Abdul's diary entry Summer/Autumn 2010

Studying computer engineering in Saudi Arabia, Abdul highlights the problems he's overcome dealing with hardware and how he's now beginning to feel like a real engineer.

Abdul Jabbar Feeling refreshed after a month long summer holiday, I've come back to university with three semesters left until I complete my engineering course. I have to say that I am already beginning to feel like a true engineer.

Becoming president of an IET Young Member group

A few days back, destiny blessed me with the opportunity to volunteer as the President of the IET King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) Young Members Section (Saudi Arabia). With a kaleidoscope of experiences and lessons learnt all along my journey of being first a student member, and then as the vice president, I now enter into a much more rugged terrain with the responsibilities of leading the entire group.

I did have a few reservations before taking this up, but thanks to my superiors, colleagues and special friends who re-awakened the spirit of motivation in me, I embraced the position along with the other newly elected board members with a revitalised energy and agenda in mind. Having shared that, as in my earlier posts, I hope to make it a point to share the most important lessons I've learnt being an engineering student so far.

Working with hardware can be tough

Being a computer engineering student can be really tough, especially because you deal with hardware most of the times. Unlike those who work on software, we don't have any debuggers to tell us what is wrong with our chips or circuits, nor a trouble-shooting application to check for any errors. You have to learn to be patient with the hardware and try to trace the bug slowly and steadily, observing each and every wire and pin. It could range from being a minute little pin of some chip not grounded properly, to a loosely connected wire amongst the tangled mess.

The benefits of concentrating in lectures

From personal experience and experiments, I have realised that the quality of learning you get by focusing and concentrating during a lecture is drastically better when compared to simply idling during the lectures and then struggling with the text or notes later, trying to grasp the material.

I am sure you all have been through this as well. Consider on one hand, the case when you "listen" (and not just "hear") what the professor is talking about in the lecture and then go back home and read the text. Compare that to daydreaming and not paying attention during the lecture and then go back to the text or notes. The former is definitely the most likely way you'll score high in the examinations as well.

"Yeah! You are all engineers now!"

On the first day of the new uni year, that is exactly how my professor of the VLSI Systems Design course welcomed our class. And much to my amusement, I was jolted from within, with pride and a strange kind of uncontrollable impetus and a weird and wonderful sense of achievement I had never felt before.

I started to consider if he really meant it. And if he did mean so, how exactly does he "qualify" me as an engineer? To add fuel to my burning curiosity, he added; "You might not believe me, but I am telling you, you'll know soon!"

Ever since then, each time he poses a problem for us to solve, he never forgets to remind us of being engineers and to start solving the problem from an engineering point of view. Or in simpler words, by stepping into an engineer's shoes. Honestly speaking, when you start looking at things from an engineer's eye, you will find engineering manifesting itself in every form around you.