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Posts Tagged ‘better late than never’

An Unprecedented Accomplishment

May 15, 2011 5 comments

Some of you may know, from prior posts or just having already known a few things about my personal history, that I have never actually completed a full year of college before.  In 1992, I did stay at WPI until chucking-out time because the room was paid for, but I pretty much stopped going to classes midway through D-term, owing to a general feeling of hopelessness, and I received no grades whatever for that term (because that’s how WPI rolls).  In 1994, I got a job offer from Leading Edge and withdrew from the University of Maine in mid-April, before the withdrawal-equals-failure deadline, which is why all my spring-1994 grades are Ws (which don’t affect cumulative GPA) and not Fs (which do).

(As an aside, I did somehow manage to not just finish ENG 101 Introduction to College Composition that semester, but in fact pull an A in it.  I don’t remember now how I did that, since the other grades being Ws confirm that I did withdraw long before the end of the semester.)

So finishing {four terms|two semesters} in a row is something I have never before managed to do at the college level.  Still less have I ever in my life been a straight-A student; gym class, laziness, and (after fifth grade) a general lack of engagement in mathematical topics saw to that all through public school and, as we have already covered, college takes 1 and 2 were frankly pretty much disastrous.

As such, and despite my childhood-ingrained aversion to being too much of a showoff, I am pleased to report:

20110514-spr11grades

Now.  In all fairness I have to note that this is far from the most burdensome course load ever carried by an undergraduate at the University of Maine.  As you can see, those are all 100-level courses (one of which is an introduction to the easiest programming language on Earth), there’s no math class on the list at all, and it’s the absolute minimum credit count for full-time student status, 12 credits (the sample curriculum for the MET program recommends 15-17 per semester).  So this is not, in absolute terms, an achievement with which to set the academic world alight.

However.

It’s still a semester 4.0, it’s still a Dean’s List performance by the Office of Student Records’ standards (I think; it’ll be published in June), it’s still the first time I’ve ever actually finished a full year of college, and it’s still the first time I’ve ever passed a computer programming course of any kind.

So I’m pretty pleased with it.

(Also, while I’m bragging, I kicked ass in CLA 102.  My final numeric score was 615 points out of a possible 600, or 102.5 percent.)

I can’t afford summer classes this year, so now it’s back onto the shelf until August, when I tackle Physics for Engineers I (a prerequisite for a whole raft of stuff in the MET curriculum and thus a major bottleneck), possibly differential equations (which should be interesting, since I can’t remember my 1991 exposure to calculus at all), and… some other stuff, I forget exactly what.  It’ll probably all get rearranged in the first week of the semester anyway.  According to the curriculum calendar I should have Chemistry I as well, but I’m really dubious about taking two lab sciences in the same semester.

As you see, I’m reminding myself not to be too impressed with my modest accomplishments here, but at the same time, what the hell, it’s just this once: go me. :)

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Does This Roller Coaster Have a Loop-the-Loop?

October 4, 2010 Leave a comment

‘Cause it’s certainly got its share of up-and-down bits.

Last time I posted I was moaning about my brain having seized up after a maternal MINI malfunction cost me most of a day’s working time on my ECE 101 homework.  I ended up turning that homework in with two out of the six problems omitted altogether and one only one-quarter done, with a rather pathetic little note attached explaining that I couldn’t see how the other three sub-questions differed from the first one.  That happened on Friday morning.

On Saturday, my father had to go into work for a while, and when he was done he swung by my house.  I repeated the moan about my homework, grumbling that I’m really not sure this electrical stuff is working for me, and he asked if I could show him what had gone wrong with that question.  So I did.  I’ll spare you the details, but it had to do with working out the relationship between various resistors in a fairly complicated resistive circuit, and changing the two reference points between which you’re evaluating same.  Doing that changes the relationships within the circuit, and though I knew that, I could not for the life of me see how.

Dad looked at it for a couple of seconds, then said, “Well.. what if you thought of it this way?”

What I ended up doing was envisioning the components in the circuit as, basically, “Doctor Nesbitt’s Electrickal Machinerie” – electronic hardware at its most cartoonish faux-Victorian absurd scale.  Resistors the size of fists attached to enormous brass bus bars by cables as fat as your thumb, insulated with the finest gutta-percha from the east end of the Empire.  And then it suddenly made sense.  Imagining the two reference points as physical bars of metal with cables clamped to them made it all fall together for me.  (Those of you who’ve been to WPI may find yourselves picturing that streetcar equipment that is, or used to be, in the lobby of Atwater Kent Labs.  That’s pretty much what I had in mind.)

Fired up by this epiphany, I spent a decent chunk of the afternoon finishing up the missing bits of last week’s homework and then, just for good measure, did this week’s.  It’s not due until Friday, but damn me if it’s not already finished.

This afternoon, figuring that I wouldn’t get any credit for it – which is fair, since I didn’t turn it in on time – I took my weekend’s work over to Andy’s office, just because I wanted to see whether I had in fact gotten it right.  He looked it over, pronounced it satisfactory (I’d done a bit of the math in question 4 wrong, but the theory was correct, and the aforementioned analysis was spot on), and, to my considerable surprise, gave me a fairly substantial percentage of base credit for it.  He liked that I hadn’t just given up after blowing the deadline (and a mental radiator hose) on Friday.  He also liked the mental-bus-bars trick, though he warned me that later on, there will be circuits that I won’t be able to do that for.

I admitted that I’m still pretty lost as to what we’ve covered over the past couple of lecture days, and he agreed that it’s liable to be pretty baffling to someone without a calculus background – but calc isn’t actually a prereq for the course, so we’ll see what happens.  We haven’t actually reached the point where we’ve got homework on RC circuits to do.  It may become clearer once there are examples to dig into.  Or not.  But we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.  In the meantime, since we haven’t had homework on it yet, they won’t be on Friday’s exam.  Which is good.  Did I mention we have an exam in that class on Friday?

No word yet on how bad I screwed last Wednesday’s MAT 122 exam in the ear.  I’m not expecting good things.  Still, I’m willing to accept the weekend’s turnaround on ECE 101 homework #6 as a victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.  All thanks to my father prompting me to, in essence, look at an electrical engineering problem like a mechanical engineer.  That gives me something to think about vis-à-vis my choice of discipline.  That and the continuing preponderance of computer-related stuff cropping up in my ECE 100 seminar.