This semester is busy, busy, busy! I have fallen head over heels in love with my digital systems class. So far we’ve done the “easy stuff, ” but it’s still so interesting. We started with binary, went to 2’s complement, learned basic Boolean algebra, eased into various gates and circuit design and just finished simplification and Karnaugh maps.
When I’m doing my homework for this class, it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like a brain teaser. I LOVE brain teasers. I think that brain teasers are such a valuable learning tool. I did tons of brain teasers growing up, and I think it was one of the best ways to learn how to think outside of traditional linear thinking. When the linear path fails, approach the problem from the other direction. One lesson that has ingrained in my brain is the technique of bounds checking. What are the constraints of the given problem? If it doesn’t have to be on Earth, try another planet. See what happens when gravity is gone. Do we have to be in modern times? What if we were in imperial China?
In the lab for the digital systems class, we built circuits on an educational prototype board using actual AND, OR, NAND, etc. chips. It’s one thing to learn the concepts when they’re these amorphous ideas that are pretty tough to picture. It’s another thing to actually build a circuit, send voltages through the various inputs and see the outputs predicted by truth tables and equations. This is another one of those things that must seem like ancient technology to practicing engineers, but seeing it in person for the first time is a little bit magical.
My other classes are going well. Physics is a bit of a struggle right now. The professor is incredibly passionate and does great demonstrations in class which really reinforces the big concepts. As a student, I’m left to learn how to implement the equations and concepts on my own. I think I’m doing pretty well so far, but his tests are take-home and so I know they’re going to be tough.
Tomorrow, I’m going to finish my last kit, and then I’m on to some new things with the Arduino. I can’t wait!