Professional Development for Engineers

The University of Waterloo started a new course two years ago. No, it wasn’t in its usual strong fields of mathematics or computers. It wasn’t a bleeding edge technology program or law.

It was Professional Development for Engineers.

This was a course to be done by engineering students during their co-op terms. It stressed ethics and morals. It introduced and reaffirmed the importance of professionalism as an engineering student and later on, hopefully, as an engineer.

I hadn’t heard much about the program before I actually had the opportunity to take it. Perhaps this was because it was new or perhaps the students at the time didn’t want any mention of the traumatic experience that it is. Allow me to elaborate.

The passing grade for any PDEng assignment is 75. Throughout the semester, the average for these assignments has been, for the most part, below 50. Now this initially sounds bad. But it gets much worse. See, if we fail, we’re allowed to resubmit the assignment after improving it. The average for the resubmits is still, unfortunately, a fail. Okay, maybe we weren’t expecting to be English majors on signing up for engineering, but I did pretty damn well in English in high school and I’ve failed quite a few assignments. The problem isn’t language or grammar or spelling.

You see, I’ve heard from organizers that a goal of the program they don’t openly tell you is that they like to see students fail on the first submission. It’s not that hard to fail let me tell you. The assignment questions are worded so poorly and vaguely that they could fail just about anyone for anything they please. I spend most of my time, not actually writing the assignment, but wracking my brain trying to psychologically decrypt the true meaning behind each assignment. Since you can almost be certain to fail if you follow your first train of thought, it’s usually worth it to second guess yourself several times before starting to write.

One thing that adds to the difficulty of passing is the fact that most of the topics covered are pretty much common knowledge. If you didn’t know, it’s pretty hard to write page after page about common knowledge. There always comes a point where you’re not sure if something’s so common knowledge that it defies explanation. The questions boil down to something along the lines of “a) do something clearly illegal b) do something illegal but wouldn’t land you in a jail cell with Bubba c) do something illegal that you could get away with d) THIS IS THE CORRECT ANSWER”. Now choosing that correct answer isn’t very hard. It’s the part where they say “please explain in detail your choice” that gets a little tedious. As a result most of my answers, and I’m sure most of the answers they receive is pretty much BS.

I’m not sure how a program built on this basis really affects the judgment of students. Even though the ‘correct’ answer may be clear, real world experience, unfortunately, does not mirror what you answered in an ethics course. In reality, life is a combination of uncountable shades of gray. Right and wrong are not determined by absolute rules. They are determined by the past, current, and future situations. Additionally, to answer something on e-paper is one thing. To actually act on that in real life is totally another matter. I’d consider myself a fairly ethical and reasonable person. However, even in my case, I saw questions which I answered like an angel, but doubted whether I could act in the same manner in the real world.

I understand the reasoning and idea behind the course. It’s to get us to ‘experience’ situations that we may not have been in already. However, the implementation is essentially a total failure. The questions ask what you would do, but in reality they mean what you should do. Everyone can talk the talk, but to walk the walk every time is beyond even the most skilled person.

[tags]university of waterloo, pdeng[/tags]

Long Overdue

I’ve had a topic on the backburner for a long while now and tonight was the final nail in the coffin. I haven’t got the time to get the whole rant down right now, but I’ll leave you with a primer. I’m on co-op as a University of Waterloo engineering student right now. Consequently, I get to participate in a Professional Development for Engineers (PDEng) class. To put it mildly, it’s the worst course I’ve ever taken in the history of ever. I couldn’t imagine any class being worse.

But alas, we have to pass the course to graduate. And this is only one of several PDEng courses we must do over the course of our engineering studies here. I can hardly wait. More to come when I’m a little less angry and a little more witty.

[tags]university of waterloo, pdeng, co-op[/tags]

Dug-up Photos

I can’t believe I haven’t posted a few of the pictures I’ve got here, so up they go now.

UWaterloo after snow

That was one of those mornings that you think you could live forever. It was just so beautiful even with the ugly-as-sin University of Waterloo buildings making up the skyline. Quite a bit of snow had fallen the previous night but it was sunny that morning. The whole world was glistening. Just very nice overall.

The pimp bus

That was the bus that had a little mishap a couple weeks back (wow, now that I look back, the time really flew by). Now keep in mind, I’m taking this shot perfectly straight, so you can see just how tilted the bus was. The suspension was totally messed up.

I also found, this past weekend, my next semester’s course schedule. Let’s just say I now have 31 hours of classes, two more than last semester and 8:30AM classes, EVERYDAY. I mean come on UWaterloo, ease up on us a little? Well, I have less to complain about than say the mech engineers who have 35 hours of class per week next semester from what I hear. Still, being the engineering student that I am, I have the duty to whine and complain about university. You’ll hear from me in the near future I’m sure. 🙂

[tags]university of waterloo[/tags]

A Day Late

Okay, so this really should have been posted yesterday, but owing to the time I had already spent writing, I thought I’d just write it today.

So we got a sort of a storm here these past two days. Today was snow but yesterday was freezing rain, quite a lot of it too. The roads were bad and I guess the drivers don’t really realize it (maybe not enough snow here…) but they still drive just as recklessly. There were quite a lot of accidents in Ontario (mostly the GTA). Anyways, both buses I took yesterday managed to miss their connections so I was left to walk about 20 minutes through the freezing rain. That was just horrible. And today, I had to walk to the Connestoga Mall to catch the bus since I missed the one that takes me from work to the mall. That was another 20 minutes of pure hell. It was windy and cold and snowy.

Now, on Monday, as I was walking to the bus stop from res, I saw one of the most beautiful sunrises I had ever seen. At that point I was too far to go back and get my camera, but I told myself that I’d bring it with me from then on to catch moments like that. Well, this morning I’m glad I brought my camera. I managed to snap a few shots of a fresh snowfall here at UWaterloo. Enjoy.

V1 under snow

UWaterloo under snow

Makes the place look even more dull doesn’t it? 😛

[tags]University of Waterloo, snow[/tags]

There’s Always A Way Around It

Nah, I don’t mean there’s a way around doing the work that is necessary. I mean just look at me right now. I’ve spend the good portion of this evening at the library slaving away. What could I possibly have to do after work you say? Well, I have a weekly work update due tomorrow morning and there’s this course, PDEng, we actually have to take on ethics, morals, and professionalism during our work terms. Basically I get to write a lot of… *cough*bs*cough* and get a passing grade that essentially says I’m competent. But apparently not, since I managed to fail a few of the assignments that we had to do before the end of last semester. According to the evaluators, my supporting examples are too ‘vague’ or somesuch. Well, hello, of course they’re vague. The questions are unclear as hell. “State a personal strength and why.” Isn’t that like the most vague question you can ask short of “Tell me about yourself”…? But to please the university gods (program heads) I’ll resubmit them and put down some small itty bitty example that I’ll be very specific with and have absolutely no reflection of my actual person. Of course, I’m here to please.

How am I writing all this with my nastily constrained connection? (Let me tell you, using dial-up after that constraint would be like blazing speeds relatively. I’ve taken a measurement of the actual speeds I get in the slow queue. It’s in the range of 500 bytes per second.) Well, as the title would imply, there’s always a way around the chains society (university ResNet in this case) puts around you. I’m in the library siphoning the wireless of course. Yes, the joys of wireless. And to smite them all, I’m listening to the music that forced me to play this hand. Yes, I’ve saved the files that Pandora cached on my hard drive and stuffed them on the iPod. So as I write this, I’m happily listening to, hmm… Kieth Jarrett’s rendition of “In Front”, introduced to me after I searched up Bill Evans I believe it was. Actually, this stuff reminds me more of Vince Guaraldi than anyone else… When I get my connection back (like this Friday, maybe, when I got home that is:)) I’ll be sure to look up old buddy Vince. I’ll just jot that down on my Rainlendar todo list. By the way, if you don’t know what Rainlendar is, I suggest you look it up on Google or something. As the name may imply, it’s a calendar or sorts that allows you to set events (alarms) and todo lists in a neat little package that sites as a widget-like tool on your desktop. And if you’re as obsessed with computers as I am, you’ll be staring at your computer desktop a lot more than some little day planner. 😉

In totally separate news, I’ve become slightly addicted to French Vanilla cappuccino. As any employee of a tech company should, I have at my disposal free pop, coffee, hot chocolate and cappuccino at work. All that caffeine is good for a kick start of the brain at the beginning of the day and then the continual rush is required for proper functioning throughout the rest of the work day. Of course, by the time you get back home, you’re just so tired you could pass out instantly in all your clothes in the most awkward position on the ground. Not that I’ve done that, I swear… Only for a little bit. Really. 😐 I’ve got a finished large cup of Timmy’s French Vanilla here beside me keeping me company while I slug through these assignments and this post. Ahem.

But oh! It’s 10:00pm and I really should get going back to res. I usually try to get to bed slightly earlier these days as getting up at 6:30/7:00am isn’t the most enjoyable thing in the world. One thing I’ve noticed about getting up early, before everyone else, is that the showers take forever to get warm. Since I’m usually the first in the whole building to take a shower, I’ve got to like start the furnace up or something in the mornings. I’m glad I’m making that second person’s shower more enjoyable… (not)

[tags]university of waterloo, Rainlendar, Pandora[/tags]