Surviving winter

Vancouver winters. They may not be full of snow and ice storms like the rest of Canada, but they do involve a severe lack of sun and no shortage of rain. Coming from Ontario, I honestly thought winters on the west coast would be a joke. And although temperatures don’t dip far below 0℃, dealing with the constant rain and zero sunshine can really get to you. Especially when the winter is also packed with assignments, midterms, exams… It can be difficult to adjust to after growing up outside of Vancouver, so I thought I’d share some things I find helpful when dealing with rainy season.

For reference, this is the kind of winter I’m used to

Proper Rain Gear
This cannot be stressed enough. A good pair of waterproof boots or shoes and a rain jacket go a long way. An umbrella might be nice, however, it can get pretty windy on campus. I have struggled with too many umbrellas and after their ultimate destruction, I decided to stick with the rain coat. If you can find a waterproof / water resistant backpack, that can be quite helpful as well. Otherwise, some people buy waterproof backpack covers to keep their stuff dry.

Warm Drinks
In the hot summers, it can be uncomfortable to try to enjoy warm beverages. Personally, I’m a hot drink person. Coffee, tee, hot chocolate, apple cider… I just love to curl up in some blankets and enjoy something toasty. This is something the winter is awesome for! Appreciate that you have the time to aesthetically sit with your tee and stare out the rain-streaked window.

Explore Indoor Attractions
In the summer, there’s plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. So, use the time in the winter to enjoy some of the indoor ones! From museums both on and off campus, galleries and more, I think some of Vancouver’s attractions are often overlooked.

Still Dress Warm…
Don’t be fooled. Even though temperatures may read above 0℃, I find it feels colder. I’m used to feeling some -30℃ temperatures (poor high school Emily waiting for the bus in her school uniform kilt), so I tend to dress pretty relaxed (long sleeve, light coat). But man, it really feels so much colder. I learned pretty quickly to ditch my “Vancouver isn’t cold” pride and start dressing warmer than I thought was necessary.

Appreciate the Rain
Isn’t it kinda cool that water just like… falls from the sky? Spend time enjoying the rain. It’s still important to get outside and get some fresh air, so gear up, step outside, and have fun splashing through the puddles.

Give yourself breaks!
When the weather isn’t nice, it’s easy to just spend all day inside studying. Going for a walk to give yourself a break doesn’t sound like a nice option anymore, so some people find themselves stuck studying all day. Don’t get stuck. Even if you don’t want to go for a walk in the rain (although I think rain walks are underrated), you can still take breaks by watching an episode of a show, eating a snack while not staring at your laptop, or something else indoors.

So, there you have it. An Ontarian’s take and tips on Vancouver winters. Again, I advise you to not underestimate the rainy season, and the impact it can have on your mental health. But for now, enjoy the summer while it’s here!

Feeling lost in your degree?

In the first few years of my degree, I felt a little lost. It seemed that all of my peers had their whole engineering careers planned out – what company they wanted to work for, what research area they were interested in for grad school… and I’m just here because I like problem solving and things that move.

That’s totally okay! Some people come into engineering with a specific path, and others come to explore what engineering has to offer. You’re not alone if you don’t know exactly what you want to do after your degree. Know that people’s plans change too. In first year, I had friends who were very interested in a specific field, but after second year they were interested in something completely different.

I find there’s a lot of people who even question their decision to go into MECH or engineering in general. It can be easy to get this idea in your head of “this is what a Mechanical Engineer should do” and “this is what a Mechanical Engineer should be,” but that doesn’t exist. Mechanical engineering especially is very broad, and involves so many industries. You develop strong skills throughout your degree, including problem solving and determination. These are highly transferable skills, meaning its also possible to branch out after your degree.

If you’re looking to find a more specific direction in your degree, here’s what I can recommend:

  • Co-op: gaining work experience in industries you might be interested in is very valuable whether you end up liking the industry or not. If you’re really not sure where to go, it can be beneficial to do shorter co-op terms, and try out as many different career paths as possible.
  • Electives: take a good look at the elective courses offered at UBC, and take ones you think might be of interest to you. This will help you develop skills in an area of interest, and can also give you a better idea of specific fields you can pursue with that knowledge.
  • Talk to profs: ask any of your profs if they have a few minutes to talk about their field. They can give you insight into research prospects and often industry as well.
  • Informational interviews: I haven’t done this myself, but I’ve had friends who perform informational interviews with people in industry. If you’re on co-op, that is a good opportunity to ask to speak with other people in the company in different positions. I recommend looking for connections through family and friends as well, and potentially and industry partners you have through design teams and extracurriculars.

In general, I think taking the time to explore different fields in mechanical engineering can help you make the most of your time at UBC. If you don’t know what you want to do after school, don’t panic! There are many people who don’t know as well, and many people have come before you and figured it out 🙂

Exchange and extending your degree

So. I’m planning on taking a 6 year undergrad. That’s a lot. Basically, with this post, I’m going to talk about why I’m extending my degree, a bit about my exchange, and… yeah. Maybe you’ll find some of this useful and relevant to you, or maybe not.

Essentially, I’m planning my degree outline to look like this:

Term 1 Term 2 Summer
Year 1 Study Study Off
Year 2 Study Study Co-op
Year 3 Co-op Study Work Learn
Year 4 Exchange Exchange Co-op
Year 5 Study Study Co-op
Year 6 Study Study Graduate!

which you can compare to what your MECH degree is supposed to look like here.

The main reason for changing my degree to six years, is because of my exchange. I’ll be going on exchange in Germany, where their term is October-March. Because of the timing, I have to take both winter terms off to do the exchange. At least I can knock off some upper year courses though, right? Hahaha… since I don’t speak German (at least very well), I have to take Masters courses, as most of their undergraduate courses are in German. I couldn’t find any Masters courses that fulfilled my UBC course requirements, so I will be counting all of my exchange courses as technical electives. In Mechatronics, we get something like one technical elective. So essentially, I’m taking an entire year of my degree to get a single elective course.

Why am I doing this then? Mainly, to explore my interests. I’m currently interested in medical applications of robotics, which as you can imagine, you don’t get much exposure to in an undergraduate Mechatronics degree. Through my exchange, I’ll get to take specialized Masters courses in that field. The hope is that when I return to UBC, I’ll have a better idea of exactly what I want to do with my degree (unless of course, I end up hating medical robotics), and can potentially get involved with research, and find co-ops in that field.

In addition, I’m planning to drop a Jan-Apr co-op term, and replace it with a study term. This will allow me to take a reduced course load, which I want to do for multiple reasons. Mainly, I want more free time. MECH is a demanding program, and it can be difficult to pursue hobbies and passions while taking a full course load. In addition, you are able to focus on the courses you have a lot more. Even taking one less course this previous term, I found that I understood the content in my other courses much more, and my grades improved. If you’re thinking about pursuing grad school, it can be beneficial to take time to focus on classes, in addition to extra curriculars.

So, there you have it. A little bit about my degree outline, and my reasons for changing it up. Many people come into MECH with the idea that they’ll have a straight forward degree that they can plan from day 1. However, there are a large amount of people who diverge from the standard time table, for many different reasons. Whether it’s for personal or academic reasons, extending your degree says nothing about your abilities. Don’t be discouraged if you find that your degree is progressing differently than planned, you’re not alone!

Summer on campus

So, you’re spending your summer on campus. What goes on here? What can I do to keep myself busy? Well, I might have a few ideas.

Work Learn

If you don’t know what a Work Learn position is, they’re part-time paid positions offered through UBC in both the winter and summer terms. For the summer, Work Learn positions are typically posted around March. Depending on the position, they can be pretty competitive, so it’s best to apply early! You can work a maximum of 20 hours/week in a Work Learn during the summer, which puts you to a total of 300 hours. There are many different positions available, from research, to office and library work, to working with MECH Student Services (yay!).

Undergraduate Research

If you’re interested in a specific field, or think you might be interested in research, then why not reach out to a prof and try to snag a research position? Undergraduate research positions can come in many different forms. There are full-time, paid positions that are sometimes posted through co-op, but full-time opportunities can also be accessed through grants like NSERC. In my case, I’m doing some part-time unpaid casual work for a prof, which will hopefully lead to a publication. If you’re interested, I recommend reaching out to a professor whose research focus appeals to you, and simply ask if they are interested in taking on a student over the summer. You can also take a look here, for more undergrad research opportunities.

Personal Projects

Who doesn’t love making things? During the winter terms, students are typically much too busy to take on extra projects. Over the summer though, you have lots of time to explore your passions and build your resume. There is a wonderful previous post that includes some ideas for personal projects. If you already have some past projects, I can also recommend creating a projects portfolio. Building and coding your own website showcasing past work you’ve done is a useful thing to have to send to employers, and can also be put on your resume!

Design Teams

Joining a design team for the summer only might be difficult (although it doesn’t hurt to ask), however, if you’re already on a design team, there are often opportunities to get more involved. Most design team competitions happen over the summer, which means they are usually even more busy than during the school year. I know people who have spent full days in the shop with their team, and you typically gain a lot of hands-on experience. Often, you also get a chance to go to the competition, which can involve fun road trips and hotel stays.


Have you spent the summer in Vancouver before? If not, this is your chance! Since the winter term is unfortunately dominated by cold and rain, the summer term is really the best chance to get outside and see what Vancouver has to offer. Go hiking on the north shore, climb and mountain bike in Squamish, or simply enjoy the UBC campus. With the roses coming out and flowers in bloom, the summer is a beautiful time to take relaxing walks and explore the campus and city itself.

Tulip fields and mountains in the background View of mountains

This list just contains a few things that come to mind when thinking about the summer, but there really are endless possibilities! Even if you’re on co-op or not staying in Vancouver over the summer, some of my suggestions are still applicable, and I strongly encourage you to make the most out of your free time. That being said, I think it is also important to recognize that the summer is your primary time to relax and destress from the previous term. For some people, doing projects and research are their way to relax and destress. Others may benefit more from simply taking a break, and that’s okay too! In a demanding program like engineering, we need to know how to take a step back and prepare for the next year, in order to avoid burnout. While some people (including me) want to constantly be productive and push themselves, knowing what works best for you and following that is important.

Life on a non-competition design team

At UBC, we have a lot of design teams to choose from. I think people often hear about the big competition teams – Formula, Rocket, AeroDesign, etc, but not as much about the teams that don’t go to competitions. My design team, Sustaingineering, is one of the non-competition teams. So, what’s it like being on a team that doesn’t build things for competitions? What do we do instead? Let me tell you!

On Sustaingineering, there are many different sub-teams that all have their own project. These projects involve real-world problems centered around sustainability. On my team, the Wind Turbine team, we are tasked with designing a small-scale and low-cost wind turbine for a community in Nicaragua. We have a stakeholder, who is our main point of contact between us at UBC and the community in Nicaragua.

These projects are fun, because they have their own unique challenges. When looking at designing a sustainable turbine, we aren’t just looking to make a super-efficient turbine made of new cutting-edge materials. A big aspect of sustainability involves working with the community, and making a product that is mindful of their practices and knowledge. Sure, we could use super sustainable materials that we ship to Nicaragua from Canada. But what if it breaks? Just ship more? That’s not very sustainable. Instead, we want to look at materials we can source from the area, ones that locals are familiar with and can repair themselves. In the community we’re working with, they often use bamboo to build different structures, including houses. Bamboo itself is an environmentally sustainable material, so incorporating it into our turbine is a good option.

What are some of the benefits of a non-competition team?

On a non-competition team, we get to make our own deadlines, and therefore avoid the stress and pressure associated with competition dates. We can plan for less work occurring during exam season, so members don’t get overly stressed. This lack of hard deadlines also allows the team to be a bit more flexible, and explore other options. Say we start working on one design, but a member comes up with a different design that might work better. If we had a hard deadline, switching designs after starting with one might not be possible.

What are some of the drawbacks?

In this case, the benefits can also be drawbacks. With no set dates to finish a project, some non-competition teams face slow progress, and “analysis paralysis.” This is when you get stuck analyzing one or multiple designs, trying to optimize them as much as possible. My sub-team faced this during a semester, and solved it by getting in the workshop and starting to prototype whatever design we had. On non-competition teams, it’s really up to leaders within the team to motivate and drive them forward to produce results.

Overall, I am very happy with my experience on the design team. As someone who is interested in sustainability, it was great to gain experience solving real-world problems. Beyond that, I made many friends and connections, as we all bonded over our common passion for sustainability.

My co-op experience with the Vancouver Airport

For my second co-op position, I was offered a job at YVR. Now, I’m not one of those people who knows every type of plane, but come on, who doesn’t think planes are cool?

My role was in the Engineering Services department, which mainly deals with building and alteration permits. The department often gets involved with little side projects as well, which always kept things interesting! My primary task was reviewing HVAC and plumbing drawings, as well as doing site visits to ensure the construction was consistent with submitted drawings. Before working at YVR, I had zero experience with HVAC and plumbing. Because of this, I was a bit nervous to start. However, I quickly realized that the point of co-op is to learn, you’re not expected to be a professional in your field.

At YVR, I really appreciated that the staff wanted you to get as much out of your experience as possible. Even though I was mostly reviewing drawings, almost every week I would get a chance to be in the terminal building, airside, or in other cool places. Some of the highlights include:

  • A tour of the baggage system
  • Sitting airside and watching planes take off
  • Many visits to the secure side of the airport
  • Getting a tour of the Air Canada hangar (which included lots of pictures with the planes)
  • Going on a big construction site for a pump station replacement
  • A tour of the Ground Run-Up Enclosure
Many wires, tubes, small tanks, and more inside the compartment.

Underneath and inside of the plane… so much to look at!

I would love to say that through this co-op I discovered my passion for HVAC and plumbing, and ever since have been excited to learn more, but I’d be lying. I’ve since realized that my interests are more geared towards robotics and applications in the medical field, which is quite different than the work I was doing at the airport. So am I sad about spending my four months learning about systems that are not directly relevant to my future goals? No way! Any co-op and work experience you get is worth it, even if you end up hating that industry. Maybe I would’ve spent my entire degree thinking I wanted to work with HVAC systems, but that four month co-op saved me time by telling me no, HVAC is not my calling. No co-op term is a waste of time. In addition, I gained many transferable skills that are very beneficial when applying to future jobs. Scanning these plumbing drawings for small flaws requires being very detail oriented, and having to pick up so many new skills and programs in such a short time forced me to become a fast learner.

A plane and some equipment sits on the apron.

All in all, remember that no experience is bad experience. Despite not finding my passion in HVAC and plumbing, I very much enjoyed my co-op at YVR, and gained so many useful skills. Don’t feel discouraged if you are not enjoying the technical aspect of a work term as much as you thought you would. We are all just students trying to figure out what we want to do after our degrees, and sometimes that involves some trial and error.

My MECH experience

Hello! Emily here. I’m a third year MECH student, specializing in Mechatronics. I’m originally from a small town in South-western Ontario, which is actually where I did my first year of University, during the Covid-driven online year. You might be wondering, what was it like doing your entire first year online? Well, I actually found it alright. I was worried about making friends and finding a community within engineering while being alone in my bedroom, but apparently everyone else had that worry as well, which lead to countless group chats, zoom calls, and friends I am still close with in person.

With the transition to in-person classes in second year, it sort of felt like starting completely new again. This was my first time living on campus, first time living alone… but again, everyone was in the same boat. The MECH 2 group became quite close, and we all managed the transition together.

Well, at least the transition to third year must’ve been easy then, right? Not exactly. After spending all day everyday with my friends in MECH 2, I wasn’t used to not having the same classes as everyone. I was the only one in my friend group taking the Mechatronics stream, which meant we only had a few overlapping classes. In addition, third year is when people’s schedules start changing due to co-op. Some people will take a 12 or 16 month co-op right after second year, so they will be a year behind, until they catch up in forth year. However, these changes also gave me the opportunity to connect with people I didn’t get to know as well in MECH 2, and people with similar interests as myself.

Laptop, graham crackers, chocolate, and other miscellaneous materials.

Our capstone experiment in third year (part of Mech 305/6). Yes, we’re making s’mores.

I have done 2 four-month co-op terms so far. The first one I did back in Ontario, for a small company that designed and manufactured storage racks for car parts on the assembly line. Before working there, I honestly didn’t know that car part storage racks was an industry. My second co-op term was with Engineering Services at the Vancouver Airport, which was a really cool experience. Although my role was primarily reviewing HVAC and plumbing drawings, everyone there wanted you to make the most of your time there, which resulted in airside visits, tours of the secure side of the airport including the baggage system, and most excitingly, a hangar visit to get up close to some impressive planes.

Up-close airplane in a hangar, a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

During my third summer in University, I decided not to do a co-op term, but rather to develop other skills and gain different kinds of experience. In addition to my Work Learn with MECH Student Services, I am doing some statistics work with a professor I reached out to last term, and am also taking time to work on some personal projects. Since this is my first summer in Vancouver, I’m trying to take every opportunity to spend time climbing in Squamish, and will also need to take some time as I prepare to head out for my exchange next term in Germany.

Making Rocket Components – The Capstone Experience

The entire educational experience in MECH and APSC is geared toward preparing for your capstone project. It feels like from the early MECH days, right up to and including capstone are focused on preparing us to work alongside a client to try and create something of value. For my capstone, I worked with UBC Rocket to help design the main parachute release mechanism for their sounding rocket. The things we missed out on by working with a UBC-specific client were quite quickly offset by the uniqueness of the experience itself.

A common method of triggering systems with high reliability is using pyrotechnic charges. I had never worked with explosives before or performed analyses regarding them, but more about that later! Capstone is a full eight-month project where we work with an actual client to figure out the scope and deliverables for the project. Fortunately, capstone is divided up into smaller segments to ensure that they are more manageable.

The early parts of the project were probably one of the most important phases of the project – figuring out the scope. A common trend I’ve seen with more open-ended problems is scope creep, which is when things get added to your to-do list that you didn’t initially agree to. To try and avoid this from happening to our team as well, we tried to meet with the client as often as we could during the earlier stages and kept them updated on every progress the team made over the first few weeks. Fortunately, we were able to avoid it through complete transparency with the client on what we can and cannot do along with recognizing what skillsets exist within them and which ones do not.

Now that we could work on the fun part of the project, it had two main functions- releasing successfully when signalled and carrying the weight of the rocket once it had been released. But as we started figuring out what concept alternatives we had, there was that all-familiar feeling that we are already weeks behind. Preliminary prototype testing results were due in about a week or so and we weren’t close to having a good set of concept alternatives, let alone having completed the WDM to make a proof of concept prototype of our leading concept. Once again we had to make sure rapid prototyping was rapid. We went on a team scavenger hunt to gather scrap materials for the prototype.

Prototype version 1

It was probably while machining the prototype for the first time did it the seriousness of our analysis hit me. We had chosen a type of machine called a tender descender while engaged using a small pyrotechnic explosion, so basically our very rapid prototype had to be structurally sound enough to contain a small explosion as intended to ensure that no one gets hurt. It was a weird feeling because I hadn’t worked with anything before that could potentially affect someone’s safety and well-being if my calculations were not done properly. It is an important thing to realize the impact our work sometimes has and not only on ourselves but also those who would be interacting with it at the end of the day. Well the prototype did end up working, but during testing the pressure seal on our concept was not satisfactory so we ended up using bubblegum to seal the pressure chamber.

Prototype version 2

It would be somewhat ideal if the final concept that the client paid for didn’t use half-chewed bubblegum to work. So for the next few iterations, the design used two concentric cylinders to create the pressure chamber. Once we were confident the design was reliable and worked as intended, we began optimizing it for manufacturability, assembly and weight. We improved the ease of assembly by having symmetrical parts and reducing the number of components required; ease of manufacturability was also improved when we had symmetrical parts so multiple components could be made on the same setup. Weight was probably one of the harder things to reduce, since our concept was small to begin with, reducing a few grams would add up to a noticeable percentage. The most effective method of reducing weight was selecting the correct materials for each of the components; parts that did not need to be steel shouldn’t be steel was the basic idea and that itself helped reduce the overall weight by 40%.

Prototype version 3

Testing the prototypes was so much fun! Filling them with black powder and arming them with an electronic match definitely did give me the chills but by the 20th test having no incidents or misfires we started to have some confidence in our loading procedure. So we completed three types of tests – a no load release test, a full load hold test and a full load release test. The tests were performed in order of increasing risk so failure modes could be detected early on and addressed to potentially mitigate the risk of a high-severity test failing unexpectedly.

For our no-load release test, we were testing to quantify the reliability of the prototypes and understand the limits for the minimum amount of black powder required in this system. The full load hold test was intended to verify the load-bearing capacity of the concept, as during flight it is expected to take the full weight of the rocket. For this test, we hung 75 kgs from the 60g concept for over 20 minutes. Finally, for the full load release test we tested to see if the prototype could hold over 50kgs and release successfully when signalled. This test would be the most representative of what would be seen in an actual rocket in terms of the sequence of actions performed and we used this as a final validation test for our prototype.

Overall it was an enriching experience, and as I wrap up the final few documents for the course, it really does feel like the end of a marathon. There were a few long weeks, but seeing our prototype evolve over the weeks truly made it all worth it. Each step along the way was an uncomfortable realization that we could have done things better and getting them done so we didn’t have regrets while handing the project over to our client. From getting our project brief in September to handing over the final concept, it has been one memorable journey!

Making the most out of your co-op experience

So here we are with our first co-op position using the advice given by my previous MECH ambassadors! Like anything else, being able to put your best foot forward always helps. Over my five co-op terms, I’ve noticed that the mindset to make the most of your co-op more or less remains the same.

Keeping an open mind

It rarely happens that we get our dream job as our first co-op, and that’s perfectly alright. Any experience is helpful even if we can’t figure out how immediately – “Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

My very first co-op was with a client-facing software position. As a second-year Mechanical engineer, I didn’t know how working in software would help. But the experience I got working with clients here was essential to my ability to negotiate and collaborate with other engineering teams and suppliers. Similarly, there were always tasks that needed to be completed to keep the lights on, like tabulating data or creating operating procedure documents. Working on processing the raw data usually gave me an insight into the workings of processes that I wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise. In the majority of my co-ops, I found my term project by identifying quirks in data that would have been unattended otherwise.

Dress like the person you want to be

Most engineering jobs do not have a set dress code, but being appropriately dressed never goes unnoticed. It might be a bit clichéd, but first impressions make a difference! Sometimes being dressed for the job you want is the easiest way to show that you’re interested in the work that you’re doing.

Don’t be afraid to take initiatives

I think this was one of my more revolutionary revelations – our supervisors and mentors are human too. 

Till that realization dawned upon me, I was always a bit more nervous than I should have been and second-guessed myself before contributing to discussions. It might take a week or so to settle into the team, but it’s helpful to remember that they wanted you on the team, so you shouldn’t second guess yourself in a position that you’ve earned!

There are always more things that need to be done at a workplace than there is time to do them. If something catches your eye and you want to look into it, do it! It’s a valuable experience to identify potential projects and see them through. I’ve always found supervisors supportive of projects you want to undertake provided your regular responsibilities are looked after.

Connecting with People

One of the most exciting things about co-op is meeting several individuals with similar engineering interests. Apart from gaining friends and getting to know people from all over the company, learning more about the various departments and the types of challenges they undertake is always helpful.

Co-op is an opportunity to try out different types of positions and industries at a lower risk compared to a full-time job. Starting it’s hard to know where you’d be four to five years down the road. So trying to make the most out of the opportunities that come to you might help you eventually decide where you want to be and where you don’t.

Student Experiences

The Department of Mechanical Engineering houses several sub-specializations, and the difference between them isn’t always clear when choosing a program in the first year. Around the end of 2022, we had a student experiences panel with upper-year MECH students from each specialization to answer questions and try to demystify the program. Here are a few things they to say!

But before we get started here are our panelists:

  • Janet Sun – Mechatronics
  • Ahijit Banerjee – Thermofluids
  • Phoebe Cheung – Biomedical

Why did you choose MECH?

Janet: I have always been very interested in robotics and how things move the way that they do, I am now furthering my studies with a Master’s in Kinematically Redundant Parallel Robots which is very exciting. My choice stemmed from pure interest and curiosity, wanting to know the why and how behind mechanical movements in addition to what I could do to control those motions. Hence, I have specialized in Mechatronics which was also a factor as to why I chose MECH.

Ahijit: I come from an ECE and CS-dominated background and I was naturally inclined towards it from a young age. But during my first year here, I loved the hands-on projects we had – building the cardboard chair and seeing it support 17 sandbags or the metal claw trying its best to pieces of pasta from the floor. I hadn’t had much exposure to hands-on projects prior to coming to UBC, but I knew I wanted much more and that’s why I choose MECH.

Phoebe: Back in the first year, I was introduced to the concept of biomechanics, and the synergy between mechanical and biomedical engineering quickly became something I was interested in learning more about. Through the First Year Program Fair and the Mechanical Engineering First Year Networking Event, I had the opportunity to learn more about MECH and talk to current students about their experiences. As MECH offers a biomedical specialization, I discovered that a MECH degree would be the best choice for where my interests lie. I wanted a strong foundation in a core engineering discipline while still being able to gain experience in the biomedical industry. My goal was to build my toolbox of skills and knowledge through my degree to be able to design and develop medical devices in my future career.

Opportunities in the program

Janet: There are so many various way to be involved. Either through design team, student council, work learn positions in the mech offices, volunteering in labs or joining various clubs on campus. There are infinite ways of enriching your degree. If you would like to gain technical experience, joining a design team would be the best way to apply what you learn in the classroom to a tangible project and also allow you to polish those team working skills. During my time on both SUBC and Orbit, I have really enjoyed watching our design concept come to life with the combined efforts of the entire team. If you would like to develop professionally and or practice your interpersonal skills while taking on a leadership role, I highly encourage you to apply as a work learn student or join the mechanical engineering student council. I have been part of the council since my second year, having taken on roles such as 2nd Year Rep, Academic Rep, Secretary, and my two terms as President. These roles have taught me so much and I enjoyed being able to work closely with an amazing supportive team to ensure that all mechanical engineering students have access to a wide array of social, academic and professional development opportunities. I was also fortunate to be able to take on a few work learn positions during my undergraduate career and it was a really nice way of improving my soft skills such as technical communications. Being a work learn student gave me so many more opportunities to interact with staff, faculty and also incoming students. From my various roles in the department, I was able to interact with profs and I was able to volunteer in the CARIS lab working on a really cool controls project leading me to my master’s degree. There are so many opportunities that may creep up on you without you even knowing.

Ahijit: MECH has several opportunities for students to get involved outside of classes, the most common being design teams. Working on larger projects with technical and non-technical folks with different backgrounds is some of my favourite and most exciting moments in school. They helped me develop my technical and communication skills, and it is a fun way to meet new people.

The department is also very supportive of undergraduate research. MECH has the CREATE-U program exclusively for MECH students interested in research, I had initially asked my professor if they had any opportunities in their lab for an undergrad student, and I was able to complete a co-op term at their lab through this program. The department also has paid opportunities like teaching assistantships and work-learns. I found the time I spend TA’ing or helping out with work learn tasks to be a refreshing change from the technical projects and a way to give back to the community.

Phoebe: In addition to coursework, I had a multitude of opportunities to gain experience outside of the classroom. One of the highlights of my degree would be my time on UBC AeroDesign. It was my first time working on a large-scale team project, and it was very rewarding to watch our airplane take off for the very first time! In addition to the technical experience, I’ve also gained experience with project management during my time as Team Captain. Navigating the team through the pandemic and the transition back to in-person work was a unique challenge, and it has undoubtedly taught me important leadership and communication skills.

The MECH Community

Janet: One of my passions is to build community and as such I have taken up roles such as Mech Prez and Residence Advisor. I really enjoy hosting events and bringing people together through common interests and providing opportunities for skill development. The mechanical engineering community is very diverse, with students from vastly different backgrounds but we all come together under CEME or Rusty working on our projects, labs or course work knowing that our classmates will always lend a hand to help when they can.

Ahijit: The MECH community is a tightly knit one. Starting from the days of MECH 2, we see each other all the time from classes during the week and at design teams over the weekends. But it’s the days when things don’t go according to plan or it’s the day before the competition and we’re still at Home Depot picking up parts, is when I made my closest friends whom I knew I could count on. Alongside seeing everyone for school nearly every day, club MECH hosts events frequently that are an amazing opportunity to detox and relax.

Phoebe: Although 2nd year (“MECH2”) is as challenging as every upper-year MECH student claims, reflecting back on it now, it has certainly helped me build a strong academic foundation and become a better future engineer. The variety of courses and labs allowed me to get a taste of what mechanical engineering has to offer for the rest of my undergraduate degree. Because of its rigour, MECH2 has also allowed me to learn how to better manage my time and prioritize my tasks. The overall MECH community is also very welcoming, which allowed me to build a strong support system of peers and professors.

Additional Comments

Janet: Being involved in not only the mechanical engineering community but also the greater engineering community to show our mech pride has been a highlight of my undergraduate career. From winning E-week this year with all the hard work from very dedicated and committed mech community to competing in the ball model in my second year with a small group of friends. We went from design conception to sourcing materials and building the overall contraption. I was finally able to realize my dream of building a claw machine. I am super thankful for my friends joining my team and their dedication to the project. There is nothing quite like building something from scratch, getting your fingers superglued onto the project and getting a burn from the activator. This experience will forever be engrained in my memory as a very stressful but thrilling time.