Author Topic: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm  (Read 13163 times)

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Offline c4757p

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[Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« on: September 30, 2013, 01:50:40 pm »
Part of my weekly lab in Electronics was to investigate the function generator a bit... had to connect the "output" and "sync" jacks to the oscilloscope, change the settings and see what happens. One question was something like this: "Vary the frequency, amplitude and offset. For which of these does the Sync signal change, and how?"

Damn labbies had just tried it this morning. Don't know how they got to this point without having done that... but here's what they had done: Output -> ch 1. Sync -> ch 2. Trigger on ch 1. Move offset. Naturally, as the output signal moves, the trigger phase changes, and the sync signal also appears to shift left and right on the screen. Not only did they not have any clue what caused that... they failed to notice that ch1 and ch2 remained in phase relative to each other, which (dear Mary mother of God) is obviously the only thing they can be in phase relative to anyway, so there was obviously no left-right shift as they thought.

But it gets better: somehow, they thought the sync signal was changing amplitude as well, probably because they kept losing the trigger, finding it again, and forgetting what the amplitude had been.

And they were grading students based on their answers and explanations. :palm:

It took me almost five minutes and dragging the professor in to convince them that the sync signal did not change amplitude, offset or phase.

And of course, I was one of the last people they came to. And did they bother addressing this with the other students? Nope... just leave them with their confusion...

But I figured out how this happens! Because we were asked if anybody wanted to work as a lab assistant for the previous class! Yep, they're not even close to being grad students or anything like that - nothing like a traditional TA - they just completed the course last semester! And they're being allowed to actually solve the lab themselves to figure out what answers to accept! Without checking with the prof first! :wtf:

I wonder what they thought the sync signal was for, and why on God's green earth it should vary amplitude and phase as the main signal changes offset.

Anybody want to trade schools with me?
« Last Edit: September 30, 2013, 01:55:37 pm by c4757p »
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Offline JoeO

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2013, 02:13:49 pm »
Where do you go to school?
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Offline c4757p

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2013, 02:17:58 pm »
A certain state university (of New York) located in the general vicinity of Binghamton, which shall be unnamed, since I was perhaps a bit harsh... >:D
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Offline Fsck

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2013, 02:25:58 pm »
You may want to consider changing schools.
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Offline c4757p

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2013, 02:26:37 pm »
Oh trust me... I have...... I'm here because this is what I can afford... I was at a much better school for a couple years
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Offline smashedProton

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2013, 02:43:10 pm »
I know, but is it an environment that you can get recognized in?  Or are the profs so dumb that they don't realize that you have a gift.  If I were in your shoes I would try to make friends with the profs and get scholarships for grad school.  you have actually seen a resistor IRL, so you have a leg up compared to most phd students.   :-DD
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Offline dfmischler

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2013, 02:44:33 pm »
Would you rather be the class lawyer than the class engineer?  If so, you could offer to negotiate with the university for part of your lab fees back since you are, in fact, instructing the lab assistants.  Tell them the alternative is for you to get the whole lab fee back...
 

Offline JoeO

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2013, 02:47:44 pm »
A certain state university (of New York) located in the general vicinity of Binghamton, which shall be unnamed, since I was perhaps a bit harsh... >:D
I had a feeling... not much has changed since I went there.
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Offline c4757p

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2013, 02:49:10 pm »
you have actually seen a resistor IRL, so you have a leg up compared to most phd students.   :-DD

:-DD

The profs (mostly) aren't dumb. My guess is that it's the administrators who have the mental capacity of a newborn chimpanzee... Every instance of stunning stupidity I've encountered there has been the result of some poor guy having to follow a procedure or rule.

I actually really like my electronics professor, and my signals professor is an amazing guy (if a bit scatterbrained at times...). My circuits professor last term was a bit on the "I can solve advanced circuits using differential equations but what does a resistor look like" side, though...
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Offline c4757p

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2013, 02:50:51 pm »
Would you rather be the class lawyer than the class engineer?  If so, you could offer to negotiate with the university for part of your lab fees back since you are, in fact, instructing the lab assistants.  Tell them the alternative is for you to get the whole lab fee back...

I'd rather gouge out my eyes with a rusty spoon.

My lawyerly skills leave much to be desired. :) But I'd love to send them a bill... I've spent a good bit of time teaching the lab assistants, and even better, I usually end up re-teaching all of the week's lessons to my partners because nobody was able to understand it...
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Offline HackedFridgeMagnet

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2013, 02:56:27 pm »
It does seem unfair that your paying them for the privilege of teaching them.
How long till you graduate?
 

Offline c4757p

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2013, 03:00:41 pm »
One more full year of their BS until I have my BS. After then, I'm considering trying to find a job in the Rochester area and going back to RIT part time for my MS, but I don't know if I will bother.

Does anybody else find it weird that I'm a junior and we're still dicking around with the function generators? Are fresh EE grads really this unprepared??
« Last Edit: September 30, 2013, 03:02:18 pm by c4757p »
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Offline Fsck

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2013, 03:16:44 pm »
One more full year of their BS until I have my BS. After then, I'm considering trying to find a job in the Rochester area and going back to RIT part time for my MS, but I don't know if I will bother.

Does anybody else find it weird that I'm a junior and we're still dicking around with the function generators? Are fresh EE grads really this unprepared??

they're trying to cram a bunch of theory into your brains.
From my understanding, it's worse here. First year engineer at my univ is a general program where all engineers are deposited, it's just physics+math+chemistry+english. their gpa on that first year is used to qualify them for specialization programs (EE/ChemE/MatE/MecE etc.) So in reality, actual engineering theory is done in 3 years here which apparently mindf*cks some of them.
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Offline c4757p

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2013, 03:23:21 pm »
RIT's BSEE program is five years, and look at this course description for a course the freshmen take:

Quote
Introduction to the practice of electrical engineering including understanding laboratory practice, identifying electronic components, operating generic electronic instruments, building an electronic circuit (Wein Bridge oscillator), measuring and capturing an electronic waveform, schematic entry, modeling and simulation of an electronic circuit (SPICE or equivalent), analyzing a waveform using a commercial software package (MATLAB), and emulating an electronic instrument in software (C programming) . This studio lab course emphasizes a learn-by-doing approach to introduce the student to electrical engineering design practices and tools used throughout the undergraduate program . Each student will prototype and build a functioning electronic circuit .

Freshmen. We're still doing a lot of this.

BU's freshmen don't touch electronics at all, they're stuck doing crap like "WTSN-111: Exploring Engineering"... (Trust me, assholes, I know I want to do electrical engineering, I don't need to "explore" anything.) Sophomores get an overly complicated FPGA dev board shoved in their electronics-virgin faces, because Woo! Digital! and get taught Electrical Circuits by either a guru with little time for them or a moron with plenty, their choice. Juniors get to do real stuff.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2013, 03:31:47 pm by c4757p »
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Offline TimNJ

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2013, 04:35:29 pm »
A certain state university (of New York) located in the general vicinity of Binghamton, which shall be unnamed, since I was perhaps a bit harsh... >:D

Haha! I got accepted to SUNY Binghamton. I was going to go. I'm going to TCNJ instead. I'm a freshman. Yes we have the same bullshit "Introduction to engineering classes", but we also have an EE specialized class. We did boolean algebra the other the day, though that's really nothing more than math. Not too much analog stuff yet. I guess better than nothing. Fun fact.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2013, 04:40:51 pm by TimNJ »
 

Offline ElectroIrradiator

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #15 on: September 30, 2013, 04:37:27 pm »
Does anybody else find it weird that I'm a junior and we're still dicking around with the function generators? Are fresh EE grads really this unprepared??

The universities around here have been making noises about many current day students being way unprepared for their chosen education. It used to be that all freshman CS students had at least some basic idea about programming and generally tinkering with computers, while EE students had some experience with soldering and basic lab technique.

However, ever since TPTB decided we need to cram ever more young people through the higher educational institutions, the average level of relevant 'preparedness' among the freshmen has dropped in proportion. Maybe the situation is similar in the US?
 

Offline TimNJ

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #16 on: September 30, 2013, 04:48:26 pm »
Does anybody else find it weird that I'm a junior and we're still dicking around with the function generators? Are fresh EE grads really this unprepared??

The universities around here have been making noises about many current day students being way unprepared for their chosen education. It used to be that all freshman CS students had at least some basic idea about programming and generally tinkering with computers, while EE students had some experience with soldering and basic lab technique.

However, ever since TPTB decided we need to cram ever more young people through the higher educational institutions, the average level of relevant 'preparedness' among the freshmen has dropped in proportion. Maybe the situation is similar in the US?

Based on the curriculum in my school, I think we won't be entirely unprepared...but if you just do the assigned work (and don't pursue further knowledge), there's no way you'll get any meaningful task straight out of college. Not to say that you can't learn once you're in the workforce...

I really don't know why my school (and others) dick around with so much math. I have to take up to Calc 3, and then take two semesters of "Advanced Engineering Mathematics". Why? Maybe I'm wrong but I don't think that's practical. Not sure what Advanced Eng Mathematics entails but perhaps I should be using that time to learn about something EE related?
 

Offline Fsck

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #17 on: September 30, 2013, 04:59:37 pm »
Does anybody else find it weird that I'm a junior and we're still dicking around with the function generators? Are fresh EE grads really this unprepared??

The universities around here have been making noises about many current day students being way unprepared for their chosen education. It used to be that all freshman CS students had at least some basic idea about programming and generally tinkering with computers, while EE students had some experience with soldering and basic lab technique.

However, ever since TPTB decided we need to cram ever more young people through the higher educational institutions, the average level of relevant 'preparedness' among the freshmen has dropped in proportion. Maybe the situation is similar in the US?

Based on the curriculum in my school, I think we won't be entirely unprepared...but if you just do the assigned work (and don't pursue further knowledge), there's no way you'll get any meaningful task straight out of college. Not to say that you can't learn once you're in the workforce...

I really don't know why my school (and others) dick around with so much math. I have to take up to Calc 3, and then take two semesters of "Advanced Engineering Mathematics". Why? Maybe I'm wrong but I don't think that's practical. Not sure what Advanced Eng Mathematics entails but perhaps I should be using that time to learn about something EE related?

probably complex analysis, fourier analysis, green's functions, introductory pdes, probability theory etc.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2013, 05:01:33 pm by Fsck »
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Offline c4757p

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #18 on: September 30, 2013, 05:20:40 pm »
You're lucky you are whining about math while I am away from a proper keyboard... this former math student would have a response to that! >:D

Short form: it's a tool you can add to your toolkit. Sure, you could go through life never having seen a screwdriver, and using only nails or using a butter knife. But isn't it nice to have more tools at your disposal?

I've definitely used integrals and diff eq to solve circuits. Didn't need to, no, but it seemed like a good solution for what I wanted. I like that ability.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2013, 05:39:39 pm by c4757p »
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Offline TimNJ

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #19 on: September 30, 2013, 08:24:40 pm »
Fair enough! I'm not completely doubting the curriculum. It just struck me as a lot of math and not so much of the whole engineering thing.

But you seem to know what you're talking about so I'll take your word for it.
 

Offline Spikee

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #20 on: September 30, 2013, 09:55:52 pm »
Fair enough! I'm not completely doubting the curriculum. It just struck me as a lot of math and not so much of the whole engineering thing.

But you seem to know what you're talking about so I'll take your word for it.

Same here , I study Embedded Systems Engineering @ uni applied sciences except we don't get a lot of the applied part :P .
I'm 2 year in of the 4 year bachelor program and the only electronics stuff we got were basic stuff (resistors , capacitors , diodes , transistors and mosfets) in the first year. We played waaay more with FPGA's (using altium year one) and now in the XILINXS IDE. All the stuff we did last year during the altium fpga course we have to do again this year. And the teachers are really clueless ...

What we do get is 4 hours of math during engineering courses 2/3 years long ....

I also have to teach the teachers a lot of times ...


The buildup of my study:
1: basic introduction to electronics (to easy) and fpga (reasonable) and pcb design in altium (super uber fking baaad -> you had to drop a few components on a pcb without connecting them and you got 70% out of 100 for that half year course) , introduction to C and C++ , AVR introduction

Project 1: Build 8x8x8 bicolor led cube and display animations (My team got the highest grade) -> I did all the hardware design

Project 2: Build something that gets kids exited in technology -> Made 2 football goals which showed the speed of the ball and gave highscores
(Different team but still got the highest grade (I did all of the pcb design and firmware)

2: Basic introduction to fuzzy (good) ,  control engineering (pid etc... -> 90% math - teacher knows math but does not know enough about the real world part)

Project 3: Get on of those mini helicopters from ebay -> mount altimeter + gyro -> stabilize the heli and fly to 8 meter -> hover 20 secs -> descend to 2 meter -> hover 20sec-> land
All the components are already chosen for you (including micro) because it was to hard for the students last year ...

Project 4: (all software) -> rewrite code of roomba using object orientated bla bla

3: Internship (good) + minor (reasonable)

4: End assignment or something

*For each project you have 6 months

So at the end of the study you don't learn much hardware wise and a little bit more hardware wise.
This is kind of the only study in this country that does hardware and software in the same study (except a 2/3 universities but if those are better ...)

That's why I have followed the Fedevel Altium course , a few Coursera courses and buy good books like the Art of Electronics to learn all that stuff myself. Experiment a lot whit diffrent chips and desing my own pcb's and electronics so I can actually do something when i get my bachelor degree ...

I and others have often suggested ways teachers could use to improve their courses but they don't or they may not.
Dito for the projects -> I and a couple of other students have suggested alternate projects that would be much harder and more professional.
We had some talks but it basically comes down that they don't want to change / improve things  :palm:.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2013, 10:01:36 pm by Spikee »
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Offline c4757p

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #21 on: September 30, 2013, 11:19:36 pm »
Ugh... OK, that was actually last week's lab, which a bunch of us had to finish this morning. Just finished this week's lab. It gets even better!

We had to plot the transfer characteristics of a BJT and of a JFET. I had my nice little MPF102 plot all ready to go, and called over the lab guy.

What are those?
VGS...
But why are they negative?
Because these are the curves for the JFET, not the BJT.
Ohhh... but that's not what I have here. They're supposed to be deltas.
"Deltas"?
Yeah.
Relative to... what?
-2 V
Huh? -2V? Why -2V?
Because that's where you started.
(He's right, that's where we started making measurements. But it's not a significant voltage or anything, the only voltage near there is the cutoff voltage, which is closer to -8V for this transistor.)
But... why??
Because... that's the lab.

>:( :--

Hrmm... Excuse me? "That's the lab"?? This ain't my employer, dude, I'm paying you for this. This is a school, I'm here to learn from you, not just "do the lab".

He even kindly showed me how to operate the cursors on the scope to get a delta, just in case I managed to bullshit my way through the previous two labs which also used it.

This is the same shit-for-brains with whom I argued about the function generator.

Would it be unfair of me to accuse this blockhead of having cheated his way to whatever grade was required for him to do this?

So there it is, right from the horse's ass. Rote memorization is always preferable to active learning, no matter how idiotic the teacher.
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Offline Fsck

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #22 on: September 30, 2013, 11:36:03 pm »
No, he's probably your typical follow the instructions type, it's probably more likely the fault of the lab coordinator/designer/whateverthehell who's setting the rules. I've noticed this trend more in the engineering than the sciences.

eng maths vs science maths: eng tends to be "follow these steps"; sci tends to be "here are a crapload of proofs and abstract theories; go get em."

it's why I hightailed it back to the physics department after a short stint in EE during undergrad. have to enjoy result-oriented labs, so long as the process is well documented
« Last Edit: September 30, 2013, 11:40:10 pm by Fsck »
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Offline c4757p

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #23 on: September 30, 2013, 11:41:22 pm »
I wouldn't be so hard on him if not for the fact that there is one lab assistant who does it right. If there's something wrong like that, she'll actually look at the worksheet, work it out, and go grab the professor if it can't be resolved. She'll make changes right there and sign her name next to them if she can't find him. She's also very kind and pleasant and generally just doesn't try to make people feel stupid. So clearly, you don't need to have a lobotomy before you work as a lab assistant, he just chose to.
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Offline nuhamind2

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Re: [Rant] Lab assistant facepalm
« Reply #24 on: October 01, 2013, 12:35:57 am »
Happen to me too. I spend the previous semester pretending to be stupid because my lab assistant is even more stupid. He don't know how to measure opamp bandwidth even though the worksheet give a clear explanation. Not even know what -20dB mean on funcgen.
 


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