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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Being a MECH student requires a lot of commitment and drive; especially when you are developing your Capstone Design project in a short period of time. Capstone is the final graduating requirement for UBC’s mechanical engineering students. Student teams choose from a pool of projects from different industry clients such as the ones shown here. These projects challenge students to apply knowledge and skills learned throughout their degree to real world problems.
The Capstone project I decided to pursue was with the AMS /SEEDS Sustainability Initiative. The project’s main objectives were to design, manufacture and implement a vertical axis wind-powered turbine that collects, transforms, and stores wind energy. It will then provide output power to charge at least one cell phone device around the UBC Plaza, while educating the public about sustainable energy methods and building a sense of community by providing seating space.
Over the past four months, my team and I have been working on collecting and understanding the needs and requirements from the client to find out the final goals of the project. This is no easy task as it requires a lot of hours of communication and meetings with not only the client, but other stakeholders.
Needs and requirements are explored and found at almost every stage of the project, because the more you research, the more they appear. For example, the sculpture had to be aesthetically pleasing while collecting energy, it had to be at least 12 feet tall so that users couldn’t reach the upper system, and it had to also have a seating area to increase community building. So far, the project is on the early stages due to having multiple major systems such as the electrical connection, the shape of the sculpture and the shape and manufacturing of the airfoils, that need to be defined and worked on, which makes this task harder. This capstone project is a combination of multiple individual capstone projects- since our project is in the public realm that means that every design we create needs to be approved by a certified professional Engineer, so that it meets the right safety standards. This not only makes it more intense, but also increases our budget; there are a lot of things to account for.
With all of these challenges we are trying our best, and we are hoping all the hours and constant work we are putting into developing this project pays off in the end. I will let you know how it all goes a couple months from now. Feel free to ask me any questions any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time!
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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,
It is true that Mech 2’s curriculum is intense, especially during that time of year when you are hungry, tired and trying to complete your design project “on time” – but it is a good experience to go through. For example, last week Mech 2 students had the opportunity to apply their engineering skills to a real world project. Their project consisted on the creation and design of a prototype vehicle that can successfully deploy a set of “landers” on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Students worked long hours for about month (while taking classes) to have a prototype vehicle ready for competition day. During the competition, the prototypes were tested in five different rounds. The team who had the best prototype won the competition. The reward you may ask? Bragging rights! Yeah, that’s pretty cool!
The whole process is part of Mech 223, a design focused course with a new challenge every year. I would say that the most rewarding part of taking a course like this is making something that works and moves. I had a great time during my Mech 2 design challenge. When I was in Mech 2, we created a completely autonomous vehicle that had to move through different paths (straight, curved or sloped). To be honest, it was very challenging because it required programming, gear boxes, electrical sensors, and more, but I feel like I learned a lot of things I had no idea about.
Apart from being able to learn about the design process and build something cool from scratch, you also get refreshments from Club Mech the night before competition. This year in particular, Club Mech made soft tacos! As you can see by the pictures, the Mech 2s look very happy.
Hopefully you too have the chance to go through this experience. I assure you that you will learn so much about yourself, design in mechanical engineering and how to work with others.
Original photo from: UBC Engineering Undergraduate Society Facebook Page
This week was super fun, but also busy. The life of a Mech student sometimes makes you wish that days can actually be longer than 24 hours. Most Mech students are involved in extra-curricular activities. Some are part of Club Mech or student teams such as, Baja, Formula, Thunderbots, AeroDesign, etc.; others are part of ex-officio clubs, such as Alpha Omega Epsilon (AOE), Sigma Phi Delta (SPD) and Women in Engineering (WiE). There are a lot of positive things that come out of joining groups like these at UBC. In my opinion, the most valuable skills you can learn from these activities is the ability to work with people and effectively succeed in the accomplishment of a project. Whether your interest is related to technical skills or group management, these groups really give you the opportunity to explore your abilities. This is what Club Mech does for me, and that is why E-WEEK is an important time for our Club.
Original photo: UBC Club Mech Facebook Page
Our goal for this year was to win first place in E-WEEK. As the week went on, we participated in all the activities, but sadly we didn’t get enough points to win 1st place. Mech placed 5th out of 12 engineering teams that competed. Although we did not win, the experience and memories of friendship that were created that week will last a life time.
I think we are lucky that UBC engineering has a good Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS). They organize so many events during the academic year, so undergraduate students from every department have a chance to relax, enjoy and socialize through their university experience. So, thank you to the EUS for organizing such a fantastic E-WEEK! You can find out more about the EUS here.
The sense of community at UBC Engineering is great. By participating in events, clubs and teams, you will meet great people from different departments that can potentially teach you interesting things about their lives and careers.
Until next time,
Original Photo from: UBC Engineering Undergraduate Society
This week in particular has been rather crazy for me. I have been trying to organize my schedule to make sure I have enough time for my extracurricular activities, classes and work. Time management is a key skill in the life of a Mech student. We usually get pretty good at this during Mech 2; after all it is a busy program.
Anyways, the reason why life is so busy right now is because E-week starts next week! As Vice-President of Club Mech I have to participate in as many events as possible. For those of you who don’t know, E-week is an undergraduate “Engineering faculty” competition week during the second term of classes and is hosted by the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS). They plan a lot of events such as opening ceremonies, cooking with beer, true engineer (participants build a structure made out of materials from the dollar store in a short period of time), new red old red (a fun undergraduate and alumni casual networking event), etc. and give participants points for their attendance. The department that has the most points wins the competition. If you want to know more, you can check out some of the events here. This is an important time for us undergrads to represent the Mechanical Engineering department and show our pride.
In the past, Mech has won the competition many times, but that hasn’t been the case in the last 2 years. Our Club Mech President Ashley Mak wants us to win, so we will do our best to beat the other departments! With all the events going on, I have to make sure I have time to complete my assignments, study and participate in activities. So far, I have managed to set up a schedule that allows me to do everything for that week, but I have to say it will require dedication, long hours and tons of reminders and alarms… I will let you know how it all goes. Fingers crossed that we win E-week!
Hope your week is going great. Thanks for reading.