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Looking for advice for Engineering School

  1. May 11, 2009 #1

    I have a degree in Electronics Engineering Technology, and have been working as a Technician for 18 years. I have reached the most senior level of being a technician, and I am finally getting motivated to go back and finish engineering school. The only problem is that other than some programming classes, I have not taken any Engineering classes in years. I was a straight-A student back in the day, but I know that what you don't use you lose, so I am looking for advice on what I should to do to prepare myself for engineering school. I don't know that I could go right into a calculus or calculus based physics course without some refresher course. Anyone have any advice for me? Any help would be greatly appreciated.


  2. jcsd
  3. May 15, 2009 #2
    Start by reviewing all the math you ever knew -- algebra, trig, geometry, calculus if you got that far. You will need it all. You cannot know too much math. This is without a doubt the most critical thing, and the reviewing on that will refresh other study skills as well.

    Work a lot of problems. Sit down with pencil and paper and write them out in full. Don't just half way work them, but work them out completely, with all the steps and be sure to check the answer yourself, not relying on the back of the book. It is essential to learn how to check your own work.

    You want to be proficient with a calculator, but you don't want to be "calculator dependent." By this I mean you want to be able to estimate the result of a calculation to be sure that the result you get from your calculator is the same ball park as your estimate to give you confidence that you did not totally mess up on pushing the buttons. It is no guarantee you have the right answer, but it helps.

    When you work problems, define a symbol for everything, including the things you know. Use no numeric values when you set the equations up. As long as you have a problem expressed in terms of symbols, you can manipulate those symbols, knowing just exactly what each part represents. The moment you substitute numbers, the significance of each piece is lost. You can also check the units on the equation as long as it is in symbols, but you cannot after the symbols have been replaced by numbers. Do not substitute numbers until the very last possible moment when you can go no further.
  4. May 15, 2009 #3
    I second the being strong on the math thing. That will make life a lot easier. Try to stay ahead of the game... if you're going to be taking a class on Calculus II next semester, find a syllabus or description somewhere, and start reading about some of the subjects to start letting it sink in.

    In fact, I'd do with this for every class. If you're going to be taking physics, read ahead in that class as well. Don't let things sneak up on you... the last thing in the world you want is to be doing fine in Physics I and then all of a sudden you get to waves and you don't remember trigonometry!

    A lot of the people coming back to school seem to have the idea that if what's being taught doesn't match up with what they've been doing in the real world, then it's somehow useless, or the teacher is bad, or whatever. Remember that academia is a little removed, and that regardless of how well it meshes with reality, it's all worthwhile to know. For instance, in my Intro to Algorithms class, we had a guy who has been doing IT stuff for a long time. When the discussion of NP-Completeness rolled around, and he didn't get it right off the bat, he got frustrated and basically made a scene because he swore "every problem is solvable". I know this varies from person to person, but remember to try to be open-minded.
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