A Note to my Engineering Students

This is what I wrote to my first-year engineering students, when the results for their first year physics course were announced. It is acknowledged to be one of the most challenging first year courses at Carleton University. Every engineering student has to take it, and has to pass it.

Now you have your final grades for Physics 1004. It may well be the hardest courses that you have done in your first year at university (with the possible exception of your mechanics exam). This is not just because the material is advanced, which it is, but because there is a very large quantity of it. It also involves advanced calculus techniques which you are probably just getting to grips with, and really need more practice at, before applying it to actual physics or engineering problems. I can only apologize for these things, as I am not responsible for defining the course content, or when you take it in your particular program. That is the responsibility of the Engineering Accreditation Board, which determines the shape, content and level of difficulty of the entire engineering program.

My personal opinion is that The Board have not yet got to grips with changes in the high school curriculum, resulting in students coming into engineering programs far less prepared than even a decade ago. So, if you have not attained the grade you were hoping for, or have failed the course, then please do not despair. You were set an exceptionally difficult challenge. Many students have fallen by the wayside, and dropped the course entirely. You have made it through to the end. That in itself is an achievement. You are all capable of handling this material, if you apply yourselves sufficiently. Some people need more time to absorb and process the information than others. I will be teaching a re-run of the course during July and August of this summer. I am pleased to say that the success rate of those who retake the course a second time is high. A second run through of the material is often all that is needed to obtain a good grade. So, to those who passed first time, congratulations; that is a significant accomplishment. To those who need a second run through take this experience to heart — if you are not performing well on assignments or tests during the term, go and see your Professor as soon as possible. Do not assume that your grade on the final exam will somehow pull you through the entire course. Exercises carried out during term time are for both you and your teachers to measure your progress, and in a large class it is up to you to seek out help when you need it. Seeing students failing a course is never a pleasant experience for me. You may rest assured I will put my utmost effort into helping you through this course during the summer.