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Topic: How well US students prepare for science and engineering (Read 13 times) previous topic - next topic



"Arithmetic ...false thing that they invented in school so that the children that studied Algebra could all pass it. They had invented a set of rules which if you followed them without thinking could produce the answer" -Richard Feynman

Hallelujah. I still remember the first day of Pre-Calc in high school. "Turn to page 23 & let's begin." Really? We're not going to go over what Calculus is or why it was invented in the first place? No mention of Newton? Christ the least he could have done was got up in front of the class & dropped something on the floor. This is where your "why do we need to learn this" comes from. Philosophy isn't taught. I guess it's not important?

liedur, I just applied for NDSU. I'm getting out of here before spring semester starts. Everyone dropped out, lmao. Btw, we could use more speakers at Code42 (MN Arduino)

This is the most frustrating thing about college that I am experiencing right now. Just teaching how to do certain steps without explaining how the steps came about, or why they are even necessary or important. Natural Logarithms are a great example. We know how to do them, and how to manipulate them to make them easier. But no idea how or why they are useful, how they came about, or why we even do them in the first place.

I think it is analogous to teaching a child to recognise that 2+2=4, without actually telling them what 2 is, what the + symbol is, or anything else. Just that when you see 2+2, it ='s 4. As a student I find college to be more counter-productive at times than beneficial.  I say this because I use my G.I Bill to go to school, so in a way I think that the taxpayers paying for my education have a right to know what is going on inside the University consuming those tax dollars.


I graduated from High School in 1982, and I am not certain how nation wide my situation was, but I think my generation was victim to the "dumming down"  of school.  The philosophy was that they needed to cater to the lowest common denominator, to make sure more students graduate.

When I was laid off from a job in 2009, I took advantage of the opportunity to get back into a Engineering Technology Associates degree I had started.  One of the things that surprised me was how fully they were immersed into the Metric system. The text books treated the English units as an afterthought. Yet all of the companies I had worked for, were almost exclusively using English units.  In the physics class, which was 100% metric, I was wondering if I was the only one that was concerned about my weakness with using Metric.  I asked the rest of the class if something weighed 10 kg, is it more likely to be a paper clip, a baby, or an elephant.  The only ones who thought they might know the answer were not US born.

So, our physics class, the fundamental class to any engineering program, was being taught in units for which the students had no real-world understanding.  I think what happened, is that the schools taught some metric to the students as they were growing up, and pronounced them "metric literate".  But, for US students, metric is still a foreign unit, and not part of their everyday lives.  So, they are left floundering when more advanced classes immersed them in these foreign units. And to make matters worse, they graduate to US businesses, who use English units.  And since their engineering education was focused on Metric, the students are not as well prepared to use the English units for engineering.

I realize that US students need to be well versed in both Metric and English.  But, to assume you can properly teach basic concepts of physics and engineering using foreign units is foolish.



All this concern over units is over blown. Converting from one to the other is just a matter of multiplying/dividing by 2.54 for cm/inches, or 25.4 for mm/inches. Once you realize its just units, any measure can be converted to any other measure. For example, start with 60 miles/hour, and convert away: 60 miles/hour x 5280 ft/mile x 12 inches/foot x 2.54 cm/inch x 10mm/cm x 1 hour/60 minutes x 1 minute/60 seconds = a very large number of mm/sec.

I graduated high school in 1979, but I was one of those kids who didn't skip classes, did all my homework, and was tracked (in New York state) in classes that led to college.  If you didn't put any effort in, then your education reflected that.
Designing & building electrical circuits for over 25 years. Check out the ATMega1284P based Bobuino and other '328P & '1284P creations & offerings at  www.crossroadsfencing.com/BobuinoRev17.
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I think it is important to be able to estimate in your head. I've had a lifetime of troubleshooting, often without service manuals or schematics. Being able to sight-read resistor color codes and estimate currents, voltages, power, and resistances quickly has come in very handy.
Steve Greenfield AE7HD
CET Consumer Electronics and Computer
Please don't read your attitudes into my messages



Maybe your industry background is in traditional mechanical and manufacturing, which still lingers on with English units (say car industry and some else). You won't find metric units there. The English units have no apparent benefit over metric, which is what is used widely even in US for all science and most of engineering fields. Just the everyday stuff such as length and weights are lingering among US people. Understandable. It's a matter of time. The rest of the world is not going to keep making two versions of everything just to serve US and world-US ;)

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