What it’s like to study engineering remotely

By Wiwin Hartini

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been taking my engineering courses remotely these past six weeks. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to studying engineering remotely. This is my last year studying electrical engineering at Portland State University. I was a transfer student from Clark College in Vancouver, WA, and my time at PSU was enriched by hands-on experiences.

Electrical engineering has branches, and I’m focusing on power engineering, or how engineers generate, transmit, and distribute electricity to households and other entities. It would be hard for power engineering students to do labs at home. I miss the hands-on experiences in the power lab, where students have access to different types of motors and generators, transformers, power supplies, relays, and other types of equipment that must stay in the lab for safety purposes. 

AlthoughI’m missing the hands-on experience, the main path to learning is, fortunately, still available. I can still ask questions of instructors who are also working in the industry, and I can still use free software for simulations and course materials.

In my electronics class, my professor conducts experiments at his home-lab, and students focus on conducting simulations and comparing results with his measurements, which has been very useful in filling the gap. 

Many engineering courses also rely on simulations that can be done remotely. So spending more time on simulations allows me to learn more about the software. 

The circuit built on LTSpice to run a simulation

My typical day studying engineering remotely involves spending hours in front of my laptop, which I think most of us are doing now. On the other hand, I am excited to learn more about what students are capable of doing while working or studying from home. Maybe there is a potential for hybrid engineering courses in the future, where students can take the courses online and attend labs in person. 

I would say that I’ve gained some extra time during this quarantine which I can use to focus on studying, reading, and other activities that I would not be able to do if this term was in-person. My peers and I used to joke about the fact that engineering students rarely get enough sleep. I’d say it’s true for most of my terms in the past, but this term, I have been able to get enough sleep, work part-time, and go to school remotely.

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