The Weekend

The first week of school is finished. I’ve been to all of my classes except one monday-only class and my physics lab. So far I really love all my classes. I have a particularly passionate group of professors. Every single one of them has emphasized lifetime learning, good study habits, the importance of outside learning and such. One professor went on a tangent about Grace Hopper, one of my personal heroes. Another professor gave us a homework question that Richard Feynman answered in Six Easy Pieces, and I’ve read everything by Feynman about ten times. It’s great to see that my outside reading is so relevant to my classes this semester.

I took a little bit of my downtime this weekend to play around with my last little kit. My soldering skills are still pretty terrible but they can only go up from here. I do have a question for any of the female engineers who might read this blog. What do you do to keep your hair out of your workstation? I used bobby pins on my fly-a-ways on my ponytail and STILL managed to singe a stray hair. I have done this every single time I’ve tried to solder so far. I’m going to set myself on fire at this rate.

I decided to put the workstation on the back burner for now. I’m using a scrap piece of wood as my work surface and taking over the dining room table temporarily. I bought a plastic toolbox to store my growing set of tools and stuff and so I can just tuck away my electronics stuff when I’m not using it. Packing up the stuff semi-regularly isn’t ideal but an entire workbench doesn’t seem like a perfect solution for the moment either. The dining room table was always my study place so my husband doesn’t miss it that much anyway. The picture above is my temporary workstation.

Time to go learn two’s complement & flip-flops.


Yes, I shouted in the title. Finals are upon me, I have a lab final this Friday, another final next Monday and then one the week after that. Again, this is not the fun part of going back to school. I’m pretty stressed about grades and exams and such, but I’m trying to keep on going.

Some people say that the Thanksgiving holiday is reinvigorating and helps them “charge up” for the coming exams. For me, the Thanksgiving holiday just made me realize how much I’m ready to be done. I’ve done all the learning and now I’m just at that horrible testing phase.

There has been something else weighing on my mind for a little while now. I’m never going to learn everything in electrical engineering/electronics. Now this is probably very obvious to anyone who has knowledge about the field, but for me it was a little hard to swallow. There is just so much to know. I’ve talked with some older engineers and they are so full of experience that will take me years and years and years to learn.

I’m also thinking about trying to dip my toe into research and I’m stymied at the process. Where do I begin? Should I just go through the professors at my school who are doing research in areas that seem interesting to me and then ask them if they need any help? There doesn’t seem to be any sort of centralized listing of openings so it looks like I just need to approach professors individually. I’m thinking I’ll do some research over the Christmas break and then from there I’ll send out some cover letters/resumes. Hope I can find something!

Oh! Head over to The Amp Hour for a great show this week. LEDs!!


I’ve officially entered the part of the semester that is no longer fun. I’m stressed out, disappointed in some grades and in dire need of a break. Thanksgiving is coming up, but I just don’t know how much relaxing time I’m going to have when I really need to be studying.

I know this is a part of the process but I hate this particular part. I have a big math test tomorrow and if I can keep my A average then I don’t have to take the final. Therefore, I’m really giving one last big push to learn this stuff backward and foreword so I can be done with it.

The group project has straightened itself out a little bit. I was the only member of the group of 6 with a car and any sort of tools. Therefore, I pretty much had to build our supporting structure by default. This was a source of much frustration but my husband borrowed a really nice miter saw and nail gun from a coworker at the fire station and so we were able to put together a pretty impressive frame for our “egg transporter” machine in only a few hours. So yesterday I finally delivered the frame and a ton of tools and supplies to one of the members who lives in an on-campus apartment so the other members of the team could start contributing.

Hopefully things will start looking up.

Rough week

I had one of those weeks where life got in the way of education. I’m not ready to talk about it here, so I’ll share some of the engineer related things that did happen. I ordered two books that I’m really excited about reading. I ordered “To Engineer is Human” by Henry Petroski and “Code” by Charles Petzold. Look forward to book reviews on these two in the coming weeks.

In my programming class, we’re finally starting to get beyond the programs that print “Hello World!” on the screen. Some of the programs we’re making now are actually useful! Our last assignment was an assignment to teach loops that had to accept an unknown number of inputs and calculate the mean, standard deviation, maximum, minimum and SEOM. Of course all of these things could be done in something like Excel, but this program had a real purpose.

The only foundation course that I’m wishing I had done before this semester is logic. I didn’t realize how integral logic is to programming and apparently later on in systems. So, does anyone have any suggestions for a great beginner book on logic? Obviously, the stuff we’re currently working on is pretty self-explanatory but I can just sense that it will begin to obfuscate itself.

My math professor handed out a short survey with our last homework assignment and I was pretty surprised with the sentiment of many of my classmates. A majority of them were griping about the pace of the class being too fast, the professor not explaining her examples and also that the class was “worthless.” My only complaint was that the book was pretty terrible but the professor herself has said this many times and often provides lengthy online notes to supplement the book. I’ve found the class to be very useful, taking principles from calculus III and taking them to the next level. She expects quite a bit from us but is also really good at explaining things in a way that my brain just “gets it.”

Still looming, the group project. Ugh. Thankfully, it’s a small portion of our grade so even if it turns out a little iffy, I’ll still be okay grade-wise. I just want it to be over. I like to work in teams and I consider myself a good team-player but this particular project is difficult because of the varied commitment levels of all the members. Again, we’ll see how this plays out.

Self Taught

Before I decided to go into engineering, like any good lawyer-to-be, I researched the heck out of engineering, electronics and careers in the field. One thing I kept hearing from successful engineers is that they learned the most from tinkering around. So far, this approach has been incredibly successful in my quest to learn my first programming language (java). I’ve learned so much more from just sitting around and writing programs based on examples from the book.

Our programming book has lots of sample programs that I always go through and physically re-type, run and then mess around with. Is this tedious? Yes. Has it taught me invaluable lessons? Yes. Often you retype the program and see just what happens when you forget a semicolon there, or put a semicolon after something that isn’t supposed to have one. I’ve seen what happens when you accidentally put a char in double quotes or forget brackets after an if statement. Once you actually make the mistake, it really sticks in your mind how to fix it and how to avoid it in the future.

So, this weekend, I plan to make my first foray into PCBs and soldering. I bought a cheap beginner kit where you build an alarm so if I fry the tips of the basic soldering iron, or nuke the multimeter that’s included in the kit it’s not that big of a deal. So many engineers that I’ve talked to say that playing around with things like this helps so much with the learning process. It also seems like it might be pretty fun! I’ll post some pictures of my disastrous attempts later.

First Round of Tests

Well, the title of this post is pretty straightforward.  I have my first round of tests next week. I’ve been working really hard and generally I’ve been doing well on homework assignments and quizzes but the first tests? Eek! I’m just a little nervous, I guess. It shouldn’t be that surprising but I actually feel more confident in my more difficult subjects because I’ve spent more time working on them. Physics in particular was kinda easy-peasy so I didn’t devote very much time to it. Now the first test is sneaking up on me and I’m feeling a little behind. Hopefully I can get down to it and still do well.

So, other than tests, what’s going on? Well. Bar results are about a month away. I’d really like to pass. Nothing we can do about it for now so I’m trying not to think about bar results at all. I’m just going to focus on this engineering adventure (!!!) and keep going. Well, off to perfect projectile motion and Newton’s laws.

Week 4: And school marches on

Well, I survived the first 3 weeks (really 2.5, I’m re-learning precision and accuracy, I can’t be going all willy-nilly on the blog). So far things are trucking along and I’m really, really enjoying it. I have a few complaints, but they are tragically minor. Complaint #1: There is no vending machine in the two buildings where I spend most of my time. At least once a week I forget my water bottle and then get all crazy parched and have to venture over a building to get a bottle of water. On the upside? All 20 oz. beverages are $1.00. That’s pretty cheap in my experience. Complaint #2: The wifi is sketchy in one of my classrooms. On the upside? I shouldn’t really be on the internet anyway so it forces me to study.

So the good things?

1. I found an awesome study area. It’s the “Engineering and Computer Science Reading Room” but all it seems to have in terms of “reading” is outdated journals from the 90’s. Weird. There’s also this older woman who looks like the slug from Monsters, Inc who seems to do nothing but shush people in this room. Whatever, it keeps things quiet.

2. My hardest assignments of the week by a mile are my math homework and quizzes. I was super worried about the math quizzes because the class is hard but then I found out something wonderful. She gives us the question for the quiz during the previous class. Now the question is usually something fairly involved. This week we have to prove that e^(i*theta)=cos(theta)+i*sin(theta) and that abs(e^(i*theta))=1. Both of those proofs are a little bit involved so we still have to study and redo the questions a few times to get them to “stick.”

3. I’m attempting to get involved with a few organizations (IEEE and Society of Women Engineers) but they have meetings at 8:30pm. Uhhh, what? I go to bed at 9. I don’t live on campus. How is this going to work? I’m not sure it will. Hmm, that’s not a good thing, that’s another complaint. Oops!

Well, off to my work!

Keep on swimming! Keep on swimming!

I had such high hopes for the Labor Day weekend. I was going to get so far ahead in all my classes and then I’d be able to “coast” for a few days. Uhhh, didn’t happen. My husband sprained his ankle something terrible and so he was around more than usual. I kept falling asleep throughout the weekend and I just felt off. I put enough time in to finish the things that HAD to be done but all those extras got pushed to the side.

So, I’m going to have to put in some hours this week to get my crazy math homework done, finish my first lab report, and do a little bit of physics and programming. Sigh. On the positive side, I really am enjoying what I’m doing. I love learning about how computers work. The whole concept of what writing code actually does is amazing! I can’t wait to get into the nitty-gritty of electricity. Also, I get to make matlab graphs for the first time this week. Wheeee!

To any lawyers still reading this, where do I stand with the law? Well, I try and obey it :). Okay, being serious, it’s been interesting how certain things keep looping back to law school in ways I didn’t think they would. As we talk in our programming class about different schools of thought regarding code, we keep discussing ways to keep other companies from stealing code and copyright issues. My intellectual property licensing class seems so useful when discussing licenses in my intro to engineering class. Patents have even come up in one class. I’m realizing that highly technical law might be something I’m really interested in after a few years working in the engineering industry. So, fingers crossed for bar results in November!

One week down!

So I’ve now finished my first week of class, and I’ve  gone to all my classes except physics lab (it didn’t meet the first week). Early in the week I had a little panic session about my math class but I’m starting to feel better about it. Basically, as I’ve already said, my math class is hard. However, I put in many solid hours and now I’m finally getting it. I think my biggest roadblock will be the basics that are taking a little while to come back. Other people in my class can rattle off the integrals of all the trigonometric functions and are comfortable manipulating logarithms and exponents. I used to be able to do such things and I’m sure it’ll eventually come back as I encounter these things, learn them and move on.

I’m feeling comfortable with my other courses and I think they’ll turn out okay.

Well, short blog today but I’ll try and update again this weekend.

The Second Day of School

Whoa. That’s about all I have to say about day two. Okay, more specifically, that’s all I have to say about Advanced Engineering Math. This class is not a joke. We are not kidding around. The professor walked in, spent ten minutes going over the syllabus in a very, very quiet voice and then launched into some intense math. I already have visions of many hours spent trudging through practice problems in this course. As with most of my other courses, there are very few girls and I just don’t know how to branch out and ask for help from all these guys in class.

I’m hoping that I can be successful in this course with enough hard work. We’ll see how I feel in a few weeks.

On the other hand, my other course on the second day was physics. Physics was in a GIANT classroom with about 150 students. The professor was engaging and I’m pretty sure that it will be easy enough to do well. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to have to put in the hours of work, but I’m confident that I’ll be okay.

Well it’s now Friday and I only have one class this morning and then I finally get to spend a little time with my husband. Hooray! I forgot what it was like to look forward to the weekend with such anticipation.