FSE 100 with Professor Yinong Chen

Just like my CSE 120 class, I didn’t choose this class, my advisor did it for me because if I were to choose it myself, I would have done it with another professor. This is because Professor Chen’s Ratemyprofessor rating is pretty bad.

But after taking his class this semester, I beg to differ. He is not as bad as what the internet says.


At a glance

— ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY—

Every engineering student coming into ASU will need to take this course and it took me a while to realize that the FSE 100 course is actually sectioned based on different groups of majors. The biggest difference between the different sections is what’s being taught. Like one of my friends was majoring in mechanical engineering and his class project was about building a solar plant.

I am lucky to have gotten into this class because this is not an ordinary FSE 100 class. Professor Chen said this is the first time that he is teaching the FSE 100 class since 2011. His return back to the course is to reinvent the curriculum. The entire structure of the course is generally the same (still project based) but the biggest difference is what is being taught.

Opposed to programming using the Lego Mindstorm kit. In this class, we built and programmed an Intel Edison board using a custom visual programming environment developed by ASU students. All I can tell you is that this was one hell of a ride.

Bute before getting into the specific, let’s look into the lectures. Compared to the lab session, I wouldn’t say that the lectures is the most exciting thing about the course but Professor Chen is very enthusiastic about Computer Science (maybe a little too enthusiastic sometimes) and ends up raising his voice when he reaches an important point. Personally, I am not a big fan of his lecture slides, a little disorganized to my liking.

Progressing to the lab sessions themselves, we were tasked to grouping ourselves with 2-3 people and I managed to get myself in a pretty good team (RobotLeague!). Most of the work being done is practical work that revolves around the Engineering Design Process (which is a highly sought after concept in this course). The labs are definitely fun to do especially if your team members are motivated to learning new things.

One thing I find real effective is the pre-lab quizzes that we need to complete before class. The quizzes are counted towards the final grade and it is a good way to get students prepared and excited about the labs. Not sure if this is a commonality here in the US but in Malaysia, I’ve never seen it done before.

As for the exams and assessments, they are not too hard. I did like that we were able to bring in crib sheets to the exam and the exam itself is pretty open (no open collaboration though). But beyond that, the exam is the exam. Not hard at all if you put in the effort to read through the lecture slides.

Intel Edison

This course revolves around two big projects. One of them is the assembly line project which is a simple and short one but the second one is the robot building project. As I said earlier, this semester, Professor Chen alongside a couple senior students are experimenting with using the Intel Edison board opposed to the Lego Mindstorm kit.

The big reason for this change (in my opinion) is that there is a new software being developed by ASU students called VIPLE. It is indeed a weird name when I first find out about it but it is basically as visual programming environment similar to the infamous Scratch software from MIT. The twist is that VIPLE a scalable programming environment. It is designed not only to suit beginners but is also capable of complex executions like parallel computing.

I would say that the software itself is definitely not ready for prime time but it does have some potential if the bugs are resolved and the interface is overhauled.

And the heart and soul of the second project is the Intel Edison board. Since we’re the guinea pigs to try out this overhauled FSE 100 course, I had the pleasure to unbox the (fresh and sealed) Intel Edison board myself. It was a magical moment.

But fun stuff aside. Building the robot and making it move around the maze is no simple task. Also, given that this robot making hasn’t been done at such scale, there was a lot of small problems along the way. Building the robot wasn’t too hard, but the wiring guide that we were given was so confusing. Lucky I had a good team member to help with that.

Setting up the software and programming the Intel Edison is definitely the hardest part. As I have learnt during the Freescale Cup last year, building the hardware is nothing compared to the actual programming. But thankfully with this project, Professor Chen did provide us with a sample algorithm to get our robots somewhere…

Towards the end of the semester, our team realized that the inconsistencies in the hardware and software made the programming experience a challenging one. Other things like VIPLE constantly crashing was a nuisance while working on the project but overall it was a fun project. Definitely feels more challenging than the Lego Mindstorms kit.

Things that I didn’t like

The most apparent thing is the VIPLE software. It just isn’t ready for prime time yet. It is more of a beta software still but as I said, It has potential at being a point of pride for ASU.

Another thing is that the class was pretty disorganized for the most part. Some things weren’t clearly stated. At one point, I even thought that there wasn’t going to be a final exam because in a lab manual, Professor Chen made it clear that the final presentation was going to be on the last day of class. Maybe I interpreted wrongly?

Also, the wording for the lab manuals and lecture slides often include spelling mistakes. Not too sure if this is due to the nature of this course but it did bug me as I needed to read through it a couple of times to understand some paragraphs.

Is Professor Chen a good professor?

For the most part yes. Unlike what his Ratemyprofessor page says, he is actually a good professor (not perfect, but good enough for me). It’s just that he is sometimes a little too enthusiastic with his words and being a chinese, his english sometimes tend to drift away when he is giving a lecture. But overall, Professor Chen isn’t as bad as the internet depicts him to be.

Conclusion

Sure, I didn’t like the inconsistencies about the robot that we were building and the timetable of the class was constantly shifting. But these setbacks during the class is what real life feels like. And as an introductory Engineering course, this format of try-as-you-go definitely sets the tone for the rest of my college years.

Somehow, I fee honoured to experience all the problems that might have happened. It has been truly an amazing experience. It’s not everyday that I can be part of such an experiment. I am not sure if the Edison board will actually be integrated into the curriculum of the FSE 100 course but I personally think it should be, because it is a challenging experience that reflects upon the life of an Engineer.

Even if Computer Science is not a true Engineering degree.

In the end, did I learn anything about the Engineering Design Process? Definitely, Professor Chen’s goal of the class has been reached and he has shown the Engineering Design Process flowchart so much in the class that I can remember how it looks like by memory.

Overall, I would put the intensity of this course to be low. Everything can be completed within the class period but word of warning is that the last three weeks is going to be real tough as the competition will require additional work outside of class.

Here are a couple things to note about this class:

  1. Lectures can be a little long winded
  2. Grading scale is confusing
  3. Opportunities to earn extra credit
  4. Online quizzes every week
  5. Very fun and challenging to work with the Intel Edison
  6. There is a final exam!

Insider talk

My course reviews for Spring 2016

  • FSE 100 with Professor Yinong Chen — An introductory engineering course that revolves around projects. Read this review
  • ENG 101 with Professor Ivan Wolfe — The first of two fresman level english courses that is required by ASU. Read this review
  • PHI 101 with Professor Douglas Portmore —  This is my first time learning about philosophy, it’s quite an interesting course I would say. Read this review
  • HST 109 with Professor Jonathan Barth — American history from the start till the end of the civil war. Read this review
  • CSE 120 with Professor Martin Reisslein — The basics of digital logic with both theoretical and practical work. Read this review
  • IEE 380 with Professor Linda Chattin — More statistical formulas and concepts than you can imagine. Read this review

I would  value your feedback on things that I may have missed in my review(s) and I would gladly update the review to include that information provided that your request is not too much in the future that I forget about the deep details about my experience in that course. Just hit me a comment below and I’ll gladly answer your question.

dw

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One thought on “FSE 100 with Professor Yinong Chen

  1. Pingback: My dilemma of writing articles – ^ dickwyn .

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