Gerald Recktenwald's Teaching Page

Current Teaching Schedule

During Winter 2019 I am teaching ME 121: Introduction to Systems and Control and ME 448/548: Applied Computational Fluid Dynamics.

Engineering: What is it? What is it Good for?

Teaching Philosophy and Advice on Learning

I have a separate web page where I discuss my grading philosophy and practice. Most of the links and ideas apply to both undergraduate and graduate studies. A separate set of links is provided for advice on graduate school.

Dr. Richard Felder, Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering at North Carolina State University has some excellent articles containing advice for engineering students. In particular, I suggest you read:

And for some good ideas (some would say advice) on living life:

I think engineers should be fearless in the way that a good artist is fearless. Not fearless=stupid or fearless=careless. If that idea interests you, try this:

Advice for Graduate Students

Graduate school is not a simple continuation of learning at an advanced undergraduate level. The intellectual demands and expectations are significantly higher. The structure of graduate programs is significantly looser. The definition of "done" is much more elusive.

Strategies for Studying

The University of Guelph has a nice collection of advice called Investing in Excellence for college students. Check out the podcasts:

Robert Bjork, a cognitive psychologist who studies learning compiled this list of advice from students on how to study. (PDF). It's a quick read. Don't let the technical language put you off. The article is practical and has useful recommendations.

Steven Chu at Samford University has a good series of videos on how to study effectively. The videos are short (7 to 8 minutes each) and are based on our scientific understanding of how people learn. You should at least watch the first video (via YouTube) on "Beliefs that Make You Fail".

Preparing for and Taking Tests

Staying Calm

Here's a list of tips adapted from a a web page at Texas A&M University on keeping calm during an exam.

  • Prepare well in advance.
  • Admit to yourself, "I will not know all of the answers."
  • Allow yourself time to "warm-up." Don't panic if you don't know the first few questions.
  • Pay attention to the test, not to yourself or others.
  • If you notice you are not thinking well, relax yourself physically during the exam.
  • Don't hesitate to ask for clarification.
  • Read over the test and allot time for questions in proportion to their point value.

Making Good Use of a Practice Exam

Often I give practice exams. When I do, I usually provide the solutions. Many students do not use practice exams well. For example, many students will look at the solutions and think to themselves, "I understand", or "I could do that". These students make the mistake of not using the practice exams to actually practice.

If you have access to a practice exam use these steps to make the best use of it.

  • Do most of your studying for the real exam before taking the practice exam.
  • Do not look at the practice exam questions before you take the practice exam.
  • Take the practice exam in a quiet environment.
  • Try to simulate as closely as possible the experience of taking the real exam. Do not have your textbook or notebook available unless the exam is open-book. Stick to the time period allocated to the real exam.
  • Do not stop taking the exam to study some question that you cannot answer. Just keep going.
  • Have a special study-only notepad or sheet of paper. During the exam when you encounter a topic that you don't understand, write a quick note on the study-only notepad. Use this notepad later to prepare additional studying.
  • Take a break immediately after completing the practice exam. Resist the urge to start working through the solutions as soon as you finish the practice exam.
  • After taking a break, compare your answers to the solutions and give yourself a meaningful grade.
  • Resume studying by consulting your study-only notepad and the questions from the practice exam that you answered incorrectly.

The basic idea is to practice both the material and the self-management that will help you do your best on the real exam. Your study-only notepad is the exception. The study-only notepad allows you to have the experience of "If only I had studied that before the exam" before you actually take the exam.

Advice on Writing

Miscellaneous Notes

Internet Info

I've collected a few miscellaneous links about electronic communication and the Internet.

Thoughts on Learning

Here's an interesting video that challenges the common wisdom that you'll never forget how to ride a bike.

Courses with Web Pages

Notation: "F" = Fall Quarter, "W" = Winter Quarter, "Sp" = "Spring Quarter"

Number   Title  Last Taught

ME 120   Introduction to Engineering   F 2018
ME 121   Introduction to Systems and Control   W 2019
ME 122   Introduction to Design   Sp 2018
EAS 361   Engineering Fluid Mechanics   F 2006
ME 322   Applied Fluid Mechanics and Thermodynamics   W 2007
ME 350   Programming and Numerical Methods for Engineers   W 2017
ME 352   Engineering Numerical Methods   F 2008
ME 370   The Mechanical Engineering Profession   F 2012
ME 441/541   Advanced Fluid Mechanics   Sp 1997
ME 447/547 Transport and Rate Processes W 2000
ME 448/548 Applied Computational Fluid Dynamics W 2019
ME 449/549   Thermal Measurements in Electronic Equipment Sp 2006
ME 488   Design of Experiments F 2009
ME 491 Design Process F 2017
ME 492 Conceptual Design Project W 2018
ME 493 Detailed Design Project Sp 2018