Victor Szeto

The First Lecture

April 21, 2018 · 2 min read

It was September 9, 2013. Early morning thundershowers had cleared to a gorgeously sunny day by mid-morning, and by 11:20 AM — ten minutes prior the start time of the first university lecture ever for students of ECE 2018 8 Stream — MC 2065 was filled to absolute capacity with slightly nervous, slightly sweaty, first year engineering students.

With few people knowing what to expect, the prevailing nervous chatter noted that the professor was not actually there yet, even though class was about to start.

At 11:30 AM sharp, a man walked into the lecture hall, strode to the middle of the room, pointed at a student in the front row and asked in an accent that would later be revealed to be Lebanese,

“Do you have a phone?”

Unsure whether or not this was something that he could get in trouble for, the student slowly nodded.

“Does it have a timer?”

Another nod.

The rest of the lecture hall watched with rapt attention as the man pulled out a whiteboard marker from his pocket and instructed the student to measure the time it took for him the catch the marker after he threw it straight up in the air.

“2.431 seconds,” the student read off his phone, after a nearly-missed catch.

The man took a step back onto the raised dais at the front of the lecture hall, slowly observed the room, then addressed the entire class for the first time.

“Who can tell me,” he boomed, “How high in the air, relative to my hand, did I just throw that marker?”

A slight rustling of papers, but none of the students offered an answer.

The man uncapped the marker and wrote on the board in large letters:

y = 1/2 at^2 + vt

“Does anyone recognize this equation?”
 The entire room, all of which had invariably recieved “A”s in high school physics just months before, nodded.

“It takes half the time of the entire toss for the marker to reach the top of the arc. At the very top of the arc, the farthest point of the marker from my hand, there is no more velocity on the marker, and the only force acting on the marker is the force of gravity. Using this, we calculate with what velocity I originally threw the marker, and from there, we calculate the displacement at the top of the arc, which is the range, in meters, of my marker throwing ability.”

The man turned back to the board, quickly solving the physics problem, and from there launching directly into a lecture on kinematics and dynamics.

Fifty minutes later, the man dismissed the class. The students, dazed from their first lecture, quickly packed up. The nervous chatter resumed. As the volume level increased and students began to head towards the exits, the man’s voice once again boomed through the commotion:

“By the way, everybody, my name is Mansour,” he declared, introducing himself to the class for the first time.

“Welcome to ECE.”

Victor Szeto

Thoughts and opinions written by Victor Szeto, Seattle-based software engineer from Canada and computer engineering graduate from the University of Waterloo.

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