FRESHMAN FOCUS: Brad Petchauer ‘learns by doing’ in Cal Poly’s engineering program while living in a motel-like dorm

(Photo used by permission of Brad Petchauer)
Brad Petchauer, ’16, (left) with his two roommates in his dorm.

Find out what the members of the class of 2016 are up to in their first year of college. A college freshman is featured in the Freshman Focus every week.

Brad Petchauer, ’16, is at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Petchauer plans to major in electrical engineering.

Q: What classes are you taking?

A: I’m taking an electrical engineering lecture that’s only once a week as well as an accompanying lab that is three hours once a week. I have Calculus III and Physics 141 as well as Communication Studies 101, which is public speaking.

Q: How big are your classes?

A: All my classes are different sizes; my lecture, with about 100 people, is the biggest, and my smallest class is the lab with around 20.

Q: Do you like the size of your classes?

A: Class sizes haven’t been a problem so far. All my professors have a lot of office hours each week for questions, and most are available right after class for a bit if you have any questions that didn’t get answered in class.

Q: What’s your favorite?

A: So far it’s definitely my electrical engineering lab. Our first day we did some basic circuitry and programming with an Arduino (a chip used for building digital devices and interactive objects).

Q: What is your least favorite?

A: Physics 141, not because it’s challenging, but because I took the class in high school (the mechanics portion of AP Physics C). I only got a 3 on that section of the AP, so I have to retake it now. It’s just a bit boring.

Q: Have you participated in any traditions?

A: One tradition at Cal Poly is Week of Welcome (WOW). All incoming freshmen and transfers are endearingly called “WOWIES”, and passing cars during that first orientation week shout “WOWIES!” out the window when they pass.

Q: What is the overall attitude of the student body?

A: It all depends on the dorms you choose. The Towers near the edge of campus, that are close to off-campus student houses, tend to party often. The other dorms on campus, however, are much more focused on academics.

Q: What’s your dorm like?

A: My dorm, North Mountain, is basically set up like a motel with our doors facing the outside. We share a large bathroom with three other rooms, or 12 people total since there are three to a room.

Q: How are your roommates?

A: They can both juggle and I can’t, so I feel pretty left out. But really we’re all studying to be different types of engineers and share plenty of the same interests.

Q: How do you get around the campus?

A: Walking is pretty easy, but plenty of people bike around campus even though it’s on a huge hill.

Q: Has Cal Poly lived up to your expectations?

A: Exceeded. I was excited to go to college and excited about Cal Poly, but since it wasn’t my original first choice, in my head I was basically looking for excuses to not like it. I really haven’t found any.

Q: What’s the best thing about college so far?

A: Definitely having more time. Yes, the work is more challenging, but oftentimes if I dedicate time to studying and am efficient with my time, I usually have a few more hours of down time than I did in high school.

Q: What makes Cal Poly unique?

A: They focus on a “learn by doing” approach, which is why I have a majorly specific lab my first quarter, and the reason my professor wants me to get certified to work in the machine shops on campus.

Q: Have you made any freshman mistakes?

A: No, I haven’t messed up yet. My first class was a Calculus III class at 8 a.m. on a Thursday. I got there pretty early and found a seat, and people started filing in. Eventually all 30 seats were filled, and there were around five people standing. Ten minutes into class, a few people left because they realized they were in the wrong class.

Q: Any advice for the class of 2017?

A: When you finally accept a college, check the rules for AP (Advanced Placement) credit acceptance, and definitely try to get credit for every AP you take.

By Spencer Scott

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