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Lazy person - but up for the challenge

  1. May 9, 2012 #1
    Hey Everyone,

    Firstly, I did post this in the "Should I be an Engineer" thread, but I feel like this post is more asking "do you think this is the right/smart career/academic choice" and not "do you think my skills would make me a good engineer"

    tl;dr : I'm a lazy kid who just finished up his first semester of college as a music performance/philosophy double major, and want to cease being unproductive and have a good challenge through college; EE is something that interests me, and physics is something that has always interested me, do you think it is smart to switch, and to which one, and why or why not?

    I want to be brutally honest about myself, and in return I ask that you all are brutally honest in your opinions.

    I just finished up my freshman year at the University of Kentucky, I'm double majoring in Music Performance and Philosophy with a minor in Computer Sciences. I've been in music all my life, and have a full ride scholarship with music, however, I have absolutely no desire (and have never had a desire) to be a performer, or go into music of any sort as a career. I added Philosophy because I really enjoy the classes, and it will only take an extra five over the next three years to fulfill the major's requirements, so I'd like to keep that major, however, if I minor in it, it's only one extra class, and I'm fine with that as well.

    I have been wanting to switch majors ever since I got into college, but haven't really figured out what I want to do exactly. My father has a major in electrical engineering, all of my good friends are engineers (an ME, one CECS/EE, another EE, a ChemE, etc). Looking at the classes you have to take as an electrical engineer, they all seem like fun, and interesting, the only thing that spooks me is the calculus.

    Now for the brutally honest part:
    I'm a very lazy person, and always have been. So far in my life I've gotten by purely on natural talents. I sailed through high school with a 3.5 GPA, taking mostly advanced classes, however, I did fail physics my junior year (partly because the teacher was impossible, partly because I was really lazy) and now I'm sailing through college. To be honest, I'm really tired of being lazy. I really dislike sitting at my laptop goofing around on facebook, 9gag, eve online, etc, for hours on end because I have no real homework or anything to do. Honestly, I'm not the greatest at math, but that, I believe, is because I never really tried at it. Like I said, I'm lazy, and so I never studied in high school for any of my math classes. I took up to algebra 2, which is all that was required at my high school. So, as far as math, I haven't had any math since my junior year of high school (which was two years ago now).

    I very much want to be challenged in life, and very much want to stop being lazy. Physics is something that I have always enjoyed in life, although I've never really applied myself in it. As said above, I failed a semester of physics in high school because of my lack of studying (and lack of doing homework) but if I actually tried I am confident that I would excel at it. My many engineering friends offered their help in calculus if I decided to go into the major, as I would be two semesters behind them. EE requires four total semesters of calc.

    I've also always been interested in language, so I think I'd like to major in French. If I do this, I could then double major in physics quite easily (relatively speaking; they are in the same college so it wouldn't take much to double major)... however, I've heard that a physics major is much more difficult than an engineering major.

    My personal thoughts are these: I've been lazy, and I don't want to be anymore. Electrical engineering seems quite interesting to me, both for the circuits (which was my favorite subject in physics in high school) and for the higher level classes about signals- it would be cool to build my own synthesizers, since I've been in music my entire life. If I were to switch majors, it would take me an extra year, maybe year and a half, to graduate since I'm behind on math (and this would also require a great deal of studying over this summer to test into the prereq to calc 1) but it would also require me to stop being a lazy bum and get my head in the books every day or I would totally flunk out of school. Failing is something I absolutely hate, so I do believe a challenge like this is something that would get me to... not be lazy and not fail in the process.

    As far as to "why electrical engineering" goes- I currently have a CS minor, and have programming experience, however, I don't enjoy programming for a grade as much as I enjoy programming on the side. I wouldn't enjoy a CS major because something that I genuinely enjoy would then become something that I end up hating, because most of my day would be spent in front of a computer screen debugging things. EE does require some programming classes, which I'm fine with, but because EE seems like it is much more math based than programming, I don't know.. there's something I've always enjoyed about solving math problems with a pencil on paper.. I don't really like staring at a computer screen all day, although it's what I do anyway...

    So, after this big long post, what are your all's thoughts and opinions? Should I stay where I'm at now, perhaps switch to something like business (which I think is lame) or do you think I could perhaps succeed in being an engineer with all my friends?

    Thank you all so much!

    Mathieu
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 9, 2012 #2

    chiro

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Hey Mathieu and welcome to the forums.

    I am currently a math major just so you know where I am coming from. I have background experience with programming as well. I am not a physics major and I have not had much physics training (a few classes but that's the extent of it).

    My suggestion for you is that you gauge the motivational aspect not only from the 'toughness' of the course, but also for parts that might be, shall we say, 'tedious', 'monotonous', and so on.

    The thing is that you will, in a highly plausible situation, get bored of something in engineering. If you don't then great, but everyone gets bored of something along the way and you will need to have enough motivation to do stuff that is 'boring' because the 'tough' parts will make use of stuff that is 'boring', 'mundane' and so on.

    Having any programming experience IMO is useful especially for electrical/computer/telecommunications engineering since programming something whether its a SCADA device, PLC, embedded device or whatever is on the cards.

    As far as the language goes, if you really want to speak the language or converse in it in written form then it's probably a good idea to get yourself a dictionary and find people to speak to, write with. Given the huge amount of forums and communication gateways out there on the internet, as well as blogs, and other stuff, learning at least to write and read spoken stuff will be pretty easy in terms of resources. I'd also recommend listening to music in a language as well.

    In terms of calculus, I think that if you can understand programming at a decent level then calculus won't be too hard. If it's foreign to you, then it won't be a breeze but I think if you want to learn it, you can.

    Nowadays you don't just need textbooks and professors: we have forums, university libraries, and so many resources that it is literally an excuse to say that you can't find an answer (or at least a way to get an answer).

    Calculus is pretty much based on how things change and how to add changes to get cumulative results for things. The changes are in many forms, like say length, area, volume, projections, and so on, but they are just changes. If you understand what is changing, then you'll understand what the integral means physically which is what you will need to know for engineering.

    There will be a lot of boring symbolic manipulation, but again this has to do with the 'boring' stuff I was talking about earlier.

    If you have people that you know who are doing engineering and you have enough information from them and from other sources to make a highly informed decision, then I think that will be better than most of the advice that you would receive from complete strangers.

    The question though I would be answering is this: Do you want to spend most of your time solving mathematical type problems, staring at a computer coding up routines, running simulations, typing up reports, and doing problem sets (amongst other things) for the next 3 or 4 years for your undergraduate engineering/physics education?

    If the answer is a definite yes, then good luck and all the best. If you are even slightly hesitant, then you should probably use that as an indicator to either rethink your decision, or get more of a perspective from someone who has the experience and can give you a highly unbiased answer that is useful.
     
  4. May 9, 2012 #3
    Take a semester of calculus and see if you like it, and/or can stick with the constant onslaught of homework. Keep in mind that calculus I is extremely easy, and calculus II (integral) would be a better decision making course for "do I have the patience for this". If it's not for you, well no harm done. I've found mathematics to be more of a challenge against my laziness as well. You absolutely have to stick with the courses on a daily basis, and do the problems. Just because "[you] understand the concepts" does not mean you can use them properly. Much of the hard work comes from practice, practice, and more practice.
     
  5. May 9, 2012 #4
    A simple but effective reminder:

    Determination is the key to success
     
  6. May 9, 2012 #5
    I would defiantely not swtich majors. Alg II is what I will be taking this summer so I can test out of it and take pre-calc my sophomore year.

    On the other side, if you REALLY want to switch majors, then go for it. I only have one recommendation; pick up a pre-calc/trigonometry textbook and do some serious self-studying over the summer.
     
  7. May 10, 2012 #6
    Thank everyone for these great replies. One thing that I've also always been interested in is robotics, my parents actually bought me a robotics invention system from Lego when I was young, and have never lost interest in it.. right now I have a few arduino boards and am looking for some basic projects to do with those.

    So, because I haven't had math in a while, I think what I will do for this fall semester is take the prereq class for Calc I, as well as EE 101, which is a seminar class sort of as an overview to being an EE major. If those two go well, then perhaps I will make the switch, if they don't, then almost no time has been lost as far as my other classes are concerned.

    Thanks again for all of your input!
     
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