The Guide for a 10P – And Everyone Else

Ten Greatest Class Moments You Can Look Forward To

Well, here you are, after a harrowing high school experience and fighting tooth and nail with about 70 other students for your seat at BITS. I commend you for your achievement, but that is as far as it goes. From here on, whether for good or bad, nobody cares about your BITSAT score. You’re in here, and everyone is just as good as, if not better than you.

The greatest lie your parents, teachers or relatives have told you so far is this very familiar line: “It gets easier after school”. Even “Santa is not real” comes only a close second. Remember that warm feeling of liberation that lit up inside after your boards? Anyway, these four years will be the toughest time you’ll have, academically. College is great fun outside of the classroom, but when it comes to tests, the atmosphere is fiercely competitive and getting that ‘A’ is not all that easy.

Amidst the breakneck competition, a few of us have learnt to savour a few moments in the middle to pursue learning for its own sake.  Learning for the sake of learning has its own rewards: for one thing, you get to appreciate the subject, and for another thing great scores and impressive grades naturally follow. Also, and practically speaking, if you manage to get a genuine appreciation for subjects you don’t even have to rip your hair out on the day before the exam like the other DotA fiends who played hooky and are now desperately running through slides at speeds faster than the human eye can comprehend. Based on my experiences, here are ten things you could look forward to if you want to attend classes in your first year:

  1. Dr M S Radhakrishnan. Absolutely brilliant, surprisingly funny, and tirelessly efficient, MSR has been “in the business” for longer than most of us can even imagine. This man, with white hair and a sparkle in his eyes, taught in Pilani campus earlier, and our campus director coaxed him out of retirement to come and help us out in the formative years of our campus. His sheer experience ensures that you end up getting examples that will stay in your mind long after your exams end. His math classes are sprinkled with anecdotes, laughter and three or four random tamil words per class that no one understands. Men have tried and men have failed, and this campus is yet to find a Probability and Statistics question that MSR can’t solve.
  2. General Biology. The existence of a course in Biology has baffled many. That is, until the first class. Staunchly pledging that there will be no foolish picture-drawing and rote-learning in the course, Gen-Bio is a course that covers the basics of most of the Biology that you’ll encounter in life. The course starts off with cell structure, goes through evolution to end up with the human body systems (see what I did there?) and pulls off the whole structure so effortlessly that you’ll hardly believe you’re studying a subject you probably hated in your tenth grade. Watch out for the surprise tests, though: 8 AM tutorials are terribly hard to wake up for, but if you do end up in the classes, the tests are usually easy and are nice ways for you to edge ahead of the competition effortlessly.
  3. Biology laboratory. With a set of experiments that include blood typing, BP testing, DNA extraction and spectroscopic analysis, you’d be surprised how much you can do with just a rudimentary knowledge of lab techniques. A course that is generous in its A’s and A minuses, it has a surprisingly high reward rate for small amounts of effort.
  4. Carpentry in Workshop. A fascinating course as a whole, Workshop Practice aims to get you familiar with methods of automatic and manual production and fabrication. While all the jobs are interesting, with especially helpful workshop instructors carpentry definitely steals the cake, with you creating a finished product like a small table (my senior batch) or a stool (my batch and my juniors) from mere blocks of wood. The sense of accomplishment you feel is unbeatable, and it is definitely worth the walk to the central workshop. I can’t describe to you the irrational pride I felt when I was finished with my (lopsided) stool.
  5. Normal modes in Mechanics, Oscillations and Waves. Probably the most high-funda course you will do in your first year, the Physics F111 course is merciless to slackers. With that being said, though, when the course gets to oscillations, it’s a pure pleasure to watch the physics unfold in front of you, with results that would probably astound you if you didn’t know too much physics before this. I personally was left open-mouthed by the sheer mathematical beauty of the way the transitional period gives rise to the steady state normal modes of connected oscillating bodies. I was also left astounded by the D that I received in my grade sheet, but then, that’s another story.
  6. Bayesian probability. The subtle difference between “a priori” and “a posteriori” being explained by an accomplished math professor is a pleasure to watch. Try to suppress your giggles at balls being taken out of urns, and you’ll realize that probability means more than you thought it meant, and you’ll see a powerful mathematical tool reveal itself in full glory to you. The ProbStat course is full of little subtleties, and a short list would be bayesian probability, correlation, the method of maximum likelihood estimators, and p-value significance testing. If you’re sincere with your preparation, this course will get you a well-deserved A even if you don’t like calculus too much.
  7. Recursive functions. The cornerstone of a healthy program, recursive functions are an algorithmic nightmare and tough concepts to master. But if you are able to understand how they work, and you’re able to trace a variable that’s passed by reference, through various recursive calls, you have mastered most of what computer scientists do. Programming is a beautiful concept, and giving precise, ordered instructions to a computer with appropriate control shifts, resulting in them making your life simpler for you is something mankind still struggles with. Yet again, the irrational and inexplicable pride that you’ll get when your code compiles without errors and doesn’t raise a “Segmentation fault. Core dumped” is something that can only be felt.
  8. Development of surfaces in Engineering Graphics. It will take you a long time to master AutoCAD. It will take you a longer time to master the concept of engineering drawings. Your mid-semester test will invariably disappoint you. But the greatest moment in the course comes slightly after the mid-sem test; when you grasp the sheer awesomeness of mentally unwrapping a solid and mapping out how the shape drilled into it manifests itself on its surface. A little bit of hard work in grasping the rather abstract concept of mentally imagining what goes on within something whose reality you’ve always taken for granted, will again get you an easy A. Personally, I’ll always relish the “but… HOW?” moments in the beginning of the course.
  9. Digital Logic. As a course that is widely noted for its notoriety, Electrical Sciences has resulted been the ruin of most potential 10-pointers. The course is unforgivingly tough to study for, and it is nigh impossible to wake up for the tutorials on a cold January morning; but combinatorial digital logic is the easiest part of the course. Learning how to make a K-map and the whole concept of digital logic, variables as bits, the “don’t care” variable state, are all fundamental to the development of digital systems and are also coincidentally the easiest bits (no pun intended) of the course. Easy marks, a very useful concept, and the simplest math you’ll ever do – what else could you possibly ask for?
  10. Tracing function graphs. In your second week of Math F111, you’ll be doing rudimentary calculus, and you’ll probably realize why mathematicians are so bad at romance – roses mean something else entirely to them! In this course, you will learn to look at things in a completely different perspective from the way you’ve been perceiving 2D and 3D coordinate geometry. You’ll realize that shifting from rectangular to polar coordinates results in nifty workarounds for many seemingly unsolvable problems. The true beauty and complexity of math lies in the fact that a little shift of perspective can result a problem worthy of the sphinx ending up being child’s play.

Arvind Badri


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