High School Student Looking At Universities For Computer Engineering


Q: I am a high school student who lives in Ontario, Canada who is interested in going into computer engineering. I have very high marks (a 97 average) and have a number of extracurricular activities, so I think I could probably be accepted to most universities. This poses a challenge: which universities in Ontario (or perhaps near Ontario) are good in the field of computer engineering? I have toured the University of Waterloo and found the campus quite nice, and I was wondering if they have a good computer engineering program? How about the University of Western Ontario? If anyone could give me advice I would be very appreciative.

A: -I am currently a Comp Sci college student in the states. I would recommend checking out the website of the CS department for any college/university you're considering, alongside visiting with some of the professors in person if possible. If you can, talk with a professor about the program. Most will want to make sure you're in a field suited to you. Talk about the classes and other projects going on, and look for stuff that seems exciting to you! As for your previous question about knowing computer internals, most degree programs should include one or two courses going over exactly that. You'll usually learn how gates work and how gates are put together to do something useful, and from there to more complexity. It's really fun and insightful, though most programmers probably don't really need such detailed knowledge of the machine. -I attended an esteemed university in Michgan, (name witheld to protect the guilty) in the late 60's and early 70's. At the time the school had a pretty good computer science department. It probably still does. Back then when FORTRAN was taught the compilier was Waterloo FORTRAN. If I had wanted to study compiliers (which I didn't) it would have been wise to switch from one esteemed university to another. The quality of the university is less important than the attitude of the professors. I will indicate by an example of what I mean. In 1973-74 I functioned as a student representative to the faculty (math department). At the time there was a little war going on between the Math Department and the Engineering school over teaching a particular course ( adv calculus for engineers). The issue was whether the professor teaching the course would be a member of the math dept or a member of the engineering faculty. Being the fly on the wall at the Math department meeting when the issue was addressed, I can indicate the problem by quoting my comment when asked to address the issue - "Thusfar after about 1/2 hour of talking the discussion has yet to address the interests of the students who will be taking the course. All you have discussed are department's research interests, relinquish the course, you are not interested in teaching it." You can't determine the information you need to know by examining the history and reputation of a university. It is hidden away. For the first 2 years you will probably not know enough to be able to evaluate the significance of the problems which the faculty consider to be interesting. Your future career (assuming a research orientation) depends strongly upon locating a interesting and significant problem. If you are not interested in research you are purchasing credibility by attending an esteemed university. Anyone is good, you just have to complete the regime -Do you really mean "Computer Engineering" - or Computer Science, or Software Engineering, or ?!?... Waterloo has an excellent CS, but this is under the auspices of the Math department. Their engineering is also good, and co-op if you want to learn and earn at the same time - but you are moving every 4 months which you may not like. I have to put in a plug for my alma mater - McMaster - first accredited Software Engineering program out there - it started after I graduated, but they hired David L. Parnas to head it up at the time - and set up a pretty good program I believe. They have specialties in Business/Eng mixed programs if that is your thing. What kind of program are you really after? Feel free to drop me a direct line at the yahoo account if you like. -I am looking into some kind of computer engineering program. What interests me about an engineering program as opposed to a computer science program is that computer engineering seems to deal with both the hardware and software components of engineering. I am very interested in math and science and I think that pursuing computer engineering is a useful way to apply these interests. Computer science, on the other hand, seems not to have much involving science and actually how the computer works. As well, I may also be interested in other types of engineering, and many universities have a common first year and then let the individuals pick what type of engineering they would like to go in after that. I can't yet rule out going into computer science, but I have a feeling that computer engineering would focus more on things that I am most interested in. -When you actually start your career, that is when you find yourself an employer, do you sincerely believe that you will be involved in projects that require you to consider both the hardware and software aspects of the development? Look for places that seriously address the issues of (1) embedded systems and (2) processor design. You might also want to give some consideration to nanotechnology. 15 - 25 years from now people skilled in computer science will be a dime a dozen.

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