I’m casually looking over my future Mechanical Engineering curriculum and am just geeking out looking at the topics covered in each class. This just inspired me to post this question:
What high school or college class was the most enjoyable, and why?
Whether you’re in the middle of high school or years out of college, I think it’d be interesting to see what classes get mentioned. It doesn’t have to be engineering related (although considering this is a robotics forum, I forsee STEM classes being up there).
For me, I really enjoyed ENGR 100-700: Introduction to Aerospace Engineering at UMich. Me and a team of four students designed, built, and flew a small-scale blimp. I’ve made some really good friendships and learned a lot of topics in that class, and it was only my first semester at university.
I hope this thread gets atleast some traction because I personally think this is a fun topic. If not, I hope this spurs memories of that favorite class!
Have a great day/night!
I recently graduated from BYU in Computer Science. I can’t decide on a singular, favorite course – my rankings shift around depending on what I find myself referring to and applying. Here’s my top three or so for today:
Programming Languages – the course was both a survey of different programming languages (Prolog, Racket, Haskell, Erlang, etc.) and we implemented our own tree-walk interpreter. We also studied various styles of garbage collection. As a developer, it helped me understand a lot more about the tools I use each day.
Computer Systems – the professor did a low-level to high-level approach. We started with transistors and logic gates, briefly studied how to build ALU/FPU/register circuits, wrote machine code, then assembly code, and then C. The culminating project was to write our own round-robin thread scheduler, which incorporated a lot of the material we had discussed over the semester. This class really helped make computing less mysterious.
Operating Systems – we implemented our own operating system in a semester (mostly from scratch; there was some scaffolding code provided). Lots of great data structures and algorithms applications here, since you want to minimize the amount of time spent in kernelspace. I regularly work on system-level software, so understanding the other side of the coin has been very helpful.
Currently a rising HS senior, and for me it’s probably Calc BC. Still looking forward to multivariable next year, though.
I’m finishing my Master’s in EE and did my bachelor’s in Computer Science from NC State, and here were some of my favorite classes
- Pattern Recognition (some of the math foundations behind statistical pattern recognition and machine learning)
- Radio Systems Design - unfortunately due to COVID-19 we didn’t get to do our physical radio build
- Autonomous Systems (a high level overview of autonomous aerial vehicles)
- Dinosaurs in Popular Culture
In high school, Physics C and AP Latin were by far my favorite classes.
My list would go as follows:
Intro to Engineering Design
- Base level understanding of CAD
- Functional hook to getting people interested in engineering
- Project based learning
- Application of concepts to real world situations
- Simple concepts that extend to complex situations
- Building blocks of mechanical systems (Sum of forces, sum of moments, can’t push a rope)
Learning how to design components to accomplish intended function given application requirements (lifespan, loading, etc). This is one of the courses I wish I had in high school as it would have drastically improved the design portion of my FRC experience. Also this is one of the few college textbooks I still have on hand.
Took a class call Bio-mechanics. We did all sorts of cool mechanics of material type stuff on the human body, did tension tests on cow tendons, watched cool videos on joint replacements, and looked at the ins and outs of medical device type design.
I took a class on negotiations. Great class, and invaluable life skill.
One of the graduate courses I took was called Food Engineering. It was a deep dive into the structures of different foods and how they’re formed. For my final project I chose one involving fermentation, which produced some very enjoyable results.
I also really liked my undergraduate Kinematics of Mechanisms class. It involved a lot of very interesting linkages.
Purdue BSNE 1984.
While I loved Reactor Design, as it incorporated everything I had learned previously in Statics, Dynamics, Fluid Flow, Thermodynamics, Shielding, Chemistry, Civil Engineering…
My most enlightening courses were Philosophy and Economics.
Philosophy as I was spending less time with people who thought like I did and was exposed to many great works and ideas and exercised the other side of my brain.
Economics (macro and micro) because it combined math, psychology and sociology and made me a better analyst of systems that were not so well-defined as those that we find in engineering.
St. Joseph High School, 1979
Physics, especially building the projects, cemented my desire to go into engineering.
I now teach physics, and when past students visit, they never mention the concepts and ideas that we explored, but they always recall how challenging and memorable that they found the projects to be.
There was a class that was known as “Lego Lab” back at my school - a 300-level course (I think) officially called “Autonomous Robotics”. It was tons of fun. As a lab class, it was limited to 30 students. You were broken up into groups of 3 and each group got a kit - a bunch of Lego’s, an MIT Handyboard, batteries, various sensors and motors. The first few weeks were strict lab exercises - follow the instructions to build X so you can see how this sensor works, etc. Then you got into the good part - spend the rest of the semester (including extra open lab time) to design and build a robot to play a game - sound familiar? The game was the same every year - drive around an enclosed arena, collect plastic Easter Eggs, and deliver them. Normal pastel eggs get delivered to your “Nest” (a bright white box set into the black border of the arena, with a polarized light shining out of it), while matte black eggs get delivered to your opponents nest (the same, but the polarization is offset by 90 degrees). Everything was autonomous, you were limited to your kit contents, and that was it for rules. If i remember right, I was taking the class back when FRC was playing Zone Zeal - and several years before I even heard of FRC!
My second favorite class… I don’t recall the title, but over the course of the class we ended up writing our own compiler. Super fun and interesting, really learned a lot in that class!
Third favorite… that has to be a class on AI. The big project in that one was to write a program to play Othello (aka Reversi, with a few small differences, for those that remember old windows default games!). Of course, that led to a competition in the class. I remember my group spending a lot of time optimizing our game board representation objects so they would fit properly in the processors cache and limit time spent swapping memory.
I do love a good dinosaur in pop culture.
Absolutely the most practical college class I had was a course in engineering economics.
Probably the most used topic of all my course work.
The material taught covers life cycle cost, allowing for comparing multiple financial options to identify the best choice to make.
If you have ever signed up for a loan, you should consider this class!
As a high school rising senior, looking back on my 3 years so far I’ve had a few classes I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.
APCSA: Loved the algorithm designing and really learning OOP. This is the class that made me really fall in love with programming, and I’ve since picked up C++, more Python, and even started to pick my way through ARM assembly.
AP Music Theory: I know this really isn’t a STEM class, but as someone that has been playing violin since he was literally 3 and has been doing the whole “blend engineering with music” thing for only a few less years, I can really state that this is a fascinating class to take. I love the way that music can be analyzed into patterns and can be transformed from a series of notes to something akin to a sentence. I find schenkerian analysis particularly fascinating, as the guy basically said that all music boils down to one structure.
Physics: Oh boy was this class fun. It helped that one of our mentors was the teacher too. The part of this class that was the best for me was the way it was taught. Our teacher didn’t treat us as students and her as a lecturer, it was more of an exploratory version of physics. We had to run experiments that proved the things that we were learning were true, and that all of it was related. This class also inspired me to study physics even more intensely over the following summer, and I ended up getting an 800 on the SAT Physics subject test, something I definitely attribute to my teacher and class.
I did a lot of other non-class activities like FRC, founding an aerospace engineering group, and a bunch of other stuff, but overall HS classes have been fun and I look forward to the craziness to come in my senior year.
I’m a CS major, however I would have to say Intro to Psychology that I took last fall as a Gen Ed. It was really fascinating to me, and although I wouldn’t want to go into it as a career, I thought everything it covered was great, from mental illnesses, mental disorders, and just general learning about the brain and how it works. I have a lot of family and friends who are neurodivergent, and learning more about those afflictions was great for me. In addition, the professor was great, probably my favorite professor in all my college experience. She was really funny and really did not hold anything back with regards to her anecdotal stories.
To go off of this, to any STEM students who are going into college and scoffing at having to take Gen Eds on top of your core classes, please go in with an open mind and try and learn some things, and be engaged. It’s great to gain a greater perspective and maybe understand a little more about the world around you.
I have a mechanical engineering degree - from awhile ago. One of my favorite college classes involved computer simulation of mechanical systems. I programmed the system model and my partner programmed the graphical display and user interface. It was actually the first time I switched from programming on punch cards to editing code on a terminal! That’s when I got hooked on this “computer technology” thing.
Business Law was probably my favorite elective. That may sound odd to most, but it is very practical.
We had a class called Alternative Energy Systems. Half the fun was learning the broad strokes of renewable energy technologies (wind, solar, hydro, etc) with a tangent into the science of why global warming is a thing, other half was the projects and field trips where we actually built our own mini scale hydroelectric generator and wind turbines and took them out and saw how well they performed (badly).
The hydro was especially fun because first thing we did was repair the piping from last year’s students, who exploded a section of pipe. Our last task was interrupted by us exploding a section of pipe. Learned a lot about water hammers that day. Upside is we got through ~85% of our tests, which was better than the year before us.
We also got to make a presentation for a energy generation system of our choice, so we all got mini lectures on everything from Thorium reactors to fusion to orbital solar/power beaming. There was also one CS guy who was in way over his head due to the class prerequisites not being strict enough, good guy but he got very little sleep.
I have a few…
One of my favorite HS courses was a machine shop course at a local community college. I still use skills I picked up there today at my regular job.
College… while I liked my Engineering Econ course (had a lot to do the the professor being a bit of a livewire), I’m actually going to go with two English courses taught by the same professor. The first was Shakespeare, focusing on 4 of his 5 tragedies (not Romeo). The more fun one came a semester later, in “Selected Authors”. Basically, whichever professor drew that class chose the author… and this one was best described as “Local Authors”, and included a Q&A with both featured authors.
I have some more, but I think those are better as a separate post. Three for college Engineering courses…
The Purdue School of Mechanical Engineering taught a class called Solar Energy Engineering. Loved that class! Thank you Prof. Joel Pearson.
Took an awesome class in the fall called Applied Design Visualization on technical drawing including how to do orthographics, perspective, exploded views, callouts, and tons of other awesome tools. PROD-235 at Drexel, taught by a creative director at Comcast.
I use these drawing techniques daily and it has been super helpful doing anything from quick napkin sketches to high-quality renders, especially in a robotics context.
I graduated from MSU with a Computer Science degree
One of my favorite classes was General Business Law
Super interesting and the teacher could sway your opinion 5 times on a case. Very fun