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Need Opinions: Intro to Diff Eq or Statics

  1. Nov 28, 2013 #1
    Good morning everyone. I need some guidance regarding which course to take next semester. For some background, I am active duty Navy with three kids majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Due to my work schedule, I can only take 2 classes per semester (for now). I am already locked into Physics 2 (because it is an evening class) and I have to choose either Intro to Differential Equations or Engineering Mechanics I (statics).

    I would love as many opinions as possible so I can make an informed decision. Which class might go best with E&M? From a "pull-my-hair-out" perspective, which combo might be the lesser of two evils? Thank you very much in advance for your help!
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 28, 2013 #2
    I found statics to be quite easy despite some issues around the delivery of the course, where as I found DE's quite difficult (also mostly based on issues aroudn the delivery of the course)

    So on one hand you might want to take DE's and get it out of the way :) But I'd say that statics is the easier of the 2 course by far
    (just my opnion of course)
  4. Nov 28, 2013 #3


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    That isn't a general rule. My intro to differential equations I thought was super easy, and although I haven't taken statics, basically everyone who was in my diffy q and physics classes were in statics and the impression I got from them was that it was incredibly difficult. Just depends on the school/instructor.

    I think Statics would be the most important to take though, because I know at my university it is a prerequisite for dozens of other Mechanical Engineering courses, whereas Differential Equations is not.
  5. Nov 28, 2013 #4
    If thats the case take DE first and Statics later.
    Better to take a course that is needed by the next course right before so its fresh in your brain :)

    Electrical is the oppisate statics for us was a waste of time, but we use DE's all the time :)
  6. Nov 28, 2013 #5
    Thanks for the heads up; I really appreciate you guys taking the time to give me the info. Take care and enjoy Thanksgiving.
  7. Nov 28, 2013 #6
    I would take differential equations if you're majoring in Mechanical Engineering. It opens up a huge field of stuff you may or may not have seen before. Most differential equations in a practical sense are very hard to solve and can only be numerically computed; you might learn Runge–Kutta methods for example, but probably not till near the end of the course.

    I cannot speak for statics; as I have never had a course in it. Just don't expect differential equations to be an easy class.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2013
  8. Nov 28, 2013 #7
    Thanks, MathWarrior. Let me pose the question a different way: if you were me and had the option to take any two of the following
    1) Physics 2
    2) Statics
    and 3) Intro to Diff Eq

    Which would you choose and why?
  9. Nov 28, 2013 #8


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    Whether or not people think it's hard , Statics is absolutely fundamental to all of Mech Eng. The DE course might be required for some later courses (e.g. Dynamics) or the relevant parts of it might be covered within those courses. I would say with a "normal" course load, Statics would be an essential first year course as a prerequisite for the courses later years, but DE probably would not.

    Look ahead and check out the prerequisites for later courses, to make sure you are not going to paint yourself into a corner later on by deferring statics now.

    Edit: I was writing that when you posted #7, but my answer would be Phys 2 and Statics.
  10. Nov 28, 2013 #9
    AlphaZero: You bring up an interesting question. A "normal" schedule for me is 2 classes per semester while on active duty (as soon as I get out I can go full blast). Others have echoed your sentiment about the importance of Statics. If it were you, out of Physics 2, Intro to DE, and Statics, which would you do and why?
  11. Nov 28, 2013 #10


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    For mech eng, I would have given statics higher priority that physics 2, but you already said that other constraints apply over that course.

    I would expect it is a course where you learn and practise core skills like interpreting drawings and sketches, resolving forces and moments, drawing free body diagrams, etc. You need to get as comfortable with those things as with say using a calculator to do arithmetic, otherwise everything will be harder work (and with more risk of making "dumb" mistakes) in future. So best to start as early as possible IMO.

    It's hard to know what will be in your DE course from just the name. If it's mainly a math and numerical methods course, I think the logical place for it s towards the end of the calc and linear algebra sequence of courses. If it is mainly about applications (e.g. the wave equation, damped oscillations, etc), you will need the basic ideas from statics to understand how the equations are derived.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2013
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