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EE knowledge after school

  1. Sep 22, 2008 #1
    When I get my bachalor degree in EE how much knowledge will I know about making circuits and understanding things. I know they don't teach you anything but I know I would love to make all kinds of stuff in my spare time as a hobby. I plan to get a Masters also if that helps. Does anyone who majored in EE ever built something complex from their own knowledge that they could show. Thanks
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 23, 2008 #2


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    Well with your bare bones program, you'll know what's connected to what (and an understanding of "ground" and voltage sources), how to read a circuit diagram, what the basic components do, your fundamental voltage/current finding techniques, and hopefully, the (proper) use of your basic instrumentation, along with some experience in microprocessors/microcontrollers, and programming. For whatever reason, most EEs don't seem to really like to do the latter and view it as an onerous task to be feared. Or done in MATLAB. Though to be fair, most programmer types are the same way regarding hardware. Possibly a function of the whole EE/CE/CS split, and compartmentalization of the skill set.

    That said, it depends on what clubs you join (vehicle / robot projects / Engineers Without Borders--great way to learn to do more with less, BTW), who you hang out with, which electives you take, and what you do in your "free" time, and for your project course(s). In short, your particular university experience.

    I don't believe that the ability to design (complex) circuits from scratch is part of the fundamental EE skill set. Basic ones (for an EE), sure. Understanding what's basically going on with a circuit diagram, yes. The nebulous "engineering decision making" thing, and problem solving / critical thinking: the most important things you'll take away from engineering (well, that and your engineering friends/contacts, the work ethic necessary to survive engineering school, and the loss of the fear of wading into documentation, and generating novella-sized lab reports and multi-page solutions to single questions). You have to keep in mind that EE is pretty multi-disciplinary these days, and many EE specializations don't require electronics beyond a "black box" level of understanding--if that (software, some controls, the more physics-y aspects of EE, etc.)

    But you better still know (at a high level) how a transistor works, even if you don't remember the exact details, or how to bias it properly, etc.

    At my school, at least, you got a lot of this, and a lot of that, without (sometimes) the synthesis joining them together (that's the nature of the beast when you have experts in one field trying to cram as much about that field into you as possible). The synthesis is left up to you, which you eventually get as you see more and more. But I think the one thing most people pick up in engineering school is the ability to think analytically, and pull things apart (metaphorically, if not literally) and figure out how they work, or how they failed, or what's wrong with something, and how things interconnect and are related.

    I like to think that this changes your world-view, that you see how things (in general) are interconnected, and tend to be more analytical, but this probably contributes to the perception that some have of engineers as being aloof. This might also lend itself to Teiresias or Cassandra syndrome, where you can see problems / disaster ahead, but are powerless to stop it, no matter how much screeching you do to "those in charge" (Engineering hero Dilbert, for instance). Then again, this might lend itself to the perception of engineers as being haughty and/or pessimists.

    Being a hobbyist and tinkerer is probably the best way to pick up those circuit making abilities. The advantage of doing EE (as opposed to going to trade school) is that you have a better theoretical background, and a broader base from which to draw from. The Master's only helps if you design electronics (for instrumentation or in the course of repairs), which you may very well do. Unless your Master's actually involves the design of electronics.

    I've designed stuff much more complicated than I used to be capable of doing before I started EE (which was basically nothing), but I think it might be looked down upon by people who design electronics every day for a living. Also, the above is just my impression of EE school (right or wrong, and as a graduate student with relatively little industry experience), and may or may not be the product of flu-induced fever and insomnia. Caveat emptor!
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2008
  4. Sep 23, 2008 #3
    The "Design Problems" assignements from MIT's Advanced Circuit Techniques course (for graduates) might give you an idea what is taught:


    MATLABdude: Get well soon ! And no, what you write does not sound at all like a fever product, on the contrary, deep insights as far as I can tell.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2008
  5. Sep 24, 2008 #4
    Thanks a lot for the answers. Anyone have any examples of things they made?
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