Welcome to the Junior Freshman year of Engineering Science. Your first year is particularly important because it’s when you establish the patterns that will be with you throughout your College life. The habits of work and study you establish in the first year – even in the first term – are most important. If you make a good start, then you’ll find College productive and enjoyable.
Once you have established a good habit of working, you can afford to participate in the more social side of College life. There are many College societies to enjoy, and you shouldn’t confine yourself to faculty and sports societies – there are lots more to choose from.
Everybody says college is different from school. Of course, in lots of obvious ways it is different, and no doubt you’ll enjoy finding out just what those differences are. In not-so-obvious ways though, college is very different from school, and in this section we concentrate on how the academic side of university life is different and what you need to do about it.
- You are not at school. We want you to do more than simply reproduce what you are told in a lecture. You need to get a good command of the material. In engineering-related disciplines, the best way to do this – and the best way to know that you have really learned something – is to apply your new knowledge to solving new problems; not just the examples done in class, but to similar problems you’ll find in textbooks or elsewhere (later on, as a professional engineer, you will have to apply your knowledge to problems you have never seen before - now is the time to start);
- expect the material to be covered much faster than at school. Lecture time is at a premium, so it must be used efficiently. You cannot be taught everything in lectures and tutorials. It is your responsibility to learn the material. Most of this learning will take place outside the classroom, and you must be willing to put in the study time necessary to ensure that this learning takes place. If you do fall behind in a course – that is, if you can’t continue to understand the lectures as they are given – then you really need to make the effort to catch up right away. Don’t be tempted to think that you can somehow catch up at the end of the year – it’s almost impossible;
- a lecturer’s job is primarily to provide you with a framework, with some of the particulars, to guide you in doing your learning of the concepts and methods that comprise the material of the course – their job is not to ‘programme’ you with isolated facts and problem types or to monitor your progress. Your job is to fill out that framework with a thorough understanding of the material;
- you are expected to read the textbook for comprehension. It gives the detailed account of the material of the course. It also contains many examples of problems worked out, and these should be used to supplement those you see in the lecture. The textbook is not a novel; you cannot simply skim through it from start to finish. Reading the textbook must often be slow-going and careful; frequently you’ll need to use pencil and paper to work through the material, but you can work at your own pace;
- as for when to read the textbook, it’s a good idea to read the appropriate section ahead of the lecture. This way, although you may not understand it fully, you’ll be prepared for the lecture, and you’ll have a good idea what areas to ask questions about. If you haven’t looked at the book beforehand, pick up what you can from the lecture (absorb the general idea and/or take thorough notes) and count on sorting it out later while studying the book and transcribing your notes;
- laboratories and tutorials are far more important than the marks you might get for them, because they give you a chance to develop your understanding of the subject. They are also a good ‘reality check’ for you to see just how much you really do understand. Use them wisely;
- in examinations, the examiners set out to probe your mastery of the material in the course. Primarily, they’ll be looking for your command of the material, as noted above. You’ll probably have to solve problems you’ve never seen before. (To be sure, you’ll have encountered similar problems, but they won’t be the same.) Hence, preparing for examinations simply by remembering lots of answers without understanding them simply won’t work; examinations test your understanding of the material as well.
(This section is adapted from “Teaching at the University Level” by Steven Zucker in Notices of the AMS August 1996.)
Collaboration and Individual Work
Engineering is about co-operation, but also individual effort. The everyday fruits of engineering, such as a jet aircraft or a suspension bridge or a micro chip or a DVD player, have been designed and built by teams of hundreds, even thousands, of engineers working together. These engineers exchange ideas and ultimately co-ordinate their efforts to achieve their overall project goal. However, each component of even the largest project is the result of one individual’s engineering skill and imagination.
If you want to become a successful engineer, you must develop your own ability to analyse problems. This means that, while it is useful to work as a team initially, you must ultimately produce your own work. For example, for a computing exercise, discuss the task with your classmates, swap ideas on how to solve the problem, but at the end of the day, implement your own solution. The examinations will test your ability rather than just your knowledge and the only way to develop your ability for engineering analysis is to complete the laboratory and tutorial exercises yourself.
In the academic world, the principal currency is ideas. As a consequence, you can see that plagiarism – i.e. passing off other people’s ideas as your own – is tantamount to theft.
Brief History of the School of Engineering
The School of Engineering in Trinity College Dublin was founded in 1842. Initially, the duration of the engineering course was two years but was extended in 1845 to three and in 1957 to four years. Diplomas were awarded at first and the Degree of ‘Baccalaureus in Arte Ingeniaria’ (BAI) being instituted in 1872.
In the early development of the School, the accent was on Structural and Hydraulic Engineering, but in the 1960s, alternative courses were established to enable the study in the later years of Civil Engineering, Mechanical/Production Engineering, Electronics or Computer Science.
In 1969, a major restructuring of the curriculum took place. During the first three years, the course provided was a basic one in engineering science and computer science, with a wide range of options in the final year in the general areas of Civil, Electrical/Electronic, and Mechanical/Manufacturing Engineering and Computer Science.
In 1981, a new curriculum was introduced to meet the needs of the government expansion in technological education. During the first two years, students follow a common curriculum of basic courses, and may choose from a number of modules in the third and fourth years of the degree programme. These modules are grouped in such a way as to permit students to specialise in one of the following streams of the engineering profession:
Further information on choosing between streams is given to students towards the end of their second year and students are normally permitted to change stream up until Christmas in the third year.
The Bachelor of Engineering Science degree (BAI) is accredited by Engineers Ireland (EI), the statutory body responsible for awaiting the title Chartered Engineer (CEng) to those holding recognised primary degrees and following a period of post-graduate training and experience. Honors BAI graduates are automatically entitled to become ordinary members of Engineers Ireland and use the designation MIEI. The BAI is also recognised by a large number of major engineering institutions outside Ireland.