Engineers come in.

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Keepcalm
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Engineers come in.

Post by Keepcalm »

A close friend of mine is tackling his M.E degree at age 30.

I was having a beer with him the other day and explained that although he passed his first calculus class, he did not cruise through it. He has a bit more on his plate as he is a homeowner, has a dog, although he is a bachelor which evens it all out time wise...still more time strapped than a 20 year old going through college.

He explained that he was going to class, listening to the lecture and doing nothing aside from his homework until the next class. He did not study, he did not read much of his reading assignments in the book. When he did he skimmed through. When he had HW troubles he relied on Khan Academy to help. He was under the impression that if he was wired to be an engineer then hopping from lecture to lecture without any effort back home on his part would work fine.

So now he is doubting his path due to the fact that he wasn't able to just cruise through it , and I explained to him that he needs to give his next math class 100%, and that he shouldn't feel like he needs to understand it all just from the lectures. He needs to go home, he needs to read, needs to study, needs to do repeated problems and practice...even get a tudor?

So my question for engineers out there, are those who are "wired" for this field just suppose to be able to cruise through it like he thinks he needs to or does being confused, needing to study, and having trouble all part of the curve?

Most engineers I have spoken to speak highly of logic and algebra being the main focus in the field unless your in R&D. So it seems like if he can get through school he can make it out in the field successfully even if he isn't as proficient at math than someone who can just cruise through calculus and differential equations.

Thanks.
AlohaJoe
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by AlohaJoe »

Keepcalm wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 1:32 am He was under the impression that if he was wired to be an engineer then hopping from lecture to lecture without any effort back home on his part would work fine.
What a ridiculous thing to believe.
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jimgour
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by jimgour »

I worked with hundreds of engineers during my career and I don't know any who thought like that. Almost all, including myself, worked hard for our engineering degrees. I suspect that if anyone feels they don't need to put in a reasonable amount of effort to obtain an engineering degree, they will also not see a reason to put a reasonable amount of effort into their eventual job, and with an approach to work like that, will not have a very successful career. Both co-workers and the boss will see the lack of motivation.

But maybe we are missing something here. After all, we are getting this information second hand.
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Keepcalm
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by Keepcalm »

jimgour wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 2:32 am I worked with hundreds of engineers during my career and I don't know any who thought like that. Almost all, including myself, worked hard for our engineering degrees. I suspect that if anyone feels they don't need to put in a reasonable amount of effort to obtain an engineering degree, they will also not see a reason to put a reasonable amount of effort into their eventual job, and with an approach to work like that, will not have a very successful career. Both co-workers and the boss will see the lack of motivation.

But maybe we are missing something here. After all, we are getting this information second hand.
Im making an educated guess here however I think he got insecure with himself when he realized he wasn't as slick at mathematics as he thought he was initially. I told him its a language you need to learn and its not something you just listen to a lecture and all of a sudden your an expert.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by Valuethinker »

Keepcalm wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 1:32 am A close friend of mine is tackling his M.E degree at age 30.
M.E. = Mechanical Engineering?

My father was a civil engineer-- they used to design nuclear reactor containment buildings using mechanical slide rules! Any mathematical calculation it would be given to 2 independent engineers (or teams) to work through (by hand) to check for correctness.

Engineers work famously hard in undergrad. Number of courses buy also volume of problem sets, lab reports.

So no, very few people "breeze" through it. It's often a shock. Engineers are typically in the top 10% of their high school class (popular majors and universities, top 2%). Then they confront a curriculum which is pretty much the same (as I understand it) across all recognized engineering programmes in North America (and much of the rest of the world, for example the UK*) at least in the early years.

So the top 10% gets sorted (mapped, actually) into the top 0-100%. That's a rude shock for those who cruised through high school.
...
Most engineers I have spoken to speak highly of logic and algebra being the main focus in the field unless your in R&D. So it seems like if he can get through school he can make it out in the field successfully even if he isn't as proficient at math than someone who can just cruise through calculus and differential equations.

Thanks.
He will need the math in many roles, but it's probably not critical to most. If you design aircraft wings... yes. But a lot of engineering jobs the math seems to be fairly basic and there are numerical packages that are used. And you pretty rapidly move into situations where you are managing other people to do those calculations.

* English & Welsh students have an "A Level" a concentrated 2 years at the end of high school where you do 3-4 exams only - e.g. Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Chemistry would be typical for an engineering student (required I believe). So they arrive in university a year ahead of the typical North American student of the same age.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by cheesepep »

Seems more like sheer laziness.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by Dude2 »

The attrition rate is massive. ME and EE are almost all math.
msk
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by msk »

Cruising through a degree course, any degree. My experience at a top university: The entire student body is composed of students who were in the top 5% of their high school classes. Some worked very hard to achieve that, some drifted all the way through high school but were talented enough to end up there anyway. At university, some end up in the top 10% of their degree classes, some in the bottom 10%. The top 10% are both talented and work extremely seriously. The bottom 10% all drift through. The middle 80% have an almost random distribution, some hard working, some drifting. If your buddy has a hard time with calculus, he can't afford to drift. I never found that I had to "work" at calculus or most of the maths courses; attending all lectures and doing the assignments was enough to get As and a sprinkling of Bs. I had to work at, e.g. quantum electrodynamics and similar esoterica. Your buddy is not talented enough to drift through, and it's time he acknowledges that. I suspect similar situations occur even in the Faculty of Music or whatever.
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Keepcalm
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by Keepcalm »

msk wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 3:54 am Cruising through a degree course, any degree. My experience at a top university: The entire student body is composed of students who were in the top 5% of their high school classes. Some worked very hard to achieve that, some drifted all the way through high school but were talented enough to end up there anyway. At university, some end up in the top 10% of their degree classes, some in the bottom 10%. The top 10% are both talented and work extremely seriously. The bottom 10% all drift through. The middle 80% have an almost random distribution, some hard working, some drifting. If your buddy has a hard time with calculus, he can't afford to drift. I never found that I had to "work" at calculus or most of the maths courses; attending all lectures and doing the assignments was enough to get As and a sprinkling of Bs. I had to work at, e.g. quantum electrodynamics and similar esoterica. Your buddy is not talented enough to drift through, and it's time he acknowledges that. I suspect similar situations occur even in the Faculty of Music or whatever.
Is not being able to drift a sign that maybe someone is not cut out for engineering? It seems like a field that you either have it wired in you or you don't.
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GoldStar
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by GoldStar »

Even the top Engineering students in my graduating class did a lot of studying. Sounds like he doesn't know whether or not he is proficient in calculus/math since he found an excuse not to study. A lot of his upcoming classes will build on Calculus so if he struggles with it he will be in trouble.
l2ridehd
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by l2ridehd »

My degree was BEE so slightly different. I took every math course available because I could "cruise" through them. For what ever reason math came easy for me. So calculus, derivatives, statistics, advanced trig, any math course I could find that was accepted I took. However I still had to work very hard to get through all the other EE courses. They were very hard. Now my degree was completed 47 years ago so lots of different courses then today, but probably just as hard as today. So if he doesn't learn good study habits and figures out how to take a test, he should quit now and save his money for something else. Most any of the engineering degrees will require lots of math and I was lucky that for me they didn't require a lot of study time. I could devote my study time to those courses I needed to work at to pass. I had a good friend who could do computer programming much better then I could, but he was struggling with Advanced Calculus, so we tutored each other to get through them.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by Grt2bOutdoors »

AlohaJoe wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 1:44 am
Keepcalm wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 1:32 am He was under the impression that if he was wired to be an engineer then hopping from lecture to lecture without any effort back home on his part would work fine.
What a ridiculous thing to believe.
+1. Sounds like someone who thinks you can just “cruise” through life with no effort.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by bpp »

Keepcalm wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 4:09 am Is not being able to drift a sign that maybe someone is not cut out for engineering? It seems like a field that you either have it wired in you or you don't.
I think what is more important than having the ability wired in, is having the interest wired in. Everyone will hit their limit at some point, when it is no longer easy. This can be a big shock to the ego for someone who has had it easy until then. It is the interest and motivation that will get them over that hump.

(The above applies to pretty much any field of endeavor, not just engineering, from what I've seen.)
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

I finished my BSEE in 1985 and worked very hard to get through courses. I do believe that everyone does well in something but struggles in others. Math, physics, computer stuff were my strengths. Chemistry was my nemesis. I worked very hard, none the less and graduated. I worked for a great company who had a program to send engineers back to school full time for Masters and PHd programs. I got in because I wanted even more in depth knowledge. I cruised through absolutely no courses but finished and graduated.

33 years after attaining my BSEE, I still use calculus in my job. I'm a field applications engineer now after having worked in several hard core design jobs, being fully responsible for my portion of a design (the power supply).

My son is in a top engineering college working on his civil engineering degree with a structural engineering specialty. I know that he does a lot of all nighters. I also know that he will review class videos (all classes are video'd and put on line for later review) and khan academy to fully understand what's going on. Engineers use whatever is available to do the job.

I would say that if he were having trouble with calc 1 or an intro (weed out) ME class, he won't finish. It doesn't get easier with upper level classes.

I would not say that someone "wired" to be an engineer will necessarily get through easily. I would say that those who are "wired" to be an engineer think like an engineer. I can still remember going to a bar one weekend with my room mate. The cover charge was a dollar and the beers were 50 cents. After a couple beers, I turned to my room mate and stated "The limit on the cost of a beer as the number of beers goes to infinity is 50 cents". Yah, engineer joke. I can tell you the "too many poles in the right half plane" joke and explain that famous control theory description of a system going unstable.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by mindboggling »

BS in general engineering here (1975). I found classroom lectures not useful. Doing the reading and the homework was where I actually learned. Three or four hours per night most nights.
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bpp
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by bpp »

Valuethinker wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 3:23 am * English & Welsh students have an "A Level" a concentrated 2 years at the end of high school where you do 3-4 exams only - e.g. Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Chemistry would be typical for an engineering student (required I believe). So they arrive in university a year ahead of the typical North American student of the same age.
Not to derail the thread, but having experienced both US AP tests and British A Levels, I would say that the A Levels correspond pretty closely to the AP tests. A Level Maths = AP Calculus, and A Level Physics = AP Physics, both pretty much exactly. Don't know how Chemistry compares.

Now, Further Maths (which was actually designated an "S Level," as I recall?) had no equivalent in US high schools, and covered stuff that I wouldn't see again until second year of university in the US, like linear algebra.

Of course, my experience is <ahem> a few years out of date. Much may have changed since.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by jadd806 »

Keepcalm wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 1:32 am He explained that he was going to class, listening to the lecture and doing nothing aside from his homework until the next class. He did not study, he did not read much of his reading assignments in the book. When he did he skimmed through. When he had HW troubles he relied on Khan Academy to help. He was under the impression that if he was wired to be an engineer then hopping from lecture to lecture without any effort back home on his part would work fine.

...

So my question for engineers out there, are those who are "wired" for this field just suppose to be able to cruise through it like he thinks he needs to or does being confused, needing to study, and having trouble all part of the curve?
As a Chemical Engineer, I share that impression. All I ever did in college was go to every lecture and do the homework. That said, "doing the homework" for me was making sure I was able to solve and fully understand every problem that was assigned. But I never did any additional studying other than for something like biology where the entire course was rote memorization. I don't think it's a coincidence that the other people in the top 20% of my engineering class all had the same approach.

I watched many of my classmates struggle and put in 300% of the effort and time that I put in, all to end up with worse grades or even fail the course.

So yes, I believe that those who are "wired" to be engineers should be able to cruise through. Those who aren't "wired" can become engineers, but they're going to have to work very hard for it.
saveinvestbecomefree
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by saveinvestbecomefree »

Seems like this might be similar to the problems with the current buzz around "find your passion". The danger with this advice is that many people assume that if it's their "passion", it should feel fun and effortless all the time. Similar to how your friend thinks if he's "wired" for engineering it should come naturally and effortlessly to him. Now he doubts whether this is the right path for him. If he takes another path, he will find that also requires effort, and he'll skip to the next thing. This is a very dangerous way of thinking.....life doesn't work this way. Most good analysis of success (and happiness/engagement) show that passion develops largely over time as excellence is developed through hard work. The "wiring" or natural inclination is just a starting point to help you avoid things that you truly have no inherent ability or interest in. After that small baby step, passion is developed through learning, immersion, gaining skills, achievement, and developing mastery.

I wish you luck in educating your friend. He could really hurt himself if he truly believes something should come easily and naturally if it's the right path for him. He will waste a lot of his life searching and never find that mythical unicorn.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by NHRATA01 »

I'm a mechanical engineer, have been for 17 years. Probably about as "wired for engineering" as one could be. Legos since like 5, cars since well before I could drive, randomly taking things apart as a kid to figure out how they work, etc. Very good in high school math, advanced/honors/AP classes, etc.

I struggled mightily with the math in the later years, differential equations, linear algebra and such. Assuming you can do engineering math because you breezed through HS math is like assuming you can be a competitive marathon runner because you ran track in HS. And frankly all these years later I would still have a hard time re-taking those courses and would have to devote a lot of effort and attention to, to pass with reasonably good grades.

But I would counter that with the advice that one not despair that he can't do engineering because he struggles with the math. For one, if you are wired to think like an engineer and have an aptitude for it, then it behooves you to go into a career that fits your skills and interests. For two, as a relief, I will say that in 17 years I have yet to use any of the high level math in my career. That's not to say I don't need to dive into complex equations such as Bernoulli, but I'm not exactly doing Laplace transformations to fix a problem with an industrial scale chilled water plant, or something of the kind. Even with things like fluid mechanics and thermodynamics, there is advanced modeling software that will run the equations for you to figure out something like pressure drop in a pipe, so long as your input data is good.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by dowse »

Retired EE here. Over the course of a 40+ year career in hardware design of electronics, I can say that I could probably count on one hand the number of times I directly used calculus to solve a problem. On the other hand, I relied on it quite often in an indirect manner in order to gain insight into physical phenomena and follow derivations in papers. I did use algebra and trigonometry quite heavily throughout. Many of the everyday problems have already been reduced from calculus and differential equations to algebra and trig solutions. That's fine when it's only necessary to understand the "what", but when it's necessary to understand the "why", that's when the calculus comes in. Of course, it would be different for those doing research, but those folks tend to be Phd level who likely did cruise through early calculus, etc. but kept going until they were challenged. While I was pretty satisfied with my education at a major midwest university with a top engineering college, I wish I had taken more classes in probability and statistics. These have become increasingly important, especially with today's emphasis on quality control in manufacturing. I had to learn that mostly on the job.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by blackfish »

I am a degreed Mechanical Engineer, about 6 years out of college. I cruised through high school without really ever being challenged. I received a scholarship to a 4 year university and began my M.E. course work. I quickly learned that I was going to be in trouble if I didn't teach myself how to study and be infinitely more disciplined than I previously had been. If I didn't change the way I approached school, course work, allocating free time to extra studying, etc... I wouldn't have my degree right now.

With regards to Calculus, I took Calculus I, II, III and Differential Equations. I found Cal II to be the most difficult of all of them. That may be just me.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by maineminder »

BS/MS EE here.

Maybe a bit cold, but in the first semester mechanics class the professor started the class with something along these lines...

"Look to you left, look to your right. If you make it through the program they won't".

He was right less than 1/3 made it. Blowing off a first year calculus class is not a good sign. These degrees require a huge amount of effort. What he doesn't realize is that these classes are really teaching you how to learn and figure things out on your own. I have to say I've rarely used calculus in my current job but that does not diminish the value. Many jobs require it.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by investingdad »

I'm a chemical engineer from a Big Ten university, graduated mid 90s.

I struggled with Calculus and the other higher math courses that were required. I worked my tail off to get through them.

Because I did not possess an intuitive understanding of the math, I also struggled in my engineering classes. I worked extremely hard. I read the text book material before lecture and tried to understand the topic before the prof covered it, using the lecture to reinforce what I learned on my own. This was the only way I could get through it.

I came to realize that while I was not as smart as the majority of my engineering classmates, I could out work them. I could study longer.

That's what I did. And while many breezed through with A's and B's, I busted my butt for C's and C+'s.

In the end, my diploma said the same thing there's did and I built my career in a realm of ChemE that isn't that technical. It has paid off well.

But wired for it? No.

But I'm not a quitter and I was prepared to work for it (read my music thread...same gist).
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by NCPE »

maineminder wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 7:16 am
"Look to you left, look to your right. If you make it through the program they won't".
Just retired after a 35+ year career as a PE, from my experience years ago getting my BS in Mechanical Engineering this is spot on. Engineering is a tough curriculum and if he seriously intends to pursue a degree in Engineering he needs to change his study ethic ASAP, the courses will not get any easier when he hits the sophomore / junior years.
Last edited by NCPE on Mon Jul 23, 2018 2:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Fletch
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by Fletch »

Retired Chemical Engineer. I was in the top 5% of my class in High School and in my ChE class. My advice, go to class, do homework, and study, study, study. In my experience, I rarely if ever used calculus in my working career, I preferred the supervisory/management jobs after all the early technical roles were mastered. I found calculus and all the other advanced math courses to be reasonably challenging. Chemistry and all my engineering classes were relatively easy. I think I was "wired" more for science in general than math. The more difficult courses for me were the non-science/engineering stuff as I did not have a lot of interest in it. Interest, as well as a natural inclination or talent, in what you are studying is key from my perspective. Also, don't do it for the money, do it for the love of the work - otherwise one is set for a life of misery.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by ljb1234 »

maineminder wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 7:16 am BS/MS EE here.

Maybe a bit cold, but in the first semester mechanics class the professor started the class with something along these lines...

"Look to you left, look to your right. If you make it through the program they won't".

He was right less than 1/3 made it. Blowing off a first year calculus class is not a good sign. These degrees require a huge amount of effort. What he doesn't realize is that these classes are really teaching you how to learn and figure things out on your own. I have to say I've rarely used calculus in my current job but that does not diminish the value. Many jobs require it.
+1. I received the same "Look to your left" speech first semester Freshman year. It is true. Only about 1/3 made it.

Now as an engineer faculty member at a University, I tell students that time management is the most valuable skill to learn first year. They won't make it if they don't plan their work accordingly. Each hour of class time requires at least an additional hour outside of class for work.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by Valuethinker »

bpp wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 6:40 am
Valuethinker wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 3:23 am * English & Welsh students have an "A Level" a concentrated 2 years at the end of high school where you do 3-4 exams only - e.g. Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Chemistry would be typical for an engineering student (required I believe). So they arrive in university a year ahead of the typical North American student of the same age.
Not to derail the thread, but having experienced both US AP tests and British A Levels, I would say that the A Levels correspond pretty closely to the AP tests. A Level Maths = AP Calculus, and A Level Physics = AP Physics, both pretty much exactly. Don't know how Chemistry compares.

Now, Further Maths (which was actually designated an "S Level," as I recall?) had no equivalent in US high schools, and covered stuff that I wouldn't see again until second year of university in the US, like linear algebra.

Of course, my experience is <ahem> a few years out of date. Much may have changed since.
I hadn't realized your English connection (notice I didn't fall down the rabbit hole of forgetting that Scotland uses a different system ;-)).

AFAIK Further Maths is a full A level, not just AS level. But I observe the system, I actually attended a North American high school. I don't know the AP system, though.

International Baccalaureat seems to be the thing, now, for advanced students-- based on what nieces and nephews have done-- good preparation.

I don't like the English system because it all becomes about predicted grades (that are fed to universities for admission), and it encourages pursuing easy courses over hard ones.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by surveyor »

Years 1 and 2 are where they thin the herd through high level math and science. Second year they might have one or two discipline specific engineering courses. Third and fourth year are where they teach you to think like into an engineer, if you're still around.

You learn to be an engineer after you get a job.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by neilpilot »

maineminder wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 7:16 am BS/MS EE here.

Maybe a bit cold, but in the first semester mechanics class the professor started the class with something along these lines...

"Look to you left, look to your right. If you make it through the program they won't".

He was right less than 1/3 made it. Blowing off a first year calculus class is not a good sign. These degrees require a huge amount of effort. What he doesn't realize is that these classes are really teaching you how to learn and figure things out on your own. I have to say I've rarely used calculus in my current job but that does not diminish the value. Many jobs require it.
+1
Received similar advice, and had a similar experience, as a freshman ChemE. IIRC only about 20% of the freshman ChemEs graduated in their 4th year. However a good percentage switched over to ME and CE and found that track measurably easier.

In my 47 years in production and EHS I almost never used calculus unless it was packaged in a computer application.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by investingdad »

I had a calculus prof that took his job of weeding out students very seriously. He told us that one of his jobs was ensuring those students that couldn't cut it in his math class wouldn't continue into engineering.

I learned that he gave some consideration to tenacity if a student was struggling and on the border line.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by mlz »

Keepcalm wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 1:32 am So my question for engineers out there, are those who are "wired" for this field just suppose to be able to cruise through it like he thinks he needs to or does being confused, needing to study, and having trouble all part of the curve?
Yes, some people are wired for certain subjects. In my engineering program, some people breezed through. However, most I know struggled in at least some courses, even those that were at the in the top 10% of the program.

Some other things your friend should keep in mind:
- Doing well in coursework requires a very different skill set than doing well at a job in that area. The correlation between the two may be higher in engineering than in some other disciplines, but it certainly is far from perfect.
- Intro classes such as calculus are often "weeder" classes, which are meant to be tough to scare away the weaker students. I know one of the calculus professors at my university gave 20% to each letter grade.
- The math aspect is only one part of engineering classes. Engineering classes will have more of a focus on labs and applications, less of a focus on evaluating crazy integrals.
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FlyAF
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by FlyAF »

Sounds like your buddy is going to be weeded out of engineering school after just a couple of Calc courses.

Wife and I are both engineers. Wife had to work much harder to get through it than I. A lot of it came much easier to me for whatever reason. Wife had to take Diff EQ 4 times before she graduated as an example. I was one that was able to mostly just go to class and do the required work. I didn't study much, but that's not to say that I never did. Some classes were harder than others and the ones that didn't come so "naturally", I definitely put the time in for study to ensure a good grade. I graduated from a top engineering school with a 3.8 GPA while my wife graduated from a decent school with a 2.7 GPA. Fast forward 20 years, my wife is quite literally 5x more successful than I if going off of monetary numbers. She's much better at playing the "game" and being forward facing with the clients, while I'm much more suited to being behind the scenes doing the grunt work. 1 of those pays much more than the other.
investingdad
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by investingdad »

I would add that I read an article complaining about weeder courses. The gist that the US needs more scientists and engineers and weeder classes are causing students with an interest to abandon STEM.

This seems to suggest that the solution is to lower the standards.

Frankly, if I need surgery I don't want to go to a surgeon that would have washed out but not for the fact that we decided to lower the standards to becoming a surgeon because we didn't like the shortage problem.
LawEgr1
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by LawEgr1 »

FlyAF wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 8:16 am Sounds like your buddy is going to be weeded out of engineering school after just a couple of Calc courses.

Some classes were harder than others and the ones that didn't come so "naturally", I definitely put the time in for study to ensure a good grade. I graduated from a top engineering school with a 3.8 GPA while my wife graduated from a decent school with a 2.7 GPA. Fast forward 20 years, my wife is quite literally 5x more successful than I if going off of monetary numbers. She's much better at playing the "game" and being forward facing with the clients, while I'm much more suited to being behind the scenes doing the grunt work. 1 of those pays much more than the other.

ChemEng here. Echo what the majority have said above and I have quoted one that hits home. I ended up having to study quite a bit, but it varied by course. I found engineering students went in to 4 different camps -

1) Reasonably intelligent, hard studying (MOST)
2) Reasonably intelligent, thought they could breeze (PLENTY)
3) Super Intelligent, Super Hard Working (RARE)
4) Reasonably intelligent, no logic or grasp on understanding the material what so ever (FAIRLY COMMON...)

Seems like your buddy goes in to class #2.

Those in class #1 were most common.

Those in class #3 were un-touchable.

Sometimes you just had people that were probably smart, but didn't get it. With the exception of class #3, anyone in classes 1, 2 and 4 not doing well were strong candidates to drop out because they weren't used to the competition or poor grades. Often it was the math courses, followed by the first year of technical courses for the profession (thermo was a common one to get people).

It certainly seemed like 100% of the drop outs transferred to industrial engineering or business.


Another item to keep in mind for your friend. If he's truly interested in becoming an engineer, I'd recommend continuing to suck it up and slog through it for the reasons I highlighted above. There are a LOT of engineers that work in industry that'd rather be doing valuable technical labor as an individual contributor or perhaps managing a small technical team. There are many fewer engineers with the chops to handle the full facing aspects of management, business, people and engineering.

As FlyAF pointed out, GPA, good or bad, may not matter at all. Mrs. / Mr. Manager generally aren't the ones double checking your work (although many are capable), rather, they massage the message. And they get paid for it.
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mmmodem
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by mmmodem »

blackfish wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 7:12 am With regards to Calculus, I took Calculus I, II, III and Differential Equations. I found Cal II to be the most difficult of all of them. That may be just me.
Agree with above. I'll also add that my Calc 1 professor said, students on average drop 1 grade with each Calc class with the exception of Calc 3 which is a breeze. Which means, if you get an A in Calc 1, you'll get a B in Calc 2.

That happened to me, I was near the top of my class with a solid A in Calc 1. I barely eeked out a C in the last class. Each successive course heavily utilizes the previous one so that if you don't have complete understanding of the previous, you'll be lost. This is unlike a science course where you can mostly look iup what was covered before. (Not counting some things like stoichiometry, of course)

Anyway, I literally slept through high school math classes and aced everything. I thought I was wired to be an engineer. Math is so easy. I did the same thing your friend did in Calculus and ended up withdrawing the class. I was not prepared for how difficult it would be. :confused It was quite a blow to my self esteem and made me question whether this was the correct career path for me.

But I buckled down, took the class again, and studied hard. So what if I'm not wired for engineering? So what if someone else comprehends the material easier than I do? I may not cook as well as Gordon Ramsey but my children love the meals I make for them, anyway.

Here I am 10 years later, I may have to go back to my desk sometimes to calculate problems on paper after staff meetings where the presenter wrote on the PowerPoint, QED. (Quite Easily Done) I'd argue that this challenge is exactly why I am in this profession. If things weren't difficult, I'd just sleep through my career. :wink:
Last edited by mmmodem on Mon Jul 23, 2018 8:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
eddot98
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by eddot98 »

Civil Engineer here, graduated high school in 1968 and college in 1973. Civil Engineering was seen as the least difficult discipline at that time, but it was by no means easy. I worked relatively hard in high school and approached college as a job. I took 5 years to get my degree, as I had a work/study job from the first semester. I went to every class, did every assignment, and studied for every test. I found the first 4 semesters of Calculus mystifying, but plodded through them and learned how to take the tests and did well enough. It wasn’t until the fifth semester of Calculus, Differential Equations for Engineers, that I fully understood Calculus. I was told from about fifth grade that I should become an engineer as I was good in math and even though I probably fit the definition of “wired” to be an engineer, there are just some things that don’t come easy and need perseverance. By the way, I found that upper level classes were easier for me than the lower level requirements courses. I didn’t like or do well in Soil Mechanics or Fluid Mechanics. They just didn’t make sense to me.

Once I started work and looked back at the usefulness of my education, I realized that most of what it did was to teach me to think like an engineer and how to problem solve. As I progressed through my career, I moved up into management type positions and the technical problems were handled by subordinates.

Funny story: in my day we had to take a drafting course and I wasn’t very good at it. I was so bad at it that my Professor told me that I would never be an an engineer as I couldn’t letter. Not only was he very wrong, he couldn’t have imagined that all drafting and lettering is done by computers now.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by Ragnoth »

Keepcalm wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 1:32 am So my question for engineers out there, are those who are "wired" for this field just suppose to be able to cruise through it like he thinks he needs to or does being confused, needing to study, and having trouble all part of the curve?
I studied Electrical Engineering, B.S. through Ph.D., but I think the principles are the same.

Since we're discussing engineering, lets reduce this to inputs and outputs. People do better in school when they (1) prepare for lectures and pay attention during them; (2) spend the hours necessary to complete their problem sets properly; (3) seek outside help from tutors or office hours; and (4) are innately "wired" for a given subject. Feel free to adjust the descriptions as needed for a given class.

If you want to beat the grading curve and get a solid "A" in the class, you need to have at least three of the above. If you want to walk away with a "B", any two of the above is probably sufficient. If you only have one of the above, you would be lucky to walk away with a "C" at best. Finally, if you have none of the above... well... maybe you should think about a different career path (and if you happen to have all four, feel free to enroll in the Ph.D. program and become an academic).

Put another way, no amount of innate ability is going to enable you to perform better on test/homework than somebody who has a similar "knack" and also took the time to prepare for lectures and completed the problem sets properly (i.e., by actually cracking open a book and dedicating several hours to the process). On the flip side, being wired for a given subject will give you a slight leg up that will keep you from being at the very bottom of the curve. Maybe having a knack will let you cut some corners here and there... but in my experience all it will really let you do is "cruise" to a B average.

Also, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that school is not the same as the actual workforce. Doing well helps you land a job (and signals that you are the kind of intelligent person who can learn a role and pick up on what needs to be done), but many of the best engineers I know working professionally were not exceptional students.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by barnaclebob »

I only got an A in one math class in my engineering degree. The math and other courses get much harder than calc 1 so he needs to be prepared to put in some time if calc 1 was a challenge.
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Boomer01
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by Boomer01 »

I'm a Civil Engineer and you MUST put in the work to get the degree. There were many, many sleepless nights just trying to get through a few problems only to wake up early the next day and do it all over again. I was also a homeowner and had a job during college which made it that much harder.

There was a time early on when I almost quit because Calc II was kicking my butt and knowing I still had Calc III and IV to go. I gutted it out and put in the effort and things got easier. IMO, a lot of the early/mid classes are there to simply weed out the kids who aren't dedicated. I would not consider myself to be overly bright, but I made it through with hard work and are now reaping the benefits.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by criticalmass »

Keepcalm wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 1:32 am A close friend of mine is tackling his M.E degree at age 30.

I was having a beer with him the other day and explained that although he passed his first calculus class, he did not cruise through it. He has a bit more on his plate as he is a homeowner, has a dog, although he is a bachelor which evens it all out time wise...still more time strapped than a 20 year old going through college.

He explained that he was going to class, listening to the lecture and doing nothing aside from his homework until the next class. He did not study, he did not read much of his reading assignments in the book. When he did he skimmed through. When he had HW troubles he relied on Khan Academy to help. He was under the impression that if he was wired to be an engineer then hopping from lecture to lecture without any effort back home on his part would work fine.

So now he is doubting his path due to the fact that he wasn't able to just cruise through it , and I explained to him that he needs to give his next math class 100%, and that he shouldn't feel like he needs to understand it all just from the lectures. He needs to go home, he needs to read, needs to study, needs to do repeated problems and practice...even get a tudor?

So my question for engineers out there, are those who are "wired" for this field just suppose to be able to cruise through it like he thinks he needs to or does being confused, needing to study, and having trouble all part of the curve?

Most engineers I have spoken to speak highly of logic and algebra being the main focus in the field unless your in R&D. So it seems like if he can get through school he can make it out in the field successfully even if he isn't as proficient at math than someone who can just cruise through calculus and differential equations.

Thanks.
There is very little in engineering that does not rely heavily on advanced mathematics, aside from softer fields like systems engineering.

I don’t remember anyone who thought they could just listen to lecture and slide through any course. I remember many who were super bright and talented studying and working through the night in school, just like everyone else.

Everyone has strengths. Even in calculus, I was always better at calculus that involved something I could visualize, and needed extra studying with more abstract aspects of calculus (and other math).

Your friend may do well, but only if he starts cracking the books every night and every day. Engineering and math are not learned by osmosis, and take a lot of practice in problem solving. Computer science is similar.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by wrongfunds »

Some of the replies are *funny*. "Just become supervisor or manager and then you will never have to use the Calculus at your job!"

I will go one step further. I know of NO CEO who ever needed to use her degree to do her job. Not a single thing that will be learnt in the M.E undergraduate degree is needed to become CEO :-)

Seriously, one has to put effort to acquire professional degree regardless of how interested, wired or smart one is.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by Glockenspiel »

Professional Civil Engineer here - I did not CRUISE through ANY of my 3 calculus classes or differential equations. I studied a lot, and did lots of practice problems, reading through the material and tried to understand it. I thought Calculus 2 was the easiest of those 4 math classes. I got Cs and Bs in those math classes. In high school, I studied VERY little and was still very near the top of my class. Somehow I had the wherewithal to learn good study habits in college to get me through it.

Since working in the field, I have used VERY LITTLE calculus. Mostly trigonometry, algebra, geometry, and a little statistics. I can go an entire working day without using any math besides addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. So while I did not do exceptional in my math classes, I still succeeded in becoming a professional engineer and have done well moving up in my field. The other classes with real-world application are where I made my best grades.
Last edited by Glockenspiel on Mon Jul 23, 2018 9:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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onthecusp
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by onthecusp »

BS ChE 1979. I was a so so student but did well in high school math. I tested out of advanced algebra and I had first term calculus cold, but second term was very hard and I barely passed. Differential equations were pretty easy for me to visualize so did well. I had a later Engineering Math class that relied heavily on the advanced algebra that I skipped. I was totally lost and didn't know enough to study outside of assignments and look up these confusing terms. I always thought they would be explained in the "next" lecture. Barely passed that as well. Control theory used some higher math, but I was so interested that I did manage to teach myself a little of what I missed and did OK in that class.

Beyond that the first term calculus and some diff eq. was all I ever needed. I did pretty well on core classes, graduated with a 3.0 and never looked back. The things I was poor at are used heavily in some jobs, but never in the ones I was in. I was a control engineer for much of my career, it can use higher math but I focused on programming systems, projects, and logic state control, things I was good at. Now I'm an expert in an even narrower field that is math intensive. I studied those issues as they came up.

There are many ways to be an engineer. My advice for your friend is to study harder, review the previous class and pick up what was missed, and get through the next few math classes. The internet is your friend when strange words are introduced. There is probably a whole concept that you missed before. If you enjoy the core ME classes then you are wired correctly, if not, maybe switch to Civil, Chemical, or Computer engineering. The math you will suffer through still applies.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by celia »

I was a math major as it was a "natural fit" for me. But I, and everyone else in the classes I met, did not cruise through any of the classes. It took lots of study and stretching of the brain. Since I changed colleges during the first 2 years of calculus and went from a semester system to a trimester system, back to a semester system, I knew I likely missed some concepts that would eventually be the building blocks for more advanced calculus classes. So I threw in a semester or two of repeated calculus classes at the community college during the summer. They still were a lot of work and not "cruisable".

Using your friend's logic, if he decided he was meant to be a lawyer or doctor, would he cruise through those classes or study to be the best lawyer or doctor he could be?

PS. I doubt the house or dog are distractions. But if he is employed, that would be the bigger distraction that uses up his time.
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Tyler9000
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by Tyler9000 »

BSME here. I'm an excellent engineer but I was terrible at Calculus. Cal II was especially difficult, but once I powered through that (had to take it twice) it got considerably easier. Cal III is all about vectors and was a comparative breeze. And interestingly, the moment it all "clicked" was the year I had differential equations, circuit design, heat transfer, and control systems at the same time and was using the EXACT SAME equations in each class.

Beyond simply cutting through the elaborate esoteric formulas that are interesting to mathematicians but not that useful in the real world (e to the i Pi equals negative one), it was also a matter of discovering how I personally process information. That's when I learned that I'm a visual thinker. Numbers for numbers sake made little sense to me, but when I learned that I could translate the problems from differential equations and circuit design into physical springs, masses, dampers, etc. that I could sketch out on paper and visualize the motions in my head, it all became a lot easier to understand and apply.

BTW, I was also able to use that information to steer my career. ME is a very broad field with lots of different areas of specialization suitable for different types of people. Personally I hate stress analysis and avoid it like the plague, but put me in a creative R&D situation and I'll design a brand new product from scratch with no problem. Everybody is different, so know thyself and play to your strengths.

But part of knowing your strengths is also acknowledging your weaknesses. And if Calculus is a weakness for your friend (just like it was with me), he's going to need to buckle down and work for it. Just know that it will get better once he finds his niche.
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by sreynard »

BSEE. We used to have a joke in engineering school, "Don't worry if something isn't covered in the lecture or in the homework, it'll show up on the exam." I often remember thinking, "Holy cr*p! I don't remember anything like this in the homework!"

From my experience, only about 1/3 of what you needed to learn was covered in the lecture. In some classes, if I hadn't read ahead, I'd have no idea what the instructor was talking about. Their position was, anybody can study the textbook, let's discuss the areas where you are going to have difficulties. My microwave instructor used to give a quiz before lectures or labs to see if you were prepared. If not, he would ask you to leave. Come to think of it, I had a Humanities instructor that did the same thing. He wouldn't kick you out, but you sure as heck weren't going to get an 'A'.

There may be people that just breeze through engineering school without studying, but that hasn't been my experience. Some courses are very easy for some people and very difficult for others. I guess someone can take the minimum of courses they find challenging, but it really depends on what they are looking to get out of school. Do they want to be an Engineer, or do they want to do Engineering? Learning what is required to get an 'A' is fairly straight forward. Mastering a given subject is somewhat more difficult. As one instructor told us, you can't just memorize, you need to internalize it. It took me a few years to figure out what she was talking about. Actually, over twenty years later, it's been a re-occurring surprise all the things I didn't learn about in college. I still have to hit the books and study to do my job. There are just so many new things to learn! :D
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by Phineas J. Whoopee »

My career has been varied, but parts of it, especially the earlier parts, can validly be called engineering.

I didn't cruise through, but rowed through my Calculus semesters, and got As. Only in one graduate course was I ever called upon to find the area under the curve, and yet I use the skills I learned every day.

You see, it was in Calculus class where I learned to distinguish valid reasoning from invalid reasoning.

PJW
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by lthenderson »

A now retired BSME. For me, Calculus was all about learning what goes on behind the equations you will use in just about every single engineering class. 99% of my work out of college was rarely more difficult than doing algebra but it did help that I understood the fundamentals of calculus and what those equations are telling me. I used to tell people that my engineering degree didn't mean I memorized every single equation but it taught me to understand an equation and how to use it properly once I looked it up later on for a project.

I came from a very small rural high school and had no calculus experience whatsoever when I entered state college. My instructor skipped the first ten chapters of Calc I on day 1 and I never got caught up. I retook it the second semester now having more experience in calculus than many of my peers taking it for the first time and got an easy A in it. It helped carry me through the rest of my math classes. So just because you don't understand it the first time doesn't mean you will never understand it.
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Keepcalm
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by Keepcalm »

Great responses and I will make sure he reads all of them.

He was also trying to work full time, which he said was fine for the pre-req courses like English etc but it burnt him out once he got into the chemistries and math courses.

Perhaps the best thing would be for him to not work at all for one semester and put everything he has into his classes and see how much better it turns out for him?
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Re: Engineers come in.

Post by neilpilot »

Keepcalm wrote: Mon Jul 23, 2018 11:11 am Great responses and I will make sure he reads all of them.

He was also trying to work full time, which he said was fine for the pre-req courses like English etc but it burnt him out once he got into the chemistries and math courses.

Perhaps the best thing would be for him to not work at all for one semester and put everything he has into his classes and see how much better it turns out for him?
A good approach but my experience was that the work will get progressively harder in subsequent semesters.
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