My BSE Fall Semester Experience in the Engineering Sequence

College is daunting. It’s normal for incoming first-years to feel uncertain about many things, especially course selection. I remember looking through every course on the course offerings page to determine the classes I would be taking in the fall, and feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available. I came into Princeton as a prospective COS (Computer Science) BSE student, so my class choices were inevitably influenced by my BSE degree requirements. BSE degree requirements include four semesters of math, two semesters of physics, one semester of chemistry, and every first-year is required to take one semester of writing seminar. Read on to learn about my experiences in the EGR sequence, starting with EGR 151.

  1. EGR 151: Foundations of Engineering: Mechanics, Energy, and Waves
Screenshot depicting course description of EGR 151. Link in caption leads to full version.
Course Description of EGR 151 for Fall 2023

EGR 151 is one of two courses eligible to fulfill the first semester of BSE physics requirements, the other being PHY 103: General Physics I. Rather than being a part of the physics department, EGR 151 is a part of the Engineering (EGR) Sequence, a set of five courses intended to fulfill first-year engineering requirements through an introduction to engineering fundamentals in the context of real-world applications. Taking EGR 151 with Professor Claire Gmachl was a pleasure. We learned the basics of physics throughout the three weekly lectures and applied the knowledge through a weekly lab. My favorite part of the course were the labs, my favorite being the first lab. For the first lab, my lab group and I designed a puzzle inspired by Martin’s Menace puzzles using Creo, a computer-aided design software. We created a five piece puzzle that was within the limitations of several guidelines, ultimately having our puzzle laser-cut and solved by Professor Gmachl. 

Laser-cut puzzle with clear, grey, orange, and yellow transluscent pieces.
Laser-Cut Martin’s Menace Inspired Puzzle

The second lab focused on data-gathering and analysis, ultimately culminating in a lab report written using LateX, an industry-use document typesetting software. The final lab was a design project where my lab group and I created a lecture desk extender, known as the Unfold Behold, in order to tackle the problem of the lack of lecture desk space. 

Desk Extender attached to light wood desk on green carpet near navy blue chairs.
Unfold Behold, Lecture Desk Extender

I found myself learning and applying several industry-useful concepts and skills, and really enjoyed the class.

  1. EGR 152: Foundations of Engineering: The Mathematics of Shape and Motion
Screenshot of course description for EGR 152; full description is available at the link in caption.
Course Description of EGR 152 for Fall 2023

EGR 152 is one of two courses eligible to fulfill the second of four BSE math requirements, the other being MAT 104: Calculus II. As an incoming first-year, you are recommended to take the level of math that you had just taken. As EGR 152 begins at the level of Calculus II, the engineering sequence is recommended to people who seek to fulfill their BSE requirements with an application focus, and have taken Calculus II in high school. Through EGR 152, I learned of several high-level applications of calculus through learning the fundamentals for the beginning of class, ending each lecture with a guest speaker. Each speaker, generally from Princeton’s Graduate School, focused on a different sector of engineering and spoke on how the concepts we had just learned applied to their research. EGR 152 was a very insightful class into several possible career paths, while providing students with essential math fundamentals.

  1. Some Final Takeaways

I personally chose to take the EGR Sequence over the Math/Physics Sequence because it perfectly aligned with my background in math and physics. In high school, I had taken one year of AP Physics 1 virtually during Covid and didn’t feel very well-versed in the subject of physics. The last math class I had taken in high school was AP Calculus BC, which is the MAT 104 equivalent. While I could have taken MAT 104 and PHY 103 over the EGR Sequence, I found that the opportunity to learn engineering concepts in an application-based setting was very valuable in providing a foundation with which I would personally apply engineering concepts in the future. Moreover, as a computer science major, I found that math and physics concepts may be less useful to me as I would more likely be working to solve problems that are influenced by math and physics concepts, meaning that the engineering sequence would provide a stronger foundation in how I would use math and physics to understand a bigger picture in the real world. From the hands-on aspects of applying physics to engineering or the ways in which math appears in a variety of different engineering disciplines, the EGR sequence allowed me to gain valuable insight into a broad range of math and physics concepts, industry software, and current engineering innovations. 

For students that may be interested in taking the EGR sequence, I would encourage you to take advantage of the resources available such as your PAA, Assistant Dean in your residential college, and academic advisers as they will be able to assist you in coming to a decision best suited for your academic needs. For students that are currently in the EGR sequence, I would highly, highly recommend going to professor or TA office hours. With essentially no background in physics, I struggled with the fast pace of the course and with grasping the conceptual aspects of real-world applications as it was far more complex compared to standard physics problems. However, going to office hours nearly every week not only allowed me to gain more clarity on the problem sets, but I was able to form bonds with my classmates as we worked together to solve the problems. There are a wide variety of resources for the EGR sequence, including McGraw drop-in tutoring, individual tutoring, and general office hours

Overall, I really enjoyed my fall semester EGR courses and found the focus on application-based learning to be useful in shaping my perspective on how fundamentals of math and physics greatly shape our world today. The hands-on aspect of EGR was extremely valuable to me, and I highly recommend these courses to anyone that is interested in fulfilling their first-year BSE requirements in application-based fundamentals courses and looking to take a math course at the Calculus II level. Princeton offers many courses that can define your academic experience, and for me, the EGR Sequence is definitely an academic highlight of my first year at Princeton. Good luck with your studies and wishing you the best, always! 

Shannon Yeow, Engineering Correspondent