Engineering tools I can’t live without – School edition

Dear Reader,

As a senior in engineering, there have been many homework submissions, solved problems, group projects, late nights with not enough coffee, and a few tears. Some of these things have been made simpler with the help of some tools. I’ve compiled a list of what I try to always have with me when I walk out the door to go to class, or what I regularly use to get through a semester.

1. Calculators

I have three calculators that I carry in my book bag at all times. At my university, certain professors will allow certain types of calculators in their classes. The first calculator I use is the TI-84 Silver Edition graphing calculator. This calculator has so many function, including graphing and the ability to add programs to it. TI-84’s website offers different programs that can be downloaded to your calculator. It has been a lifesaver to truly know how my calculator works and what all functions it can perform. There are later editions that have came out since the TI-84 SE, like the Color edition and the TI-89 Titanium calculator, but I’m sticking with what I know. Plus at this point, I seem to have a strange emotional attachment to my TI-84. I think it’s because its been beside me through so many tests and tears.

Image result for TI-84 Silver Edition graphing calculator

Another calculator that I carry is the TI-36X Pro. This is not a graphing or programmable calculator and I use this calculator when those types are not allowed in class. I like this calculator because of its multi-line display and its ability to do simple matrices. The buttons and functions are also in a very user friendly arrangement.

Image result for TI-36X Pro

The third calculator I have in my book bag is the TI30XIIS calculator. I honestly don’t use this calculator much now that I have the TI-36X Pro. But it did get me through calc 1 class. It has all of the scientific functions but only has a single line display. It is cheap compared to to price of a programmable calculator, but for approximately $7 more you can purchase the 36X which I would recommend.

Image result for TI 30X IIS calculator

There is another calculator worth mentioning that I don’t actually have in my collection. The Nspire CX CAS calculator is a programmable calculator that is practically a computer in the shape of a calculator. It is has the ability to store whole word documents and excel sheets, copy and paste, the ability to solve equations with variables, and so much more. I’ve heard great things about it and as far as I’ve seen, it can be used in all classes that allow programmable calculators.

Image result for Nspire CX CAS

2. Engineering Paper

This may be a no-brainer to my fellow engineering students, but I didn’t really start using engineering graph paper until last year. It has made my homework so much neater. We’ve all turned in homeworks that by the time we get done with them they are either unreadable, or works of art. Engineering paper helps to keep it as the latter. I don’t like using regular graphing paper because it’s difficult to see what I have written but this green paper solves this issue, and it’s what I’ve been using ever since.

Image result for engineering calculation pad greenImage result for engineering calculation pad green

3. Mini stapler

I had a professor who wouldn’t accept homework papers that were late, even by a minute. He also wouldn’t accept them if they were not stapled. After a mad dash to the nearest office to staple a few assignments, I got a mini stapler to put in my bag. You wouldn’t believe how many people ask to use it.

Image result for mini stapler

4. Power Bank

Ahhh! Low battery!! You don’t want to be stuck with a dead phone and no way to charge it. I have an Anker power bank to charge my phone whenever I need it.

5. A Printer

I don’t know about other universities, but it costs $0.10 per page to print in our library. When you have a 23 page lab report due each week, that can be a lot of money that could be spent on more important things. Like food. I use a normal HP desk jet 2542 printer that connects to my laptop via usb.

HP Deskjet 2542 All-in-One Printer

6. Expo Board

This is probably one of my favorite things. My mom actually found this for me for Christmas and I have used it countless times. It’s super easy to carry around and is so handy to have for working out those engineering problems. The nuBOARD can be found on Amazon.

The Use-Anywhere Whiteboard Notebook -NuBOARD NOTEBOOK North America Edition-

7. 6″ Engineering Scale

I got this my freshman year and put it with all of my pencils. I have used it in drafting, note taking, and whenever I need a straight edge. It’s small enough that it’s not a hassle to carry around. The fact that it has three different scales in it is a bonus. I say that I use it all the time about all of these items, but I really do use this all the time.

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8. Dual Monitors

While I actually don’t have a great dual monitor setup at my home, you would not believe how much better this improves the whole computer usage thing. Life changing. Be warned that once you use dual monitors, it will be very hard to go back to a single computer screen.

9. Headphones

This isn’t specifically an engineering thing, but I always have a pair of headphones with me. Until I accidentally washed them, my pair of Yurbuds was my favorite pair. Now I have the Apple headphones that have the lightning adaptor.

Image result for yurbudsImage result for apple earphones

10. Metal USB

Last but not least, a good metal USB drive is a great thing to have. I used to have a plastic USB drive on my key ring, so I would always have one with me. Until the plastic piece that keeps it on the key ring snapped. While I managed to find the USB drive, had I not been paying attention, I would have lost an entire semester’s worth of data. Thus began the search for a metal USB. Any metal USB will do. I got mine off of Amazon.

Image result for metal usb

 

11. Motivational Quotes

This isn’t really a tool per se, but I have a board of motivational quotes that I have hanging in view of my desk. It helps get through the rough patches that engineering seems bound and determined to drag you through. Each time I hear a good quote, I write it on the board.

Image result for motivational cat posters

These tools have helped me out along the way. Other things I use are more obvious, such as folders, notebooks, mechanical pencils, my laptop, chocolate, and the occasional phone call to Mom who still loves me even though I call to tell her I just failed a test.

Feel free to ask questions or leave a comment if you have something you’ve fallen in love with that has helped you out in class!

College Advice – Real advice.

Dear Reader,
I’ve compiled some cliché advice that I am sharing with you all. It’s helped me get through what is now my fourth year of engineering.
  • If you get Chegg, go in with at least three other people for the subscription. It saves a lot of money. The downside to that is only one person can be on at a time, but for now the app still works if multiple people are on. Be warned though, that if you rely on this heavily for all your homework, the tests will kill you and it will bite you in the butt. Trust me.
  • Find someone who knows what they are doing in the class and befriend them. Sit next to them so you can initiate conversation and get to know them so it’s not all that awkward when you email or text them asking how to do the homework, or to take notes for you.
  • Speaking of siting next to someone, sit in the front of the class. It can be off to the side, but it better be in the front. That’s where all the smart people sit, and it is a proven fact that you do better if you sit in the front. Plus you’ll be able to see the board and actually hear the professor.
  • Study sessions are always better with food. Because you will want to do anything else but study when you are studying.
  • SelfControl is an app that can be downloaded on your computer and phone that will lock you out of Facebook, Netflix, twitter, and whatever other distracting sites that eats up your study time. It does work and you’d be surprised how relieving it is once you’re locked out and how much better you focus. It’s very useful when it comes down to the wire on deadlines and such. I know you think you can control yourself and you won’t need this app, but you will. Procrastination’s a b***h.
  • Don’t text and drive. My roommate alone was in two accidents because people were texting and driving. The first totaled her car. I was in an accident that totaled my car because the driver was on their phone. IT IS NOT WORTH IT. You can try to rationalize it. We’ve all done it. But stop. Nothing is worth your life or someone else’s.
  • Always have a pair of headphones and a charging cord for your phone in your book bag. Because you will always need them when you don’t have them. One of those portable power banks shoved in your bag is nice to have as well. Along with a mini stapler.
  • Do stuff that you would never do in high school. Go watch a performance. Go to the events on campus. It’s a great way to try new things for free and meet people outside your major. It doesn’t have to be associated with the college. I took a stained art class and joined a rugby team. Some of the best decisions I’ve made.
  • You will eat every form of pizza there is in college. It’s not shameful. Everybody does it. Live a little.
  • Amazon will give you Amazon Prime free for six months with a school email. A lot of places will have student discounts. While you’re drowning in student debt, take advantage of these small perks.
  • You are paying an insane amount of money to get a degree. Don’t forget that. Work hard. Because this will shape your future and all that wise stuff.
  • That being said, college is the time to discover yourself. Relax. Ask yourself what you want out of life. Enjoy yourself.
  • If you don’t think you will need your textbook after the class is done, either rent it or find someone who has taken it and borrow theirs. The school bookstore is NOT the cheapest place to get your books. You can normally find someone who has the pdf version of the book but I liked having the physical copy. Whichever you prefer.
  • If the professor has been teaching awhile, chances are they don’t change the tests all that much from semester to semester. They will change it some, but getting ahold of those previous semester’s test will help you know what to expect.
  • If multiple people warn you to stay away from a professor, heed their warning. There is usually a justifiable reason for what they say. Sometimes you will have no choice in who you have to take for a class, or they will be the worst first year teacher imaginable. It will happen. Go to their office hours when you need help. They don’t do anything during those hours except stare at the walls anyways. ratemyproffesor.com is a great way to pick the professors for your classes and to plan ahead when you enroll for the next semester.
  • Walk your schedule the day before classes start, especially your first semester when you are unfamiliar with the building names. It will help you tremendously when everyone is wondering around like headless chickens. Everyone shows up on the first day/week so get there twenty to thirty minutes early to claim your seat. In the front.
  • Everyone knows there is no assigned seating in college. But everyone knows there is assigned seating in college. Once you pick your seat, that will be your seat for the remainder of the semester. Choose wisely.
  • Khan Academy is a wondrous website that will show you videos explain how to do a problem or explain a concept. It is waaaayyy better than youtube and the guy who does all the videos is very easy to understand. If you don’t get something in class, chances are Khan Academy has a video that will show you how to do it. If you’re into upper level course, you may not find what you need, but youtube normally has examples. There’s no guarantee on the quality or experience of the person posting that video though.
  • There is this weird thing in software engineering known as Rubber Duck Debugging. (We all know how strange the software engineer guys are.) But basically you place a Rubber Duck on your desk and you explain the problem to him. If you can accurately describe the problem, the method on how to solve the problem, and go through all the steps in a way that if someone who knew nothing about what you are learning  (the Rubber Duck) could understand it, then you successfully know the concept and how to solve the problem, or can de-bug your mistake. I personally have a stress ball camel named Clyde and a pig named Pepe. They’re great listeners.
  • Find a good stress reliever. Running, music, whatever it may be, it will be necessary to find something to get rid of that stress. Other than shutting down and crawling into bed to ignore all surroundings. Because no matter how much we’d like it to, it doesn’t solve a darned thing.
  • Contribute to group projects. No one likes the person who does nothing but still expects to have their name on the project. Some projects will be able to be used as a reference or as a resume builder.
Some things you just have to learn for yourself. Have fun, be safe, and don’t forget why you’re there.

Self-Checkouts…Stop Yelling at Me!

Dear reader,

Can we all agree that self-checkouts leave much to be desired? I’ll be the first to admit that I get a little crazy when one of those overly cheery but somehow condescending robotic voice tells me to remove an item from the bagging area even though it was clearly scanned.

Image result for im just a girl screaming at the self checkout

 

Why are they programmed to tell you EVERY SINGLE TIME to place the item in the bagging area? I get it, fake cheery voice… After the first time, you can let me fly on my own. I may not be able to come home from the store with anything other than PopTarts and frozen meals for one like a functional adult, but I think I can figure out moving those said items five inches to the left.

I feel if they call something a self-checkout, it should at least give you a compliment after all the struggles. Like, “You survived your transaction, your patience is astounding!” Or, “So many times life throws you unnecessary trials, like self-checkouts. Congratulations for making it through another challenge!” At least hang a mirror above them that says “You’re Beautiful!,” taped to it.

It’s hard enough to go to the store and remember to take my shopping list. Or resisting compulsively buying all the snacks that I do not need. I’m looking at you Cosmic Brownies. But when I finish my shopping after going down the same aisle for the fourth time because the salsa is not located where I thought it was, I’d like to be able to leave the store with a little dignity.

Amazon’s latest step in world domination has introduced it’s Amazon Go store, which opened in Seattle. And do you know what they did? They got rid of the ENTIRE checkout process! No lines, no people, no robotic voices, nothing. They just track what’s in your cart along with an app and charge it to your Amazon account. We thought self-checkouts were a game changer when they were first installed. That was nothing compared to the differences this will make in other types of stores if it ever becomes reality.

Amazon                        Amazon’s 1,800 square foot grocery store|Photo credit: Amazon

It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out. But maybe that is the solution to stopping the barrage of yelling self checkouts. Just get rid of them entirely. Brilliant. How would you have liked to be the person to bring that up in the brainstorming meeting? “How do we fix the problem of self-checkouts?” “Umm, I dunno, maybe we could get rid of them?” I’d imagine that answer would have been met with some stunned silence, with a random person in the background furiously scribbling down notes.

In the meantime, away from Amazon’s futuristic shenanigans, I’ll be right here. Still crying in front of the self-checkout…

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Do you use the self-checkouts? Or do you prefer the cashier checkouts?

Single Life- Going Out in the Big, Bad World

Dear Reader,

Reunions, weddings, family gatherings, pretty much any social event… They all bring the urge to have a date at your side to make it all bearable. It’s inevitable. You get that invitation in the mail saying that your friend from college is getting married. And you, as a single person start thinking of all the people you could invite to go with you so you’re not alone. Or that movie that just came out in theaters that looks SO good. But when you think about sitting in the theater without someone next to you, it loses it’s appeal. Or going out to that restaurant that serves magic happiness on a plate by yourself is too daunting of a task when sitting alone in a booth is the requirement. Now don’t get me wrong, going out with your friends makes some of these things easier than going it alone.  But sometimes it’s just me, myself, and I.

Why are we like this? Why do we think that going out by yourself to enjoy things is a hurdle that takes a lot more than a running start to get over? We are strong, independent beings who don’t require someone to hold our hands to get wherever we’re going. And yet, when we go out to somewhere, we require the crutch of our phones, or a book, or headphones. Anything to make it look like we’re handling the situation.

I am guilty of doing all of these things. But a couple of weeks ago, I went to a movie theater alone. And watched a movie with a bunch of strangers all by myself. And you know what happened? I enjoyed a wonderful movie. Not once did I experience piercing stares of what I imagined would be accompanying the thoughts of “Wow, she’s here all by herself?” And I have no idea why I was worried.

It’s not a big deal! The world didn’t come screeching to a stop. There is no unwritten law that says you can’t go somewhere that you think requires a date all by yourself. Believe me, I’ve checked. That mentality is hard to get over, I know. But trust me, if you just put yourself out there, it won’t be as bad as you think it will be.

The harshest critic is always your inner voice. Sometimes you gotta tell it to shut up and sit down. To all the single people out there, keep doing you. Go eat out at your favorite restaurant. Go dance the night away at a party. No one is judging. In fact, most people will think you are a confident badass and applaud you. Because you are. And we don’t need someone to tell us that.

 

 

Did You Smell the Roses Today?

Dear Reader,

There are certain moments that make life come into vivid focus. The moment you know you’re in love with someone. The birth of your child. Your wedding day. Sitting on top of a mountain. Crossing something off your bucket list. The death of a loved one. A life consists of so many events, all bundled together in years, moments, seconds. To quote a cliche, life can change in an instant. And a lot of the time we seem to take that for granted. I have spent the majority of the weekend watching romantic comedies, and it has reminded me to take a step back and look around. (I know, I know, unrealistic romantic comedies are not the ideal life coaches, but still.)

We as human beings are great at forgetting. Forgetting tragedies. Forgetting where we put our keys. Forgetting anniversaries. Forgetting to stop and take a breath. You are alive. We have so much to remind ourselves of. Each one of us has a voice. A voice that can express feelings, passions, and love. Each word can be as powerful as a weapon. Because though we often forget, the words that someone says stick around a lot longer than think. So why, do we so often in this life, forget to look around and see the good in this world? There are many feel good stories that go “viral” or reach the nightly news. And it makes us feel good about the human race again.

But most of the time, when you turn on the television, a barrage of ugly noise is there to slap you in the face. (Can you say the world of politics nowadays?) But if the focus would turn to the positive, the kind acts being performed all around the world, would it be easier to see the roses in life? We trudge through our workday day in and day out, routine engrained in our commute. But I hope that today, and every day from now on, that you stop and look at the world through the gaze of an innocent child. That you see the kindness in people, and that you yourself, dear reader, reach out and perform an act that makes the world a lovelier place. We all have love to give. You don’t have to change the entire world. But a simple smile can be the difference in someone’s day. A kind comment can make a person’s week. And I think the world could use a little more positivity. It can all change in an instant. You dear reader, are an amazing person. You have been through so much to be standing where you are today. You have had the strength to fight each and every day to prove to the world that you are phenomenal. And you are. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Nothing in this life is guaranteed. So spread the love and joy while we are here to enjoy it. And don’t forget to smell the roses.

 

To New Beginnings

Dear Reader,

It’s intimidating staring at a blank screen. There are so many words in the English language, and they all seem to disappear the moment you find yourself looking at an empty page that is supposed to be filled with words that are hopefully relatable to not just your own awkward self. This “blog” will hopefully struggle in that direction. (Why did we come up with the word blog to describe these things? Is it because it’s so close to bleah, or bog?) Anyway, this blog will probably morph into a few different categories. It is NOT meant to be a tutorial of any kind. I don’t even consider myself qualified to write a blog. But hopefully my love for books, science, math, humor, and the occasional words of wisdom can stumble together to provide something of worth, even to my own self.

I’m not expecting to be the next blogger that can quit their day job and focus on writing a blurb with a cup of coffee in one hand and a pencil and notepad in the other. Not that I would complain if that ever comes into fruition, but lets be real here. I would appreciate input from anyone who actually does happen to read my blog. I will also be shocked and amazed that anyone actually reads my blog, so feel free to leave a comment. I’d like to keep a positive vibe on the whole thing, even if I do end up pulling out my hair because one evening instead of working on homework, I searched for ANYTHING else I could do instead… So now I guess I have a blog. Procrastination at it’s finest, am I right?

Why should you read this blog? You shouldn’t. I am not qualified to speak a single word of wisdom about hardly anything. I am a struggling college student who is two semesters away from graduating with a bachelors degree. Hopefully. So dear reader, I’ll give this whole blog thing a try. It probably doesn’t hurt that I just re-watched Julie and Julia and that I’ve been listening to a whole bunch of motivational podcasts to inflate my self confidence to kick this thing off. So here goes nothing, and I hope you forgive me for wherever this adventure takes us.