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.

DreamSpark Now Available for UWaterloo Students

Microsoft DreamSpark, the program that aims to get high school and university students hooked on the Microsoft development platform(s), is finally available for University of Waterloo students, without necessitating an International Student Identity Card (ISIC). While Waterloo has an MSDN-AA subscription for undergrads, many of the tools available through DreamSpark aren’t available through that subscription. Examples include Expression Studio 2, SQL Server 2008, Windows Server 2008, and Virtual PC 2007. It looks like UWaterloo cheaped out on the licensing. Guess the $4600 per semester tuition just didn’t cut it.

Microsoft DreamSpark

Enough jabs at the school for now – head on over to DreamSpark and check out the software. I’ve been using some of the tools for a while, courtesy of my ISIC.

I’m Free!

I don’t want to count the chickens before they hatch, but I’m Free! Free for the tyranny that is PDEng!

I submitted the final assignment for PDEng 55, the final PDEng course of my University of Waterloo engineering program. The last assignment, a written piece on undergraduate intern engineering experience is marked only for completion, and having passed the summative assignment prior to that, I feel like I’m home free. *knock on wood*

I’m going to put this harrowing experience behind me and hope that one day, the program will either be removed or at least improved.

Dean’s List

After knocking at the door for a couple semesters, I finally got my first Dean’s List placement that actually counts (first was in 1B, but need two from 2A onwards to get the Dean’s List note on a diploma at the University of Waterloo). I really should have gotten it in 2A, but due to some miscommunication, my mark update from a mis-marked final exam didn’t get submitted until rankings had been calculated for Dean’s List consideration. It peeved me off at the time, but I was confident that it wasn’t a fluke.

The past study semester was an interesting one for me. I took ECE332 (Microelectronic Circuits) as an ‘elective’, which many friends chastised me for. The professor wasn’t very highly regarded, and with the mark I got at midterm time, I started feeling the same way. In all fairness though, the mark was 95% my fault. While I wasn’t very accustomed to his teaching style, it was still my imperative to work hard and seek help. I did neither for the midterm.

But, aside from that course, everything clicked. I could feel the topics sink in. It brought back memories of high school when I could simply sit, listen, and understand. My midterm marks (aside from ECE332) showed that I was indeed on top of things. It was a good feeling and probably the first time since coming to the University of Waterloo that I felt so comfortable with everything. It wasn’t simply a matter of being able to regurgitate on an exam either. I truly understood and could apply the concepts being presented.

Building on that momentum, I kept up with my studies and made a promise to myself to pull it together in ECE332 as well. I spent some quality time studying for final exams, especially ECE332 and pulled off good marks. No longer was I scratching at the border of the Dean’s List. I made it in, solidly. For engineering at the University of Waterloo, the Dean’s List requires that your average minus your percentile ranking be above 80%. It means that one must do well in both absolute and relative terms.

I’m looking forward to 3B and especially the last couple semesters of school until I graduate. It won’t be 4th year until I actually get to choose many courses, but I’ve already pre-enrolled in computer architecture, communications and hardware courses.

PDEng 55: Auto-Fail

I’m not sure which better defines which. Does auto-fail define PDEng 55 or does PDEng 55 define auto-fail?

I’ve failed all three initial assignment submissions this semester, and it certainly wasn’t due to a lack of effort. To put this 100% failure rate in context, 3 friends also share this identical failure rate. Discussion board postings criticizing the quality of marking and mundane reasons for the failed grades have been met with draconian responses or have simply been removed. How ironic for a program that touts its goal of professional education. The atmosphere feels more like the Apple support forums than an engineering education board.

PDEng has always been about referencing and citing supporting information. I try to pretend that I’m writing the assignment for the most inquisitive, impatient 3 year old on the planet. Think something should be common knowledge? Think again. Reference that shit. Think the marker can read past a statement in one sentence and find the supporting evidence in the next? Think again. Make it a run-on sentence if need be, but whatever you do, don’t use a period before finishing up that nukebomb-proof thought.

As an example, let me provide you with just one of the few reasons I failed the latest assignment. It was returned with some rather humorous comments. Among them was the highlighting of a passage and this gem of a comment, ‘Why is this bold?‘ Hmmmm, that’s a really tough question. Not. I didn’t realize using different font effects required explanation. From the comment, it appears as though I need to provide justification for bolding words. I promise I’ll provide explanations for such mind-boggling actions in the future, honest…

PDEng has failed in its objectives. The failure isn’t due to an altogether poor idea or motivating factor. It is very commendable that the University of Waterloo forged ahead to enhance an aspect of the engineering program that isn’t thoroughly taught. However, the execution has meant that any possible benefit of the project has been squandered. Instead of truly educating engineers-in-training and encouraging thoughtful responses to assignments, the tasks have turned into mostly fruitless attempts to appease power-hungry markers. I deem any course where the overarching goal is to write what the marker wants to see, rather than actually learn, a complete, utter failure.

If the University of Waterloo really wants PDEng to be viewed and, more importantly, result in real professional education for engineering students, it must organize the program so that students don’t view it as a form of punishment. Make the assignments actually educate students on the professional and ethical aspects of engineering. Perhaps provide case studies that encourage students to think and analyze, and not simply write the things that will earn them the required ‘Competent’ rating. As it stands, you could fully understand and even convey all the concepts that PDEng attempts to teach, yet still fail assignments due to reasons like the one I mentioned earlier. That sort of ‘incentive’ isn’t conducive to a real effort at learning.

And as a result, I will continue to preach the failures of the PDEng program at all my places of employment. And since I want to inflict maximum damage on the program as it is currently executed, you can be absolutely certain my arguments aren’t in the form of ‘it just sucks’. My personal experiences and reasonable complaints will do far more in any employer’s eye. My only ray of hope comes from the fact that PDEng 55 is the final iteration of the punishment.