Commence 4A

Now that it’s a bit over a week into the new semester, I’ve had a chance to sit through all the classes I’m enrolled in plus one, ECON 231 International Economics. Without a doubt there’s a different mindset when approaching this set of courses, because I selected each and every one of them. These are classes that I’m interested in and that makes it easier to apply oneself. I was one of four lucky people to get an override to attend ECON 231, so I’m sporting 5 courses instead of the typical 4 that is required for this project semester (fourth year design project).

Thus far, I can say without a doubt that ECE 438 Digital Integrated Circuits is my favorite course. I’m so glad that sucking it up through ECE 231 and subsequently ECE 332 are starting to pay off. Semiconductors are just such gosh darned interesting stuff. I had a chat with the professor this semester about topics on process engineering and it seems like that’s mainly a topic for graduate studies. Hrm…. I’ll jot that down on the list. It’s really too bad companies like Intel don’t hire co-ops, although I completely understand why. We’d be absolutely useless in the field.

I’ve been cramming GRE vocabulary for the last few weeks in preparation for taking the GRE, hopefully in mid to late June. While I’m very excited about going to work for Microsoft in the fall and of course would be delighted if they were to extend a full time offer, I want to keep my options open, and graduate studies is one I’m considering. In that vein, I’m also considering doing an Undergraduate Research Assistantship this semester, if I can find a professor interested in giving me the opportunity.

On the extracurricular front, I’ll be in the photo club again, probably as an executive, and I’ll be back in the university orchestra after a one semester absence. This semester shouldn’t be too crammed, so I feel I can devote some time to music again. I know I’m being a bit hypocritical after writing about possibly being on the wrong side of the conductor, but after turning down an urgent plea for percussionists last semester, I’m partly doing this to assuage my own guilt for (sort of) letting the group down.

Alright, I’m off to play a bit of tennis. I just love the great weather!

3B Completed

I’m finally beginning to accept that I have the next week and a half off from school or work or any other type of scheduled behavior. Boy, does it feel nice to spend some time doing nothing without feeling guilty about shirking this or that responsibility. Well, perhaps not absolutely nothing; the GRE preparation book calls my name every now and then.

The 3B semester was one of the tougher semesters thus far, not because of the material itself, which proved to be easily grasped, but due to the endless projects. As always, one of the difficulties in group projects is the management task and making sure everything gets finished according to the timelines set out. It’s easy to be responsible for oneself with assignments, but to get everyone on the same page, not to mention the inevitable head-butting at times, is a much more draining task. Thankfully, things worked out alright. Our fourth year design project group also has a decent start, in preparation for the push next semester.

Yes, I’m back for 4 more months of university in the summer semester (or ‘Spring semester’ as UWaterloo likes to call it). The 4A semester is the first where we get to choose what we want to do since beginning university 4 years ago. I’ve lined up ECE 411, 418, and 438. Two communications-related and a microelectronic devices course. The fourth course I’m enrolled in is Anthropology, but I’m hoping to switch that out for ECON 231, International Economics. Anthropology is simply there to satisfy my List A Complementary Studies requirement, but I think taking that course as a distance education class would be easier.

The 4A semester requires only 4 courses, with an additional course unit being used up for the 4th year design project . I haven’t had a schedule as open and lax ever at university. There are several days with only one or two hours of classes. It will require some seriously disciplined time management to ensure that I don’t waste a lot of time.

For the break, I’m planning a short trip for the family over the weekend and into the next week. The weather in southern Ontario is supposed to be absolutely fantastic, 20C and up with beautiful, clear skies. Preliminarily, the plan is to drive up to the Bruce Peninsula. There’s some fantastic hiking and scenery to be had. I’m already excited about the photo opportunities! Then, later next week, I’m planning to spend a day in Toronto and attend a Toronto Symphony Orchestra concert with a friend. Should be loads of fun.

One More Day for 3B

My last exam for the 3B semester is later today for ECE 355. I am finding it more difficult than ever to focus on studying, especially with a course like ECE 355 to end it all off.

I am so glad this semester will be done soon.

One Year Til MY Iron Ring Ceremony

Yesterday, a bunch of dressed up, half drunk engineers invaded our lecture room to pronounce their last day before the Iron Ring Ceremony, a ceremony that (almost) all engineering students look forward to. The symbolism of the iron ring itself is best left to another article at another time, but in the context of the engineering program at Waterloo, the ceremony marks the culmination of 5 years (or more) of hard work and harder complaining.

Pre Iron Ring Ceremony romp

As I sat there, glad for the temporary respite from circuit fault testing, I realized two things:

  1. I will probably be amongst those raucous engineers in a year.
  2. I will probably be amongst those raucous engineers in one year.

It’s now one week before the end of lectures of the 3B semester, and it seems such a short time ago that I was writing about the approach of midterms and reading week. This semester, more than any so far, has veritably flown by – projects, labs, and assignments have contributed to the feeling that I wrapped up my semester at Indigo but a few days ago, when in fact it has been 3 months. I sense myself growing tired of so many things about where I am, and whereas during any other semester, I’d simply look to the approaching co-op, I only have another 4 months of school to look forward to this time. I’m finally experiencing what a typical university career feels like.

To keep myself from going insane, I’ve been injecting little bits of interest into my every day life. What I didn’t consider but a year ago now keeps me content: photography. It’s one of those activities that allows a curious mind to wander and look at things in a different light. It’s possibly the single biggest thing I’m looking forward to in the summer. At least the drab greyness that is Waterloo in the winter will be replaced by some color. With only 4 courses (and 1 additional slot for work on the fourth year design project), my schedule has large swaths of emptiness, pretty conducive to going out and shooting some photos.

I’m also spending some more time researching topics of interest outside (or extensions) of course material. Among the topics are semiconductors, processor architecture, and some program management related fields. I recently picked up two books on the third topic, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Making Things Happen by Scott Berken. These two books were recommended by Joel Spolsky at the end of his wonderful article on program management and were very well reviewed at Amazon.

Making a proactive change to my schedule, I’ve begun studying for final exams already, starting with ECE 327, Digital Systems Engineering. There’s about 300 pages of lectures notes to go over since midterms. Split into little chunks, it’s my hope that I’ll be able to properly digest it by the time the exam rolls around.

3B – Crying Wolf

I’ve had my share of bumps and bruises through nearly 4 years of university now. I was told 1B would be difficult, but while we did lose something around 30% of our class, I sailed through without much issue. Then the killer was supposed to be 2B, but again, it wasn’t terribly trying. So when I was told 3B would finally bring the pain, I chalked it up to the upper-year students who cried wolf. I wasn’t worried.

But with a day less than a month before I write my last exam for the semester, I find myself living in labs, the library and empty classrooms, working on projects, reports and assignments. It’s been literally weeks since I’ve been able to return home after lectures end for the day. I’m tired.

It’s with a big sigh of relief that I’m spending most of this weekend simply sitting in my room, catching up with lectures and practice problems, taking time to relax in between. I can clearly feel my progress through university. I’ve arrived at the point where I’m understanding most things simply listening in lectures, instead of having to re-learn everything on my own after the fact that was the case for the first couple years. While it’s true that I haven’t retained all the details from the courses I’ve taken in the past, university has improved my ability to learn, as clichéd as that may be, and that’s the most important thing.

It’s coming up to the endgame for the 3B semester. This time I don’t have an exciting co-op semester to look forward to, just another 4 months of school, in the summer. Ho hum.