Moving like an Engineering Student

This post is for you if you’re a globetrotting student that is crazy enough to bring their own specialized equipment across the world. Whether it’s instruments, bikes, or other gear, your education has provided the skills to get your life across the pond at minimal cost.

Here’s my personal example of “Things I didn’t need to bring but wanted to”. Most of these are items I figured would have high mark-ups in Zurich if I were to buy them locally (spoiler – turns out that includes pretty much everything):

  • Full road bike with touring accessories and tools
  • Touring panniers, helmet, shoes, cycling clothes
  • Soccer and Futsal boots
  • Fly fishing rod, reel, and tackle
  • Trekking essentials – boots, cooking kit, knife + field sharpener (invaluable, as it turned out),

I bought my itinerary through a travel site that I cannot recommend to anyone, despite being an absurdly low cost (~$350 CAD one way to Zurich). The journey was three separate flights with separate security checks at each airport, totalling 25 hours to get here. I had to call each of my three airlines to confirm maximum luggage sizes. On the plus side, I was somehow afforded a free checked bag on top of the one I purchased, so my limits were as follows:

1 checked bag at 20kg,
1 checked bag at 15kg,
1 carry-on and 1 personal item totalling 10kg for both

I’m guessing most people will be weight limited rather than volume limited unless you want to bring a sleeping bag or gigantic teddy bear. This posed a problem for me, as most commercial bike boxes were 10-15kg by themselves and priced at $500-$800.

Protip: As cycling season rolls in, some shops can provide double-corrugated cardboard shipping boxes for bicycles when needed. These boxes are within the dimensional limits of checked luggages for most major airlines, so you just need to figure out how to pack them effectively. They weigh in at ~4kg and are priced at $0 + numerous thank-yous.

My next problem was transportation through all my security gates. I didn’t want to drag the thing or be limited to those airport carts. The next idea was to install a set of lightweight wheels. UBC is a treasure trove of useful spare/scrap materials, from which I found a set of rubber cart wheels, structural PVC foam, and PVC pipe. The MECH machine shop had scrap rod stock and hardware to bolt it all together. Here’s the first mockup:

First box mockup for dimensioning and cutting templates, approx. center of gravity marked

I wanted the box handles to sit naturally at my hand when I walked, creating just enough tilt to get the wheels rolling. Placing the wheels on the corner allowed for less-squirrely control and more adhesive surface area to bond to the box walls. To minimize the risk of catching edges or creating problems for luggage personnel, I hid the whole assembly within the box (improved aerodynamics too, ya know).

My main concern was smooth load transfer between the axle and cardboard walls. Cardboard is fairly good for abrasion resistance but I’d be putting the structure under bending . The PVC foam was a good material for high bonding surface area, stiffness, and low density. It took a while to find an adhesive that could confidently bond PVC to cardboard. A larger-diameter PVC pipe was used to house the thin aluminum axle to reduce stress concentration from foam to wheels, with aluminum bushings bridging the space between the axle and pipe.


Foam insert with wheel axle; CAD versus quick-&-dirty assembly. I realized it’d be impossible to install the solid foam chunk so I split it.

Packing night, wheels installed, and obligatory decals

Wheels were screwed into the ends of the axle loosely, so they could rotate independently for better steering. I loaded the box with weight over the axle as much as possible to minimize bending loads. Spare hardware was brought along in case the whole thing fell apart but the journey went smoothly. Unfortunately and despite my extensive (read: sparse) napkin calculations, some yielding occurred by the end of the journey between the PVC pipe and foam. I never considered bump/impact loading through the foam and should have added adhesive to the PVC tube for full bonding with the foam, rather than just press-fitting it.

The box survived the various layovers and multiple TSA inspections. The idea is to keep it around and get other exchange students to leave notes and stupid comments on it for the trip home.

Now that Spring’s arrived, I’ve taken the bike a few hundred kilometres around Switzerland and Germany thus far. It really is one of the best ways to explore this country, so whether you bring your own or rent one here, I’d highly recommend cycling for any European exchange.

Classes, cultures, and travels for the next post. Ciao for now!
Jason

GOODBYE, FAREWELL MECH

On a day like today when the breeze moves the branches of the trees and the clouds extend over the sky in a sea of pastel colours, I get flash backs of the days when I thought school would never be over, when I thought school was too hard for me to handle. I let out a big sigh today and I get nostalgic for ever thinking that I was not capable of achieving my dreams and giving up on myself before I had the chance to try.

I have had a dream for such a long time: I dreamed about being a Mechanical Engineer from UBC, having friends to share my daily experiences and learning about how the world around me works. Today I can say I have successfully accomplished this dream. I am so thankful to the people who have helped me make this happen, because if it wasn’t for their push and support, I would have given up a long time ago. For the past two weeks I have been thinking about my years at UBC, and how it has changed me for the better. I have faced so many challenges along the way that taught me how to be strong and to never give up. I have literally grown thick skin, which I hope can help me in future adventures and professional careers.

I just wanted to write this blog to thank you all for making my time at UBC memorable. Thank you to the Mech Student Service Office for their years of support and help, thank you Mech staff for always being kind and generous, thank you to the best facilities team that with dedication have made us feel proud of our department. Special thanks for those professors that multiple times encourage me to learn for the sake of learning – not to get good grades, especially those that saw potential in me when I didn’t think I had any. Thank you to Larry, the janitor in the second floor of CEME who always greeted me, and helped me keep the club room clean. Finally, I would like to thank my amazing team of executives in Club Mech, my family, and friends for motivating me to keep going.

Well, it is almost the end of this term and I am getting ready to write some of my last finals EVER and finishing Capstone documentation. Cheers to my last year, and believe me when I say that in no time, it will be your last one too. Feel free to ask any questions to the future Mech Ambassadors at ambassadors@mech.ubc.ca.

“Good morning! Oh, and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight”

Truman Burbank

 

Diana Nino

 

Reflecting Back On The Semester

Now that I’m done with finals, I have some time to reflect back on the first term of my 3rd year.

I haven’t gotten my final grades back, so I’ll have to hold on making a complete judgement, but overall I think this semester went smoother than MECH2.  If MECH 2 was a 10/10 on a difficulty scale (for the sake of argument) this semester was probably a solid 7/10.

Here’s my overall impression of my classes:

MECH305: Data Analysis and Mechanical Engineering Laboratories

The class has recently been redesigned and this year was its first run through.  It’s essentially labs and statistics.  There are five regular labs in total, which draw on concepts from other courses.  You go in, follow the procedure, and write up a lab report.  The next week you expand on one of the regular labs by setting up your own objectives, and deciding how you’ll carry the experiment out.

At the very end of the course, there was one big exploratory lab report in which we were free to explore anything we wanted using the techniques we learned throughout the semester.  My team ended up wiring strain gauges to a hockey stick in order to determine the forces applied to it during a slap shot.  We even had someone that had played hockey semi-professionally take some shots with it, shot-out to Jackson. It was pretty neat.

MECH 358 – Engineering Analysis   

This class was by far the most abstract out of all of the classes this term, since it builds on linear algebra concepts. You learn how to solve equations that can be incredibly hard/impossible to solve numerically, like the heat equation which you’ll come to know and love (here’s a quick preview of that lovely equation).  I didn’t particularly enjoy linear algebra back when I took it on 1st year, but I actually enjoyed this class.  My biggest takeaway from the course was that even though we have large amounts of computational power, you have to be clever in how you go about computing certain problems.

Homework consists of matlab and lots of “why doesn’t my code work.”

MECH360: Mechanics of Materials

This class is a continuation of solid mechanics in MECH224.  There’s a lot of material covered, so doing the practice problems and tutorials is a must.  Luckily, there are tons of online resources.  There’s not much to say about this course except study hard for that final. I got completely blind-sided by it, and I’m still sweating about it.  Don’t let that happen to you.

MECH 375: Heat Transfer

The class is technically called heat transfer but we all referred to it as thermo.  We covered a lot of material, and in my opinion it was one of the more challenging classes this term.  There’s correlations and numeric tables all over the place.  Prepare to sprint with your hands during exams.  For the final you get a crib sheet, which is a 40 page formula packet.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed the topic as a whole.  The class was held in the MATH building and I hope for the sake of anyone reading this that you never have a class in that building.  The seating arrangement and the size of the chairs is terrible.  That classroom get a -1/10 from me.

MECH 380: Fluid Dynamics

Here’s another class that I really enjoyed.  It felt like an intro to aerodynamics.  You gain greater insight into drag/lift and learn about mach numbers and shockwaves.  The concepts can be tricky, but I found it manageable.   Engineering Analysis, Heat Transfer, and Fluid Dynamics all tie into each other, so if you understand one it can sort of help with the others.

Like I said, I’m still waiting for my final marks so I might be singing a different tune once I get them back, but this year wasn’t so bad.

Now it’s back to Co-op for the summer.

Wish me luck,

Rigoberto

Finding a Summer Co-op Job

I’d forgotten how stressful looking for a Co-op summer placement can be. It’s my second time looking for a placement so I thought it would be easier, but it’s turning out to be just as difficult as the first time.  That being said, I’ve learned some things along the way.

Job applications take time and effort, so it’s easy to procrastinate at the beginning of the term.  Finding a job for the summer can feel like a midterm that’s a couple of months away.  You know you should be working on it, but there’s quite a bit of time right?  If you’re like me, a month can feel like an eternity away when you’re just trying to survive the week.

If you start early enough, there’s usually not much competition.  There will be quite a few job posting with relative low number of applicants.  As the term goes on, the number of job postings will start to go down and the number of applicants per post will start to shoot up.  50, 60, sometimes even 100 applicants per post will start to become the norm.  As the term goes on, school also ramps up with midterms and projects, making life a lot harder.

My advice is to not try to cram job applications.  It’s not impossible to find a job later in the term; it’s just harder and more stressful, so start early.

That’s my first point.

I was in this situation last year.  It was getting late in the term, and I still hadn’t found anything. So, I widened my search.  I’m personally interested in clean energy and it just so happens that UBC has a Clean Energy Research Centre.  I contacted the professor in the research area I was interested in, and managed to secure a 4-month position which was later extended to 8-months.

This brings me to my point second point: research opportunities on campus.

As I’m sure you know, a large part of what professors do is research.  If you’re interested in the research area they’re in, talk to them.  They are a really great source of knowledge, and if they don’t have a job for you, they might be able to push you in the right direction.

Not only will research give you valuable experience, but you can see if research is something you would like to purse in the future.  I personally had a blast in my position.   I got to work with hydrogen fuel cells, which was a technology I had always been interested in. I even managed to attend a fuel cell conference here in Vancouver which had presentations from industry leaders from all over the world.   Because of that, I now have a comprehensive layout of the fuel cell industry and know what companies are based here in Vancouver.  This will be extremely useful if I decide to pursue a career in the industry.  All of this happened because I talked to a professor.

So be proactive; you would be surprised about what you can find at UBC.

Good luck,

Rigoberto

Exchange Planning

Hoi,

I’ve spent just over two months in Europe by now and thought I’d reflect on the initial phases of this Coordinated International Experience. Here are the topics for today:

1) Degree scheduling and Preparation

2) Picking a Destination

1) Degree Scheduling and Preparation (see also: Kirsten Meng’s excellent CIE post)
CIE offers a unique set of services for Applied Science students, ensuring a smooth exchange. The APSC faculty have done an incredible amount of legwork to vet schools and their respective courses for equivalency. This means you’ll get to pick from a list of pre-approved courses and not worry about manually applying for transfer credits later. These courses typical apply to your technical elective requirements, opening up those respective semesters when you get home.

Fun fact: this kind of commitment to the undergraduate experience is what brought me to UBC MECH in the first place. I was fortunate enough to connect with Dr. Peter Cripton for an informational interview before choosing Applied Science for my second degree.

CIE can be done in a few slots within your degree schedule, but for me the most streamlined option was to schedule my exchange directly after MECH3.5. As a co-op student, that meant sacrificing a work term and replacing the income with a giant money pit. Fortunately, this pit spits out unique learning experiences and chocolate (the chocolate here, oh man). I wanted to graduate in 2019 and the Co-op office was gracious enough to waive the last work term requirement for CIE students. Other perks include reducing MECH4 by 9 credits and gaining access to course topics not offered at UBC or even in Canada. ETH Zurich in particular emphasizes entrepreneurial spirit and interdisciplinary projects; I’d highly recommend taking project courses if possible. Fundamental courses will likely be similar across the world, but each region will have unique perspectives on innovation, design, and other more-subjective areas of engineering. Take a look at the MAVT department at ETH for an example of the ongoing research and student projects happening here.

2) Picking a Destination

I first heard of ETH Zurich during my first co-op term at Verathon Medical. One particular project led me to work done by a UBC alum working at the Disney Labs in Zurich. As one does, I fell down the YouTube rabbit hole, and couldn’t believe some of the projects produced through ETH. It turns out there was a time when Switzerland was behind the rest of the world technologically, and the country’s catch-up mentality has propelled them to fund world-class technical institutes. When I discovered the ETH FSAE team, AMZ Racing, and their world-record setting FormulaE vehicle, I was hooked.

If you’re unsure, look at the course lists offered at each institution and get a sense for their specialties. Look at the country and culture too. Where do you want to invest your valuable time and energy? What kind of leisure activities resonate with you? What new things do you want to try? Personally, I made sure to list every free weekend I’d have during my semester abroad and created a list of activities with as many or more entries. I wanted to sacrifice sleep to absorb as much as possible from my exchange. Switzerland is an incredible melting pot of cultures and coming from a mixed upbringing, I never quite fit in a singular community; the same sort of uprooted diversity in Zurich resonated strongly with me. A short bus ride to cheap flights around Europe didn’t hurt either. I’ll write about some of the interesting people I’ve met during these travels in another post.

Sidenote: Despite situating in the center of Europe, Zurich is an expensive hub for flights around the continent (check travel websites for quotes out of Zurich versus Milan or Stuttgart; mein Gott!).

The next few posts will talk about packing and moving, first steps in Switzerland (there are many), budgeting (!), and chasing opportunity during your time abroad.

I might post a supplemental note on the ridiculous lengths I took to bring my bike to Europe. It was a great exercise in MECH3.5 design work and may help those looking to keep costs down. I probably saved about $1000 CDN all told.

Tschuss for now!
Jason

Crunch Times

Gruezi alles,

While I wait for my train to depart for Paris, nursing an espresso and thoroughly enjoying European life, I thought I’d write about the crunch time that usually happens around this time of year at UBC. If escaping to another continent isn’t an option (sorry Nick and Davey), there are a number of other strategies to get through the combination of MECH2/MECH3, and design team involvement.

For MECH2:

Like the tides, the periods of time before tests and competition deadlines roll by predictably every year. The key is to plan ahead and anticipate them from month one. This can be hard if you feel like you’re just barely able to keep your head above water, like I felt in MECH2.

While the course schedule might be unfamiliar, the MECH staff do a great job laying out the schedule as accurately as possible. Fall semester is a settling-in period, but by winter break you should be able to see your spring schedule and while your design team work may have been slow as teams ramp up, spring semester is always a rush. Make sure you take an hour or so to look through all your weeks and weekends, identify where big tests/deliverables lie, and front-load your design team work as much as possible. No one wants to be wrestling with SOLIDWORKS while attempting to absorb test material. In fact, I’d recommend pushing your team/project to reach every checkpoint as early as possible. The “unknown unknowns” that inevitably come up with design team work are always better managed the week before deadline, rather than at 5:00 am the day of.

For MECH3/3.5:

As you progress and gain a bit of experience in design teams, you’ll likely start speking to sponsors and manufacturing partners to get your parts made. Here are a few key things to know about design team manufacturing:

  1. Give sponsors as much lead time as possible, for both courtesy and project management sake. Sponsors donate their time and effort (and money) to help us out, meaning real customer POs will always run first. While a simple part may take only an hour to machine out, giving many weeks of lead-time allows your sponsor to optimize their machine schedules. CNC machines aren’t cheap and need to be running near-constantly to turn profits these days. This courtesy also reflects positively on your project management skills!

  2. Invariably, engineering changes will come up as certain fillets or cuts can’t be done on their equipment. You might spend weeks thinking you’ve polished your part, only to find out it’s not machinable. Try your best to consider the limitations set by your particular machinist/manufacturer at the very beginning of design; many of them post their machine capabilities and model numbers on their website. No one wants to spend hours milling out a variable-radius fillet because it “fits your aesthetic.”

Design team work has been the most memorable experiences I’ve had in MECH. The unexpected challenges might incite a bit of terror in the midst of school, but I look back on them with endearment. Sick, twisted endearment.

Next posts will be dedicated to my Coordinated International Experience in Switzerland. Trust me, you want to look into this option.

Tschuss,
Jason

What It Has Been Like to Be Involved in Mech and Be The President of Club Mech

Last year, I decided to set goals to help me improve as a person and a professional. I knew that something that has always mattered to me is being able to help and contribute to my Mech community. As such, I decided to run for the position of UBC Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Club President (Club Mech) and was elected. Since then, I have been trying really hard to improve the connections with the department, help out wherever I can to increase the sense of community within students, and represent our student body as best as I can. It has not been as easy task, as it requires a lot of time commitment in meetings to help resolve student concerns, and volunteer work to develop activities that help our students.

Some of this year’s activities included professional development events related to what Building Science is and how Mechanical Engineers could follow this path by doing a masters, fun parties to socialize, selling amazing merchandise, providing feedback to improve our academic curriculum, helping our graduates obtain their Iron Ring, and giving our professors fun socks to remember us by; what a great time it has been planning these activities with my team!

Despite the long hours, being the Club Mech president has been one of the most amazing and memorable experiences in my undergraduate career, especially because I had an amazing team who was supportive, kind, dedicated and caring. If it wasn’t for them, I would not have been able to push through the hard and stressful moments. I want to say to them that I am thankful for your hard work and I appreciate everything you did. Thank you UBC Mechanical Engineering Department for caring so much about your undergraduate students. You are committed to educating the future engineers of Canada and that shows every day.

If you have the chance, make sure to join Club Mech and continue developing good relationships with faculty, staff and students.

Feel free to ask me any questions any time at ambassadors@mech.ubc.ca.

Until next time!

Diana Nino

EXCHANGE IN DENMARK PART II

Ever feel stressed about moving to a place you have never been? A place without a single familiar face, a single familiar hangout, not even those chain stores you see everywhere. You want to be independent, capable of taking care of yourself in this environment of uncertainties. You don’t want your fears to diminish how incredible this experience of going somewhere new will be, but you cannot shake off worrying about how you will adjust.

Imagine if you could put away those fears of the unknown, and be prepared to take on any hurdle coming in your way. On top of that, imagine maximizing your exchange and achieving all the goals you’ve set. Thanks to my friend Norton who went to DTU before, and came up with this abridged “Guide to Exchange with CIE”. The topics covered:

  • Know what you want to get out of the exchange
  • Pre-Departure
    1. Accommodations
    2. International Administration
    3. Academics and On Campus Activities
    4. Booking Flight and Packing
    5. Finances

Know what you want to get out of the exchange

Even though CIE requires you to register in 4 courses at your destination university, the workload might feel different than at UBC.  This is because grades from your exchange courses will not appear on your official UBC transcript – your courses only show up as transfer credits (although if you are planning on applying to grad school, they will want to see the transcript from your exchange university). Therefore, you can choose to focus on travelling instead of just academics. I don’t doubt that some of you would like to focus on academics, since international institutions usually provide rare courses that you can’t take at UBC. Because we are limited in energy and time, if we try to achieve perfect grades and travel to numerous countries, we will burn out. So know what you want. Don’t feel pressured to visit all the countries in Europe; you can stay-in, study, and absorb local culture if that’s what is more meaningful for you.

As someone with a lower energy level, I was so happy to discover that Denmark has a “hygge” culture that values coziness; for instance, cuddling up to the fireplace with a nice cup of coffee in a dimly lit café. So, I think I will focus more on local activities and events, such as joining DTU Bachata dance class and the BEST club (Board of European Students for Technology).

Above all, knowing what you want allows you to focus on the bigger picture. When I picture my ultimate goal of creating a community of likeminded people who are passionate about renewable energy, I stop feeling anxious about the little things, like forgetting to pack a charger cord. When you care intensely about the bigger picture, you won’t let unnecessary worries weigh you down.

Pre-Departure Preparation

Before I go too far into this section, download a checklist template like the one found here (https://www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/task-list-template.html). This helps you keep track of the deadlines, list detailed tasks, and schedule a time to do them while you’re busy in school. The earlier you set up this task list, the more time you have to pace the tasks out and do them slowly. We can get sucked into school work pretty easily; this checklist can save you from a last minute scramble.

Accommodations

What’s worse than moving to a foreign country and having no place to stay? It’s important to apply for accommodations early. If your institution provides accommodations, they will most likely send you an email with application form. I cannot stress this enough, KNOW YOUR LEASE DATES and APPLY EARLY. A pro tip is to set your accommodation start date to one week before class starts. That way you have ample time to adjust to the new environment, get over your jet lag, and have time to purchase necessities so you’re not overwhelmed when class start.

If your institution doesn’t provide residence, or if you simply want to rent with friends, look on local renting sites. Don’t be tricked into signing overpriced rooms; always check what the average rent is.

International Administrations

The first thing you want to do is make sure your passport is updated! Ensure you have at least a year from the day you leave until expiry. Updating your passport can take a while (it took me about three weeks), so apply for update early.

Using your passport, as well as other identification documents, you should now apply for a residency permit. Your institution should send this application to you along with your acceptance letter. Every country’s process is different, but for the Danish embassy, you are required to go to a third party organization (VFS Global) to get your biometrics (pupil and finger prints) taken. Documents you are required to send to Danish embassy may include:

  • Passport
  • Acceptance letter from your institution
  • Application form
  • Proof of funds (bank account balance or documentation of a scholarship)

You want to pay attention to proof of funds. It basically proves to the foreign government that you can financially sustain yourself while staying in their country. As of 2017, Denmark requires students to have $1,218 per month of study (total of $7,308 for my 6 months of stay).

After sending in the necessary documents and application, you will receive a residence permit in the mail. This is an important document that you want to print out and carry with you when you depart.

Academics and On-Campus Activities

In my previous blog, I talked about searching through courses when choosing the right institution for you. Now I’ll talk about how to maximize your international learning experience. First, mark the course registration date and withdrawal date on the checklist you’ve created (or calendar app of your choice). Among the courses you’re interested in (assuming you have more than you need), choose four courses you are most curious about. For instance, I registered in a Wind Turbine Racer course and an Energy Systems course. Even though both are interesting and relevant to my career path, I weighed each by their completion time (Wind Turbine course takes three more weeks to finish), content, and the potential to enter into Green Challenge (where I could meet potential employers). After registering in your courses, remember to get them approved by emailing your department advisor.

Some universities have an introduction week – like Jump Start at UBC – where international students meet each other. I would strongly suggest you sign up for it, so your university can help you adjust to the campus life and meet people before the rush of classes.

Some of my best memories at UBC come from being involved in activities outside of class. It’s helped me learn new things with a community of like-minded people. So, for the next semester, I’ve registered in some dance classes. Furthermore, I’m going to look for a drones design team.

Booking Flight and Packing

I used Google Flights to keep track of the ticket price to Copenhagen. The app will send you notifications when the price is dropping. Another good idea is to fly out of Seattle. I found that the ticket price is almost half of the flights from Vancouver. Remember to always check additional baggage fees, as some airlines will charge you for even the first checked luggage.

As for what to bring, make sure you have the essentials! I spent A LOT of time making sure that I have a functional cell phone and laptop so I’m not forced to buy one in Denmark. Glasses and contacts are also daily essentials that I splurged on. However, I feel so much more comfortable knowing that I have back-ups for all the above. It’s important to dress for the weather, so check the local weather reports. For Denmark, the average winter temperature is around -1°C. It may not seem too cold, however, there will be strong freezing winds that quickly make it feel like -25°C. So, a heavy, goose-down jacket is definitely recommended. I brought my ski jacket, but I wish I had bought a down jacket to brace against this weather.

Since you will be without cell phone service at least for a day or two when you arrive, download offline information like a Google Map of Copenhagen and Google Translate.

Packing EU and UK plug adapters is a must, even if you want to travel for just a bit. But if you’re finding you don’t have enough room in your luggage, you can also buy them at local stores. Anything else I might have missed can be found on this helpful website: http://thestudyabroadblog.com/study-abroad-packing-list-2-2/.

Finances

This is a huge worry of mine. We all know how expensive tuition is, plus rent and travelling fees. This exchange is definitely going to cost a pretty penny. So how will you pay for everything? I recently had 16 months of Co-op and took this work learn position with Mech Student Services to save up for this exchange.

Loans and Grants

CIE grants $1000 grant to every accepted student, however, you are expected to write an experiential report in return. If you have student loans like I do, then it would be beneficial for you to decide on your courses before applying. Once you are certain about the academic start and end dates for the exchange can you email your ESP. They can then update your enrollment information for student loans.

ATM Withdrawal and Credit Card

Assuming that you already have your own bank account (if not, open one), you should go to your bank and figure out whether they charge for withdrawal from an ATM in a foreign country. The bank I am with allows me to withdraw with refund for any ATM transaction fee, so it’s essentially free to withdraw Danish Kroners. That being said, you might want to watch the currency exchange rate. Banks usually give you a higher exchange rate than market, meaning I pay more CAD to buy the same amount of Kroners. This is because they do not charge a fee for buying foreign currency, while other currency exchange shops usually do.

As for credit cards, choose one with no foreign transaction fees. Here is a list of some of best ones (https://www.moneywehave.com/canadian-credit-cards-without-foreign-transaction-fees/). A week before your departure, notify all your credit and debit card companies that you’ll be out of the country, so using your card in a foreign country won’t alert them and cause your cards to be disabled. Lastly, it’s important to have some cash on you before you leave, so get some from your bank.

Conclusion

As of right now, I’m finishing this blog in Copenhagen. With all of these preparations, I hope you will have a smooth transition into your exchange. What’s more important, however, isn’t just feeling ready; it’s taking the leap.  You may never feel 100% ready to leave home, but stepping on the plane and looking forward will get you there.

Cheers,

Kirsten

Resources:

https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attractions-g775899-Activities-Kongens_Lyngby_Lyngby_Taarbak_Municipality_Copenhagen_Region_Zealand.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_Denmark

https://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/topics/renewable-energy/national-action-plans

http://santamarta-florez.blogspot.ca/2013/09/denmarks-largest-offshore-wind-farm-is.html

http://georgesteinmetz.com/collections/rising-seas-collection/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anholt_Offshore_Wind_Farm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siemens_Wind_Power

Tips for Capstone Design

Hi, how are all of you doing in Term 2? There is only one more month before the end of classes! This is my last semester at UBC and I know it will be a busy one because I am planning for life after graduation, and working away on my Capstone project. You can read more about what a Capstone Design project is here.

Let me tell you a bit about the scope of my project, before giving you some tips for success in Capstone. I am working in a team of five members. We are doing a system design of a gas turbine engine based on an existing automotive turbocharger for Professor Pat Kirchen. The purpose of our project is to demonstrate the working concept of the Brayton Cycle for potential use in undergraduate MECH courses related to thermodynamics. As a Thermofluids student, I enjoy the nature of my project as it requires integration of some mechanical design, thermodynamics, heat transfer, and instrumentation. The challenge is learning, testing, and completing this project within the timeline of Capstone while balancing a full year of courses.

If you are a future fourth year engineering student, these might be some things to watch out for and do that will make your Capstone experience more enjoyable:

  1. Choose a project with topic(s) that you are truly excited about. Your team and you will put in a lot of hours throughout the course of the project, so you want to make sure you are going to enjoy spending your time on a project that interests you.
  2. Put in time at the beginning of the project to understand the scope. Almost all capstone projects require more time than the planned work outline. Be sure to review the scope with your client to see if you can simplify it. In most cases, it is better to deliver a few, well tested deliverables that meet functional requirements than pieces of various components.
  3. The design process and documentation you learn to create in MECH 2 and 3 are building blocks for the design Dossiers. Learn to use the Dossiers as a framework for organizing your project, and customize it as needed to better suit your style of project. You should definitely discuss this with your project supervisor.
  4. Find mentors in addition to your project supervisor and client who might be able to advise you on specific topics related to your projects. Some people are experts in their work field and have years of experience understanding what works, and what doesn’t. It will save you time to by talking to these people and asking questions.
  5. Most capstone teams are four, or five members in size. You have to learn to work in parallel so you can tackle the breadth of the project. If you work in series (e.g. everyone working on one subsystem together at the same time), you will not be able to complete your project on time. You will also not be able to identify problems such as incompatible subsystems earlier in the project.

These are just some tips I’ve accumulated from my experience with Capstone. Although everything is very general, these are things you might forget during the chaos of the project.

Let me know below if you have any questions about Capstone. Or, if you another current Capstone student, please feel free to comment below about your experience and helpful tips.

Cheers,

Arthi

MECH3/3.5 Recap

How is it already January? Einstein described the warping of time surrounding massive objects; clocks that appear faster further away from clocks on our planet. Surely, the engineering buildings at UBC produce their own temporal acceleration too.

For skimmers, here’s the briefing of the below paragraphs:

  1. I’d suggest joining a maximum of one design team and one professional organization during full time studies.
  2. Don’t underestimate the return to school after co-op; MECH3 assignments can sneak up on you.
  3. MECH3.5 is an exercise in time management and team dynamics. These factors are complementary and will provide compounding reductions in stress, if appreciated.
  4. For those interested in the CIE process starting around 3rd year, check out Kirsten Meng’s excellent post about it.

I meant to provide updates on the MECH3/3.5 experience in real-time, but I’ve repeated the mistake of overloading my plate at this wild undergraduate buffet. For those that enjoy the variety of extracurriculars, it can be a real struggle pacing yourself around UBC’s wide range of options.

MECH3 returns to the traditional semester course schedule students are accustomed to. At first glance it seems to indicate an easier semester for those returning from co-op; there’s a good amount of review at the beginning of term. However, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security (like I was). Without the weekly quizzes and frantic project timelines, I had a slow start to regular studying and homework. My midterm grades were an effective wake-up call, but with only one or two assessments per course, I could’ve had a much easier time ahead of the final had I been more proactive.

Lesson learned – Navvy-stokes and transient heat transfer problems laugh in the face of cramming.

MECH3.5 was a very different beast. Group work has its ups and downs, but it’s so important to develop an awareness of team dynamics and how to massage them to the group’s benefit. I had heard complaints of the unrealistic objectives and lack of prototyping in MECH328, but the opportunity to dig deeper into designing a product made it enjoyable. I also lucked out with the powerhouse team I was assigned (nearly all of them dedicated design team members, hint hint).

I’ll write one more post on study semesters and design teams, then catch up on my current adventures on exchange in Europe. I figure we can talk flights and packing, then the first few days. Spoiler: It’s been *amazing*.