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Question for ME Graduates (or upper level students)

  1. Sep 22, 2008 #1
    I am just now taking my first real engineering course, being statics and it is kicking my butt. I have done all right on my first two tests (85s on each) but I feel like I am doing something wrong. It feels like every section I get through (10 pages or so) takes an extremely long time for me to really grasp the material.

    Everybody has always told me that the math that engineers do is very complicated. I found trig, calc1, and calc2 to be pretty easy and straight forward. I'm in calc3 and it seems pretty easy.

    I am looking ahead and thinking about my curriculum, and thinking about the courses that will follow. dynamics, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, etc. And I keep thinking to myself about statics is apparently the easiest of all of these and it intimidates me greatly. Is it normal for students to invest this much time into grasping the material from these engineering courses? I feel like once i get to dynamics, and further down the road that just two of these courses alone constituting a 6 hour semester is enough to keep me busy all day every day.
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  3. Sep 23, 2008 #2


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    It's true that statics is only the first step in a long road of ME courses. But nearly every student feels overwhelmed by new material. If the faculty at your university are doing their job well, then classwork will always be at the edge of your capabilities. You can't take on dynamics now, but next semester you'll know much more and be better at solving problems. I disagree that the math is difficult; I think what's difficult is the correct abstraction of a physical situation to be able to use math. It requires strong visualization skills.

    Are you still intrigued by visualizing complex tools involving heat and mass flow and being able to analyze and design them using your new abilities? If so, ME is for you. Good luck.
  4. Sep 23, 2008 #3


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    I defintely wouldn't say that it's the easiest. I found them all fairly equal in difficulty, but with each building on the previous. I found statics somewhat hard, but dynamics for me was extremely difficult.

    At our school, that second year was definitely the "weed-out" year; if you make it through that, you'll be fine.
  5. Sep 23, 2008 #4


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    I remember feeling that way at times. I too found mathematics easier to grasp than other courses. I always felt that the courses which involved more interpretation/translation of words to get the concept were more difficult (relatively speaking). Since mathematics deals with numbers it seemed to me that I understood it more easily since there was only one interpretation for a number (so to speak), whereas with other courses, interpreting the problem (reading comprehension) was open to a certain degree of subjectivity.

    BTW, you will be spending ALOT of time studying if you take a full load in Engineering.

    Good luck.

  6. Sep 23, 2008 #5


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    I can reiterate what the guys have already mentioned. I remember statics being tough not so much for the content, but because that was one of the first engineering classes that made you think like an engineer. That takes time to get used to and to develop. Yes, the class is tough, but I thought the process of formulating a problem and then being maticulous with your process of solving was tougher for me.

    We all made it through though. You will too. If anyone else around you says they don't have any thoughts like you, they're fibbing. Now would be a good time to not be a loner and get some kind of study group. Even if it meets at a place for 10-20 minutes. Just talking over problems with people in the same class can be a huge help.
  7. Sep 23, 2008 #6


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    That's a great suggestion by Fred.

    Also, most colleges have tutoring programs to give you some one on one time to ask those embarrassing questions that you won't ask in class!

  8. Sep 23, 2008 #7
    I must be different or maybe my school is. At my school the math is extremely difficult. Like your lucky if you only have to take calc 2 twice kind of difficult. Both statics and dynamics were very easy for me, I never studied and can answer every problem in the text books. However I know a lot of people did have trouble with those courses and to be honest most of those people became business majors.

    Engineering courses are not strait forward or abstract like mathematical courses and require a very different kind of thinking in order to be good at solving engineering problems. The problems are more about how you derive the equation and less about how you solve it. Like suggested above I would find a study group as they can really help.
  9. Feb 8, 2009 #8
    Well I ended up making an A in statics and exempting the exam.

    I am now taking Dynamics, Mechanics of Materials, Differential Equations, and Physics II.

    Dynamics is frightening me. I am extremely scared of it. On my first test I made 60 pages of notes. I ended up making a 97 on the test, but it still has not given me any sort of confidence in the class. I don't know if it's my book (Beer & Johnson Statics & Dynamics 8th Edition) but it's very daunting looking at some of the problems. When my professor assigns us a few homework problems, I am able to work through them and finally grasp the concepts. But then I will look at some of the surrounding problems and get terrified. I feel as if I am journeying through a horror house, where if I step on one small miniscule crack, I'm doomed.

    I guess it's a normal thing to lose confidence while in the midst of these courses. It's definitely a daunting experience. But then again I don't know if I'd prefer to have it any other way.

    Ohh man, I'll probably be back in here next semester scared about thermo or whatever mess I'll find myself in. It is however reassuring to re-read over this thread whenever I get discouraged.
  10. Feb 8, 2009 #9


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    Sounds like you are doing great. Engineering is like that - as was said above, it is difficult and your professors will push you to the limits of your ability to learn. But you're staying ahead of the curve.

    Thermo isn't so bad. But just wait 'till you get to heat transfer! :eek:
  11. Feb 8, 2009 #10


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    Thanks for the heads up. But honestly I don't think statics is hard (I'm taking it now), taking calc 3 before statics really helped a lot. I also think it is your general disposition to engineering. I'm actually looking forward to my fluids, dynamics and solids classes. I see them all as exciting fields and I will hit them hard head on!

    Btw (to the OP), what part of statics are you on? Because my professor is taking his time getting to the "good" stuff and is sending me to sleep in class.
  12. Feb 8, 2009 #11
    The original date of this thread was 9/22/08. I'm not in statics anymore. I don't really think that it has anything to do with the disposition towards engineering. I like the material and I enjoy learning it. There's no subject I'd rather be learning, and there's nothing (constructive) I'd rather be doing with my time.

    But as you probably know, the pre-requisites for courses such as fluid dynamics, thermo, solids, heat transfer, etc aren't just "being really interested in the subject" That's why it's so daunting.
  13. Feb 9, 2009 #12
    I took an upper level undergraduate class in aerospace structural statics last semester, and it was hard as hell. There are a lot of abstract concepts, such as shear flow or Airy stress functions, which are difficult to understand immediately.
  14. Feb 12, 2009 #13
    You seem intelligent and willing to put in work. You'll excel.
  15. Feb 17, 2009 #14
    For me statics was difficult at first because it was one of my first engineering courses. In hindsight it was not the material that was difficult, but learning to solve engineering problems was the difficult part. When reviewing for the FE Exam I found statics much easier because I had developed my problem solving skills, even though it had been years since I took statics. Also I would expect that you spend a lot of time studying and doing homework, don't get discouraged it is well worth putting in the time.
  16. Mar 3, 2009 #15


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    Just my $.02
    My first few statics assignments took way too long - similar to what you are describing. Im talking about going in circles, taking 6 hours per assignment. I figured it out real soon I needed some help, and sought tutors help (free at my school.) They honed my problem solving skills, how to approach a problem and about 3/4 through the semester I didnt even need them, statics became a breeze.
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