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Pleas for help from clueless students?

Discussion in 'Embedded' started by Grant Edwards, Jun 26, 2006.

  1. I seem to get a steady trickle of pleas, requests, and demands
    for help from what appear to be utterly clueless Engineering
    students in India, Korea, and China. I don't get these sorts
    of requests from Europe, Japan, or America (north or south). I
    do occasionally get technical questions from European and
    American students working on projects: they're not the "I have
    no idea what to do -- send me step-by-step instructions for
    doing my project" sort of requests I get from various Asian
    countries. They're usually specific questions on a technical
    topic about which I've posted. The student was obviously
    googling for information on a topic and found a mailing list or
    Usenet thread in which I had participated. Those sorts of
    questions I try to answer.

    I keep reading about how IIT in Bombay is so competitive, and
    how the graduates go on to invent stuff and run companies all
    over the world. And yet, I regularly get e-mails like this

    I've never used the C16X family of parts, so I have no idea why
    this student chose me. I assume he just picked me at random
    from the posters to c.a.e.

    Are these e-mails legit, or are they just Phishing for e-mail
    addresses? The reply address and headers look OK.

    Do other people get requests like this?

    Do you reply to them?

    I generally just ignore them.
    Grant Edwards, Jun 26, 2006
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  2. Grant Edwards

    Tom Lucas Guest

    Nobody ever wants to know what I think :-(

    However, I have noticed quite a lot of posts of this type on this group,
    not just from students but from real people too. Is the embedded
    industry just taking off in China and India or is there already a
    thriving industry and the experienced engineers just don't use this

    Is there money to be made on the back of this?
    Tom Lucas, Jun 26, 2006
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  3. I have noticed this growing trend in usenet groups. It is really
    worrisome to think that, in the future, some of these guys may design
    a system on which my life may depend.
    Not on my personal email accounts, which I try to protect.
    Like in usenet. I would reply to a request from somebody that shows he
    did a bona fide effort to solve the problem on his own. I would ignore
    the rest.
    Roberto Waltman, Jun 26, 2006
  4. I've posted using my real e-mail address for at leat 10 years,
    so there's no doubt that anybody who wants to contact me can. :)
    That's pretty much what I do. I still have a hard time
    believing some of the e-mails (like the one above) are real
    Grant Edwards, Jun 26, 2006
  5. Grant Edwards

    Guest Guest

    Sounds very similar to many usenet posts (which almost exclusively
    originate from google groups). I doubt they are 'Phishing' for anything
    more than someone who is smart enough to solve the problem but dumb enough
    to do it for a complete stranger for free.
    No - your fault for having a real email address :)
    I wouldn't if I got them.
    On usenet I kill file them. I'm sorely tempted to kill file everything from
    google groups.

    The thing is these attempts to get some dummy to solve your problem for you
    are so common I imagine it must work sometimes. I've seen it work on

    I suspect they think everything on the internet is free and see usenet and
    personal email as just another access method to be treated with little more
    respect than a computer running a web search engine deserves.
    Guest, Jun 26, 2006
  6. I am also amazed to see such kind of mails from an IIT student.
    Generally students at IITs are not that clueless. May be this guy isn't
    reading much as he should. IITs are really good institutions.

    I am from India too but I generally prefer doing my homework first. I am
    a distance learner basically. And I turn to newsgroups only when I get
    stuck and google fails to give anything useful.
    This may be a ploy just to see that if you reply and If you do probably
    you are the best one to seek help in future.
    Ignoring isn't an option. If you think that the question is really
    legitimate, whats the harm in responding? Showing the way and warning
    that you are not supposed to somebody else's homework, would do. Ain't it?


    Himanshu Chauhan
    MCA (Final Year)
    I.G. National Open University
    Jaipur (India)

    Web: http://members.lycos.co.uk/hschauhan

    "Education is what remains after one
    has forgotten everything he learned
    in school." -- A. Einstein.
    Himanshu Chauhan, Jun 26, 2006
  7. Yup. Putting my real e-mail address in Usenet postings has its
    drawbacks. But, my spam filter is quite good, and there have
    been quite a few times when I've been very glad somebody was
    able to contact me.
    I suppose if they graduate without knowing how to do anything,
    they think they'll get soem other dummy to do their work for
    them as well. Or maybe they'll just go into management. ;)
    Grant Edwards, Jun 26, 2006
  8. Because they're asking via e-mail for the euivalent of a year
    or two's worth of training?
    Some of these students apparently have no idea how
    microprocessors work, no idea how to write even a trivial C
    program,and no idea how any sort of serial or network
    communications work. Yet they're trying to do a farily complex
    embedded systems project.

    They appear to be in so far over their heads that they're going
    to need a tutor sitting beside them day-in, day-out for weeks.
    I just don't have that kind of time or patience.

    When I was at University, there were _courses_ we took about
    stuff like that.
    Grant Edwards, Jun 26, 2006
  9. Grant Edwards

    Gary Peek Guest

    Try reading the forums at 8052.com !!!!!
    It's one clueless student after another.
    (And it drives one individual so crazy that you
    will find entertainment value in his responses.)

    Gary Peek
    Industrologic, Inc.
    Gary Peek, Jun 26, 2006
  10. As I said, its all about not reading as much as one is supposed to.
    Reading is an essential part of any learning. There are so many sites
    that have articles from newbie to intermediate level. Unfortunately (for
    may be fortunately) embedded system programming is not something one can
    teach. I think it all comes with experience.


    Himanshu Chauhan
    MCA (Final Year)
    I.G. National Open University
    Jaipur (India)

    Web: http://members.lycos.co.uk/hschauhan

    "Education is what remains after one
    has forgotten everything he learned
    in school." -- A. Einstein.
    Himanshu Chauhan, Jun 26, 2006
  11. There are the "I can't figure out my homework and I have a really
    bad hangover, can someone tell me what a computer is?" types of
    questions that no one answers seriously.

    But people do remember when they were in school, deadlines were
    approaching, it was nearly impossible to book lab time, the
    equipment didn't work the way the instructions said, etc.
    So usenet questions with a twinge of legitimacy will often
    invoke some answers. The answers often tend to be appropriate
    answers for the most part, leading the student towards the
    solution without spelling it out (though occasionally someone
    will just blurt out the answer and spoil the pedagogical

    I have noticed that over the years a trend towards more
    poorly worded requests. Not just from people with bad
    English skills, but more like they just can't be bothered
    to formulate a good question. The posts are tending to be
    blunter and less apologetic over time as well.
    Darin Johnson, Jun 26, 2006
  12. I think in some places, it's just very easy to stumble into
    coursework where one has no aptitude or interest.

    Once upon a time, it would be very unusual to find an ME
    student who had not taken apart engines in high school.
    Now that would not be so weird, but you get the idea.

    In Bangalore it seems to be very easy to stumble into
    electronics and computer engineering with no aptitude,
    interest, or experience. Sad. Let's hope they find
    another field.

    This may explain things at the margins, and not reflect
    upon what might be a large number of fits, rather than

    Bryan Hackney, Jun 26, 2006
  13. So its true that IIT is just an internet café with an attitude?

    Programming is not woodoo. If it can be learnt it can be taught. The
    problem is that there's so little academical interest in embedded
    Fredrik :Ostman, Jun 26, 2006
  14. Many developing countries have invested heavily in creating a large
    pool of engineers in the electronics and IT sector.

    If the teaching resources were stressed to the limit and students were
    instructed to seek help from usenet and similar sources, one would
    expect that the question would vary from very informed to totally
    clueless. I would assume that most regulars in this news group would
    enter into a deep discussion with those informed, as seen quite a few

    In practice, it appears that most requests come from totally clueless
    persons. A sarcastic person might even assume that the
    professors/teachers have noticed that, say, that the lowest quarter of
    the class are not going to pass the tests and encourage them to try
    usenet/web forums or even direct email to get the project done.

    If one get the homework project done this way, at least the human
    engineering skills are quite good. So if the person is successful, he
    might be a good salesman, but definitely not a good engineer :).

    Unfortunately, most observed requests from the developing countries
    appears to indicate that the person would neither be a good engineer
    or even a good salesman.

    Paul Keinanen, Jun 26, 2006
  15. So they will all become managers.
    Fredrik :Ostman, Jun 26, 2006
  16. Grant Edwards

    larwe Guest

    Me too, constantly, but add other countries such as Indonesia and
    Malaysia to that list. I don't believe they're phishing, because many
    of these emails talk about code I have written or projects I have
    larwe, Jun 26, 2006
  17. The whole institution cannot be blamed because of a single student.
    IITs still maintain good quality.
    Well, can you teach every tid-bit? The understanding that comes with
    experience, comes with experience. Hadn't it been true, fresh graduates
    would have takes the places of experienced people. Each embedded
    project brings with it peculiarities. New challenges. You can't teach
    all of them. An instinct of right and wrong comes with experience.

    Himanshu Chauhan, Jun 27, 2006
  18. Grant Edwards

    Kelly Hall Guest

    I still hang out in the Yahoo! Rabbit Semi group, mostly to see what
    sort of problems people are having. Occasionally someone, apparently
    naive and possibly a student, asks something that I can answer. And
    then the fun starts.
    Not only do I get email filled with trivial questions, but due to the
    nature of Yahoo groups, and my employer's fad for wanting employees
    available via various IM programs means that I get IM-ed from students
    during working hours. Sometimes a quick break to help a newbie is
    refreshing. More often, though, it's yet another thought-derailing
    interruption that strains my fragile civility.

    How come these kids can IM me day or night, but can't seem to form a
    useful google search that would answer their problem?

    Kelly Hall, Jun 27, 2006
  19. Because it's easier to ask you for the direct answer, than to search
    through dozens of web pages and - *GASP* - actually read and understand

    Years ago I was sitting in an almost-deserted lab putting the finishing
    touches on my 'Real-Time Software and Interfacing' major project when I
    was approached by a girl who asked me if I would "show her how to
    compile her assignment".

    Now this project was a semester's work all-up, although it involved some
    hardware and software design. The software component was a few trivial
    control loops written in pseudo-interrupt routines under minix. Most
    students had problems wrapping their head around the software (it was a
    hardware degree, not software) and many spent weeks getting something to
    run. I was surprised that this girl was compiling her code for the first
    time only a few *hours* before it was due...

    Anyway, I showed her how to compile it. It compiled with no errors. She
    asked me how to run it. I ran it on my board and - lo and behold - it
    ran perfectly and did exactly what it was supposed to do.

    "Thanks!" she remarked, took back her floppy disk, walked back to her
    chair and proceeded to pack up, now ready to hand in her assignment.

    Now I wonder what she's doing for a job? No doubt she's a manager
    somewhere, earning twice what I earn and doing half the work, whilst
    knowing about 5% what I know about engineering. :(

    Still, I wonder who the smart one here really is???

    Mark McDougall, Jun 27, 2006
  20. Grant Edwards

    Paul Burke Guest

    I suspect the quality of teaching, and perhaps a cultural bias towards
    rote learning. If you've been brought up in the belief that education is
    about finding the right answer to a set problem, you could be in trouble
    when you are faced with having to innovate. Perhaps a status thing as
    well- an unwillingness to (in their own eyes) humble themselves by
    asking the questions of people who know them on a daily basis.

    Paul Burke
    Paul Burke, Jun 27, 2006
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