My E2 Camp experience

Honestly, I don’t really remember how I found out about E2 Camp.

I would like to say that I read about it through the newsletter but it also could’ve been through the stalking that I was doing about the Fulton Schools. But either way, attending this camp has provided me a different perspective towards my experience here at ASU. This is probably the push that I need as the first semester novelty of studying in the USA wears off.

A couple days before camp, I was somewhat reluctant to go to the camp because I was anxious about what I was supposed to do. I did not attend E2 Camp before so being a one-up level compared to the campers is a difficult task. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, I was given a schedule, a handbook and also paired up with a co-counselor but even then, some things are just hard to do without prior experience.

What is E2 Camp?

According to the ASU microsite, E2 camp is

E2 is an exciting way to jump-start your success in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.You will meet other students, faculty, and staff and learn skills that are important to your success as a Fulton student through a variety of fun and interactive activities. Upperclassmen, faculty, and staff serve as resources to students during E2.

As I said earlier, I did not attend E2 Camp during my freshmen year and I kicked off my E2 Camp experience as a counselor. The description provided online is pretty spot on. The general theme of the activities is teamwork, communication and some good-ol fun.

Comparing the activities during E2 with the freshmen level courses that I took last semester, there is a lot of similarities in terms of what they teach. First and foremost has got to be the Fulton Difference. Things like the tutoring center, professor office hours, undergraduate research, job opportunities were heavily talked about in most of my classes in the Spring semester. And to no surprise, there was talk about mostly the same things during certain E2 Camp activities.

But beyond the planned activities, there was actually quite a big chunk of free time allocated during the camp. That time was not only there to give groups the opportunity to discuss about the group cheer but it is also the time where campers and counselors alike are given the opportunity to mingle around ourselves or to approach faculty.

Was it worth the time?

For the most part, yes.

I can tell you that my ideal representation of E2 is having a group of motivated freshmen students that are passionate about camp and want to win. But that clearly did not happen because life doesn’t always give me what I want. Overall, I did eventually come to like my group after a couple of activities. I would have like to to talk to them individually about their plan for the academic year but I didn’t have the time to do that.

Nevertheless, the individual conversations that I did have with my campers ended up being a fulfilling one. It was definitely a privilege to be able to share my experience with a willing party and provide feedback about the expectations that other people had.

Other than having these conversations with my group members, I also had the opportunity to meet and talk with faculty that I would never get to speak in person if it weren’t for E2. People like the Mr Fulton (didn’t get to speak to him but I did get to see him in person), Dean Squires, staff from the Dean’s office, Professors from different Engineering schools and alumni.

Round 2?

Funny thing is that I did not know that this was some sort of competition between different groups up until I started reading the counselor handbook. All is not lost but I will be going for a second round of E2 later next week and I a hope that my experiences during the first camp will help me better lead my campers.

New York City

The Big Apple

I am still not too sure why it’s called the big apple but I presume that it has something to do with the size because Manhattan clearly doesn’t look like an apple.

But anyways, last week I had a glimpse of life in NYC and it felt different and familiar at the same time. One thing that I instantly got used to is the layout of the streets which is typical United States where most of the major streets are in a grid layout. But the easy layout didn’t stop me from getting lost because frankly, I am not very good with directions.

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While the general layout of NYC is the grid layout, there is a couple of exceptions and one of them is the diagonal intersection along the 7th avenue. There is where the iconic Times Square digital screens and billboard resides. I actually could not recognize it when I first entered the intersection because it didn’t look like what pictures depict it to be. For one, the iconic Nasdaq digital screen is actually tucked away in a corner with a building obstructing part of the screen. I didn’t manage to get a full  picture of all the billboards because I didn’t have much time to look around for that spot which can get the full picture.

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An approximate map of where I walked

I am pretty sure there’s a specific position you need to stand in order to get that picture. I only spent about 15 minutes at Times Square because there was a lot of people there plus the weather was hot that day. Also, there was some construction being done along the intersection.

My mission for that day was to go along 5th avenue and that is what I did. Since, I wanted to experience the full NYC package, I walked the streets sidewalks of NYC with my earphones. It felt like I was blending in with the locals. I’m not going to talk about what I did in NYC because that is not the point but I was basically stopping by both the Apple and Microsoft Store while making a stop at Trump Tower.

Along the way, I realized quite a number of things about NYC. First and foremost, I finally understand why the traffic in NYC is like that. The problem actually lies with the people. A lot of people (including me) tend to cross the street without looking at the pedestrian traffic light. It usually starts with one person and then others follow on and that is just part of the congestion. The nature of the grid design of NYC also means that there is a traffic light on every block which means that the chance of a gridlock to happen is very common.

Speaking of blocks, I managed to walk a couple of dozen of blocks in the course of two hours. From my not so scientific calculation, I came to the conclusion that it takes about 1 minute for me to walk a block but that also depends on the amount on traffic and the number of shops along the sidewalk. Some stores have some nice window display that calls for a picture or two. Overall, walking is a fairly tough thing to do and I can see why those electric skateboards are popular in this city.

Walking in general was tiring but I did find out that walking along the sidewalk of NYC to be a very relaxing thing to do once you put on your earphones. The weather at Times Square might be hot but along the sidewalks, the weather is noticeably cooler with gushes of cool wind every now and then.

But that is about it when it comes to NYC. I have just had a small taste of this dense city and there is still a lot of things that I need to see. I’ll save that for my next trip to the Big Apple.

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A new season

I have always imagined what it would be to live in a place that has 4 seasons and gratefully, I am able experience that this year. In January, I had a little taste of winter with the cold winds and unexpected rainfall that rarely happens in Arizona according to the locals. Soon after that, I was greeted with Spring which is a weather condition that is not much different compared to Malaysia. The sun was constantly up but the winds was still a little cold. Personally, I think that is the most optimal weather. Not too cold and not too hot.

Something that I learnt about the weather conditions here is that they are sometimes a little unpredictable. The weather is unpredictable in the sense that sometimes the weather is hot (~28 degrees) and the next day it goes down to around 18 degrees. I still remember that one week where the temperature in the evening was as cold as it was when I first arrived.

The lesson here is that I should always check the weather forecast before going out. Something that I have been taking for granted back in Malaysia because the weather is mostly hot and nothing specific is required when it rains because I always end walking in the rain.

az-weather

After Spring comes Summer and this is likely the most sought after season for Americans because of the term ‘Summer Vacation’. I actually don’t know why I am writing this article, the only reason why is that I wanted to talk about the hot weather and I also took a nice photo of the first day of Summer snapchat filter. The reason why today is the first day of the Summer is because of the Summer Solstice which is when the sun is directly in the center of the equator of the northern hemisphere. It is also the day with the most sunlight.

The weather here in Massachusetts is still quite nice in the afternoon but it does get a little chilly in the night still. But I will be heading back to AZ in August and boy have I been following the weather there. Everyday is like above 40 degrees which is nothing compared to the hot weather that I have experienced.

When I decided to attend ASU, I was well aware that the weather there was scorching hot. But little did I know that the hot Summer weather actually lasts for 5 months. That’s nearly half the year with temperatures more than 30 degrees.

I am already bracing myself for when I get back.

First try: Material Design Lite

So, the other day I was googling about Bootstrap 4 news and I stumbled upon Material Design Lite. It is basically the simplified version of Material Design built for the web. And somehow, I totally missed out the release of the framework last year. Then, I continued my research on it and found out that MDL (abbreviation for Material Design Lite) is a pretty robust front-end framwork that takes advantage of most of those cool physics elements found in Material Design. You can read more about Material Design in an article I wrote a while back here

There wasn’t much news about the final release of Bootstrap 4 and I was curious about MDL, so I decided to play around with the framework. I have been huge fan of Google’s Material Design since it was announced back in Google I/O 2014 and previously it only existed on mobile applications and also Google’s high end Project Polymer. Never actually made anything with Material Design before but I am well aware of the guidelines that Google set with each element.

After a couple of trial an errors, my first MDL design is now live! Check it out at testorange0106.dickwyn.xyz. It’s not the most content heavy design but I did manage to include most of the elements that showcase MDL.

I learned Bootstrap back in 2014 through Microsoft Virtual Academy (Christopher Harrison is like the best that MVA has to offer) and since then, I have used it quite a number of times. The latest being my attempt at building Sunway’s ADTP microsite which you can check out here. It’s easy to see why a lot of people love Bootstrap, the syntax is simple and there are a lots of templates and guides on how you can get started with the framework. MDL in the other hand is fairly new and Google definitely took some inspiration from bootstrap and MDL is actually very similar to Bootstrap in a lot of ways.

Well, just so happens, Google Developers just recently (yesterday) released a video regarding MDL which perfectly aligns with the release of this article regarding.

Within MDL, there is a grid system that works exactly like how it does on Bootstrap but the syntax is a little long winded in my opinion. The concept of 12 virtual boxes still exist but the syntax used is slightly different.

It actually took me a while to fully understand the syntax despite looking through the documentation extensively. But after a while, I did come to understand how the grid on MDL actually works. Unlike Bootstrap, MDL is designed to reflow from edge to edge. MDL is built to be responsive but it is a different kind of responsive compared to the responsive approach of bootstrap which centers the content with white space on both sides.

If I wanted to replicate Bootstrap’s layout through MDL, I would need to add a css script to apply padding on both sides of the outer <div> tag. And that is how I ended up with my first MDL design (pictured below). I was completely unaware about how the grid system worked and I actually made that table centred by wrapping the <center> tag around it

Screenshot (635)

Initially, I thought of typing out the class names to learn the syntax quicker but that turned out to be a complete disaster because MDL’s syntax is very confusing for a newcomer like me. The syntax itself compromises of simple words that clearly describes the class name but Google just had to use double dashes and double underscores (notice these in the first two <div> tags at the code snipped below) to make it hard to remember.

Since this is a fairly new framework, there isn’t a code snippet extension on Brackets, my HTML editor of choice. After making multiple typos (kept on mistyping mdl as mld) that made the layout go crazy, I decided to scrap my idea of starting the entire design from scratch. I decided to import one of Google’s sample templates and modify the hell out of it.

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Things became a little bit easier when I began modifying an existing template and it took me a couple of hours to over two days to come up with the final design. Most of the time spent was mostly used on thinking what could I possibly put to showcase the Material Design elements.

I would have liked to put videos into the layout but I don’t think the MDL grid will be able to resize the video based on the screen size so I left that one out.

Screenshot (633)

Conclusion

My initial idea for trying out MDL was to combine the Bootstrap layout with MDL elements but I didn’t end up doing that because I found out that MDL itself is a standalone framework rather than being a complementing library. I’ll probably try that out in the future if I have time but MDL is somewhat of a letdown for me.

Unlike Bootstrap, Google built MDL with strict guidelines that need to be followed in order for things to look good. If I were to change the look of one element, everything else must also be changed in order for the design to look the part. Maybe I need to do a coupe of case studies regarding Material Design before trying MDL once again.

But as is, I am not too impressed with what I am seeing. Beyond the fancy animations that work nicely on the web, MDL is just too restricted for me. I can see it being useful for prototyping app UIs since it does include things like tabs and sidebars but for web designs, I would still prefer to stick with Bootstrap. Now it’s time to continue waiting for Boostrap 4 to come out.

Check out my final design here

final

It’s been three years

Three years ago today, I decided to jump the gun and finally try out WordPress. Up to that point of my life, all I knew was blogger. I still remember when I first tried out blogger around the year 2008 (same year that I opened my Facebook account), opening a blog was all the rage back then and I distinctively remembered this trend where people had this blogger gadget which was basically a link to friends blogs. That was one of the coolest things on my blog back then and not to mention the chatbox. It came in different colors and anyone could ping a message onto my blog. Those were the days.

chatbox

Moving back to the original story, I published my very first entry in this blog on 6th June 2013 which is three years ago. When I first started on WordPress, I had my doubts about the platform because my mind still thinks that Blogger is far superior. That explains the big gap (nearly 1 year) between my 3rd and 4th entry. But I still find it hard to believe that I actually made it through three years and I never planned to write this entry. I just somehow looked through my blogroll while writing my professor reviews last week and realized that my third year on WordPress is coming up real soon. Such a coincidence.

I guess it was fate then.

But since that first entry went live, the biggest change to this blog is the domain which I recently changed to blog.dickwyn.xyz from http://www.dickwyn.wordpress.com which still works as a redirect. Also, I did change the theme a couple of times but things like the header image, title and tagline still remained the same.

Why I made the switch to wordpress

It was around 2013 and my tech blog was progressing at a steady pace and I felt that it was time to go back to  having my own personal blog. Since I started crazily posing stuff on Facebook, I seemed to have stopped writing on my previous personal blog(s). Initially, my plan was to have it on blogger but the dickwyn.blogspot.com domain was seemingly lost. Apparently, the domain is linked to my old blogger account which was part of my hotmail account. Back then, Blogger wasn’t restricted to just google accounts.

It is still a mystery up to this day about what lies in that old blogger account. But anyways, blogger didn’t have the domain I wanted and I certainly didn’t want to add numbers or random characters behind my name to form a domain. So, I tried making an account on WordPress and to my surprise, the www.dickwyn.wordpress.com domain name was available and damn was I a happy boy. Having the domain made me want to try out WordPress even more.

After three years, I finally understand why people choose WordPress.com to start their blog. Everything on WordPress.com is simpler than blogger. You don’t need to tweak the html code or google how to do something on a WordPress.com site, everything is nicely laid out in a clean graphical interface with toggles and menus doing all the hard work. Additionally, the post editor is simplified and comes with modern features like automatic sharing and meta tags. If you use blogger, you know how bad the post editor can be and the fact that the interface tends to bog down after extended periods of time makes it even worse.

I’ve always seen WordPress.com as the easier version of Blogger

However, I won’t deny that I am actually running my tech blog on blogger. I kept it there mainly because it is more cost effective to run it on Blogger compared to WordPress.com because Blogger is a completely free service from down to up. WordPress.com in the other does feature a sleeker interface with modern tools but extra features like template tweaking, extra media storage and even a simple domain mapping will cost money.

I won’t be using google analytics to run conversion rates because frankly, the pageviews that this site generate doesn’t matter. But likewise, google analytics is an important part of my tech blog as I use it to visualize my work. This site in the other hand is primarily for me to just talk about what is happening in life, random things and also serve as an extension of my life on social media. Quite a number of topics that I have been rambling about on twitter usually ends up on this site. I won’t be needing those features expansive features on Blogger, all I want with my personal blog is a simple platform and that is what WordPress.com managed to give me.

I definitely envy the simplicity of WordPress.com but I am still hoping that google will revamp Blogger with some new features. It does look like Google is building up to that big release as they have been quietly optimizing certain elements in the last couple of years.

What’s next?

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I know, I haven’t been positing very much in this blog since it opened in 2013. 38 articles to be exact (excluding this one) and that averages out to about 1 entry per month. But as I mentioned in an entry earlier this year, one of my goals this year is to post on this blog more often and I plan to stick with that. Currently, I am working an multiple drafts destined to be published when the time comes. Stay tuned for those entries as they are totally different than what I have been previously covering.

It’s pretty amazing that I managed to stay on with blogging on wordpress because I had my doubts about using WordPress.com. From the start, I already knew there was limitations with their free platform. So, here’s to more years with WordPress.

That is about it for this special edition article. For the time being, I will be staying with wordpress but I will be actively trying other platforms like medium which has been a pretty hot platform these days and also facebook’s notes platform.

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My first wave of reviews

I am finally done with this. I was initially targeting this to be published the week after the final exam but as it turns out, writing a course review is not that simple. But I did manage to complete all the reviews and I am pretty happy with what I managed to come up with and my initial goal was to average in about 1,000 words for each review and I managed to exceed that goal.

In total, this took me a little over two weeks to complete. I took about a week to write these 6 reviews and I did try writing all of them in one shot but I couldn’t. My mind could only focus at evaluating one course a day. After writing a rough draft, I used a couple more days to refine the grammar and the structure to assure that these reviews are as good as they could be.

This is something that I have been wanting to do since the start of the semester. And the biggest reason why is that throughout the semester I have asked people countless of times about the experience that they have with a particular class taught by that professors. Things like exams, workload, grading and homework are part of the conversation because often times, the ratemyprofessor reviews can be a little inaccurate and lack of depth.

This is the first time that I am doing such a segment and I didn’t bother to research on other creations that are online so I’ll just start off with talking about the things that I usually ask. All I can say is that at the time of posting, this is what I have. I would  value your feedback on what kind of things that I might have missed in my review 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.

It is not easy to talk about everything as some things like talking too much (in detail) about the assignments and tests are in violation of ASU's Academic Integrity Policy

Throughout my reviews, I try to keep them as wordy as possible. I don’t think images are necessary in such a review but each article does include a featured image that I specifically chose. That image is my representation of the course when I think about it. Also I have bold(ed) some words in the review which point to the important aspects of that class so do take note of those keywords.

College experience, it is what you make of it

Within each review, I have included an ‘At a glance’ segment at the very beginning of the review which gives you the rundown of the course itself and also links to the Professor’s profile alongside the link which brings you to that course’s ASU course page. Additionally, each review also comes with a conclusion which is not too long and you can take it as a TL;DR part it you don’t have the time to read my story.

But, that is about it. The you can check out the reviews through the links below and just remember that your experience may vary because it really depends on what you make of it. This is how life is, you can’t expect everything to be easy

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

IEE 380 with Professor Linda Chattin

I thought Calculus III was the last math paper that I will need to take but as I soon realized, ASU requires me to take a couple more math papers. Enter IEE 380, probability and statistics for engineering. I had no flipping ideas as to what I am about to learn in this course nor do I have much interest in the topic of statistics.

But after completing this course, I kinda like statistics.


At a glance

— ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY—

Continue reading “IEE 380 with Professor Linda Chattin”

CSE 120 with Professor Martin Reisslein

First thing that I should say is that I actually didn’t choose this class myself, my advisor did it for me. There are actually quite a number of different professors teaching this class each semester. But I would recommend you to take it with Professor Resisslein if you can because his class is pretty fun in my opinion.

The first thing to know about Professor Reisslein’s 120 class is that he has this non-american accent. His german accent does sound a little out of place at first but you’ll get used to it as the semester progresses.


At a glance

— ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY—

Continue reading “CSE 120 with Professor Martin Reisslein”

HST 109 with Professor Jonathan Barth

This is one of the two general education subjects that I took to fulfil the requirements that ASU has set in order to graduate. I don’t quite remember why or who influenced my decision to settle on this History course but I think it was because the timing was right.

If you don’t like History, this course might be just the thing to change your mind about history. Personally, I don’t like history in the past because it was always complicated and the tests are honestly hard as you had to remember all these dates, who did what with who and so on.

This is not your typical history teacher (p.s. Professor Barth doesn’t like people calling him ‘teacher’) as he designs the class to be more of a story telling experience than an actual theory class. He understands us the most mainly because he is a pretty young Professor thus he knows what we are going through.


At a glance

— ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY—

Continue reading “HST 109 with Professor Jonathan Barth”

PHI 101 with Professor Douglas Portmore

Just like the history class that I also took this semester, I completely had no clue as to why I landed on this Philosophy class. My final decision was probably also due to the timing. All I can remember is that Professor Portmore’s ratemyprofessor page said something about tests being easy and I was basically sold.

Similar to HST 109, I ended this philosophy class feeling a totally different person. I had my doubts as to what I would end up learning in this course and at the end of the semester, I still wasn’t so sure what I actually learnt. It’s hard to explain about it but I did learn the meaning of philosophy and some life lessons. But I am not so sure what am I going to use with this knowledge. I’ll try my best to explain this course as detailed as possible.

word of advices, Dr Portmore won’t be at ASU for the 2016-2017 academic year


At a glance

— ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY—

Continue reading “PHI 101 with Professor Douglas Portmore”