Undergraduate Computer and Software Specifications

Engineering at Alberta requires that all undergraduate students enrolled in an engineering program have a laptop. This tool is a critical element of the learning environment and future professional practice.

Engineering today relies heavily on computational performance and the wide functionality of computers. Portable computers are used to carry out calculations by engineers that are being documented in reports. As part of your undergraduate engineering experience you will need to write reports, do extensive calculations, write programs and carry out many important activities on the Internet. Your own portable computer will allow you to carry out these tasks in a well organised and efficient manner.

Selecting the right portable computer for you needs to consider not only the requirements that you need to use a computer for, but also your particular style and approach for your undergraduate studies. The table below lists some of the functions that you will need a laptop for and highlights some considerations for the different hardware specifications from which you can select the machine suitable for you. Some functions you will use your laptop for and the importance (greater number of ✓ means more important for that function) of different hardware components are provided.

Engineering Student Function

Laptop

Tablet

Fast CPU

CAD GPU*

Screen Size

Large RAM

Large HDD

Writing reports

✓✓✓

Programming

✓✓

Programming / processing

✓✓

✓✓✓

✓✓

Taking Notes

✓✓✓

Annotating PDF notes

✓✓✓

CAD

✓✓✓

✓✓✓

✓✓

✓✓

Simulation

✓✓✓

✓✓✓

Browsing

Email

*Quadro line of Nividia or FirePro from AMD.

Multifunctional laptops also have advantages of being able to operate as a tablet. This would allow you to take notes electronically in a handwritten or typed fashion and remove the need for carrying a large number of textbooks and notebooks. There are therefore many advantages to having your own portable computer.

Faculty Standard Laptop Configuration

As of Spring-Summer 2020, the faculty recommends the following minimum specifications for laptops; all U of A students have access to Google Drive (unlimited) and Google software:

  • a minimum 15-inch display
  • Intel i7 processor
  • 16 GB Ram
  • 256 SSD hard drive
  • Webcam
  • Microphone

It should be noted that laptops may not work for all the specialized software engineering programs require; in such cases, programs will have computer labs or openVPN access to computer labs, the latter requires reliable and fast internet access.

Students are responsible for their laptops and data; the university and faculty take no responsibility for lost, stolen, broken devices or data. The university will not service broken machines. It is highly recommended that students always save data (e.g. course packages, notes, assignments) to their google drive or other remote system to prevent data loss.

Laptop options can be found by Googling "best laptop for engineering students". For example http://www.triobest.com/best-laptops-for-engineering-students/ provides a list of specifications and information for laptops. The Faculty of Engineering does not endorse any specific system.

Buying a Mac? Some programs that are used in engineering programs may be Windows-only applications. You have a few options: Boot Camp comes with every new Mac, and it lets you run Windows natively-as if your Mac were a PC. If you want to run Mac OS X and Windows side by side, you can purchase Parallels Desktop for Mac or VMware Fusion. Install one of these applications, along with the Windows Installation CDs, and you can run the occasional Windows program right next to your Mac applications, without having to restart.

However, Mac is not recommended for computer-aided design/drafting software, which many engineering programs require; Windows 10 is highly recommended for CAD software.

Spring/Summer 2020 virtual course requirements

All spring summer 2020 courses will be delivered remotely. Students must have reliable, preferably high speed, internet access and the minimum computing resources listed above to ensure the continuity of content delivery, engage with other students and instructional teams, and facilitate assessments and examinations under these exceptional circumstances.

Students must have computing hardware resources that meet their programs minimum standard requirements. However, there may be course-specific computing requirements that students should consider when purchasing their technology. When purchasing technology, students are encouraged to consider the maximum program requirement and what they wish to be able to do with it to minimize any future costs. Course specific requirements will be sent directly to students by their spring/summer course instructors no later than 10 businesses days before the start of the spring term.

In cases of courses with specialized software requirements that:

  • students may not be able to install on their own technology, or
  • that exceed the minimum recommended program computing resource, and students do not have the computing resources to support the software,

Then, the faculty will provide accommodations. In such courses, a VPN protocol to use computer labs will be emailed directly to students with a clear step-by-step guide on "how to connect to a lab computer from home". Students will be provided schedules to access these resources so as to not conflict with other courses. Students must have reliable, fast internet access for this to work.

Minimum Hardware by Program for Fall 2020

First year

  • Faculty standard laptop configuration
  • A scanner phone app (i.e. CamScanner or equivalent) OR a regular scanner to submit written assessments.

Programs

Civil and Environmental Engineering

  • Program has courses that require CAD software. In addition to Faculty standard laptop configuration, 32GB RAM, CAD CPU, and larger display (17"+) are recommended; however, these courses are not offered in Spring Summer 2020
  • A scanner phone app (i.e. CamScanner or equivalent) OR a regular scanner to submit written assessments.

Chemical Engineering

  • Faculty standard laptop configuration
  • A scanner phone app (i.e. CamScanner or equivalent) OR a regular scanner to submit written assessments.

Computer Engineering

  • Faculty standard laptop configuration
  • A scanner phone app (i.e. CamScanner or equivalent) OR a regular scanner to submit written assessments.
  • Lab kits as described on the ECE Lab Kit webpage

Electrical Engineering

  • Faculty standard laptop configuration
  • A scanner phone app (i.e. CamScanner or equivalent) OR a regular scanner to submit written assessments
  • Lab kits as described on the ECE Lab Kit webpage

Engineering Physics

  • Faculty standard laptop configuration
  • A scanner phone app (i.e. CamScanner or equivalent) OR a regular scanner to submit written assessments
  • Lab kits as described on the ECE Lab Kit webpage

Materials Engineering

  • Faculty standard laptop configuration
  • A scanner phone app (i.e. CamScanner or equivalent) OR a regular scanner to submit written assessments.

Mechanical Engineering

  • Program has courses that require CAD and simulation software. In addition to Faculty standard laptop configuration, 32GB RAM, CAD CPU, and larger display (17"+) are recommended.
  • A scanner phone app (i.e. CamScanner or equivalent) OR a regular scanner to submit written assessments.

Mining Engineering

  • Faculty standard laptop configuration
  • A scanner phone app (i.e. CamScanner or equivalent) OR a regular scanner to submit written assessments.

Petroleum Engineering

  • Faculty standard laptop configuration
  • A scanner phone app (i.e. CamScanner or equivalent) OR a regular scanner to submit written assessments.

Recommended Software

See ualberta.onthehub.com for discounted software available to students.

First year

  • Microsoft Office
  • Anti-virus software
  • Matlab
  • Adobe Acrobat Professional or equivalent
  • Free video editing software
  • 7ZIP, VLC media player, ScreentoGIF
  • SMath

Programs

Each engineering program has different software requirements in addition to those listed for first year. Below is a list of commonly used software. Each program will provide their students with software information as it becomes required. Students should not purchase software, unless explicitly told to do so, as programs may have agreements to provide these discounted or free to students.

Civil and Environmental Engineering

  • AutoCAD
  • WolfPack software
  • Mathematica
  • ABAQUS (FEA software)

Chemical and Materials Engineering

  • VMGSim
  • MS Visio

Electrical and Computer Engineering

  • Xilinx ISE
  • Visual Studio
  • Eclipse for C++
  • Java Development Kit
  • PSpice
  • Eagle PCB Design

Mechanical Engineering

  • Solidworks (CAD package)
  • ANSYS
  • MathCAD
  • Matlab
  • Other small resource requiring software

 

Last updated: April 2020