An Engineer’s Story




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Photo : Roddy | Flickr

I spend an average of six hours a day in front of the computer, not all of them productive. Five minutes ago, I was staring at my monitor thinking of what to write for my thesis. I am a final year engineering student and am writing this to share my story; one that I think will be helpful to you in choosing your path in engineering.

When I was young, I loved to question everything that happened around me, like how a television works, or how a plane flies. Fast forward to life after SPM – my results were considered above average and I managed to get myself into a private university. I chose engineering for two reasons. The first was peer influence, which is one of the most common mistakes every undergraduate makes, while the second was because I thought engineering could answer most of the questions I had regarding the world.

An engineering student’s life starts with learning fundamental scientific knowledge and mathematics. We learn mathematics that is not applicable in any daily task, the sort that requires a whole page of A4 paper just to derive a single formula. We learn the basics of electrical and electronic components, how current and voltage work in a circuit. We also learn programming – not the cool stuff you see in the movies, but lines of code which function in a way that most can hardly understand.

Engineering students may find their first year difficult and boring, and risk losing interest in it. However, interest comes from the urge to learn, even if most think that learning the fundamentals are less important. Thus, it would be wise to remember that we could not have achieved more advanced technology without mathematics derived a century ago, and circuitry principles discovered decades ago.

The story continues with me completing my first year as an engineering student with little interest and faith in engineering. With little interest, you spend limited effort on the knowledge you pursue. Just like most of my peers, I wasted more time on computer games than on my studies. With weak s interest declines proportionally.

This is when you see university students dealing with their studies by copying reports from seniors, doing tutorials and past year papers just before exams without sufficient understanding of the concepts, and struggling to complete their thesis in order to graduate.

The interesting parts of engineering are usually forgotten by most engineering students a few years into the course. With weak fundamental knowledge, it is hard to study engineering related topics in-depth. The pursuit of engineering knowledge is fun, interesting, and aimed towards discovering how certain applications can improve our lifestyle.

Engineering is very wide and I can only share my experiences in the electronics field. Electronic Engineering deals with electronic devices. A common project throughout the course will be to develop your very own MP3 player. Common MP3 players, like iPods, consist of two categories, the hardware and the firmware. The hardware is the body of the device and firmware will be the program and its user interface.

Ever wondered how those iPods work? It has a microcontroller to control all the algorithms and instructions, a DAC (digital analogue converter) to convert stored data or songs in digital binary code into continuous analogue wave signals for sound, flash memory to store data (songs), LCD display for displaying purposes and also other circuits for power and protection.

An undergraduate will design and develop a prototype of the MP3 player, and also write codes for the microcontroller. After a number of improvements to the hardware and firmware, an advanced MP3 player like the iPod is produced. Even the electronics field can be sub-divided into many majors, such as development of nanotechnology and communications development in radio frequency, wireless, and networking.

If I had a chance to do it again, I would master my fundamental knowledge so that I would be more interested in engineering, and writing a thesis on the stuff I researched would be much more fun.

For SPM leavers who plan to pursue engineering, it is imperative that you have an interest in engineering. Secondly, be very determined in pursuing your interest, even though it may be difficult at the beginning. Look at the course outline of the subjects offered so that you can look forward to what interests you, and choose the engineering path that interests you most.

Thirdly, master the fundamentals well. I have never regretted taking engineering, as I believe everything happens for a reason. By pursuing engineering, I found out that my interests are not only limited to technology, but also other fields of knowledge, including nature, politics and economics. And yes, I shall pursue my interests with more determination in the future.

Eng Kian Shen studied Electronics Engineering, majoring in Computers, at Multimedia University. He has limited achievements but loves to share his thoughts and opinions.

Note: The above entry was written in 2010 for What’s After SPM?, published in 2011. This non-for-profit book project is a collaboration between Leaderonomics and a team of young Malaysians. Click here for details on the project and authors.

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