It’s been nearly ten years since I first walked onto the University of Waterloo campus as a freshly minted undergraduate, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and eager to learn all about electrical engineering. I guess it’s hard to believe the speed with which time passes. It’s actually a bit astonishing how much I can still remember about orientation, or “frosh” week, like 4 a.m. fire drills, a very messy obstacle course, sitting with 800 other young engineering students in a lecture hall, and above all, meeting new friends.

I can also remember just how full my course schedule was. My roommate and I were the only engineering students on our residence floor; compared with our fellow dorm mates, who were predominantly arts students, we seemed to spend a lot more time in classes and studying. It was only in 4th year that I finally realized just how much material they had managed to cram into those early courses, including the dreaded ECE 150 (naturally, a double-weighted course). According to the course calendar, it covers everything from Introduction to Electrostatics, Introduction to Magnetic Fields, Basic DC Circuits, Mesh and Nodal Analysis, Circuit Simplification Techniques, AC Circuit Components, Dynamics of Circuits, Analysis of AC Circuits, Sinusoids and Phasors, Operational Amplifiers, and Transistors as Amplifiers, to Diodes as Switches. Whew!

We (mostly) all survived to tell the tale, but I think it would have been a different story if I’d been equipped with tools slightly more advanced than my 386 computer – itself really no more than a glorified paperweight. One of the reasons I selected “double E” over any of the other engineering disciplines was the amount of math it purportedly involved; it would have been nice to have programs like Maple and MapleSim to help me work through my assignments, make sure I was doing them right, and then go on to figure out what the point was - a bit quicker! For an example of what I’m talking about, and how Maple can help with engineering mathematics, check out this recording from a webinar I hosted, and this one, hosted by Dr. Robert Lopez.

In the end, despite the hard work and late nights, I’d have to say that my university experience was a positive one overall. To all of the new students heading off to school this fall, I wish you the best of luck and success in your pursuits. As my mother would say, just make sure you eat properly and get enough sleep!

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