It’s been more than two months since the end of my latest academic semester. The winter term was my fourth term as a graduate student, and it was a pretty tough term with two out of three courses being quite challenging. I managed to survive though, and here are some thoughts on the courses.
Like Adaptive Control that I took in the winter of 2011, Optimal Control is another one of those advanced and challenging control theory courses that I feel that I didn’t have quite the enough background knowledge to take. Optimal control is control strategy to minimize a certain performance index (such as energy expended), and it is a math-heavy course involving considerable amount of calculus and Taylor’s Series expansion. The theories seem pretty easy and straight-forward for the professor, but I think most of the time had no idea what he was talking about most of the time. A couple of people I knew dropped the course withing the first two weeks due to the difficulty, but I stuck around. On the plus side, since most of the class didn’t understand the material, the professor ended up solving most of the homework and exam questions in class. The professor also marked easy on the exams and I ended up with a pretty good grade, but I’m not sure I want to take another course where I feel confused more than 75% of the time and spend hours struggling (and making no progress) on the homework assignments.
Graduate Level Power Electronics
The second challenging course is a graduate power electronics course on various types of more advanced DC-DC converter topologies. The course material was certainly not easy, but it was little easier to understand than optimal control. The most challenging part was the lab project where we had to build a converter. Not being a power-electronics guy, I’m not familiar with the intricacies of building and testing an actual power converter, and other than the materials and the schematics we had to figure out everything by ourselves. Working on the project was probably the first time I’ve stayed in school at night . Fortunately, a guy in my group did know what he was doing and we did okay for the project. The final exam for the course was probably the toughest final I had in recent memory, but I have a feeling most people didn’t do well so the grades were probably curved.
Advanced Power Systems
This was the easy course for the term, which was a good thing since three tough graduate courses in one semester would be a little overkill. This course touched upon various aspects in power systems, from high voltage DC to wind turbines to certain advanced system modeling methods. There was some homework, a small project and a report, but all were pretty straight forward and there were no exams. Learned some interesting and useful information, and it was an easy three credits.