Ready to blaze a trail to a whole new world? Engineering students are the future, and yet many freshmen and even experienced STEM majors fail to realize that the right equipment can be the difference between a pass or a fail. Here are a five critical tools you should have in your bag before you even step inside a classroom.
5: An Advanced Calculator
Your middle school model isn’t going to cut it. You’ll want one with ports, processing power and graphing capabilities, like a TI89 or an HP50. The good news is that this one calculator will see you through your entire college career. The bad news is that some teachers, particularly in your intro courses, will probably ban them from the classroom because their advanced features make it too easy to cheat on tests. You can still use them for homework, however, and to check your work, and once you get into grad school they’ll be considered an essential item.
4: Lab Gear
Don’t keep wasting your money on cheap goggles that fall apart and need replacing every semester. Invest in a solid model that doesn’t fog easily and that rests easily over your eyes, because you’ll be wearing them often and you might as well be comfortable. You should also try to find student microscopes online, because the ones in your bookstore and the ones provided in the lab are made for the lowest common denominator, not a future engineer.
3: Safety Equipment
It’s all fun and games until you burn your hand in chemistry or give yourself carpal tunnel in computer science. Make sure you have extra gloves, beakers and more than one lab coat handy for when things go wrong; you can always sell or donate any extraneous supplies if they survive the school year intact. It wouldn’t hurt to have a portable first-aid kit in your trunk, either. Engineering isn’t for kids.
2: A Great Laptop
This is another area where you simply can’t afford to skimp. 99% of your work as an engineering major will be done on computers, be it programming, logging reports or simply hitting up Google with homework questions. Make sure you have a laptop with the kind of horsepower that can handle what you’ll be using it for during your journey as an engineer.
1: A Smartphone
“But I already have a laptop!” You’ll rue that decision when you’re in a clean lab, no outside materials allowed, and you can’t remember your periodic table. An on-the-go link to the internet is absolutely invaluable when you’re working under a deadline or very specific conditions. You can also use a smartphone to take advantage of all the apps available to science and engineering majors; they’ll really ease the way, and with the workload you have ahead of you, you’ll need all the help you can get.
These are just a few of the essentials you’ll need as one of the future’s next great minds. Good luck in school, and remember: Only round your significant figures after you’ve completed your calculations.