Overview, Concepts, Abstractions)
    Circuit Analysis
    Hardware Organization & Design
    Signals & Systems
    Probability & Random Processes
    Semiconductor Devices & Materials
    Fields & Waves

    This would cover what is taught in the sophomore/junior classes in EE at UMass (minus the three Computer/Electronics Labs).

    What are some more advanced electives/topics that I should pursue?

    My goal isn't to have a foundation as solid as someone who majored in EE, but to develop an understanding and ability to build control systems specifically related to the industry I plan to continue on in (Water/Wastewater Treatment).
  4. Jun 8, 2008 #3


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    Hello Nick M,
    I do not have any information about your post, but i do have a question that you might have an answer to.
    In one of my books there was a statement about the sterilization of sewer sludge, and as i remember it was 750 degrees F, applied for about 30 minutes or more, do you have any knowledge of a process like this?

    I know i read something, but have not been able to find that reference again, thanks in advance for any information, or a source.

  5. Jun 8, 2008 #4
    Hmmm... I'm not sure Ron, sorry.

    I work at a combined Industrial/Municipal plant, so the municipal waste we receive is mixed with waste from a recycled paper factory (in a 5%/95% ratio respectively). Our primary sludge from the primary clarifiers is pressed and goes to an environmental firm. They cut it with sand and lace it with grass seed. It's then used to cap landfills, stabilize slopes to prevent landslides, make big green patches for developments that involved leveling, and I believe in fields to produce food for animals. Our final effluent is sterilized with gaseous chlorine which does a fantastic job but is quite dangerous to work with.

    I did briefly work in a plant that had a large scale composting operation. It worked quite well, and they were actually able to sell the final product. A treatment plant down the road also uses an incinerator for their sludge - but that process is used to reduce the final volume by burning off the organic material in addition to sterilization.
  6. Jun 8, 2008 #5
    If your interest is only in control systems, you probably don't need to take all that comprehensive of an EE cirriculum. Stuff on semiconductors and E&M is probably extraneous; the important ones from your list would be signals & systems and probability/random processes. Given that you're already majoring in engineering, my advice would be to take only a few necessary lower-division EE classes, and then take the upper-division courses on controls as electives. So I'd go look up the actual controls classes, and see what prerequisites they require; quite possibly you won't need to know anything about circuits, hardware design, or Java (although these are all worthwhile topics in their own right).

    Also, at many schools controls is concentrated in the Mechanical Engineering department, as opposed to EE, so you should double-check that as well. Basically, figure out what the core upper-division controls classes are, and build your plan around that. It's probably a good idea to ask a controls prof at your school about the cirriculum; they'll be able to fill in the details much better than anyone here.
  7. Jun 9, 2008 #6
    I looked into the Mechanical Engineering control systems classes, and most of them seem to cover EE basics along with programming PLCs.

    I'd like to get a bit more involved than that.

    My goal is to have the ability to both design and troubleshoot SCADA and DCS systems that involve GUI's. Of course most of the hardware will be purchased, but I need the ability to solve compatibility issues and understand the underpinnings of the technology so that I fully understand it's applications and limitations. Also, I need to learn a language like Java to write the software that does the controlling and data storage (I say Java only because it is the high-level language used throughout the EE program at Umass).

    Many of the components of these systems communicate wirelessly, so I would also like to learn some in that area. Yesterday I picked up "Planar Microwave Engineering" by Thomas Lee which should help once I get the intermediate classes down.

    My General Physics II w/Calculus class was fairly rigorous, so I do have a good foundation in the basics of E&M. Most of the systems I would like to design involve turning motors on/off and varying motor speeds to maintain different voltages that come from sensors (that I would be purchasing of course). I did take a programming theory course using VB that got into arrays and data storage, but I want to move into Java and get much more in depth to expand my coding ability/efficiency.

    I definitely plan to talk to the EE advisor again at UMass, but I was looking for some tips and guidance from those who have experience in this area.
  8. Jun 9, 2008 #7
    Yeah, if you're interested in programming, particularly of embedded devices, and in details of wireless comms and motor functions, then more EE is definitely the way to go. Some schools offer classes in the physics department that amount to a crash-course in programming of microcontrollers, so that graduates will have a fighting chance of doing useful lab work after they graduate. So you might look into that; I took such a course and probably learned more embedded programming there than in any of the EE classes.

    I'd think twice about Java, however; it's very popular in CS departments in academia, and so ends up being required for EE majors, but it's pretty much irrelevant to embedded programming, which is still done in C. There's a cliche developing about EE's being subjected to Java throughout undergrad, and then never touching it again (which is what happened to me). That's not to knock Java; it's a fine language and wonderful for doing higher-level application programming. If you're interested in more high-level, PC control systems, then Java may be a good bet. Although, honestly, for that stuff I'd just use LabVIEW.
  9. Jun 17, 2008 #8
    I did control theory for my undergrads in Mechanical Engineering and its really important that you have a solid grounding in control theory, so I'd strongly recommend doing:

    Vibrations and Control of Dynamic Systems
    Modelling and Analysis of Mechanical Systems

    {edit: these are the modules I did, of course you need to find units that are similar to those}

    the Electronics can be covered later (PID contollers, 741 op amps etc) , the programming can be picked up yourself (eg PIC/assembly/C++/C#)

    I'm not to keen on java, so I'll keep quite on that topic :D

    just my view,

    Last edited: Jun 17, 2008
  10. Jun 18, 2008 #9
    Nick - I'm a UMass Grad (Mech Eng in '01). Have you thought about doing a BDIC minor or dual major (I'm assuming you are at Amherst; I'm not sure if the smaller UMass campuses have this opportunity)? You'd basically be able to work with the EE department to build the exact major that you need while also pursuing your Civil Eng degree.
  11. Jun 18, 2008 #10
    Well, I really have my hands full because I'm an older student (26) and work full time. I work nights and can usually complete some of my homework at night if things run smoothly at the plant, but trying to do something like a double major would be a bit too difficult I'm afraid (I have re-organized the course flow so that four classes is the maximum I will tackle per semester). I'm looking to do something more on the side - so that I can break from it if I need to focus more on my graded work.

    I'm currently in the UMass/GCC engineering program (taking classes at both campus').
  12. Jun 19, 2008 #11
    Obviously it was just a suggestion, not knowing your constraints. It sounds like you've got a lot on your plate as it is :)

    The only other suggestion I might have is to approach a professor in the EE department and explain your situation. They may be able to help you formulate a self-study program that you can pick-up and put down as necessary. It would also build a relationship with someone in the field should you get stuck on any of the EE aspects.

    Best of luck in your future endeavors! Nice to talk to a fellow UMass engineer!
  13. Jun 19, 2008 #12
    Does anyone have any texts they would recommend when it comes to designing control systems?
    How about any texts on learning the sticks and stones of EE?
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