course
Intro to Electrical Engineering

Apr 2021

The class has a prereq of math 1101, but honestly I think taking a class on electricity and magnetism like physic 1402, beforehand will definitely help. Professor has a sweet personality but teaches some concepts as though we know them, and consistently go on tangents. The class is also a ton of work, it 3.5 points so I was expected an okay workload but found the work being time consuming. There were weekly 3 hour labs due and ps sets due every week along with 3 quizzes thats worth 60% of your grade. (Although he takes the highest two or you can take the optional final). He also doesn't really curve. But you should pass with as long as you do all the work.

Apr 2021

Seriously unreasonably difficult and time-consuming. Each week, we had a three-hour lab session (which was always 1-2 hours shy of actually finishing the week's lab), a homework assignment (which would take upwards of five hours), two lectures, and "optional" readings from the textbook. Mind you, this was always true, even during exam weeks, of which there were three (not including an optional final exam). For the first exam (which was called a "quiz" even though each exam was worth 20% of our grade, which is absolutely insane considering the amount of time we had to spend doing online lab assignments), we still had class the day of the exam (a Wednesday), so we had an hour and a half lecture on top of the hour and a half exam. We never had a week off from labs or homework, even during exam weeks. The exams were ridiculous, and I was unable to finish either of the two timed ones. Since they were on canvas, and were graded by canvas, they were made even worse, since there was no room for error (unless you submitted optional work from your exam). Sadly, the lectures were not a redeemable feature of the class, because although Professor Vallancourt is a very nice and knowledgeable guy, his lectures were super difficult to follow (and his notes were practically illegible). Seriously, he would move at lightning speed through content without usually so much as a topic sentence for what we were learning, which meant trying to just follow his messy circuit diagrams without much (or any) context. I genuinely couldn't even ask many questions because I didn't know where I would even start to ask. He would also consistently run overtime, and was pretty much non-responsive when it came to emails or other messages. I really wanted to like this class, but the online labs (which I learned absolutely nothing from), the messy lectures, and the frustrating amounts of work with no payoff was horrible. Another aggravating aspect was that he would always act nonchalant about grading in class (as in, he didn't notify us until the weekend before our first exam that we had it, and he would basically push off questions about exam formats or grading in class), but then still chose to make them 60% of the final grade, with no curve on them (the average for the first and second were both in the high-60's or low-70's). I spent so many hours struggling through work for this class, and got absolutely nothing to show for it. Also, once again, this is a 3.5 credit class, so I honestly don't know why this amount of work is thought to be acceptable. I wish I could tell everyone not to take it, but unfortunately, this course is a requirement for a lot of SEAS majors and there's only one section, which pretty much means you're powerless to change anything about it.

Dec 2016

I have never done one of these Culpa reviews but I thought it was important to come on here and warn anyone considering this class. It has been my worst academic experience ever. I am an older student and I have struggled in classes before. I usually accept those struggles for what they are. But this was some other level stuff. His teaching approach is HORRIBLE. He does nothing to help non-engineering majors adjust to this class. I took it because I had an interest in digital information theory but this is just a flat out electrical engineering class. The class size fell by half and he had to cancel the homeworks and one quiz because everyone was struggling and complaining so much. This is not a bitter, mediocre student complaining. This is the reality of the situation. In quiz #2, the two long questions were worth the same 1 point as the 6 multiple choice questions. Simple things like that put a long term mark on one's transcript because of the teacher's poor judgment. And that was my experience this entire class, a teacher's poor judgment. DO. NOT. TAKE. THIS. CLASS.

May 2016

Vallancourt is one of the worst professors ever. I don´t know why people keep saying he is amazing. He is not amazing at all. All he does in class is talk about his cat, his life, or his past jobs. I think I only missed about 1 class, and the next class I didnt even know what he was talking about. It gets absurdly annoying that he doesnt use the book, so you cant really catch up because he doesnt even post notes online either. This is a very ineffective way of teaching. It makes me resent going to class. The quizzes were much harded than homework or class material. You usually find questions in the quizzes about material that was not taught during class. Do not take this course with Vallancourt if you easily dose off at a boring professor, because HE IS BORING. He can make jokes once in a while, but not everyone understands the jokes. Its not meant for everyone. Most of the time you would find about 5 people sleeping. Considering this class was at 4pm is a big concern. People shouldnt be dozing off at 4pm. I really did not enjoy my time during this class, and the labs are long and require much effort. They ran during the night, so you would be exhausted just getting there. Homeworks are fair. Quizzes get more difficult over time so try to do well on the first ones. Final was bomb.

Jan 2014

LECTURE: Professor Vallancourt always rocks lecture. He's always eager to answer questions and makes the subject matter pretty clear. However, I find it quite easy to get lost in lecture fast so make sure you get everything you go as there is a lot of material to cover in a short amount of time. EXAMS: They are dubbed quizzes and are supposedly 10% of your grade each. There are three and the worst is dropped. I find the quizzes are harder than the material covered in lecture and on par with the hard problems of the problem sets. Also grading is harsh with little to no partial credit so be careful. LAB: 3 hour lab sessions once a week. The labs are boring and long and often not well explained by the lab manual. The lab also feels as though we could use 5 more TA's as everyone is asking questions at once. If you can, try to switch into a lab section with less students so you can ask a lot of questions instead of sitting there looking at your thumbs. The lab reports are graded graciously (All lab grades add up to 20% of your grade) There is a final lab project which is worth 10% of your grade. HOMEWORK: There is a pset assigned every week. It can take a significant amount of time so plan wisely. Difficulty ranges from easy to very hard. Homework is 10% of your grade. FINAL: The final is cumulative and can get difficult. Study hard and study well. Multiple choice is tricky. It's worth 30% CURVE: At the end, Prof. Vallancourt takes into account the various scenarios and assigns you a grade the highest of the scenarios. For instance, if you did poorly on your final, he counts it a little less and counts something like the quizzes a little more.

Jan 2014

This is a superb course. Vallancourt has a talent with sparking people's interest in EE. Prior to this class, I had never fully understood how to construct a circuit on a breadboard, and I didn't have any idea what an op-amp actually was. This class changed has made me more competent in the language used by many computer engineers and electrical engineers alike. Material-wise, the course covers much of the same material covered in Intro to Electricity & Magnetism. However, it focuses on the practical applications of these concepts, and also introduces new ideas to the material from intro E&M. Non E&M concepts covered include the superposition principle, node analysis, op-amps, transformers, transfer functions, Boolean logic circuits, diodes, and transistors. Included with the class is the weekly 3-hour lab session. Each lab involves demonstrating or exploring concepts from lecture. You get used to building circuits on a breadboard very quickly, even if you have no prior experience. Labs range from taking current measurements that correspond to changes in voltage across a resistor to picking up an AC radio frequency and listening to it through a speaker. You complete labs and submit one lab report per week with your partner. The lab TAs are very helpful during labs and respond to email quickly. Labs are really interesting and useful because you demonstrate physically the theoretical concepts discussed in lecture. I would take this course again in a femtosecond.

May 2013

Take this class! This is one of my best classes at Columbia so far. Vallancourt is an amazing professor who will make you love EE. He isn't a researcher, only a lecturer, so clearly he does his job because he loves teaching and not because Columbia's forcing him to. He has over 15 years of industry experience and tells us about the real world applications of everything he teaches in class in his humorous anecdotes. He's also great with grades. He has multiple grading schemes to maximize your final grade. He provides plenty of previous sample quizzes so you can prepare well for his tests. There are three quizzes instead of a midterm, which count for 10% each, so it's less stress. My only gripe about this class was that the labs were for the most part boring and long. Some of the experiments Apart from the actual class, you have to spend 3 hours in the lab and spend about an hour writing a lab report every week. Make sure to get into a group with team mates of equal caliber so you can split the work. Lazy team mates who don't do any work make the labs time consuming. The final project was really fun though. If you're creative, you'll use this opportunity to make some really cool stuff. This is hands down the best pre-professional course, so take it if you can. You will learn a lot and enjoy it.

Jan 2013

Vallancourt is definitely a very personable and friendly professor. He's easy to understand and you can tell that he loves to teach, making jokes he must have done for years with the same enthusiasm. Additionally, if you have any questions, he doesn't mind answering them. He even moves around exams and quizzes if it's inconvenient for other students. I would encourage buying the book, but it can be very difficult to understand at times. He writes most of his notes on the blackboard and doesn't put them online, so going to class is encouraged. I believe the labs were the most difficult part of this class because we had to build several types of circuits which weren't explained very well in the lab manual. However, the TAs are very helpful if you just ask them. The lab reports are also not graded harshly.

Jul 2011

Vallancourt gives fantastic demonstrations, such as encoding the audio signal from a student's ipod on a laser beam, shooting it across the room, reading it with a photoresistor, and using it to drive a speaker. He'll also dunk integrated circuits in a water bath and watch their transfer characteristics on an O-scope. He's super friendly and encourages questions at office hours, and he'll let you ask him things even if it's not "official" office hours. I can't say much about his board skills because I never really went to class. He speaks native English and gives reasonable practice quizzes/tests. The homework is out of the book and is pretty fair. The lab is a bit time consuming but is graded very, very softly, and if you get the dinnertime lab, you're allowed to bring food.

Jan 2011

Vallancourt is a a phenomenal professor, easily the best I've had so far at Columbia. His teaching style, and pro-student attitude make him popular among all his students. The material is interesting and relevant, but pay attention as it's easy to get lost if you miss a lecture or two. The workload isn't difficult, although there is a good bit of it. Homework assignments are manageable and to the point. There is a 3 hour lab session every week, but you can easily finish in half that time. The quizzes get harder as time goes on, but he does drop the lowest grade. I would recommend Professor Vallancourt to any engineer, even if you're not interested in the major, fulfill your pre-professional requirement with Intro to EE.

Dec 2008

Very good class and teacher. Professor Vallancourt definitely knew his stuff when it came to EE, but he made it simple for the class to understand the basics. At first the material was really easy, covering stuff like resistors which most people had already done in physics. But beware, only the first two weeks are really easy; new material will eventually come and it is probably new to most students. People didn't go to class after those first couple of weeks and suffered as a result on the first quiz. Material is fine if you go to class, just phasors can be a kinda tough. I found out there was a lab after I joined the class and sometimes it felt like a separate class cause it was 3 hrs. long and had its own homework through lab reports, so keep that in mind. Grading seemed to be very fair; Vallancourt said he had like 4 different schemes/curve methods, where he would inflate either your quizzes, or final, or whatever you did best in. Final material felt maybe a little rushed. And the last week ended up being so much work for some reason, the final lab, its report, a take-home quiz, and the previous lab report. Overall, easy class, but it had its work. In regards to the textbook used, Vallancourt gives homework from the book but gives numbers from all the editions, so get the cheapest edition you can find.

Dec 2006

Best. Professor. Ever. Made the material interesting, valued student participation, was very funny, always helpful in lab sections and the like. Gave a great introduction to what EE was all about. I cannot find a single bad thing to say about his teaching. Anyways, I recommend taking this class because all engineers have to take one pre-professional class anyways, plus this class works its way into the requirements of other fields of engineering too. (BME has this as a req, as does MechE I think).

Dec 2006

Professor Vallancourt is perhaps the best professor I have had at Columbia. Firstly, he really cares about teaching and his students. As a professor who is here to teach--not to use the university's name for his own research interests--he is devoted to not only lecturing, but having his students actually understand the material. Moreover, Professor Vallancourt brings real world ndustry experience with him, something that is valuable and refreshing in Columbia's almost entirely academic environment. He is very friendly, understanding, and easy to approach. He never belittles students or leaves a question unanswered. Moreover, since students' experience with electrical engineering is widely varied, Professor Vallancourt lectures at an effective pace, and maintains a healthy balance between more difficult material and easier, introductory material. Most of all, the class is actually interesting. In addition to a number of example problems, Professor Vallancourt uses real world examples and ties the coursewell to practical applications very well. The tests were very fair, with a good mix of easier and more challenging questions. The homework problem sets were very manageable as were the attached labs (some of which were actually fun). Surprisingly, the lab reports were very painless, and all of the assignments reinforced the lectures very well. Overall this was a good choice for a pre-professional course with an outstanding professor.

Dec 2006

Vallancourt is awesome. He is extremely responsive to the students. His lectures are clear and enjoyable. At times he moves a bit too quickly and has an annoying habit of simply erasing a small piece of the circuit design on the board to replace it with something else to demonstrate a particular concept, not realizing that the students need a second to re-draw the entire circuit. Also, the textbook is a somewhat awful, but Vallencourt makes up for this. Aside from this, this class was very enjoyable.

May 2006

Easily one of the most enjoyable classes so far in my experience at Columbia. David is an incredible instructor and amiable guy in a multitude of ways. As you might read in the other review(s), he has a LOT of experience in his field, and it definitely shows. He can answer practically any question thrown at him that is in any way related to electrical engineering, whether it's computers, iPODs, or even medicine. He explains things very clearly, and has an uncanny knack for engaging with the class, using his wit and humor to keep everyone interested. He often goes off on tangents that seem almost irrelevant (he calculated the time it would take the whole to say each bit of an iPOD hard drive once, and that's just one of many @_@) but it only ADDS to how incredibly funny and interesting the class is. He responds very quickly to emails, and tries his best to stay on very good terms with his students; he's highly flexible with his schedule, and he shows compassion for students who might be struggling and is always willing to help them out. I would definitely recommend this class to anyone, even if you aren't necessarily majoring in something E.E.-oriented. You'll learn ALOT about the way practically anything electronic works just through the fundamentals taught in this course. Bear in mind that I'm writing this review two days before the final for the class (I should be cramming, shouldn't I?). I don't have a grade yet, and even if I were to score an excellent grade on the final, my grade wouldn't be particularly impressive (B-B+?). Just to show that there's no grade bias here. He really is an amazing guy. I might have forgotten to mention some things. I'm sure someone else will get to it in another review; I doubt anyone *truly* dislikes David.

Jan 2006

Prof. Vallancourt is intelligent and funny (true, his engineer jokes are not lame at all!) with over 20 years of experience in Electrical Engineering field, as a professor at Columbia and an engineer for HP. I had him for Intro to EE (E1201) last semester, and this semester I am taking his E3331. In E1201 he starts off slowly, going over stuff such as voltage, current, ohmÂ’s law. If you did AP Physics E & M you donÂ’t have to go to the first 5 lectures. But if you havenÂ’t, donÂ’t worry, guy explains stuff in detail and answers your questions crystal clearly. Later in the class, stuff gets a little complicated, but if you show up and pay attention every time there should be no problem. Or you can always go to the office hour, which really helps. He also feels for his students. For example he provides us with 3 different lab sessions and 2 recitation sections trying to fit everyoneÂ’s schedule. And even if you still canÂ’t make it to the recitation, you can always send him emails about whatever questions you have, to which he replies by noon on the second day. Also on the quiz if you misunderstood a problem and did the problem as you understood it, heÂ’ll try look at the problem your way and see if you get it right. Therefore I still got full credit on the 2 problems I misunderstood in a quiz.

Dec 2005

Prof. Vallancourt not only knows his stuff (with many years of experience in the field, not just teaching), but he also has a very friendly and personal manner of presenting the material (incidentally, even his more "technical" jokes are actually funny). He is able to supplement (and sometimes even supersede) material from the textbook with industry "tricks" and real-life examples, which makes going to class fun and rewarding. Finally, Prof. Vallancourt is always willing to take the extra step when it comes to giving his students additional help: he is very approachable not only in office hours, but he will also go out of his way to help at other times if necessary; additionally, he always makes sure to schedule any supplementary events (i.e. review sessions or lab time) in such a way that EVERYONE can attend, even if that means that he ends up having to lead a lot more sessions than are typically held. Overall, I get the feeling that Vallancourt genuinely cares about his students learning the material, and is willing to go out of his way to make sure that it happens.

May 2004

He's not a very good teacher, although he does try hard. The notes that he gives in class are somewhat useful, although the book gives about the same type of examples and a decent explanation. Unfortunately, he's really boring and there's little incentive to pay attention in class. The exams are much much harder than the practice tests and the hw. If you go to office hours you can usually get great help and in depth explanation, but lectures can pretty much be skipped if you're willing to study from the book.

May 2004

GENERAL COMMENTS I've really been impressed by this class. It's a very well taught course. The lectures are clear (and funny at times) and well presented. The course is well organized and well run overall. It's really been excellent. Although this is a subtle point, I've been impressed with the pedagogical tone of both the instructor (Glenn Cowan) and the TAs. It's a little hard to get at, but for instance it made an impression on me at one point when the grading process for the exams was being discussed, and the emphasis in grading was on understanding the concepts, and making minor math errors was not penalized. I may not be explaining this well, but what this represents to me is a sincere desire to *assist* the students in learning and help us along, as opposed to just evaluating our performance. Maybe my example does not seem to really illustrate this clearly at all, but anyway my point is that the impression that I have had as a student is of a very supportive learning environment, and this impression has come across in multiple interactions with the TAs and instructor. The instructor has been quite responsive to feedback & suggestions from students. Also, he has been careful about preventing cheating on exams, which I think is important for fairness. He and the TAÂ’s have been very professional about how they have handled themselves throughout the course. In particular the instructor has struck a nice balance of being very serious about the running of the course and at the same time made the course material enjoyable and fairly entertaining. I think itÂ’s good that the course uses a textbook that isnÂ’t always coming out in new editions. It makes it possible to save money by buying a used copy. ABOUT THE TA'S I've been quite impressed by all the TAs uniformly for this class. They have been very helpful in the labs; and have also expressed an *attitude* of wanting to be helpful, that this is what they want to do. I'm speaking about both the grad TAs and the undergrad TAs. I've also had some electrical engineering questions outside of the lab material, and in particular Nebojsa went out of his way to find information about this for me. In particular, both Nebojsa and Brett have been very available and forthcoming with help in the labs. Jerry and sometimes Scott have also worked at my lab session, and have been quite good. Ali was not the TA for my lab, so I can't comment about him. About the labs: The equipment and materials that we have needed have always been available and in good condition. I think this may be a sign that there is plentiful funding for equipment, but also I think that whoever has been in charge of organizing the equipment and supplies has done a really good job. The additional information on the whiteboard during the labs has been helpful and sufficient.

May 2002

Professor Eleftheriadis is a very good teacher, but he tends to spend too much time teching the wrong subject. An expected lecture period will consist of fifteen minutes of EE, followed by forty-five minutes of basic algebra, such as solving a system of two equations by graphing.