Summary response Essay

TO: Dr. Mark Leeming

FROM: Kerilyn Kennedy

DATE: March 1, 2019

SUBJECT: Summary and response of the first four weeks of this semester

I am currently enrolled in a two-year Diploma in Engineering at St. Francis Xavier University. As a first-year engineering student, I am required to be enrolled in calculus, chemistry, physics, statics and technical communications this semester. I am also enrolled in political science to meet the mandatory writing course component. The engineering program allows one to receive a well-rounded diploma with this balance between engineering and writing courses. Each subject contributes to the engineering diploma uniquely. However, there is a common theme among each of these courses; studying engineering allows students to develop transferable skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and innovation. These skills we be incredibly applicable in the engineering work force as I aspire to become a Civil engineer.

Calculus II

Calculus II for Engineers is a continuation of the course 121 Calculus for Engineers, and they are both taught this year by Dr. Ping Zhou. In the first four weeks, this course presents a major theme of integration and examines the applications of integration with respect to area, volume, moments, pressure and work. This course builds on integration skills acquired in the first semester class and applies them to more intricate problems. With regards to the structure of the course, there are three hours allotted to classes, a one-hour lab and a one-hour problem session each week. During these classes, Dr. Zhou shows us power point presentations referencing definitions, concepts and questions from the calculus book [1]. We are then assigned questions each week that are to be completed and passed in. Similarly, there are also assignments that are to be completed in the lab using the Maple computer software.

A solid foundation in differentiation and integration is particularly useful in many aspects of everyday engineering practice. Dr. Zhou presents these differentiation and integration techniques in clear, concise and easy to follow slideshows. Each class Dr. Zhou works through examples on the board. This emphasizes the importance of coming to class regularly as the solutions are not posted on moodle. These exact questions commonly appear on our weekly quizzes in our problem sessions. Having weekly quizzes and assignments holds students accountable for keeping on top of their work. Getting work done for a deadline is a transferable skill and is beneficial in the workplace. Becoming familiar with the Maple program is a complementary asset to the increase in technologies that are improving efficiency in society.

Chemistry 120

Chemistry is a full year course taught by Professor Gerrard Marangoni. It is an introductory level course that discusses the basic fundamentals of chemistry and the application of chemical principles. Topics covered in the first four weeks of this term include: chemical kinetics, chemical equilibrium, acids and bases, and aqueous equilibria [2]. Similar to Dr. Zhou, Prof. Marangoni references the chemistry book through slideshows and works out solutions to problems on the board. There are three hours of regular class each week and an alternating lab and tutorial bi-weekly. Each week there is a quiz to reinforce the material that we learned the previous week. Similarly, there is an assignment due each week also on materials we have covered in class

Prof. Marangoni is a well-organized professor that teaches at a high pace covering roughly a chapter each week. He does an excellent job of using examples while teaching and often can make connections to chemistry in our everyday lives. Solutions to these examples are only accessible during class time which stresses the importance of attending his lectures. Our labs provide a hands-on experience in a small learning environment which best prepares me for the workforce as an engineer. It is required to follow safety procedures take additional precautions in the lab just as one would abide by rules in a work environment. Prof. Marangoni and lab instructor Jenn Fraser are very approachable and always give assistance when one has a question. They are committed to creating a valuable learning environment for all students.

Physics 121

Physics 121, which is taught by Professor Peter Poole, is a continuation of the Physics 120 material from the previous academic semester. It is an entry level physics course that incorporates basic calculus. In the first weeks of class we covered four chapters from the physics book: simple harmonic motion, electric charge force, electric field, and Gauss’ law. Each week there are three classes with alternating laboratory and tutorial components. There are pre-lab quizzes based on the lab manual that require me to have the procedure read and analyzed before coming to lab.

Unlike most of my other classes, Professor Poole spends most of his time teaching us to derive equations that we later use in problems. He emphasizes the simplicity of rearranging equations in terms of variables rather than substituting in values right away. Professor Poole considers himself a visual learner and enjoys doing demonstrations in class. He connects themes learned in class with everyday physics through his demonstrations. He reminds me that physics is much larger than plugging values into given equations which tends to often occur in the mathematically based engineering courses. We have a textbook, but we really only use it for questions Prof. Poole suggests are adequate practice for similar exam questions [3]. The physics lab component of the course allows for hands on learning in groups which will better prepare me for the engineering workforce. I genuinely enjoy having the opportunity to do hands on work in the lab. However, the topics of these labs are poorly correlated with what we are studying in class at the time.

Political Science 102

The Introduction to Political Science course is taught by Professor Yvon Grenier. This course observes major themes such as types of government, compares political systems, political processes, and public policies [4, p. 209]. Specific chapters covered in the first four weeks this semester includes: Classification of Political systems, Liberal Democracy, Transitions to Democracy, and autocratic Systems of Government. The six types of government I have learned about are: monarchy, aristocracy, polity, tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy. Governments are classified with two questions in mind: “Who rules?” and “In whose interest? ***** punctuation [4, p. 209]. These 6 types have differences between them with regards to who rules and whether the ruling is lawful or lawless. Determining who rules is easy, but in who’s interest is quite complex. Democracy is a way of making decisions by privileging the interest of the majority. Democracy is a system that involves those who are affected by the decisions made in the decision process [4, p 209]. However, democratization is more complex than that. It is a set of institutions that regulate the exercise of power through laws. When trying to transition to democracy, there is a reoccurring theme of obstacles faced during the transition such as ethnonational violence and religious fundamentalism [4, p. 209]. Ethnic violence is violence that is motivated by ethnic aversion and ethnic conflict [5]. Religious fundamentalism refers to the “belief of an individual or a group of individuals in the absolute authority of a sacred religious text or teachings of a particular religious leader” This is something that countries with practising Islamic faith citizens struggle with.

The topics mentioned above are discussed thoroughly in greater detail in the book An Introduction to Government & Politics – a Conceptual Approach [4]. It is expected that chapters assigned from the book are read in addition to the slideshows presented in class. Prof. Grenier takes concepts discussed in class and makes significant connections to the world around us. He makes comparisons between different countries on all themes discussed in class. Making these connections makes it easier to remember the content. The class is a discussion-based environment and individuals are encouraged to participate. It is critical to come to class as examples and discussion points cannot necessarily be found in the book.

Statics 136

Statics, which is taught by Professor Emeka Oguejiofor, is the study of mechanics. It can be divided into three branches including: rigid- body mechanics, deformable-body mechanics, and fluid mechanics [6, p. ] In the first four weeks of the semester, rigid-body mechanics was investigated. More specifically, force vectors, equilibrium of a particle, and force system were the chapters covered in class. A major theme covered in his class is the application of static equilibrium. Professor Oguejiofor makes allusions to the Engineering Mechanics Statics book in his slides that he prepares for the class [6]. He teaches us various techniques to approach analyzing and solving problems in two and three dimensions. Similar to other classes, there are three allotted classes and a lab each week. At the beginning of each lab, we are quizzed on the material we covered in the previous week. The remainder of the time is allocated for working on assignment questions.

Prof. Oguejiofor teaches quickly but is always willing to answer questions that arise. It is encouraged to engage in discussion during class as the learning atmosphere is very inclusive. Approaching problems together is good practice for working with a group or an engineering team. As an engineer. Studying rigid body mechanics are critical when designing structures.

132 Technical Communications

Dr. Mark Leeming teaches a course called Technical Communications where we learn not only about the history of how the role of an engineer has evolved, but also how to develop technical writing skills. In the first four weeks of the term, we have studied the history of the engineering profession with regards to: the Neolithic Revolution, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and China. We were able to compare and contrast how engineers in different geographical areas and different time periods advanced. Dr. Leeming references various historical articles in his slideshows that we are later tested on through weekly reading quizzes and self-tests. The professional writing skills that we have learned about thus far include topics on efficient note taking, how to make proper citations, and when and why to cite sources. This course has three class hours and a mandatory lab component. Quizzes and self-tests are done during class time and lab time is allotted to various activities such as writing exercises or engineering career presentations.

Like other engineering courses I am taking, Dr. Leeming gives weekly quizzes which holds me accountable to read the articles each week. I think this is an effective approach to learning the course materials as I would likely otherwise put off the readings until a much later date. The quizzes encourage critical thinking as the questions require interpretation and analyzing the text opposed to being fact based. They require making deeper connections of taught topics. Although we do not receive a grade on the self-tests, writing them gives me a solid idea of if I understood what was taught that week.

Response to term

One prominent theme throughout many of these courses is having weekly quizzes and assignments. It is the responsibility of each student to prepare for these and it is expected that they are all completed. This holds students accountable to stay on top of their work. These testing methods are tool used to recognize early on if students are having problems with the course [7]. This keeps students more on top of their studies rather than pushing it off until the day before their exam. There is a strong emphasis on attending classes to get the most out of our education. You must be in class to write these quizzes and could run the risk of missing out on other materials presented in class.

Next steps

I am overall satisfied with how the academic school year is going so far. I am enjoying most of my courses which is a great sign as I switched into engineering this year from actuarial science at Western University. I appreciate the smaller class sizes St.F.X. has to offer and the more personal connections I have made with fellow classmates and professors. I am looking forward to finishing my engineering diploma and then moving on to Dalhousie University to complete my engineering degree in hopes of soon becoming a successful civil engineer.


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