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Help me prepare to study EE (in a fun way)

  1. Mar 1, 2010 #1
    I want to be an electrical engineer. It sounds fascinating, but I honestly don't know much about it at all. It's about time I learned. I start college this fall but right now I have a LOT of free time and I want to get a head start now.

    What could I spend the next few months doing before I start school? I see this time as an opportunity to immerse myself in engineering and fall in love with it before college steals my life away. Most importantly I want to get a solid basic understanding of what I'm getting myself into, and have some fun in the process.

    I envy nerds who spend all their time tinkering around with electronics, programming, (and posting on physics forums.) It sounds awesome, but I don't know where to start.

    So any ideas? Know any tutorials/websites that could give me a solid intro to EE? I could start some simple projects for hands on experience with electronics. What tools might I need? Which programming language should I start learning? (jk)

    Thanks for your help. (I'm such a n00b)
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 1, 2010 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Welcome to the PF. Good goals you have there. I'd suggest a couple of things to get you ahead of the game, and to let you see if you enjoy EE.

    Get a copy of The Art of Electroics, by Horowitz and Hill. You can get used copies for about $50


    After you do a little bit of reading, get a couple of electronics kit projects from Radio Shack or online, and put them together. You will learn a lot by building things, and what you learn from building real stuff will help you in your book learning too. It's a matter of "learning to ask the right questions" of yourself and your instructors as you learn.

    By the time you've built a few kits and have read the AoE from cover-to-cover, you will be in great shape in your early EE studies. Have fun!
  4. Mar 1, 2010 #3


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    Science Advisor

    If you have the time to learn programming and can pick up things reasonably quickly I recommend learning assembler.

    I found this site for related resources:


    When I learned assembler i learned from Intels 386 publications but i had been programming for a bit by then.

    The art of assembler relates to the architecture of the 80x86 (ie PC MS-DOS) but it will give you a good idea of the sorts of instructions that microcomputers or controllers have.

    In fact if you learn assembler you will probably pick up C pretty quickly. Now some might recommend learning C before assembler but if your doing EE and are working on say embedded systems where time critical code is important, then your knowledge of the architecture of the system and of the appropriate assembler code will be vital.

    I recommend getting familiar with basic constructs and what instructions there are rather than trying to write say a simple program (if you learn quick enough to do so then go for it). Programming usually takes a few years minimum before you can think high level enough and see things in the code in a way that you can debug quickly and understand whats going on in every part of your source so don't feel bad if it doesn't sink in straight away. You're uni should have experienced people that can fill in the holes in your knowledge but it is something you will have to practice to become proficient in.

    If you have any questions ill answer them as best as I can.
  5. Mar 1, 2010 #4
    If you want to go down the microcontroller route, be nice to yourself and start off with an Arduino. It's easy enough to get it to do some shiny stuff that you may actually stick with it, and in the process you'll learn some of the core issues of hardware programming (initializing pins, I/O, timing, a variant of C, etc.) Grab some of the add-ons to start experimenting with sensors, breadboards, soldering, and all that other shiny hands on stuff. On top of that, the arduino family has some semi-powerful boards, so you may end up using these skills again. The arduinos have become a microcontroller of choice for engineering senior designs at my school, and are great for random small projects.

    Not quite true, which is why people usually specify that they know x86 assembly as opposed to MIPS or any other.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2010
  6. Mar 2, 2010 #5


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    Yes you're right about that. I figured by learning one form of assembler, one could learn another fairly quickly (like say a C++ programmer transitioning to say Java). Once you get an idea of standard architectures, instruction sets, and hardware configurations from a programming side of view it becomes more or less understood what to do and how to transition between the various platforms.
  7. Mar 2, 2010 #6
    haha, I'm just happy that I can always change programs if I need to. I'd crap my pants if I had to make a final career decision today, but I'm excited to try it out. It will either become my career for the next 50 years or lead me to the right one.

    That book looks great. I came across another book on that Amazon page. Here it is.

    It's cheaper and looks simpler. I have an 'AP Physics B' knowledge of circuits and electricity, so... I'm basically starting from scratch. What would you guys recommend? I'd gladly throw down the 50 bucks for a used copy if it's going to be worth it.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  8. Mar 2, 2010 #7


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    Staff: Mentor

    If you have a university library near you, go there and look through the two books. That's the best way to decide which would be best for you. Pretty much every university library has copies of the AoE.
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