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September 20, 2005

From Desk to Blackboard in Twelve Months

I used to hate tutorials. In engineering, we had tutorials for pretty much every single class. Usually it was some poor graduate student forced to copy something onto the board for the benefit of 50 or so unappreciative undergrads. I hated attending them. They were just slightly less boring (because they were usually shorter) than the lectures. Now, twelve months later I have found myself on the other side. Today I had to give my tutorial to a fourth year class in Dynamics of Systems.

MECH 412 Dynamics of Systems

Modeling of physical systems by lumped-parameter linear elements. Unified treatment of mechanical, fluid, electrical, and thermal devices and systems. Statespace, formulation of state equations, analytical and numerical solutions. Time and time response. Frequency response methods. Dynamic response specifications. Stability. Elementary feedback control systems. Extensive use of engineering examples.

Even if I hated them, I’ve always wanted to try giving tutorials just for the experience (and it’s some extra $$). I really expected it to be hell. I never saw a TA who really looked like he was enjoying himself. I was given three questions to solve for the students. I got myself well prepared by solving the problems and getting some transparencies ready.

Question 1 - Page 2

Question 1 - Page 3

Question 2 - Page 1

Question 2 - Page 2

Question 3 - Page 1

Question 3 - Page 2

Question 3 - Page 3

(I am not a complete dumbass, the question # on the page is different than the order I presented them)

There was no doubt that I was nervous beforehand. Even if only half of the 72 kids showed up, it was pretty intimidating to be in front of a fourth year class trying to teach them something that I had only learned twelve months before. The first question went by pretty quickly and by the second I had gotten over my initial nerves. I was lucky that the material I was asked to cover was stuff I am comfortable with, and I didn't get any crazy questions from way out in left field.

Afterwords, I did what every good TA ever did for me and gave them some hints for their assignment. The most enjoyable part of the whole experience was answering one on one questions after the tutorial was finished. I think that TAs are much more approachable than Profs and it can help a lot to have someone who is not so intimidating. My next new bit of TA experience will be marking 72 of their assignments this weekend.

Posted by Alistair Howard at September 20, 2005 09:12 PM


I this the marking may be less rewarding. After looking at you problems I will now have control systems nightmares for the first time since I tokk that course two years ago. Ack!

Posted by: Shawn at September 21, 2005 02:29 AM

Question 1: A3 is an international metric papersize, right? Some pretty highend stuff in there, I'm impressed you're TAing 4th years already.

Posted by: Jeff Werner at September 22, 2005 02:59 PM

Ah yes, leave it to engineers to make Laplace transformations a fourth year course (my monthly engineer rant has now been met).

Posted by: Dave at September 26, 2005 09:35 PM