Saturday, July 6, 2013

Why You Should Study Electrical Engineering? It’s All About Opportunities!

For those considering working or already working in the electronics industry, choosing  a career path to take is an important decision. In addition to following your passions and interests, it is critical to know how many job opportunities exist.  It would be wise to consider potential income as part of your considerations before deciding on a career.  The electronics industry is an immense industry with numerous sub-industries and exciting opportunities. The semiconductor industry within the electronic industry is a big business. It alone was a US $300 billion plus industry in 2012. The long-term trend of electronics is bright and promising. With increasing use of electronic devices in consumer, commercial, and industrial products and systems, the electronics industry is always growing. Knowing the electronics market size and divisions will give you a good understanding of the electronics industry facets and the skills you will need to meet current job responsibilities and to prepare for future jobs. Additionally, understanding the market landscape will also help you decide what area of electronics you should or should not go into.  Ideally, you would want to work in a field that is growing or, at least, is not predicted to become obsolete within your lifetime.  The best scenario is meeting the demand of that area that has the shortest labor supply.

In addition to the financial benefits, the technical perspective gives those working in electronics pride and satisfaction.  An interesting Intel TV commercial titled “Rock Stock” exemplifies this perspective.  As a much respected Intel scientist/inventor/engineer walks into a room full of Intel employees, everyone in the room cheers as if he were a rock star walking out on the stage.  Highly capable engineers and technicians are not nearly as glamorous as the TV commercial portrayed, but the satisfaction level and recognition  cannot be underestimated.

It is certainly no small task to dissect such a gigantic industry into segments.  Although hardware and software now work together in a large number of electronic systems and products, electronics traditionally relates to hardware. From a top to bottom approach, the electronics industry business model originates from three main sources: consumer, business/commercial, and government.   Each main source branches out to a vast range of electronics products and services.  The depth of the electronics market’s segments are widespread,  continuing to expand from computing hardware, storage system, networking equipment, manufacturing equipment, mobile devices, household appliances, transportation, aerospace, enterprise network systems, public and private Information Technology (IT) network infrastructure, telecommunications, and much more.  Evidently, multitudes of electronics professionals are needed just to keep pace with the increasing demands of electronic products and services now and into the future.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Electrical Engineering Books' Worthiness

As an adjunct faculty member at seven US colleges and universities, I teach many Electrical Engineering (EE) courses from basic to senior levels. These are 5 reasons why I think most Electrical Engineering textbooks ain't worth the $$.
  1. EE books are expensive: Many cost $100+. According to The College Board, "The average cost for books and supplies for the 2012–2013 school year was $1,200 at public colleges and $1,244 at private colleges." The question is, do you get your money’s worth? A typical EE college curriculum offers 6 to 8 core electrical engineering courses. The textbook for each course is easily over 1,000 pages. Even with a large amount of content, I argue that the quality of the contents is below par.

  2. Tedious contents: The majority of EE books are very long and focus on theories and principles, which are undoubtedly important. However, students' expectations are that reading the books will help them retain knowledge and understand the materials with ease. Unfortunately, this is far from reality. Academic EE books are difficult to read and filled with math equations and formulas that are there only for the sake of increasing page numbers. Theories are thrown at students without explaining how and why they should be applied and used. Being an Electrical Engineer for almost 2 decades, I honestly don't remember using many formulas found in mainstream academic EE textbooks in real, practical manners. Electronic theories are the most basic and easy theories to learn. Anything more is unnecessary and a tactic to crank up the number of pages to sell the books at higher prices.
  3. Practicality: College should be a place to prepare students to meet future work demands, i.e., the materials, knowledge including book contents should be practical and reflect reality. Many EE books come with a great number of pictures, diagrams, and electronic circuits. Unfortunately, most are out of date and geared towards showcasing the theories (thus increasing the number of pages) rather than explaining and applying them in practical applications. Many circuits described in academic EE textbooks are never used in the real world. One example is that I often hear students say a diode is always 0.7 V because the book says so. Any experienced electrical engineer knows that diode voltage changes with many factors in practical applications.
  4. Timeliness: The majority of EE books were published a long time ago. Sure, many of them stay up to date with new editions. Some even have 10 or more editions after the first publications. Unfortunately, most new editions only fix typos and enhance graphics but fail to intuitively revise the contents. Good EE books should be up to date on the latest technology, circuit design, test methodology, and trends.
  5. Authorship: Most academic EE books are authored by scholars and professors. It's absolutely true that these authors possess the necessary knowledge and skills, or else they wouldn't be writing and publishing a book about Electrical Engineering in the first place. The problem is that many authors do not have industry and/or real world engineering experience. These make the contents not applicable to the real world. There are, of course, a few exceptions, for example, The Art Of Electronics is a great EE book to own. A good electronics reference guide like The Art of Electronics, sadly, is seldom used in EE college curricula. EE book authors should have both academic and professional engineering backgrounds so that the contents are real, fresh, and practical in addition to covering all basic electronic theories and principles.