Computer Engineering Essay

College of Engineering:
Engineers turn ideas (technical, scientific, mathematical) into reality. Tell us about an engineering idea you have or your interest in engineering. Explain how Cornell Engineering can help you further explore this idea or interest.


When I hear the word "engineer", I immediately picture a person wearing hard hat and holding a blueprint. As it turns out, many engineers are not the typical architecture engineers I picture. Some looks like scientists with their lab coats and weird color chemicals; some looks like farmers working in a field with shovels and hoes; some looks like average day people dressed in t-shirts and jeans ready to program some software. I belong to the latter description. I want to become a computer engineer.

I have always been interested in the "magical super calculator", even at an early age. At that time, the computer, in my ignorant little mind, is a machine that can calculate math problems really fast, play cool looking games, and type documents with a tolerance of errors (unlike the typewriter). To some extend what I thought were right, but computers' abilities were far beyond my imagination. Until recently, I never wondered about computers' hidden secrets. How does a letter appear when one types it on a keyboard? How does a character move on the screen when one presses the arrow keys? How does an email travel through the Internet when one clicks a button? Such seemingly simple tasks are found to be quite complex behind its programming and algorithm roots. I don't know the answers to those questions. Like the quote, "The more you know, the more you realize you know nothing." All I know is that the computer is even a deeper mystery than before.

The only way to dissolve ignorance is knowledge. Cornell University not only offers the top-notch education, it also has the state-of-the-art research centers, like the Center for Advanced Computing, which was one of the five original centers of the National Science Foundation's Supercomputer Centers Program. And Cornell offers over a dozen of research areas for computer engineers, such as artificial intelligence, programming, systems and networking, and my most interested area - graphics. Like the Engineering Communications Program and the Kessler Fellows Program, Cornell is overflowing with opportunities waiting for engineer wannabe like me to experience.

With advancing technology, computers are becoming more and more complex each day. Without the proper education, I'm becoming more and more ignorant each day. Again, the only way to dissolve ignorance is knowledge. Cornell offers the knowledge. I have the willingness to learn the knowledge. Within four years, I will become a computer engineer. The once "wannabe" will change from "wanna" to "be".

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What do everyone think about it? Any comments would be appreciated.
I have to admit, the conclusion is a bit... odd. But what do you think about it? Should I change it?


Describe your reasoning behind choosing your major.

Kathryn Rivard; Computer Engineering

     One thing I have always liked about the field of Computer Engineering is that it is vastly applicable to many careers, depending on the focus I choose. There are opportunities to research and develop new hardware, and opportunities to install and maintain that hardware in the field. I could troubleshoot individual computers, or I could design and manage vast networks of machines. I need only to choose.
     At this point in my life I am inclined towards networking and IT, more software -centered aspects of Comptuer Engineering. My junior year I took part in my school�s Computer Troubleshooting class, in which I designed and administered an ASIP network of 150 users who were taking Keyboarding. I was also on the main task force for maintaining three hubs, student and teacher computers, and peripherals throughout campus. This was a lot of fun for me, because not only did I get to be a part of the entire process of a network in terms of design, creation, and maintenance, but I was also able to experience the �wild card� aspect of solving individual computer problems. I like to think I would enjoy doing these sorts of things for a living as well.
     Another area of Computer Engineering I think I might take to is the more Electrical Engineering side of the field, in terms of how the actual bits and pieces of the hardware all work together to perform the hundreds of thousands of calculations it takes to run a modern computer. I have some experience in this side of CE through building Rube-Goldberg type devices for Science Olympiad. The easiest way to link the 60 or so energy transfers in the device between mechanical, electromagnetic, chemical, heat, and electrical energy is to use electronic circuits. We end up using so many electronic sensors all linked together on the same circuit board that being able to read a schematic is essential for fixing things when they break. Each successive year we end up with increasingly complicated logic to give us more efficient use of the different energies, and my dad�s old electronics texts come in handy. Though I don�t have as much hardcore experience with the technical side of Computer Engineering as I do with the software side, I still think it is a career I would enjoy.
     No matter which focus I choose to tackle in studying Computer Engineering, I know I�m going to end up with valuable and marketable job skills. That�s a given. What I�m really excited about is all in the getting there. There�s nothing better than furrowing my eyebrows over a tough concept or impossible problem and suddenly seeing a straight path to the answer. Answers lead to more questions, questions lead to confusion, and confusion hopefully leads to research and thought and more answers. That�s definately what I hope to find in college, and hopefully continue throughout the rest of my life.

Copyright 2001 Katie Rivard <> Web Services available, email katie@rivard.org for info.
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