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Electrical Computer Engineering Advice, Searching for Answers

  1. Oct 11, 2009 #1

    I am a Sophomore Electrical Engineering Major and Mathematics Minor.
    Ive been debating switching to Computer Engineering because I like Computer Science.
    (In highschool I competed at tons of programming competitions, I loved it and Im interested in how computers work on a deeper level also)
    I came into college with scholarships and credit and have packed my semesters full, so I have a bunch of extra credits to fill up later while they're still paying for my school.

    I am currently taking these core classes:
    -Intro to Circuits
    -Digital Devices (How adding and memory works with logic gates has blown my mind)
    -Differential Equations (Solving diff eqs is fun)

    1. I was thinking of staying EE and just taking the CS classes that CE majors take, what do you guys think?
    2. Im taking my last two math classes next semester (Diff Eq 2 and Probability and Random Processes) but I dont want my math to end there (I dont want to stop learning) whats the next step? what math classes would you guys recommend taking considering my major? (Is the next step graduate level math classes?)
    3. Do you guys know of any electronic kits/projects I could work on that are fun and challenging?
    4. Will there be a point where Ill finally understand what Im fully interested in or what subspecialties of ECE I am interested in? I feel like Ive spent the last 19 years working up to this point and Im not even half sure where the path Im taking is headed, Im excited, but a bit impatient, is that normal?
    5. (Electrical/Computer Engineers, Mathematics, Physics and Computer Scientists) What books/tv shows/documentaries/etc have inspired/motivated you to do what you do?
    6. Any other general advice or things to point me in the right direction?

    Thanks in advance,
    Stephen C.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 12, 2009 #2
    Sounds like computer engineering would be more up your alley if you're specifically interested in computers rather than electronics and applied electromagnetics in general. If you're interested in hardware as well as software, you should probably stick with electrical/computer engineering rather than computer science, as CS is primarily software.

    If you want some projects, pick up an Arduino and work through some of the projects...
    http://moderndevice.com/diecimila.shtml [Broken]

    I'm a Sophomore/Junior in EE, and we use these in labs quite frequently.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  4. Oct 12, 2009 #3
    1) I think staying in the EE program and then adding the supplemental CS/CE classes as you go is a good idea. You will be a very strong candidate if you know both a lot of EE and CS/CE. I feel like EE is sort of the best place for someone interested in engineering, computer science, math, and physics all at the same time.
    2) The next step is definitely not graduate level math classes (otherwise what would a math major even be doing? :). I would recommend taking a PDE course and vector calculus course beyond multivariate calculus (if it is offered). The physics department is something to look at too. For example courses in theoretical electromagnetism (you will probably take an applied course in the EE department), solid state physics, and optics are all applicable to EE.
    3) I second the nomination of Arduino. I wish I would have known about this while I was going through my EE program. Also, there is http://projecteuler.net/", which is a good side project to teach yourself some problem solving programming and math skills.
    4) That's perfectly normal. I'm a graduate student in math, and I still feel that way. Just be patient and concentrate on what you're learning right now, but always look ahead. Just don't get distracted by it.
    5) Too many too list! :) I will mention that Nikola Tesla is my hero. If you haven't read about him, do so, but just try to wade through all the fantasy, mad scientist stuff. He is the greatest engineer to walk the planet. I also like reading things by Richard Feynman and George Gamow, whose writings are very fun and easy to read.
    6) Start applying to internships and http://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/reu_search.cfm" [Broken] for something to do (and get paid handsomely for) during the summer as soon as possible. I started applying for stuff my sophomore year. These experiences are what help shape the direction you want to take.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  5. Oct 12, 2009 #4
    @Nick M: Thanks for the advice. In our labs Ive gotten to make schematics and write verilog code for an FPGA Basys Board, so far I love the labs. It seems the Arduino is very popular and I found a lot of cool projects that I could work on for my board now :D (I made the mistake of googling "FPGA Basys Projects" instead of just "FPGA Projects")

    @n!kofeyn: Thanks for the advice. 1. I feel that im in the right academic department :D
    2. I have taken Vector Calc, My school offers an undergrad Intro PDE class, I looked at what math majors here are required to take and I found Advanced Calc I and II and Modern Algebra, should I take any of those? Also I may take Modern Physics.
    3. I have done some problems at Project Euler, I also found: Topcoder.com, Hackthissite.org and Usaco.org and I will be competing in the IEEE Xtreme Programming Contest coming up.
    5. I have not read much of Nikola Tesla or George Gamow and now I will, but I have read a lot of Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan, Michio Kaku, Richard Dawkins, Ray Kurzweil, Isaac Asimov, etc.
    6. I went to my first career fair a few weeks ago, super nervous, I got my first interview and I did awesome, not sure if I got the internship yet. But it seems most companies want juniors/seniors and co-op students (Im not sure if I should co-op Ive heard arguments for both sides, any opinions on the matter?).
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2009
  6. Oct 12, 2009 #5
    The advanced calculus and modern algebra courses will be proof based classes. So if you don't want to do more abstract or higher level math, these classes won't help you for engineering. Modern physics was actually required by my school for EE majors. I definitely think it's worth your time, especially if you end up going to graduate school.

    On the matter of co-ops/internships, it really depends on what company or lab you do it with. I did one and would consider it to be a great experience. Plus you get to see how a business is run, what engineers to day to day, and you usually get paid quite a bit. I had a few friends that did the co-op thing where they went to work for the company for 3-4 semesters, and a few of them bought a new car while still an undergraduate.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2009
  7. Oct 12, 2009 #6
    To supplement my previous post, EE is one of the primary four engineering degrees that most employers look for as an undergraduate foundation (according to my University that is). The others being Civil, Mechanical, and Chemical. From these general foundations you should then specialize in areas such as Computer, Environmental, or Aeronautical Engineering (etc.).

    That said, last years graduating class at my university saw 100% of it's Computer engineers hired before commencement compared to 85% for EE.

    What separates an EE from a Comp.E at my school is just four classes...

    Multivariate Calculus for EE, Discreet Structures for Comp.E
    Semiconductor Devices & Materials for EE, Intensive Software Engineering for Comp.E
    Fields & Waves for EE, Networking Theory for Comp.E
    Electronics Lab II for EE, Computer Systems Lab II for Comp.E

    And then Senior electives. EE students stay in the EE curriculum, while most Comp.E students take some coursework in EE and some in the Comp.Sci. department. It's entirely possible that an EE and a Comp.E student will take the exact same senior electives though, making their only academic distinction the above four courses.

    So both degrees are quite similar (especially at my school), but EE's learn more about applied E&M and QM, whereas Comp.E's spend that time learning more code.
  8. Oct 12, 2009 #7


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