Thursday, 29 May 2014

Productivity. Helpful Electronics Revision videos.

At University, you may feel that you are most productive on campus and in a lecture. Your time is meticulously divided up into slots and important information is relayed to you. Though, when lecturers finish teaching and final exams are approaching it is all up to you to decide your level of productivity and revise in a way that really compliments how you learn best. For me, Youtube has been a great resource for exam productivity and in this blog post, I am going to share some videos that really benefited me.

Staying productive whilst revising and studying for exams is paramount for keeping learned information in your short-term and long-term memory. Additionally, prioritising certain areas of study over others (although still revising everything in the syllabus) I feel tells the brain to consciously focus more energy on remembering particular information. In electronics engineering, this may be mathematical proofs and diagrams, key groups of definitions that you must know, equations, and reasoning you must understand so that you can apply it an array of questions.

When you are no longer seeing your lecturers every day before exams (my weekly calendar calendar of full with lectures and labs, perhaps typical for engineering students) sometimes you may feel that extra lectures would really help to aid those nagging details which are just hard to visualise or make sense of. That is where Youtube comes in. Brilliant academics have uploaded videos that can figuratively fill in those blanks when you really need to comprehend key topics. I have kept a few which really helped me and my coursemates, and these links are organised via topic. Not all parts of my modules, or all of my modules have been referred to in this blog post.

Semester 1 of my second year introduced us to a Control Systems Engineering module, where we learnt beyond the fundamentals from our first year content and covered more mathematics to explain the design of autonomous machines. As you can see, electronics is not just about hardware there is a lot of physics and visual thinking to be done. 

Brian Douglas' videos were absolutely perfect to supplement myself and my coursemates' baffled opinion about parts of this module. I guess the fact that the mathematics and reasoning behind control systems were so foreign in terms of what we had learnt in secondary school, or high school, is what made this part of the course difficult to grasp when first learnt. My coursemates and I found Douglas' videos online and we were hooked. As colourful as your revision notes, these smoothed out the creases of confusion and really helped us in the exam.

Semester 2 of my second year brought an Electromagnetism module. For Electronics Engineers, we need to understand the physics behind Electromagnetism (EM) waves so that we can apply to designing and explaining systems such as wireless communication systems, radar systems, waveguides, LEDs, and telecommunication for mobile phones. Part of this involved understanding the physics behind EM waves, and understanding where some of the optical equations like Snell's Law actually comes from. 

Adam Beatty - Electromagnetism to Optics
These collections of videos from a youtuber called Adam Beatty was a great resources for simplifying electromagnetism and its application to optics. The mathematics involved, for example Maxwell's equations and Fresnel's equations also must be covered and understood. Could you imagine if you did not understand something first time round and there was no lecturer to your beck and call? Alternatively, even if you understood it but just want a short reminders of concepts and proofs, videos like these can be your saviour. In the playlist only some videos were applicable to my module, but those relevant were really explained well.

Semester 2 of my second year also brought a Computer Engineering module. Part of the module covered computer architecture; this included looking at how a computer works, its structure, and learning how to write machine code ( ). It also covered digital design and test of hardware systems (more on that below) and learning about MIPS (Millions of Instructions per Second) type computers that are of common usage to hardware engineers.

Quinn Liu - MIPS Assembly and Datapath
Quinn Liu's videos usually start with a jovial greeting that really brightened up my revision season. He warmly introduces you to the topic through this playlist, and brings out the interest of the course starting from memory organisation and MIPS assembly language to eventually bringing you to a level where you can confidently comprehend how the datapath system works. - again very visually. You may see a pattern in that I like conceptual explanations. This particular video explains how computer instructions coded in high-level language for example Java, C, and C++ are executed in hardware via a datapath. Part of my module stressed on MIPS computers, so this is the datapath specifically for this kind of system. Watching the video, you will pleasantly surprised what your computer gets up to without you knowing about it!

Key mentions are
Satish Kashyap: This channel features videos from Prof.M.Balakrishnan,a brilliant lecturer based in India. Balakrishnan explains Digital Testing so aptly and clearly that watching his lectures really complimented my notes and the material I already covered. Although, his videos are as long as an actual University lecture it may feel like you could use the time more wisely by watching many shorter videos covering different topics. However, when you watch one of his videos you will feel no need to find other resources explaining the same topic. You would have understood it. Satish's channel covers an array of different topics for electronics ranging from first year content and upwards.
- Rajeev Balasubramonian: Another great Computer Architecture resource. Some parts of the videos were unapplicable to my course, but I guess the extra knowledge aided understanding. For me, I found Liu's videos more enjoyable to watch, but others may prefer these videos.
- DrPhysicsA: Has an accent full of character whilst he explains Fresnel equations and Maxwell's equations for EM to Optics. Sometimes you find that certain videos explain certain topics better, so it is not common to revise one module on Youtube but rely on different channels to best explain different subject. I found DrPhysicsA to successfully explain the physics side of EM to Optics in an enjoyable and visual way.
Khan Academy - great for Maths revision, like Laplace
Dr Chris Tisdell- Short and sweet videos for electronic mathematics like linear differential equations, great for refreshing yourself.

YET, it is all so important to put what you revise into context. During my Youtube searches I found a great channel that did just that. Check out this video, this is more relevant to my Devices module in Semester 1 of this year (second year). This module referred to Chemistry and a little bit of biology too- yes, we even studied moth eyes for a tiny bit as explained why in this video.

Since the end of my second year undergraduate exams I have been the most socially productive in my whole life. Each new day brings another friend to see, another place to go, another fun thing to do and my calendar has never looked so full of social invitations - it is actually crazily exciting to experience. Yet, this situation is not a far-cry from my work productivity during my exam period. It is just different. At the same time, I am sorting out preparations for my third year project whether it be concepts and talking with potential supervisors. All in all, productivity is the word that describes my summer break at the moment. I hope this word will define it, and hopefully I will be productive all summer.

Today, I have a cinema to go to, a pub to go to, and an Indian-themed 20th birthday party to attend tonight which will end up in one of the most 'guilty-pleasure' bars you will ever go to. Guilty-pleasure as in, you need to wear shoes you do not particularly care for if you want to survive this bar. It is that bad. Somehow, students round here seem to love the place. Me, not so much... I kind of like my shoes.

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