The most important gadget of an engineering student is his scientific calculator. If I remember it right, my first calculator in college was a simple programmable one. It survived Algebra, Trigonometry, Chemistry, Physics, Differential Calculus, and Integral Calculus. It broke down when I was in my 3rd year and I replaced it with a basic scientific calculator that survived Differential Equations, Statistics, Accounting, Production-Planning-Scheduling and Control, Methods Engineering, Thermodynamics, Engineering Mechanics, Strength of Materials, Operations Research 1, and Operations Research 2. I hope I did not miss anything!
Back in the day, I could lend anything from notebooks to books except my calculator. My calculator was the most precious thing inside my bag aside from my wallet. The problem with me was unlike most students, I needed to get familiar with something before I become good at using it. There was one instance when a classmate borrowed my calculator and forgot to return it after his class. Therefore, I was forced to borrow a calculator and nearly failed my quiz because it took me time to know the functions.
My most difficult Math subject was Differential Equations. (Hello, L’Hopital’s Rule!). Given how basic my scientific calculator was, it was a challenge solving these long and difficult equations. I had two classmates who had a high-end Casio programmable scientific calculator that could solve equations and show graphs. The first one was my seatmate named Winona and she was generous in lending me her calculator to confirm if my solution was correct. One time, Sir Nacino (our instructor) noticed her super-advanced calculator and called her attention that he does not allow that in class. The other one was a classmate and a neighbor named Jackie. Jackie and I used to do our Differential Equations homework at her house. The struggle for us was finding the correct solution because we already knew the answer since her calculator could compute for that. There was a time when we had to finish a 50-item assignment because he was on leave. Jackie and I started doing it on Saturday afternoon and finished it the following day.
Some instructors allowed us to write down the formulas on the index card while others obliged us to memorize them. Thus, for some cunning students, they took advantage of their calculator’s back portion where they could insert their “kodigo” or cheat sheet on its slot.
I am not sure if schools give suggestions now about the model and capability of a scientific calculator. If you have the means to buy one, do so. Investing in a good calculator would make your college life easier because, in the university, one is on his own. But my stand on this is to make sure that you know how to compute it manually. The calculator or computer would just serve as your guide to keep you on the right track.