Freshman Year

Planning your first year at WPI may appear confusing and difficult, especially since there are so many different options. This section will help you make sense of these options, and identify the courses that are most important to complete freshman year. Always remember, though, that there is no single "perfect" academic program.

As mentioned earlier, before you can begin coursework in the ECE Department, you need a proper foundation in mathematics. You should begin by completing differential and integral calculus as soon as possible. If you have insufficient background in pre-calculus topics, you may begin with the semester-long MA 1020 course. If not, then you should begin with MA 1021. In either case, you should definitely follow with MA 1022. Students with a background in high school calculus (such as an AP course) may skip ahead to begin with MA 1022, MA 1023, or even MA 1024. Consult your advisor to find out which starting point is right for you. Incidentally, note that MA 1020/1021 and MA 1022 fulfill the differential and integral calculus part of the "Mathematics and Basic Science" distribution requirement.

The next step in planning your first year is to address the science requirement. The physics courses most directly relevant to ECE are PH 1120 or PH 1121 (which deal with electricity and magnetism) and PH 1140 (which deals with oscillations and waves). When choosing physics classes, be sure to pay attention to any recommended background such as calculus. You may also consider taking a chemistry or biology course in your first year. We encourage students to investigate further any mathematics or science courses that they find interesting; as always, consult your academic advisor for help.

For many students—in particular those with little experience in programming—first year is the best time to address the computer science requirements of the ECE major. For students with a moderate background in computers, either CS 1101 or CS 1102 provides a suitable introduction to programming concepts. You may then continue on to more advanced computer science courses.  The course CS 2301 is highly recommended for ECE students.

If you have planned properly, you should be ready to begin coursework in ECE by the spring semester of your freshman year. The first course for all students should be ECE 2010, usually followed by ECE 2029. A majority of ECE students begin their major coursework with ECE 2010 in C-term of their first year, followed by ECE 2029 in D-term. If you feel that you are not ready to take ECE 2010 by C-term, you can wait until A-term of your sophomore year. Whenever you begin with your major coursework, be sure to complete the recommended background for ECE 2799 in time to take it in your sophomore or junior year.

In addition to all of your major coursework and its related background, do not forget that, at some point, you will need to complete the Humanities & Arts Requirement! You may want to schedule some HUA-related coursework for your first year, especially if you want to complete the requirement in your sophomore year. Also, as social science courses, such as economics, are typically helpful for the IQP, you may want to take those courses as soon as possible (or at least at some point before your junior year). Finally, do not forget the physical education requirement.

In choosing your courses for your first year, keep in mind that the WPI degree requirements call for three "free elective" courses; if you pass all of your classes at WPI, you will end up with a total of six courses which you can choose with no restrictions whatsoever. You will have even more unrestricted course selections available if you enter WPI with advanced placement (AP) course credits. This flexibility can be used for a variety of purposes, such as pursuing another major or minor, delving deeper into your Humanities & Arts area, honing your skills within your major beyond the minimum courses required, or even just taking a few extra courses that interest you. In other words, do not be afraid early on to take a course simply because it may not be "worth credit" toward your degree. The first year is a great time to explore the wide array of topics a WPI education has to offer.

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