The Engineer's Notebook Blog

The Engineer's Notebook

The Engineer's Notebook is a shared blog for entries that don't fit into a specific CR4 blog. Topics may range from grammar to physics and could be research or or an individual's thoughts - like you'd jot down in a well-used notebook.

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Life of a Teachers Assistant at RPI – Not for the Weak of Heart (Part 1)

Posted November 04, 2008 12:01 AM by Jaxy

The life of a teachers assistant is filled with anxiety, blank stares and a certain appreciation for what teachers have to put up with. For a year, I aided in the learning and practice of building circuits. Introduction to Engineering Electronics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York could be one of the best 1-credit pass/fail courses, but because of the lack of credit hours, it was refused to be taught another year.

I became the lead TA (teachers assistant) with open arms. I would meet with the professor every Sunday and I would review material in the lab section of the class and help them build circuits. The benefit of this class was that the students could learn from other students, having multiple methods to being taught the same information. I was in my second year at the time and it was overwhelming to teach students, some of them having a broader background in the concepts I was teaching than I did.

The room was equipped with the best lab machines. When I say best, I don't necessarily mean brand new. By best I mean actual analog equipment with all the knobs and connectors, the only digitized parts were the screens. Ten stations were set up with an oscilloscope (without auto-scaling – much to the dismay of older students who use such technology), multimeter, two power supplies and a function generator.

These instruments are fundamental to learning. Every week students would have to examine a waveform on the oscilloscope. Using the knobs and switches gave students a better understanding of how the scaling works and what certain terminology means. These bench-top instruments are beginning to transfer to digital.

Part two of this series will run tomorrow (Wednesday). Be sure to stay tuned to find out which of the five senses are necessary to be a successful teachers assistant in an electrical laboratory.

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Re: Life of a Teachers Assistant at RPI – Not for the Weak of Heart (Part 1)

11/05/2008 10:40 AM

Sounds like you got a lot of good experience as a TA and had some fun too. Teaching to others always helps you learn your subject better and shows how much you know it. I have taught horsemanship skills and it's always interesting because you never know who will ask what!

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