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  • Posted a year ago

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The TA experience

Getting to be on the other side of the class.

By Rahul Prabala

This past fall, I was given the opportunity to be the head TA for EE108: Intro to Digital Systems. What I didn’t know, was that it would quickly become one of the most rewarding experiences of my Stanford career! EE108 was the reason that I chose engineering as a major, and the main reason that I fell in love with Electrical Engineering, and I was thrilled to be able to share my experiences with the “next generation” of Electrical Engineers.

EE108 is perhaps known for its rather difficult labs, and its usage of Verilog--a Hardware Description Language, or HDL. Instead of more conventional languages, like C or Java, statements in Verilog are actually executing all at the same time! This paradigm is often a difficult switch to manage, but by the end of the class, as Professor Mitra is fond of saying, every student is a better designer than most industry professionals!

All that aside, perhaps the most interesting part of the whole experience was getting to be on the “other side” of a class, which happens to have an entirely different set of challenges from taking the course. While I won’t give away all of my secrets, there’s no doubt that running a class is just as much work as taking it, if not more! From revising midterms to scripting out lectures, Professors and TAs have most of their work cut out for them. Since we are coming up on midterm season, one rule that the EE department has is that the teaching staff must be able to take an exam in at least a quarter of the time, if not less. For an 80 minute midterm, that boils down to 20 minutes!

Being a part of the development of the labs and materials for the course and being able to actually present a lecture was perhaps my favorite part of the whole experience. It is often said that in order to truly know something, one has to be able to explain it to someone else. After presenting and helping students out in office hours, I can say without a doubt that I know the course material so much better than when I took the class 2 years ago!

My advice to anyone reading this--seek out these positions as much as possible. You absolutely won’t regret it!

In collaboration with Tau Beta Pi

Tau Beta Pi is the only honor society representing the entire engineering profession across the nation. Their chapter at Stanford strives to promote academic excellence, leadership, and continued service to the larger engineering community. They host events and organize initiatives including peer mentoring, K-12 outreach, alumni panels, CEO dinners, project fairs and more. For more info, check out tbp.stanford.edu.

Rahul Prabala

Rahul Prabala ('16) studied Electrical Engineering as an undergrad. Outside of the lab you would have found him writing satire for the Stanford Flipside as well as starring in an episode of the Stanford Sitcom Project. He loves teaching, and sharing his love of Digital Systems with others.

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