10 Essential Skills for EEs

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Check this book out. I recommend it for working engineers. It is worth the investment.

I read many books during the year but I only write about the ones I really like.  Here is one I like and it is one you may like to read as well.  Ten Essential Skills for Electrical Engineers is a 245 page soft cover from IEEE Press/Wiley by Barry L. Dorr is directed primarily at students studying EE in college.  It sums up ten of the main subjects Dorr thinks they need to know.  I agree with these core topics.

Here is a list of the ten subjects and my comments:

  1. How to design resistive circuits.  A real must as you never get away from having to make some resistive circuit for your design.
  2. How to prevent a power transistor from overheating.  Dorr shows how to figure out what you need.  Most of us solved this problem with brute force by just bolting the power transistor to a big hunk of metal or snapping on the largest heat sink we could find and praying.
  3. How to analyze a circuit.  This chapter is mainly about calculating basic frequency response.  Again something that is a constant in most analog designs.
  4. How to use statistics to ensure a manufacturable design.  Here is something they do not often teach you in school.  A good topic.  I wish EE programs would require a course in probability and statistics instead of some of the other math courses often required.  A real practical chapter.
  5. How to design a feedback control system.  The basics reviewed.  Not something every grad will eventually use but others will find it useful.
  6. How to work with op-amp circuits.  A good review of the basics all EEs should know.
  7. How to design analog filters.  The focus is on active filters but a good review.
  8. How to design digital filters.  This is a good review of sampling and DSP in case you never learned it in school.  Designing FIR and IIR filters.
  9. How to work with RF signals.  The emphasis in this chapter is on transmission lines and the Smith chart.  In today’s high speed digital or RF worlds, everything is a transmission line.
  10. Getting a job – keeping a job – enjoying your work.  Good basic advice for the grad.

I like this book as it is a good example of how you can take a complex subject and boil it down to the most important essentials.  I think that EE students will love this one as they are often stuck with some monster academic tome that includes everything there is to know about the subject without ever finding out what is really important and how to apply  it.

This is also a great book for practicing EEs who want a good review of the basics or to fill in the gaps that might have occurred in their education.  I had fun going through the book testing myself on what I knew.  The author also provides some practical problems to solve so you can check what you learned.  Looking at the ten topics you can tell that the main emphasis is analog/linear for the most part.

If I had written this book I would have added two other chapters to make a dozen.  I would add one on power sources like power supplies, switching regulators, energy efficiency, batteries, etc.  All EEs have to deal with power sources.  That topic would be hard to boil down but a good one.

I would also have tried to include some digital related topic like embedded controllers and/or FPGAs.  Again, a broad tough topic to boil down.  With every electronic product having a processor at its core, the topic has become basic electronics.  Just a thought.

Check this book out.  I recommend it for working engineers.  It is worth the investment.

Discuss this Blog Entry 6

on May 21, 2014

I recently purchased and completed my first read of this book and agree with Lou Frenzel's assessment of its content.

I also feel that a collection of 10 subject areas is somewhat limited. If I was compelled to write on only 10 subjects, the one covered in this book are good starting points for new EEs.

One area not covered which I think would be useful is basic design of circuits with diodes, BJTs, and FETs. I have encountered novel applications where a circuit with a few of these components used effectively were a better solution than those using op amps and other analog function ICs.

on May 28, 2014

you just need a good software that do most of the stuff above and save the pain...

on May 29, 2014

LOL If you think that you can just rely upon software then you're sunk before you even leave port. Software is only a tool, and is only as good as the craftsman utilizing it. It cannot make tradeoff or analysis decisions, it cannot react to scope creep, it cannot manage time and budget. Its user must understand enough about how the software works and its limitations to determine if its results are valid or fixable.

I once knew a manager who thought he'd become a hero for saving his company money by buying an electronics design software package and hiring a technician to operate it - instead of hiring an experienced and degreed engineer. That manager was only looking at salary costs, but didn't understand that his project was too intense for somebody trained to the technician level. The manager made his problem worse by hiring a tech fresh out of school with zero experience. A year and thousands of man-hours and dollars later he had nothing to show except a pile of burned-up parts and the tech's resignation. Somehow that manager kept his job and his attitude (they always seem to) but his division has never been profitable.

on May 29, 2014

Another suggestion that they should teach engineers is basic business operations. Terms and jargon, spreadsheets, basic accounting, basic project management, basics of setting up and running a business etc. For two reasons: 1) to be able to converse with managers who most likely do not understand or care to understand engineering, and 2) to possibly become an entrepreneur since there are better opportunities than trying to work for somebody else.

My Dad suggested this to me when I went to engineering school. He was right - many times I've been in situations where it would have helped. I couldn't fit it into my highly regimented curriculum back then, but have been able to work on it via online and community college courses. I highly suggest that all engineers consider pursuing some business courses so at least they can deal with management on its own terms (they're very unlikely to do the same for you).

on Jun 5, 2014

Maybe I have been away too long!? I would have been more aggressive in my approach. If I could go back into time, to give myself, the best advise I could...
Get very cozy with a Spice Simulator. Companies will demand success first time, and define you at square 1.
And with that one tool, the rest of the list will trickle out.
Not meant to discount any opinions.
On getting your first job: Insecurity, paranoia... Challenge nobody, but yourself.
I had a boss once with an MSEE, who admitted he had never touched a transistor!?!? Touch the transistor! Buy development kits, and learn them all!
Never judge others and their ability, develop yours! The best teachers to all these 10 items are your simulation SW and the development/proto kits.
I will expect to see you all on the other side!

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Lou Frenzel

Lou Frenzel is the Communications Technology Editor for Electronic Design Magazine where he writes articles, columns, blogs, technology reports, and online material on the wireless, communications...
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