How to study Engineering well and succeed!


    Dr.N.V.Ramana Rao

    Registrar & Professor

    Civil Eng, JNTU, Hyd.

         Every summer, millions of students have a tough time selecting the right engineering college that will open doors to an exciting career. Let us assume that you made it to the engineering College of your dream. If you think that was difficult then you really don’t know what you are up against!

         The upcoming semesters are going to be hectic, where you are going to be bombarded with assignments, projects, tests and everything your professor feels that you need to do to be ready for your role as an engineer in the real world. Also don’t expect your professor to spoon-feed you because in college you are expected to hone your own skills. Despite the incomprehensible lectures, endless homework, and impossible tests, studying engineering has been quite easy. Nevertheless, things may not always go quite the way you would like—classes with absurd amounts of work and test averages not up to the desired level are facts of life in engineering.  If you want to be the best, then you can only be the best through your own efforts, hard work and creativity. Here is what you need to do.
         There are several better ways to help yourself. First, though, let me suggest that the real problem may not be that professor who’s making your life miserable. It is that over the years you may have unconsciously bought into a message that goes like this, "My teachers know everything I need to know to be an engineer. Their job is to tell it to me in lectures, and my job is to soak it up and then repeat it on exams. If I can do that, I’ve learned it."

         Wrong! That approach may have worked in your qualifying examination but it begins to fail in college, and once you get into the class or research lab, it stops working completely. Out there, there are no professors, lectures, or texts with worked-out examples, and the problems don’t come neatly packaged with all the information needed to solve them.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    In fact, often the hardest part of a real problem is figuring out exactly what the problem is.But you also need to remember this. Around the world, hundreds of thousands of engineers—most no smarter than you, many not as smart—who once struggled with their own confusing instructors and unreadable texts and didn’t understand the subject any better than you do, are out there doing just fine. Every day they figure out what they need to know to solve their problems, and then they solve them. If they could learn to do that, so can you. What I’d like to do here is give you simple tips to help you start learning it now. If you find yourself struggling in classes, give these tips a try.
    Don’t be afraid to ask questions and learn
         An engineering school is supposed to help you soak knowledge from your professors and engineering books. If you are having difficulty in classes or can’t figure out the equations that are being calculated on the whiteboard or can’t figure out the sketch that your professor is explaining then ask him or her to explain it again. Most teachers are happy to help their students after class or guide them through materials and books.
         Do you ever find yourself expressing one of these common complaints? "I need practical, real-world applications before I can understand something, but all we get in class is theory." "I want to understand how things work, but all we get are facts to memorize and formulas to substitute into.""I understand what I see—pictures, diagrams, demonstrations—better than what I hear and read, but all we get are words and formulas."
         If you do, pay attention to yourself—identifying what you’re missing in a course is the first step toward getting it. The obvious next step is to ask your professor, in or out of class, for whatever it may be. Most professors genuinely want their students to learn—that’s why they became professors—and often complain that their students rarely ask questions except "Are we responsible for this on the test?" So if you don’t understand something, try asking for something that might clarify it. "Could you give an example of how you would use that formula?" "Could you sketch what that (device, solution, plot) might look like?" "Where did that equation you just wrote come from?" Even if you’re afraid a question may sound stupid, ask it anyway. I guarantee that others in the class are equally confused and will be grateful to you for having the courage to speak up. And if you need more help, go to the professor’s office and ask for it.
         Caution, however. Even instructors who really want to help will get annoyed if they think you’re trying to get them to do your homework for you. Never ask your instructor for help on a problem until you have made a serious effort to solve it by yourself. When you ask, be prepared to show what you tried and how far you got. Bring in your flow charts and free body diagrams and calculations, including the ones that didn’t work. The more you bring in, the more likely you are to get the help you need.
    Read, Read  and Read different books

         Some textbooks try to clarify difficult material by giving practical illustrations and explanations. Check out those parts of your text if you’re having trouble rather than just searching for solved examples that look like the homework problems. Another good strategy is to look at a second reference on the same subject—a different text, a handbook, or a Web site.
          Even if you can’t find the crystal-clear explanations and examples you’d like, just reading about the same topic in two different places can make a big difference in understanding. Read everything in your library and everything else that you can get your hands on related to your course work. Reading will make your concepts and theories clearer and you will grasp the knowledge forever.
    Work with other students

         When you work alone and get stuck on something, you may be tempted to give up, where in a group someone can usually find a way past the difficulty. Working with others may also show you better ways to solve problems than the way you have been using
    Here are two ideas for making group work effective.
    • Outline problem solutions by yourself first and then work out the details in your group. Someone in every group is generally fastest at figuring out how to start problem solutions and does it for every problem when everyone works together. If that student isn’t you, you may have to figure it out for the first time on the test, which is not a particularly good time to do it. Outlining the solutions before meeting with the group is the way to avoid this disaster.
    • Get group members—especially the weaker ones—to explain all completed problem solutions before ending a problem-solving session. If everyone can do that, the session worked.
    Make your own portfolio of projects
         You might have a busy schedule but try to participate in every experiential learning project you can get your hands on. This will help you apply the knowledge that you gain in college and in addition you will have a portfolio of projects to show your prospective employer.
    Build a good network
         Engineering is not an isolated field but requires leadership and team work. You need to build your network in college so that you are not lost when you start your career. The best way to network is to have good relationships with your classmates, seniors alumni  and teachers. In addition, attend seminars, lectures and conferences on-campus and introduce yourself to the speakers. Also check out your college’s alumni association. These are graduates from your college who want to connect with new undergraduates. Also use social media to stay in touch!
    Consult experts
         Sometimes you’ll run into a problem that completely stumps you and everyone you’re working with. When practicing engineers run into such problems, as they all do occasionally, they consult experts. You also have experts available to you. Your course instructor is an obvious candidate, but that doesn’t always work out. Other potential consultants include graduate teaching assistants, other professors who teach the same course, students who have previously taken the course, smart classmates, and tutors. No matter whom you go to, though, go early: waiting until two days before the final exam probably won’t cut it.
    Intern during the summer
         The best way to retain your knowledge is through practical experience so intern during the summer at every opportunity. Prospective employers love new undergraduates with practical experiences. Also try to build your portfolio of projects along the way! Interning will also help you prepare for the new semester!
    Believe that you have what it takes to be a good engineer.
         Lastly have faith in yourself and don’t give up! With hard work and perseverance, you will excel as an engineering student and have the career you seek. If this advice is hard for you to take now, you’re probably suffering from what psychologists refer to as the Impostor Phenomenon, which is like a tape that plays inside people’s heads. If you’re an engineering student looking around at your classmates, the tape goes something like this: "These people are good—they understand all this stuff. They really belong here…but I don’t. Over the years I’ve somehow managed to fool them all—my family, my friends, my teachers. They all think I’m smart enough to be here, but I know better…and the very next hard test or hard question I get in class will finally reveal me as the impostor I am." And what would happen next is too horrible to contemplate.
    Hone your other skills as well
         As an engineer you need to be an all-rounder to be the best in your field. For example, you can take a visual design course so that you can represent your ideas better graphically. Or take a short management course or program so that you learn to be business savvy. Gone are the days when engineers were only required to be technically proficient, they need to be business savvy as well.
         Finally I would like to conclude with the advice that students are the end-products who have to be shaped in a new mould and grab by the faculty. They are the  prime recipients of knowledge. Urge for learning should be  optimum among them. They are expected of following merits.
    Thirst for knowledge.
    Adaptive attitude to accept new happening/events all around the locale.
    Inclinations to increase knowledge both quantitatively & qualitatively.
    Capacity to visualize, analyze & discern.
    Capability to judge and separate the grain from the sand.
    Concentrated Contemplative mind to brood over to arrive at right decision/conclusion.
    Disciplined conduct and high regard for the teachers and the system thereof.
    Pride on their Alma Mater & having sense of fellow-feeling and brotherhood.
         There is inherently a spark of intelligence in every one, what matters and is needed is to ignite it. Several factors play a role in this – family background, the company that one keeps, the tenacity one develops towards setting a goal and its achievement, in most cases, the real worth of a person does not emerge until one completes his or her college education. It is at the precincts of these academic institutions that the latent talent of people blossoms to the fullest extent. He develops the skill of Understanding, Analyzing and interpreting things during his education.
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