Culture of Engineering

I was told to talk to a engineer (supposedly a few) about “the culture of their profession”.
I was told to ask them about their experience in a engineering school – what was fun, what was difficult. And I was told to figure out whether the experience will be different for different people (e.g. women, people of different backgrounds)

I’ll start. I was currently studying in RPI. I am a undergraduate. Sophomore, persuing in Electrical Engineering. I dislike the weird math courses I am required to take. I find Computer Components and Operations a very interesting class as we walk through the idea of CMOS and combinational logic gates, and we use those knowledge to solve some tangible problems (i.e. implementing a 16-to-4 encoder using NAND)

Alternatively, if you are a non-professional, where do you get your sophisticated understanding of, say, microcontrollers and Arduboy? What work do you do and what are your interactions with experts in the field? and why do you claim expertise on the issue?

I learned basic circuit theory when I was young, batteries with lightbulbs and such. Other than that I knew how to read one-line schematics from automotive and then later I got a job as a wind turbine mechanic.

I still didn’t understand most of it when I got curious and bought an Arduino and just started plugging things in. Honestly, at every stage of the process I expected to unlock magic blue smoke but always very curious to see how stuff would often just work.

It wasn’t until I actually started designing Arduboy as a product did I have to learn any kind of electrical engineering, even then it was entirely focused on building circuits rather than any real theory. To me it remained some kind of legos.

It was only until I had to design the battery protection circuit did I really start to begin to understand the electrical engineering side of it, but even then I am very beginner.

Mechanical engineering I understood mostly by taking everything I’ve ever owned apart to see how it was made, and try to modify to make it better.


Like Kevin I started out tinkering/taking apart everything as a child and reading electronic theory books from the local library. Then we got a computer some time in the mid-90s and I spent hours reading up on various electronics projects/forums online. Up through highschool there were barely any electronics related classes (well there was a tech class but that didn’t really go beyond wiring light bulbs with those spring connection breadboards).

I then went on to attending a top engineering college which after a few semesters I dropped out of. It was a combination of finances, the death of a close family member, and my frustration with academia as a whole which resulted in me taking some time off from education. I then transferred my credits to another engineering college and finished my BSEE. Then I went to yet another school for my MSEng. In grad school I also performed research in a power electronics lab and was a teaching assistant for intro/2nd year analog/digital electronics classes.

Overall, I’d say that computer architecture classes were the most interesting/fun (basically similar to what you’ve described with CMOS logic, register level design, assembly programming). I absolutely hated having to take required courses which were only vaguely related to electrical engineering. Basically physics 1 (EM was ok but still not very relevant imo), english/writing, probability and any math beyond diff eq (I’m looking at you multivariable lol). I think what really killed college for me the first time around was a lot of my first interactions with fellow students and professors were not good at all (there was a lot of arrogance/hubris at my first school and the student to teacher ratio was massive, like 100:1).

Anyway now I currently am a research and design engineer at a company that produces medical ultrasonic equipment. Funnily enough I’ve found that most of what professors hammered into me during school I rarely use and most of what they glossed over is critical. Like rote memorization of specific equations is far less important than being able to do so called back of the envelope ballpark/feasibility calculations.


Did you actually write any of the Arduboy library? Or did you just designed the platform?

I took multivar last semester online, which is a blessing because … well, everything is online and stuff.
I tried diffeq this semester and … oof. Had to drop it before I had a F- on the book.

Exactly. School is … they say school is just preparing you so you can educate yourself in the future
Which is … well, quite a lame explaination of why are there classes like diffeq and multivar. Which is important in certain fields but almost completely useless in others. Sure, you can run the numbers for the Arduboy casing to find out exactly how thick it need to be, but also some common sense and quick testing will also do.

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I just designed the platform and even then I only really designed the dev kit, from then on it was taking a lot of input from the rest of the community, like changing the pin configurations based on everyones suggestion.

I didn’t even write the original library that was done by Ekem.

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