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

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*.

End of the year! And hello to the last part of my final year in Mech!

Hello everyone,

It has been a long time since I last updated you about my life as a Mech. I am officially a fourth year student and soon to be graduate. Yay! I can tell you that I am super excited about accomplishing this goal in my life; it has been a long, hard, but overall happy road.

I came to this realization because the other day during an event called the UBC Applied Science Open House. On this day, all the engineering departments at UBC have booths in the Kaiser Building to show high school and first year students what each department has to offer. Every booth had students, professors and staff who talked about the focus of the department, projects and curriculum. We ran great demostrations such as a 1920’s National Gas engine, student teams’ projects, as well as interactive activities for everyone to participate. If you have never attended this event, make sure you come and visit us next time!

As a work learn student in the Mech Student Services office, I helped in the planning and organization of this event. I was also one of the students who volunteered to talk to prospective students, which made me think about the reasons why I chose Mech, and what I have learned over the last few years. One of the most interesting questions prospective students asked me was: “What would be a piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to go into Mech?” This is a big question –it encompasses all these years of hard work, sacrifices and dedication.

After giving it some thought, I can honestly say that studying Mechanical Engineering tests you in almost every level in life; from personal, mental and physical to professional. In order to succeed, you will have to learn to balance studying, with personal, family, and friends time. It sometimes requires sacrifice and dedication, but all of this has been worth it for me because I was able to learn a lot.  If this is really what you want to study, make sure this career motivates and guides you towards your passion in life. If learning about how the world works makes you satisfied and adds to a piece to your puzzle, then you should become a Mechanical Engineering and come to UBC MECH. MECH at UBC will make you learn about yourself, while also learning about cool things in the world, such as how to design a real boat from scratch (Mech 488).

Well, it is almost the end of this term and I getting ready to write my some of my last finals. Feel free to ask me any questions any time at ambassadors@mech.ubc.ca.

Until next time!

Diana Nino

EXCHANGE IN DENMARK PART I

HEY all, I’m finally back. It’s so unbelievably nice to write again after the mid-term slump!

As of now, it is about T-minus one and a half months until I launch off to Denmark! I’m extremely excited, but at the same time, terribly nervous. What is your impression of going on exchange? Do you find staying in a foreign country by yourself scary or exhilarating?

So this post, I want to talk about university exchange experiences. In part one of this two-part blog, I will walk you through:

  • What is the Co-ordinated International Experience (CIE) program
  • Why you should apply
  • How to choose the right institute for you
  • How to apply and ways to boost your application

Links will be provided so you can check out more related information.

Windmills in Denmark (Photo credit: @CGPGrey, under creative commons)

What is the CIE?

First, let me explain what the Co-ordinated International Experience (CIE) program is. To give you a little context, after your second year in UBC Engineering, you can choose to be part of the UBC Engineering Co-op program. Co-op coordinators work with engineering industry to provide students with job opportunities. Let’s say you get hired for a co-op term, then you work until your contract ends and return to school afterwards. After your 3rd year of school (January-May semester), Co-op opens CIE applications to attend a partner institution in Europe or Asia. The application process will take place from May to October, depending on the institution you chose. You return to school as normal for the fall semester (Sept-Dec) at UBC, and if your application to CIE is successful, you will find out what institution you are paired with in the fall. For the spring semester (Jan-April/May/June), you will be on exchange with CIE program!

CIE is integrated seamlessly into your academic degree, and the courses pre-approved by UBC Co-op office will count towards your academic credit. Basically, it’s like you’re taking the same courses but in a different country. To find out more about CIE, check out this link (http://www.coop.apsc.ubc.ca/coordinated-international-experience/).

Why should you apply?

Now, you may ask, “why should I apply?” And in all honesty, you are giving up a co-op work term or two to go on exchange. When I was faced with this choice, I decided that an international experience was more valuable for my future than getting paid. Yes, there are also international job opportunities, if you want to work in Germany and Japan (where most international jobs are based). For me, I wanted to be in Denmark, and it is quite hard to find an engineering co-op job there. What attracted me to Denmark was the amount of renewable initiatives and the political will to be sustainable. Danish society, in general, is far more invested in the health of their environment than other countries in the world. They bike, they build wind farms, take on solar panelled-road initiatives, and use localized, combined heat and power stations to reduce the country’s entire energy consumption by 11%! One of the major manufacturer of wind turbines, Siemens Wind Power, was founded in Denmark, and still is still headquarter there. The numerous advancements in renewable energy closely relates to my career goals and is the essential reason I chose to go on exchange in Denmark.

Aside from specific educational and career benefits, you should consider applying to go on exchange for the international experience. You will get to meet tons of exchange students from across the world. This is a great chance to build an international network of future engineers. Since engineering is about finding innovative solutions, the more diverse perspectives you get to know, the better! Studying and sharing intellectual conversations with an international community will broaden your scope of education. And of course, travelling around Europe has always been my dream. So how else to better immerse yourself in Europe’s fine culture, cuisine, history and sites than a 5 month stay? As you can see, this exchange opportunity is truly priceless.

How to choose the right institution for you

So you’ve decided exchange is right for you, but at there are so many AMAZING institutes to choose from! Here’s the kind of research you should be doing. To select the right institution, you should look at the courses and teaching structure they provide. CIE provides useful course mappings here. Each course mapping provides a side-by-side list of UBC and the international institution courses that match. A simple google search of the partner institution is always a sure way to access and explore their course database. If you want a more personal touch, attend the information sessions hosted by CIE and the partner institution. This year, the National University of Singapore and Denmark Technical University (DTU) hosted. At the DTU info session, I was able to get to know their International Affairs Officer. Their advice also encouraged me to register in courses outside CIE’s referred ones.

Furthermore, I found out that DTU has a non-hierarchical style of teaching that highly encourages lecturer-student and student-student collaboration. Most of their courses are hands-on and project-based. Once your project is finished, there’s a chance to compete in the International Gron Dyst Competition! This is what sealed the deal for me.

How to boost your application

In terms of application boosters, you should try to build your application like a cover letter. You want to emphasize your fit. Since DTU has a heavy emphasis on sustainability and interdisciplinary learning, I wrote about creating a sustainability venture with Engineers without Borders, and the interdisciplinary communication skills I have gained through working as a project manager assistant at Vancouver International Airport. Another key aspect about cover letters is showing your interest/ passion for what your employer does. Talk about how the institute you chose stood out from the rest. A little flattery always goes a long way!

I hope I have given you a good overview of what exchange program is like at UBC Engineering. In the next part of my blogs, I will talk about

  • Guide to going on exchange
  • How to maximize your experience
  • How to be prepared for the worst case scenarios

If you have any questions or just want to chat, please comment below!

Cheers,

Kirsten

Read more about Denmark and Wind Energy below:

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

 

Reflecting back on Co-op

Hi everyone, this is Arthi – a new MECH ambassador blogger! After one month into the Fall term, I have had enough time to transition from the co-op mindset to focusing on school again. I am also looking back on the last eight months I spent working at Cadex Electronics, located in Richmond, BC.

Co-workers at Cadex Electronics

Electronics as a Thermofluids major? Yes, I was skeptical about it too when I took the job, but I wanted to expand my skillset. I was hired into the friendly mechanical engineering team at Cadex to help with one primary project – managing heat dissipation inside industrial battery chargers – very relevant to my focus. I won’t get into the details of the project here, but here are the outcomes:

  • I developed a more intuitive understanding of conductive and convective heat transfer
  • I became more competent in prototyping with electronic hardware and collecting data
  • I learned how to design experiments and interpret test data to implement practical design solutions.

These are transferrable technical experiences that will help me with my Capstone project (future blog) this year, and even help me to find a job after graduation. So the moral of the story is to be open to co-op opportunities that you think you may not have all the skills for. You will be surprised to see how quickly you can learn with determination.

I also have a tip for anyone who is going to do co-op, or currently in co-op. Remember the learning objectives you are supposed to write and submit to the Co-op Office at the beginning of every work term? In addition to writing appropriate learning objectives based on your job description, use those as an opportunity to create some goals for technical skills you want to learn. I really wanted to gain experience using electronic sensors and integrating them into a setup for mechanical experiments. I made this as one of my learning objectives and talked to my supervisor to find an appropriate project. As a result of that, I got to select and wire accelerometers for conducting drop testing of electronic products. This was also very useful to the company because it provided the mechanical design team with deceleration values experienced by their products. They can now use this data to improve the strength of their industrial battery chargers and analyzers.

Overall, it was satisfying to end my last co-op work term at Cadex Electronics. Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions about co-op. I feel refreshed and ready to tackle seven courses this term! I hope you will stay tuned for the next post.

Arthi

HERE WE GO… AGAIN

Same place, new voice.

As I read Ashley’s old back-to-school post, I found myself nodding at every word like they were the grains of truth. Indeed, because I’m taking the same courses (minus 2, add another), I feel like I should discuss another very important aspect of back-to-school: how to absorb the most out of my 4th year of Mechanical Engineering.

(My lovely coworkers from YVR)

(My first tour for Mechanical Engineering Student Services)

First, I should mention I’m coming back from 16 MONTHS of Co-op, where I worked under senior engineers and helped them complete their projects. Why is that important? One word-transitioning. Back-to-school to most of you may be leaving the comforts of the summer sun, but for me, it’s also a call-back to homework, assignment deadlines, and study nights.

So I asked myself, “How do I prepare for this?” How do I take the work ethics and skills that I’ve gained in Co-op and fully utilize them in school? Well, to kick off any good project, you must have visions, so I created visions for this semester:

  • Ace my courses (using the work ethics from Co-op!)
  • Build a support network (be inspirational and positive like my Co-op supervisors!)
  • Learn new things (using the drive from Co-op!)

Then I set down the steps to achieve my visions. For the first one, “acing my courses”, I followed one simple rule: “know what you should be learning”. If there’s anything I learned from Co-op, it is the value of self-directed progress. To elaborate, this means you shouldn’t need your supervisor to check up on you every hour, or even, every day. When I was in Co-op, my supervisor would go on one week vacations! At first I was afraid that the small amount of work would make me slack off, but then I quickly learned that by checking on my own progress every day. For example, I jotted down tasks on the log book and then reviewed their completion by the end of the day, the sense of fulfillment and autonomy I had achieved was much greater than any approval my supervisor could give. How can I apply this to my studies? Get a log book. Know what the learning objectives are for each course. At the end of each week, follow-up with yourself: “how comfortable am I with this material?” If you don’t understand something in lectures, quickly jot it down in a log book so you can review them after class. Take this piece of advice with a grain of salt, but from my Co-op experience, anything you don’t understand can be taught by Google! Aside from that, Co-op taught me the importance of a well-designed work environment to your ability to concentrate and be productive. Half a month before school started, I set-up the most productive work station at my dorm. This includes a good lighting, big desk, dual monitors, printer, and stationary at the ready.

The second vision is not as straight forward. Building a network of inspirational and positive people requires time and energy. When I was still in Co-op, I learned a lot about team-building, and I’m taking it back to school. Like working on a project, you have to be communicative and supportive. Be open and honest about life and you’ll be surprised how strong your connection becomes. When I am in the right mental attitude, I found myself quickly surrounded by people who are giving and generous. These people include team members from student design team, supervisor and coworkers form work-learn, new exchange friends, and first year friends. When you build a solid network, you feel more confident about challenging assignments, quizzes and exams. When you struggle together, the victory is just so much sweeter!

Lastly, I want to talk about how Co-op has motivated me to learn new things. I remember the first day I started working at Vancouver International Airport, I was handed a project scope and told I’ll be running the project. Unexperienced as I was, I quickly learned to reach out to resources (senior coworkers, the YVR intranet) and to learn from past projects (for permits, specifications, etc). With that strategy, I was able to accomplish new tasks and in the end, successfully finishing the project at YVR. This semester, I’m planning to or have already reached out to friends with more experience to learn new skills like graphic design, event photography, and 3D scanning.

So there you go! That is how Co-op could actually make your transition back to school so much easier. More importantly, my Co-op experience has had a positive effect on my ability to absorb my fourth year in UBC Mechanical Engineering!

Since I am preparing myself for a semester abroad (in DENMARK), I will be writing about that in my next blog! Let me know if there’s any subject in particular you would like to hear about. And of course, email me if you wish to connect!

Let’s own this semester together,

Kirsten

Mental shifts and Start of Semester Rush

Hi everyone!

Listen, I get it. There’s a lot of reading to do in this program. I’ll try to break things down into thematic sections below so you can get to what interests you the most.

My predecessors have written about their academic experiences and course details in past posts (see September 2016 here), so I thought I’d write about the extracurricular side of things. Most of these posts will focus on topics related to co-op, design teams, and exchange experiences.

A. Choosing a Design Team

September arrives a bit differently every year. In MECH2, you’re corralled on-campus a week before everyone else, giving you the opportunity to strut around like you own the place or grieve uncontrollably for the loss of lazy summer days. It’s also recruitment season for our design teams, of which there are many.

You’ll see various info sessions and application forms posted across social media. How does one possibly decide which team would be the right fit? What if you like rockets and submarines equally? Here are a few tips from my own experiences:

  1. While there are natural fits for students that are determined to get into one particular industry, for those that are unsure, find a team with projects that will best develop your engineering skills. I didn’t grow up as a hard-core gearhead for example, but I knew Formula did the kinds of analyses and design work that interested me and that made it easier to stay committed to their projects.
  2. Prioritize a team with a dynamic that matches your personality. Team and work dynamics can make a huge difference in morale and learning. It’s one of the first things people bring up about their co-op jobs, for example.
  3. The foundations of engineering are present in any student team to some degree, so if you’re set on learning about fluid dynamics, or continuum mechanics, you aren’t limited to just one team that offers that sort of work. Ask each design team about their potential projects!

B. School vs Co-op mindsets

  1. Every semester following a co-op term has been a struggle for me. Co-op terms have typically ended the week right before school starts up again and the extra mental load of school took some time to adjust to.
  2. While many of my colleagues swore they’d review course material, excuses ran wild in the weeks leading up to September. Summers are hard, man; how do you fit course review in between hikes, road trips, and satisfying your Instagram followers? I’m guilty of missing this resolution too, but I feel it’s important in a program like ours, where upcoming material builds heavily from previous.

    And it’s not only good for learning sake, but for work ethic too. It gets your brain in the habit of staying alert past clocking-out of your shift. While we all endeavour to sleep at a reasonable hour, late night study sessions are all too common come midterm season.

What are some of your own challenges as school rolls back around? Let me know in the comments below. Also if you have any questions regarding student teams, interviews, typical work, etc., I’ll try to get to them before the next post.

Happy studying for now,
Jason