Back To School! – With Reflections from Many Months Later!

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Howdy y’all, Mason here, talking about coming back to Mudd!

Note: I wrote this post right when I got back to school, but it was never posted. I’m editing months afterward, and I’ll be making comments in bold. 

Headshot of Mason Acevedo wearing glasses, a gray collared shirt, and a striped tie.

Mason Acevedo, Class of 2022

I’m a sophomore now, (have been for a while) and apparently I’m really excited about that!!!! (I’m a little groggy writing this, but my fingers want lots of exclamation points)

My Summer

I spent the first chunk of this summer doing Summer Math. This is a notoriously intense math course where you take a semester’s worth of math at HMC (14 weeks worth) in 3 weeks. That’s a lot of math in not a lot of time, so you only really have time for math and bodily functions.

It was a tough, but it opened up space in my schedule that I’m using to take another engineering class this semester, E83 – more on that later.

After Summer Math, I spent 10 weeks doing paid research in the Physics department, working with Professor Brian Shuve on particle physics. The bulk of my job was simulating particle collision events on a computer, and then writing code to analyze the output of those simulations. (calculate things, make graphs, etc…) I found it really cool to be a part of science and actually do something of value in the world, after so many years of learning about things in a classroom. Also, I made my own research poster at the end of the summer! (Imagine a science fair poster, but I got paid to make it and it was legitimate science) It’s awesome that I got to have this experience as only a freshman, after only 2 physics courses! That sounds like a shameless plug for HMC … and I guess it is! Yep. Summer Research is still really cool. Also, it’s wonderful preparation for PhD work, which I’ve decided I want to pursue. 

What I’ll Be Doing this Semester

And now, I’m back in school! I’m excited for this semester, because I’m taking 3 engineering courses, all of which I’m super interested in! They are:

  1. E79: Intro to Engineering Systems – This class focuses on “an approach to engineering in which systems are modeled as mathematical functions”. That sentence is weird, but this is a class typically taken by sophomores where you build underwater robots in lab, and learn the theory and math behind it all in class! This class turned out to be ok. I learned a lot of things, but I felt that this class expected you to, more than anything, memorize specific techniques to solve very specific problems. 
    Mason Acevedo, Class of 2022, Standing, holding an underwater robot. In one hand, he has the robot frame, made mostly of PVC pipes. In the other hand are wires connected to the robot.

    Mason Acevedo, Class of 2022, standing with the robot we assembled in E79 Lab! 

    Picture of Josh Hunter from a low angle. He is holding a robot, standing next to a water tank.

    Josh Hunter, Class of 2021, with the same robot!

    Mason and Crystal in E79 Practicum - Mason is holding a small LED that is being controlled by a computer.

    Crystal Yang (Class of 2021) and Mason Acevedo (Class of 2022) in E79 Practicum

  2. E4: Intro to Engineering Design and Manufacturing – This class is focused on teaching about design as an open-ended process. A big portion of this class is working in the machine shop, where students build their own hammer, which is considered a rite of passage for engineering majors. I’ve never made anything with my hands in my life, so I’m looking forward to learning how! This class was dominated by a semester-long design project. It was by far the most stressful and difficult group project I’ve worked on, but I’ve learned things about working on the design process and large projects. 
  3. E83: Continuum Mechanics – For those of you who are taking physics, this course is “F = ma, the class,” according to the professor herself. In this class, we use classical mechanics and apply it to understand engineering scenarios. We learn how to use math to think about everything from static structures (how buildings and bridges stay standing) to fluid dynamics (how water, air, and other fluids move). This class wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. We mostly studied statics, with a hint of fluids at the end. What we did learn was interesting though! 

Overall, I’m really excited for those classes! They all seem really cool in their own ways! I plan to be an engineering major (sike! Not anymore), and these classes are the first taste I’m getting of my degree!!

In addition to those, I’m also taking Physics 51, which is Electricity and Magnetism, with a little hint of optics sprinkled in at the end (correction: Wayyyy too much optics unnaturally shoved in at the end). I like physics, and I really don’t know very much at all about this topic, so I’m curious to see where this class goes and the kinds of things we’ll learn about. I liked this class way more than I expected to! This is part of the reason I want to major in physics. 

I’m also taking a course called Financial Economics, where we learn about how to build and maintain long-term wealth. I’m not quite as curious about this stuff (so far, it’s just a lot of vocab) but I’m taking it because it’s useful information to have. I was pretty much on the money with this. I didn’t find much of it interesting, a lot of the learning was just learning vocab words, but I did get some sound financial advice out of it. 

That wraps things up for me. I hope you had just as good a summer, and have just as fun a time heading back to school!

-Mason “Sophomore Fun? More like Soph-morefun! ” Avocado