Hey everyone, it’s me again.
I’ve recently (and by recently I mean for the last 2 years) been rewatching The Office (US) and so if you’ve read my last post, you already know what’s about to happen – get ready for some terrible analogies as I tell you all about my experiences with semester one papers, through the context of The Office.
Note: I’m going to try and talk more about my experience than any specifics of assignments and such, as these will be available to you on the course outlines (check these out if you haven’t already, they’re super helpful!)
SoftEng 281 – Michael Scott – Object Oriented Programming
I challenge you to find anyone who enjoys season 8 and 9 of the Office (the ones after Michael leaves) more than the previous seasons. See here’s my take on Michael Scott – despite how much time he might waste of other characters, or the stupid things he might do, Michael is the Office, and is the most entertaining character on the show.
Of the four courses of semester one, SoftEng 281 is hands down the most relevant course to the degree. This course was my first introduction to Java, and as someone who’d only programmed for the first time in ENGGEN 131 last year, there were definitely lots of new concepts to pick up. However Nasser, Valerio and the entire teaching team are extremely helpful – you just need to put the time into the course yourself and you’ll definitely see the benefits (note: time here means not just an all-nighter before an assignment is due…). Most of the lectures are ‘flipped’, which means there’s some activities on the course website you should try out before watching/attending the lecture – I only realised this when I stopped doing that for a while, so make sure to build good habits and stick with them. Lectures are 2 hours long as well, so I’d highly recommend not letting them pile up (especially if you’re not very experienced with Java) as the concepts are well worth practicing before you take on the assignments, which there are 3 of. There’s also two big tests (which are open book because they’re online) and understanding the concepts presented in lectures are vital for these. My 2 cents is that this course is what feels most like the work you’d imagine a software engineer to be doing in their career, so I’d say it’s a solid litmus test of figuring out whether you’re in the right specialisation or not.
- Most important tip – start the assignments early; coding is a lot less fun when you don’t give yourself time to try different things or have enough time to make mistakes
- Most important detail about this course is that there’s no exam
SoftEng 282 – Angela – Software Engineering Theory
Angela is tough to like in the show, especially in the earlier stages. Sure, you can make the argument that she’s a necessary character, but that doesn’t mean you have to like her character. Some things are just necessary evils – I’ll leave it at that.
Hard. Time consuming. Hard. I wish I could leave it at that, because that’s pretty much the whole course in an nutshell. 282 is very theoretical, in fact the whole course is just theoretical maths. Talking through concepts with friends and Googling (lots and lots and lots of Googling) is what got me through this paper, so definitely go in to the course expecting to put heaaaaps of time in if you want to do well. If you’re someone who hasn’t encountered phrases like equivalence classes, existentiation and non-deterministic finite automata, don’t take this course lightly! There’s mathematical proofs, graphs, relations, languages – the list goes on (and so does the pain). I wouldn’t say the course itself is bad as such, because I feel there’s some importance of the logical skills and reasoning you develop through the course – it’s just difficult to keep sight of that when you’ve bashed your head against a question in an assignment for days and still haven’t got anywhere. But it does make it better when Yan takes the time out to make jokes during the lecture, so at least there’s that.
- Most important tip – there’ll be the odd lecture or two where you feel like you’re getting the hang of it – don’t use this as an excuse to take your foot off the gas! I have made that mistake, and truly the course requires dedicated and consistent effort if you want to feel okay going into the exam
- Most important detail about this course – there is a 25% test (and it’s likely to come in a week where you’ve got a whole bunch of other assignments due) so mark that on your calendar as soon as the semester starts and make sure you start revising a week in advance (at the very least)
CompSys 201 – Andy
Andy got added in to the show a little later than the rest of our main characters, so sometimes you wonder if he’s really all that important. But he’s still entertaining and genuine, and the way he interacts with the other characters helps you understand their importance as well, so he definitely doesn’t take anything away from the rest of the cast.
This paper is common between computer systems and software, and some might say it’s an extension of Electeng 101, which I agree in part with. The first half of the course definitely feels like it, with lots of talk about circuit design, bits, latches and more. But the second half diverges a little, as we focus to switching on microcontrollers and embedded systems, which I found quite different to ElectEng101. There’s a lot more coding (low level, nothing like 281) and I felt that this part of the course helped me understand how lots of the devices we interact with and take for granted daily actually work. It’s tempting to write this course off as irrelevant to the software engineering degree, but I think it’s good for two things. Firstly, it reminds you that all the fancy shmancy coding you do ultimately is executed in real time by physical systems, and secondly you might found that you enjoy considering this side of things more, and opens the door to taking more comp-sys type electives in 3rd year. It’s nothing like the other two SoftEng papers in the semester, and personally I found it to be a much needed break. I found Maryam and Kevin to be great lecturers and their passion for the course really shone through – their tutorial questions are super clutch (especially for tests and exams) so make sure you get those done when revising!
- Most important tip – write notes on the lecture slides for the first half. It can be tempting to just read the slides as Kevin goes through them, but in my opinion writing notes for understanding (even if you think it’s straight forward at the time) pays off in a big way at the end when revising for the exam – it definitely did for me.
- Most important detail – the exam is 60%. Don’t forget that the next time you think of skipping the notes for a lecture, or not bothering with the tutorial questions,
EngSci 211 – Jim
Jim is well-loved by everyone, and he’s always cool, relaxed and collected. His presence tends to have a calming effect on other characters (except Dwight) and us as the audience as well – he just gets it.
For a course taken by the entire cohort, EngSci 211 is managed exceptionally well. Everything from the marking team, to the lecturers and even the interactions on Piazza are extremely helpful and the course runs like a well-oiled machine for the most part. To be honest, I don’t think the course is all that relevant to the software engineering degree (especially because we don’t even take the continuation of the course, EngSci 311 next year) but I’m not complaining – it’s a nice throwback to the days of first year, before all your mates split up and went into different specialisations. To give you a slight taste, there’s multi-variable calculus, linear algebra, ODEs and a section on statistics as well (data analysis), where you don’t do much actual number crunching and spend more time reading the output from a programming language called R. The teaching team is quite supportive, with more than enough practice questions to consolidate the concepts (and Colin’s slides are really good too). All in all, this was the paper where I felt like I knew what I was doing the most – watch the lecture, make brief notes, do some practice questions. Rinse and repeat. Just like Jim, you know what you’re getting with 211
- Most important tip – do as many questions as you can. It’s not very often in uni where you can find lots of practice questions with solutions, so make the most of the opportunity, as this’ll definitely improve your test/exam grades
- Most important detail – you don’t have to actually do any maths for the statistics section – just make sure you’ve looked at the case studies enough to be familiar with how to read the output from R
All in all, the semester is definitely a step up from last year, so what it comes down to is how much time you’re willing to put into it. There are definitely times where you don’t see the point of putting in the extra effort, but something that helped me push on was remembering that I’d paid over $1000 for each course haha. I want to talk more about the parts of uni outside the actual courses themselves, but more on that on the next one. Until then, watch the Office you haven’t and rewatch it if you have.
Catch you on the next one,