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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!