Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Real 'Grad' Course

This semester was certainly the systems semester, with both my official courses being from there. While CEE 417 was more from a planning perspective, CEE 515: Traffic Flow Theory was perfectly an engineering course. And not just that - it was a grad-level course in every sense. That's not to say that CEE 512 was any less - it was as hard as it gets in CEE - but qualitatively, this course was different.

CEE 515 gave me my first (first two, in fact) take-home exam, both getting about 24 hours apiece. They were pretty challenging and required 10 hours each to solve, complete with looking for references online and writing programs on MATLAB. Incidentally, MATLAB has become my preferred choice of managing data and I'm set to change my research to migrate from Excel to MATLAB.

The term paper in this course was probably the most eye-opening of all for two reasons. One, the topic (Cellular Automata and Cell Transmission Models in Traffic Flow) was quite challenging and interesting and I managed to clearly see the power that modern computing has brought to this field. It is no secret that I mostly hold the modern lot of computer scientists in contempt and don't believe people locked up doing data analysis in some office in California or Bangalore are doing anything worthwhile. But the basic premise of CS has helped every other field on human understanding and that is truly miraculous. Two, the presentations helped me learn quite a lot in a very short period of time.

The biggest issue with the course was the excessive focus on Continuum Flow. I think the abbreviation LWR has been welded into my head now! This course could be renamed Continuum Flow Theory - a majority of questions in the final and a majority of teaching time was devoted to this one topic and I did not like that. Nonetheless, I did learn a lot and added VISSIM to my resume: a good innings overall. 

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