It is indeed amazing how time flies; it seems just like not long ago we commenced the new academic year. With only few weeks away from the second semester exams one can only wonder what made time fly so fast. We are already talking about plans for the summer – internships, trips, research, et al and deciding the modules we intend to study next year. Indeed, soon it will have been two solid years of the journey in ECS for me!
For me, second year has proven much more challenging as we have been introduced to the practical implementation of most concepts learnt in first year. The labs are also designed differently with greater emphasis placed on the understanding of taught concepts and less on simply completing the labs. The number of labs has also increased a great notch with us getting used to having double lab sessions in a day which was a rarity in the first year.
A lab session lasts 3 hours and is scheduled from either 10 am – 1 pm or 2 – 5 pm. For first years, labs are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays while for second years they are held on Mondays and Fridays. Having a double lab session implies having both labs slots with a one hour break from 1 – 2 pm. For me, labs constitute one of the best ways of learning as you get to ‘do stuff’ yourself, make mistakes and ask relevant and practical questions. Most times you are able to get lab demonstrators point you in the right direction.
It is suicidal coming to the labs without doing your preparation as not only will you be marked down but you might not even be allowed to carry out the lab exercise. In the first year, we were all handed an electronics tool kit which is essential in performing the lab exercises. Labs are so important to our degree that they are assessed in a similar way as our exams are and carry a sizeable weighting (25 %) of several modules.
One of the high points of the second year is the Electronic Design module which involves four electronic design exercises named D1, D2, D3 and the almighty D4. Traditionally, the D4 design exercise is the summit of this module, carries the highest weighting and unlike the others is always shrouded in secrecy until the kick off date. D4 is a team exercise and so we were all grouped into teams of six members each and given the exercise specification and required deliverables.
Every year witnesses a different challenge and is not repeated ensuring that students hardly know what the challenge entails before the kick-off date. This year saw us design an autonomous robot to participate in a robotic soccer competition. Teams were named after countries in alphabetical order with my team being TEAM FRANCE! Oh, I forgot to mention that we had effectively two weeks to design and implement our prototype. It was undoubtedly the most stressful, challenging, draining and demanding part of my degree thus far.
At the end of the exercise, teams were to present their prototypes at a Trade Fair attended by the sponsoring company. The presentation included a short video commercial, a power point presentation and a demonstration of the robot’s capabilities. Team France was one of the fortunate teams to demonstrate their robot and also participate in the competitions proper. Not only did we participate, our robot also won the soccer competition albeit without scoring a goal! Yes, I know what a weird soccer competition. Allez, le bleu!