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Angermann, Barbara; Hoffland, Shelly (ed.) / Wisconsin engineer
Volume 93, No. 1 (October 1988)

Polakowski, Michael
Advice for future electrical engineers,   pp. 14-15

Page 14

- from Michael Polakowski
As we begin yet another semester
here in Madison, I'll bet more than a few
freshmen and sophomores are consider-
ing majoring in Electrical Engineering.
Since this is my final undergraduate
semester, and since I am also majoring in
Electrical Engineering, I thought I'd pass
along some words of advice to those
about to choose this as their field.
Your first goal is admission into
the department. There are a number of
ways to achieve this goal, including
transferring from another department,
transferring from another school, and
going on a hunger strike. Bribery and
extortion may also turn the key (extor-
tion, being the more cost-effective
method, is preferred). Most students,
however, opt to inflate their GPA via
easy courses during the first few semes-
ters. After all, becoming an electrical
engineer means developing high ethical
standards. If you don't get admitted on
your first try, don't panic. Submit an
appeal. Keep appealing until someone in
the department realizes that you would
be less of a nuisance if you were admit-
ted. But watch those retro-credits; one
day you'll be waiting for your appeal to
be processed, the next day you'll have 88
credits and be on probation for not
declaring a major.
Once you are in the department,
there are a few things you should know.
First of all, you will be majoring in
Electrical and Computer Engineering.
It's important to remember this since you
will have to explain what "ECE" means
to every recruiter you meet in years
hence. You'll end up saying "double-E";
it's universally understood and requires
less effort to articulate. Secondly, you
will have quite a bit of freedom in
arranging your course load. No
advisor's signature is required to add,
drop, or register for courses. In fact, if
you know who your advisor is and nod
at him once or twice in passing before
you graduate, you've received more
counseling than most of your classmates.
Third, don't let the labyrinthine structure
of the Engineering Building fool you.
Each twist and turn has a specific
function. Most new engineering students
agree that the function is to completely
disorient you, but soon they realize that
the real function is to make the building
look like a giant "EE" from the air. Once
you are acquainted with the department,
it's time to begin life as an electrical
engineering student.
One semester you will not soon
forget is your first one in the ECE
Department. You will know it's your
first semester when you find yourself
scribbling a circuit into a notebook at 7:46
a.m. If you have a good memory, fast
handwriting, and the ability to decipher
greek letters scrawled on the blackboard
at the rate of five per second, you should
be able to keep within two problems of
the professor for most of the period.
Unless you have exceptional accuracy,
however, your notes will be about 30%
unintelligible, and the 70% that is
readable will contain five or six errors.
Take heart, though; this is the first part of
the "character building" phase of the
ECE curriculum. Professors tend to quiz
the class frequently during this time.
Common questions are: "Is anybody
awake?", and "Are there any questions
on the material nobody has had time to
read?". Rhetorical statements like "I'm
getting a lot of blank stares" set the mood
for many informative discussions. If
you're not used to asking questions of
the professor, this is good time to start.
A question directed toward the
professor's area of interest (if you can ask
it your first semester) is likely to set him
off on a tangent for a good five minutes
or so. This ploy may be used to defer
discussion of a certain topic until the next
lecture. It may also backfire, leaving you
with three chapters of reading and home-
Wisconsin Engineer, October 1988

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