My BSE Spring Semester Experience in the Engineering Sequence

After having written “My BSE Fall Semester Experience in the Engineering Sequence”, I wanted to continue writing about my experience in the spring semester portion of the sequence; if you haven’t read my first post yet, go read it! To reiterate, the Engineering Sequence is 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. BSE degree requirements include four semesters of math, two semesters of physics, one semester of chemistry, and every first-year student is required to take one semester of writing seminar. The Engineering Sequence begins at the Integral Calculus (Calculus II) and the Physics Mechanics level, meaning that it will cover for the two required semesters of physics and the four semesters of math in five courses throughout three semesters. Read on to learn more about the spring sequence!

  1. EGR 153: Foundations of Engineering: Electricity, Magnetics, and Photonics
screenshot from course page. Link to course description in subheading.
Course Description of EGR 153 for Spring 2023

EGR 153 is one of three courses eligible to fulfill the second semester of BSE physics requirements, the others being PHY 104: General Physics II or PHY 106: Advanced Physics (Electromagnetism). The course is structured with three weekly lectures and a weekly lab, along with weekly problem sets and lab analysis papers. Unlike EGR 151, the prerequisite for EGR 153, I found that EGR 153 was much more similar to a “standard” physics course that applied physics concepts to sometimes unrealistic, simplified real-world scenarios for the sake of only learning to apply that particular physics concept (e.g. you have a cannon 30 feet up at an angle of 30 degrees, what is the maximum distance the projectile would land?). EGR 151 stood distinctly as an applications course through real-world conceptual problem set questions as well as implemented many aspects of real-world design, technical skills, and problem-solving in the labs. I felt as though I was missing a large part of what I enjoyed from the fall semester BSE Engineering Sequence courses, the challenge of needing to fully conceptualize a physics problem that occurred in real life. Moreover, the EGR 153 labs were distinctly different in that we were conducting different lab experiments every week and writing an analysis based on our findings. My favorite part of the Engineering Sequence from the fall was the physics lab where I was able to partake in the design and implementation of a product, while applying both physics concepts and learned technical skills. However, in the EGR 153 labs, it was characterized by following a lab procedure to conduct experiments centered on that week’s physics concept and writing an analysis based on the findings. For example, one of the experiments that we did was how lens and distance interacted in an optics context, creating single lens and compound lens microscopes to understand how light refracted and magnified images. The analysis for the lab included taking experimental data of the original size of the image compared to the magnified images as well as measurements of focal length and distance from the eye. While it did allow me to learn how to use several instruments and learn to work with circuits or how optics interacted within a space, I found that the “hands-on” aspect of the course that allowed us to creatively design and apply industry-use technical skills was largely missing in the labs. 

  1. EGR 154: Foundations of Engineering: Linear Systems
screenshot from course page; full course description found at link in subheading
Course Description of EGR 154 for Spring 2023

EGR 154 is one of three courses eligible to fulfill the linear algebra BSE math requirements, the others being MAT 202: Linear Algebra with Applications or MAT 204: Advanced Linear Algebra with Applications. The course structure includes two weekly lectures and weekly problem sets. In a general math sequence, the courses would be in the order of Calculus I, Calculus II, Multivariable Calculus, and Linear Algebra. Interestingly, in the Engineering Sequence, the courses begin with Calculus II, followed by Linear Algebra, and Multivariable Calculus, which will be taken fall the following year. Although I’m not entirely sure why the course is structured that way, the material covered in Linear Algebra and Multivariable Calculus doesn’t build on each other, so this order is perfectly acceptable. Out of the four Engineering Sequence courses I’ve taken so far, EGR 154 is by far the least real-world application-based course. In EGR 152, the problem sets were highly conceptual and needed an understanding of how it worked in the real world to solve, and the guest lectures allowed us to understand how the math concepts could be applied in current ongoing research in a multitude of fields. However, EGR 154 doesn’t have guest lecturers and also doesn’t have problem sets that were conceptual. While I enjoyed working on the EGR 154 problem sets more than I did for EGR 152 due its straightforwardness, I found that the challenge to understand each question conceptually and how it could be applied was integral to my experience in EGR 152.

  1. Some Final Takeaways

Due to COVID during my junior year of high school, I never had any standard lab experiences in physics. Thus, I found the physics labs in EGR 153 to be a learning experience, though I do wish there was more freedom in the labs to design and implement a product or concept. Additionally, I personally have a hard time with conceptually understanding real-world applications, so I found the problem sets for this semester to be less challenging and more enjoyable. However, I also wished to learn more about how the concepts learned in class could be applied to real-world scenarios. 

You might then be wondering, if the spring semester Engineering Sequence courses weren’t what I was expecting, did I regret taking the Engineering Sequence? The answer is nope! While I did very much enjoy my fall semester Engineering Sequence courses, I also discovered many things about my likes and dislikes for both subjects, and I was glad to experience what physics experiments were like as well as learn how to use several of the instruments related to electricity through the spring semester courses. 

I would highly recommend going to professor or TA office hours for both courses to gain greater clarity on the questions and work with peers towards solving the questions on the problem set. It can also aid in your overall understanding of the concepts learned in class. There are a wide variety of resources for the Engineering Sequence, including McGraw drop-in tutoring, individual tutoring, and general office hours. Don’t forget to take advantage of resources such as your PAA, Residential College Faculty, and Academic Advisers if you need help registering for or may be interested in taking the Engineering Sequence. Good luck with your studies and wishing you the best! 

— Shannon Yeow, Engineering Correspondent