Thursday, 19 April 2012

I don't know how to do it!

A student ask me how to connect the pins of a microcontroller. My anwer was, "I don't know". Another one ask me if I know how to connect to a power supply, to that, the answer was also "I don't know". This is actually an honest anwer.

Students will be surprised with that answer and feel helpless, especially the weaker students. That is why they are weak in their studies. They rely on their memory too much and expect others to tell them what to do.

I used to show students how to connect these items after finding out how to do them but this time, I won't. Probably this time there are very few students. It is not what you know that matters, but how you find out how to do them. I have done the connections a few times in the past, but after a few months, I forget almost completely.

That is why I am really surprised to see students coming to class without any notes and expect to accomplish anything at all. They expect their lecturers to tell them everything. It is now so easy to find out. In my time, we all have to go to a library in order to find out.

So how do you find out. Read books and notes of course but it takes too much time. Actually if you know how to read, you can read very quickly and find the relevant ones that you need to accomplish your task. Unfortunately there is no rule on how to do this. You just have to learn by yourself by doing it. The first time is always the hardest but later on, it becomes quicker and quicker. The more you read the notes, the faster you read them and find the required items.

Actually I don't read manuals a lot. An post graduate student used to boast that an Engineer does not need a manual, which is true in a way, but you cannot do it without any reading at all. You must read the labels and colours at least. Then you must use your test gears. In fact, you must test everything to make sure they are correct.

What happens if you don't have the right test gear? This is in fact very common indeed. You don't just stand idle in this situation. What do you think you must do in order to accomplish your goal? Doing nothing means that you will NEVER complete your assignment. So you must do something. No test gear, make your own test gear lah!

How to make test gears? I don't have any component at all!!! You have a very good test gear that you carry along with you. Yourself is filled with test gears. In fact many professionals don't use test gears at all, despite them being available. One expert in making yogurt advised me how to measure a good temperature. The required temperature is exactly 35 degree celsius(I can't remember the exact number). Just use your finger to hold the container and note the time that you can stand the heat. One professor even told me that they do it to factory boilers, despite all the safety issues.

So if you don't know, it is not that you are stupid, you are just too lazy. Or too stupid to find out. Or the system allows you not to find out yourself, relying on friends. Plagiarsm is a scourge of our local learning institutions. Another is spoon feeding. Lecturers are expected to tell students everything they need to know to complete a task. EAC is very particular about this. They point out that our laboratory sheets are too guided and not challenging the students.

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