Boy Howdy, I Dunno About That

September 29, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Sat the first of three exams in MAT 122 tonight at 6.  Immediately preceding this, I had endured a three-hour ECE 101 lab session that involved Wire-Wrap® technology.  As electronics construction methods go, Wire-Wrap® is some way beyond quaint.  It’s what they used to build the Apollo Guidance Computer.  My partner and I were at it for the full three hours and still couldn’t get our robot’s master LED to come on, which means we’ll have to go back during open lab next week and try to finish.  This was not a relaxing way to prepare for a major test, and I suspect my performance will reflect that.

Ironically, we had to present a photo ID at the end of the session, in order to prove we really were students and not, say, paid ringers.  All I can say is that if the real Ben Hutchins hired me to take that test for him, he got what he deserved, the cheating bastard.  I won’t know for sure until the grade gets posted, of course, but I strongly suspect that I made a complete crock out of the test.  In that sort of math there are a lot of this-or-that interpretation rules – not hard, just fiddly – and at many times in the course of the test I found myself looking at something I could have sworn last night I knew cold, and thinking, Fuck, does that mean it’s inverted relative to the X axis or the Y axis?  You don’t do as much guessing as I did and do well on a test.

On the other hand, I seem to be over my problem with factoring quadratic equations.  Or, rather, I’ve remembered the quadratic formula, which means I no longer have to.

I was right about the online homework/quizzing model not translating very comfortably to an old-school proctored paper exam, too.  Not because of graphing; we did have to do a bit of that, but it wasn’t a problem.  The problem was simply the lack of context for everything.  In an old-fashioned exam you don’t have the luxury of looking up the fiddly rules you’ve suddenly realized you no longer remember.

Personally, I don’t think this method of assessment is valid any longer in terms of preparing students for the Real World.  Maybe it never was.  I mean, I don’t know about you, but I spent a good bit of time in the private sector, and while they did (as Ray Stantz once observed) expect results, they didn’t expect me to know everything about the field I was working in off the top of my head.  That’s what references are for.  As such, closed-notes testing just doesn’t make sense to me any more.  It’s just not realistic unless you’re, I don’t know, an explosive ordnance disposal technician.

On the plus side, I did manage to hit an impossible deadline for a Campus article today.  When I discovered that the professor I needed to speak with for vital background could only see me today at noon, with EE lab from 2:10 to 5, a critical math test at 6, and deadline at 8, I figured well, so much for that gig – but I filed that sumbitch at 5:15, having written most of it at my lab station in Barrows 221 between 1 and the start of lab.  A deserted circuits lab is actually quite a restful place to do a spot of writing; I shall have to remember it for personal use in future, if Andy’s around to unlock the place for me.  (Also, I enjoy being trusted to hang around in there unsupervised; they keep the room locked so the kids don’t wander off with the equipment or put an eye out with the soldering irons.)

Also, because of the evening exam, there’s no class in MAT 122 tomorrow morning.  I’m at Dad’s tonight because I didn’t feel like driving all the way home in the dark, but in the morning I get to get up and go home instead of back to campus, which should give me plenty of time to finish this week’s ECE 101 homework and finish up my cue cards and visual aids for Speech #2 in CMJ 103, which I’m due to perform on Friday morning.  That should be… interesting.  (More about the speech’s content later.  In fact, if it goes well, I might just post the video.  And if it doesn’t, I’ll edit this graf and deny I ever said anything about it.)

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  1. Dave Van Domelen
    September 30, 2010 at 18:38

    Oooh, I used WireWrap once in grad school, when I was still in the AMO experimental group.

  2. sofaspud
    October 1, 2010 at 13:57

    Back when I was disassembling old electronics all the time, I used to come across these and never knew what to call them. I could never figure out why they hadn’t used solder or anything, I mean, c’mon! Surely a connection can’t be secure without solder!

    So, uh, huh. I guess it can. :D

    • Ben
      October 1, 2010 at 18:19

      It’s supposed to be quicker, easier to do, and harder to get wrong than soldering. Frankly? I’d rather solder. It might be trickier, but it’s also more interesting. Wire-Wrap? Teeeeediouuuuus. (Though I’m told at least part of the problem is that the University only popped for the $2 Wire-Wrap tools.)

  3. Andy
    October 1, 2010 at 22:30

    It actually goes pretty fast if you have a powered tool, like the one demo’d in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RE0Qj5Sr_TI. Plus, you can put together parts spaced closely together without needing to do a custom PCB layout.

    I can’t imagine doing any significant number of connections with a hand-twist tool.

    • Dave Van Domelen
      October 2, 2010 at 00:00

      Yeah, the zippy automatic tools are fun!

    • Ben
      October 2, 2010 at 00:28

      God help me, I actually found that video interesting. (And I kind of want one of those tools now.)

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