Start of Winter term

It’s been 3 weeks into term already, and indeed, that is 30% of the term gone. Each week here feels more weighty than a week at Colby, since the term is much more compressed.

In terms of classes, I am taking ENGS32 – Analog electronics, ENGS93 – stats, and game theory. ENGS32 is easily the most time consuming class I have ever taken. It would easily count as a 2 class workload itself at Colby. It’s not that the material is hard – it’s just that there’s so much of it at such a break-neck pace that it forces you to work hard just to stay afloat. 2 problem sets a week, 3 lectures, a 3+ hour lab, a prelab assignment, and a post-lab assignment. During lectures, our professor would literally press the skip button on slides repeatedly – because he thinks some of his material is too easy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a student complain that the material is too easy.

In terms of difficulty, I don’t think each concept itself is that difficult. A lot of calculations and operations are very tedious (as is typical of analog electronics) but nothing so far is hard to grasp on a conceptual level.

I have had one significant paradigm shift this semester. In hindsight, it is so obvious, but it took a whole semester for me to appreciate. At Colby, every class, the professor makes sure you understand WHY and HOW something is important. Here, when you do engineering, the questions of “WHY” and “HOW” are not as important as the “WHAT”. You get handed something on a plate, you use it and accept it. You may learn about why it’s that way later. I feel that is the general sense of engineering. The most important thing is using it. Why it is that way is of lesser importance. This annoys me because I am a person who loves theory and diving into the nuts and bolts of why, of exploring the problem space deeply before even attempting to formulate a solution. One of the most insightful moments I had was when talking to my friend. He said that at Colby a physics professor was working with some engineers, helping them figure out a problem. When the prof. found the problem and showed it to the engineers, the engineers were of course delighted and resumed their work. The prof was astounded by the fact that the engineers did not take further steps to explore the problem more deeply and consider why it was happening and what other scenarios could happen in the future. The engineers explained that since the problem had a solution – one solution was good enough.

I think I’m beginning to realize that I don’t think I want to do engineering, and therefore don’t want to come back for my 5th year. I actually think I’d be an above average engineer at worst, but given that I am not that interested in traditional engineering, I’d rather do something I like more and aim to be really good at that.

Breadboarding for one of my 32 labs