Busy As Usual – The Third Year Shuffle

Hello everyone,

I’m now back at UBC for the second term of my third year of Mechanical Engineering, which is on Term 1 of the winter session in the Co-op schedule.  Trying to explain the Co-op schedule is always complicated, so I’ve just started saying I graduate on May 2020 (assuming everything goes as planned).

I ended up taking an online course over the summer and I strongly recommend it. It didn’t feel like an extra burden on top of Co-op work since it was only one course and now I only have to take five courses this term instead of the usual six.

And the best part?

Only one course starts at 8:00am.  A dream come true.

Now, when I was first looking at this semester on paper it seemed like an easygoing semester. Only five courses? Sounds like smooth sailing to my final year. But engineering being engineering, this term is just as packed as all of my other ones. Here’s my quick student perspective off the courses this term.

MECH 325 – Mechanical Design 1

This course applies to all options of the Mechanical Engineering program (Thermofluids, Biomedical, Mechatronics, and General.  More info on those here).

You learn all about gears, pulleys and all sort of mechanical systems.  There’s tons of information and equations coming your way so get ready to soak in all types of variables.  There’s group work involved with designing components and small mechanical systems, but not every week.

MECH 327 – Thermodynamics 2

Oh boy, here we go again. Thermodynamics 2: 2 Hot 2 Handle

Only students in the General and Thermofluids options of the program have to take this one.  It’s one of the most important and applicable courses for the field I want to go into after graduation (energy).  That first midterm didn’t go so well though, so this class has been my top priority.

The second midterm is two days from the time I write this, so wish me luck.

MECH 328 – Mechanical Engineering Design Project

This one applies to all options and it’s the main design course this term.  The project this year is to design an autonomous ocean microplastic sampler.

Here’s a little information on microplastics and why they are increasingly a problem in the ocean: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/microplastics.html

The project is actually pretty neat, but it’s quite a bit of work.  We don’t have to build anything, but we do have to develop our design using engineering design principles.  This means that we have to be very thorough with our decision process and there’s tons of documentation is involved, so it’s good preparation for the engineering field.

MECH 386 – Industrial Fluid Mechanics

This course only applies to the Thermofluids option, so it is one of the more interesting courses for me.  It’s essentially a continuation of previous fluid courses, but more grounded in industry applications.  There’s a semester long project involved where you contact companies and try to solve problem they are having specific to fluid mechanics.

I did pretty well on the first midterm, so the course is currently on my good graces.  The turbulent flow midterm is just around the corner, so I’m not sure that good grace will last.

PHIL 101 – Philosophy 101

This is my non-engineering course this term.

I highly recommend taking Philosophy.  It’s a nice break from the regular engineering courses were we get smacked over the head with all of the rules that we have to follow.  The physics and math with equation after equation after equation.  I feel like this course provides a different perspective on things.

It’s nice to take a step back and go “Wait, do I even exist?” If I don’t exist neither does that grade I got on the Thermodynamics midterm.  There’s comfort in that.

__

And that’s about it. Two design courses, two regular engineering courses, and one humanities for a total of five courses.

Like I said, it looks like a pretty straightforward semester. After this it’s an 8-month Co-op and then my final year.  I just have to make it through this term first.

Denmark Study Abroad Experience

HEY readers! I missed you all. It’s been almost three months since I’ve come back from Denmark. There’s so much to cover. One of the topics in this blog are the Mechanical and Energy Engineering courses I took at Denmark Technical University (DTU). Furthermore, I will talk about the job market in Copenhagen. Of course, there are also the people I’ve met, whether professors, students, or industry professionals.

So firstly, the courses I took at DTU included some of the standard requirements for UBC Mechanical Engineering, such as Mechanical Vibrations and Manufacturing Technologies. These courses covered the standard content and material. Perhaps the only difference is that Mechanical Vibrations course did not have a laboratory portion at DTU. Instead, we had assignments in Matlab that simulated the displacement and velocity measurements we would get from real life vibrations. Manufacturing Technologies was a distance-learning course. It also had a more interesting content, covering metallurgy (the design and manufacturing of cast components), glass-making, and how to select the best processes for a desirable product function and performance. Both of these courses were considered to be Bachelor level at DTU. However, most of the technical electives I chose were at Master level.

Wind Turbine Racer

Trying to get a grasp around how wind power operates in Denmark, I selected technical electives tailored towards my goal. The Wind Turbine Racer course was one of the most interesting courses I’ve ever taken. It was the equivalent of a design team at UBC, but with the added support from a professor and an assistant professor and the resources provided by DTU. The class was very small, containing only 7 students. However, only 2 of them were Danish; other students in the course were from Columbia, US, and Spain. Just like most of my other courses, I was the only Canadian. In this course, we were trying to optimize a wind turbine racer that generated forward propulsion when wind speeds were high. It could drive up to 113.1% of the wind speed (which is between 6m/s and 10m/s or 22km/h and 30km/h). The turbines spun on a shaft connected to bevel gears and would in turn translate the rotational energy to the rear axle of the car. There are many potential areas for optimization. We learned that we can perhaps install a feedback loop that angles the turbine perpendicularly towards the direction of the wind. That was a major implementation. Smaller ways of improving the vehicle was to play with the curvature of the turbine shield, length of turbine blades, and the efficiency of the gear train.

Energy Systems Analysis and Optimization

Another course I took was very relevant to a potential career path. In Energy Systems Analysis and Optimization, we used thermoeconomic modelling to design cogeneration plants that were more efficient than conventional power plants. Approximately 11% of electricity and heat demands in today’s European society are met using cogeneration technology. In Denmark, electricity supply system operates at 65% efficiency overall [1]. This proved to give more than environment improvements, but it also has long term economic implications that electrical power corporations are interested in, especially when implemented at a regional or national level. We used Engineering Equation Solver (EES) to simulate the power and heat outputs of real life systems of heat exchangers, steam turbines, and boilers. Heat recovery steam generators (HRSG) are used to absorb the energy from hot exhaust gases released by gas turbines. Using thermoeconomic models, we designed HRSG for a real life gas turbine cycle. Overall, this course taught me how to design components of energy systems at a micro level. At a macro level, I needed to know how electricity generated was distributed in the Danish and Scandinavian power systems.

Power Systems Balancing with Large Scale Wind Power

Starting with basic concepts of different types of wind turbines, Power Systems Balancing course built up to the dynamic simulation models for power balance control. With large scale integration of fluctuating wind power into conventional power grid, the challenge arises concerning whether operation can be reliable [2]. When wind power decreases unexpectedly, an imbalance is created in the power system that could lead to power outages and dangerous shutdowns. To prevent this, conventional electricity generating units are necessary as backup that can respond quickly. By creating a feedback loop, measurements of wind power output is used to regulate amount of power produced from conventional power plants [2]. This sums up the technical electives I took at DTU.

Job Market in Copenhagen, Denmark

Two fields of engineering jobs stood out very clearly above others, pharmaceutical and information technology. Copenhagen, and Denmark at large, is home to some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, such as Novo Nordisk. Surprisingly, Denmark is ranked one of the lowest users of pharmaceutical products among OECD countries [3]. The result is a huge export to other countries. The amount of pharmaceutical product exported has tripled within the last decade [3]. Even though this field is not blatantly related to Mechanical Engineering, there are opportunities in quality control and process validation. One of my friends in Industrial Engineering landed an internship with Novo Nordisk using his skills for industrial layout optimization.

The second most frequently posted jobs relate to information technology. This includes software development, data management, and network architecture. Companies like Cisco, Microsoft, and even non-software dominant companies like Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy has many job postings within this field. How does that relate to mechanical engineering? Computer simulations like computational fluid dynamics, finite element analysis, and dynamic modelling are some key technical electives that the department provides. Outside of the courses, I’m learning Python and other software languages on my own, and will take exams to attain certificates. Evidently, the job market in Denmark isn’t tailored towards mechanical engineering. This challenge simply means we need to be flexible to changes in the society.

Life in Copenhagen

Copenhagen is a curious city. It has all the charms of Scandinavian architecture, with its green spiraling church tops and rustic brick exteriors. The infrastructure was an old legacy, but everything else was new. From trendy restaurants and cafes to the brand name clothing lines, the gleaming store fronts belie how crammed it is inside. Every nook and cranny of space was precious, as seen by the tiny washrooms that seem to be carved into the walls. As always with older infrastructures, retrofitting was not the only challenge. Reliability of electricity supply was also a question. Sometimes an intersection in the middle of the city would not light.

Despite its modernity, available products were not as abundant as in Vancouver. It took me a while to discover that underneath the veil was an undeniable better quality of life. The Danes might not show it in the fancy products they use, wear, and consume, but they show it in how much they enjoy what little they have. I discovered you can pick up anything in a store and it would be of great quality. For instance, a variety of the cheapest store brand food like oatmeal, vegetables, fruits were organic. Organic wasn’t just a healthier alternative, it was pretty much integrated in everyday life. Consuming these affordable organic food products actually made a difference in how my body feels. This led me to think that maybe it is exactly this brand-driven, commercialized mentality that’s hindering us to get money’s worth of quality in Vancouver.

Aside from commodities, the quality of life in Copenhagen was much better because of the social securities that Danish government provides. All of my Danish classmates received free university education. In addition, they were subsidized with monthly living allowances that they did not have to pay back. This enables such them to be financially stable and stress-free during their university years. Being a Canadian student, I could not enjoy the Danish financial benefits. However, I found a job and was able to take advantage of the high wages in Copenhagen. I also appreciate seeing this social system in action and the massive impact it has on the way of life.

I really enjoyed writing about my study abroad experience and hope you enjoyed reading it. If you have any questions, please comment down below. I look forward to chatting with you.

Kirsten

First steps in Switzerland – Part 1

Disclaimer: This was my experience during my particular exchange season; these to-do lists and processes may change pending updated ETH or UBC policies. None of the suggestions here should be taken as official instructions from any named organizations.

Here are a few things that I had to address in the first weeks. Make sure you keep an eye on the deadlines and instructions for all of these tasks. I’ll try to elaborate on them in the next couple posts.

  • Dorm contract and first payment (Rent + Security deposit)
  • Visa Authorization Fee (Payable to ETH)
  • Residency Permit (Payable to the City of Zurich)
  • Health Insurance (Payable to whichever company you choose)
  • Bank Account
  • Intensive German Class

Housing Search

Before all of the above, I was debating between finding my own place and roommates or taking advantage of WOKO, a student housing organization separate from ETH that places you in one of their dorms that vary wildly in configurations. Ultimately I went with WOKO as the dorms were typically 30-50% cheaper than sharing a 2-3 bedroom flat in Zurich. Plus, few landlords would choose an international student that communicated through phone calls over a local student or prospect tenant.

Check out their current properties here. You might notice the sprawled placement of these buildings compared to the ETH and UZH campuses. Remember Zurich is 680 years old (4.5 Canadas in SI units) and the campuses were established before student dorms became the norm. You might find the newer “Honggerberg” campus layout more familiar, but for those with classes in Zentrum, pay special attention to the net vs effective distances from your WOKO placement to campus; some residences that seem close or similarly-distanced may be much longer on transit. Meierwiesenstrasse 62 for example, looks just as close to Zentrum as something in Oerlikon but the steep winding nature of the topology there means one building might require 10-15 minutes longer to get downtown.

Note: WOKO will place you in an available building at their discretion but you have an opportunity afterwards to request a relocation if possible. WOKO dorms vary from townhouse style 4-8 bedroom units to true dorm buildings with shared bathrooms and kitchens across a whole floor of rooms. Naturally, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. I lived in what’s considered the “party dorm”. While you can’t influence your first placement, you can then petition to change the building after hearing from WOKO. The advantages and disadvantages are all vice-versa between the two. My dorm housed mostly international students, from Master’s to Post-Docs in various fields, with STEM being the majority. I got to meet friendly, brilliant people from all over the world. Exchange tends to select for adventurous types, so it was easy finding conversation and activities in the lounge.

Somewhere in Flims – One of many excursions organized in the dorms. 9 countries represented here!

Pain points include sharing a huge kitchen with 160 amateur chefs. While cookware was provided, most of them were burnt, melted, or broken by the third month. I’d suggest buying your own if you have sensitive food allergies. Meal times meant crowded spaces too, so some strategy is involved in eating quickly. Some students formed cooking clubs, which seemed really successful. By the summer months, we had BBQ options outdoors. Some students almost ate all their meals at the school cafeteria. This option was about 40-60% more expensive than preparing your own meals.

The townhouses seemed quieter and much cleaner, with a higher likelihood of better shared areas like kitchens and bathrooms. However, friends reported a lot more variance in the “vibe” of the residence, with their experiences depending heavily on the personalities of their roommates. Naturally, it’s less likely that you’ll meet a best friend in a random set of 8 than 160. We had some people hanging out in the party dorm most nights just to get away from the isolation at home.

When you first move in to the WOKO residence, you’ll have to go to the separate WOKO office to sign the official contract, bring it to your residence manager/representative, and get your room checked over for pre-existing issues. Make sure you’re thorough with reporting any pre-existing issues, as failure to have written reports of a stain or dent can cost you at the end of the stay. Salaries are high in Switzerland, so you can imagine labour costs in repairing a wall or floor.

The first payment includes the security deposit and can typically be sorted out before you leave Canada. I wired it through my bank at a local branch fairly easily. Just bring in the deposit/first rent forms that WOKO provide once they place you somewhere.

Other steps will follow in the next post!
Jason

Advocating for a World without Poverty

May 2018 was one of the most exciting months of any year in my entire life! You ask why?  In a single month, I was able to travel to 3 different cities to advocate for a world without poverty! Crazy,  right? (If you don’t think that’s cool then sorry we can’t be friends)

I have been an active member of Engineers without Borders (EWB) for 2+ years. I act as the Advocacy Representative for the University of British Columbia Chapter. My duties in this executive position are as follow:

  1. Educate Chapter Members about campaigns that help develop Canada’s International Development Portfolio
  2. Educate Members of the public about these campaigns
  3. Meet with Member of Parliaments to ask them to bring these matters to the Parliament

So I work on a wide variety of levels to help develop Canada’s International Development Portfolio.

Meeting with MP of Vancouver Quadra, Joyce Murray, about Innovative Financing

Every May, chapter members from all across Canada gather in Ottawa to meet with Members of Parliament to push for more international aid and financing. This year, on May 1st 60 EWBers met with about 90 Members of parliament to convince the government to invest more in small scale businesses in developing countries. In federal budget 2018, Canada allocated about $876 million to innovative financing and we at EWB want to make sure that a large portion of this money goes to small scale businesses and social enterprises especially those led by women. Innovative financing helps provide resources for developing economies while generating return for the investor nation. I met with 3 members of Parliament to discuss this. At the end, we had most of the MPs on board with this ask and our campaign was a success.  

After a fun filled weekend, I was back in Vancouver to start my job at MECH Student Services. About 3 days later I get an email from the Policy and Advocacy Director at EWB inviting me to Toronto to attend a week long workshop centered on effective leadership. About a week later I was on a flight to Toronto! (Huge thanks to MECH Student Services for giving me this time off). I attended this week long workshop where we explored leadership through a different lens. We defined effective leadership as the identification of your inner capabilities and the ability to recognize the inner qualities of the team you are leading. It’s safe to say, I learned loads and will be bringing this material into the meetings at our EWB chapter on campus.

At the Toronto 3D sign at Nathan Phillips Square

And here I was thinking that’s it. Now back to normal everyday life. A day later, I get an email from the United Nations HQ in New York inviting me to attend the Presidential General Assembly’s Youth Dialogue 2018 to represent Engineers without Borders, Canada.

3 days later I was on a flight to New York!

With the President of the General Assembly, Miroslav Lajčák

Over an entire day, I had the exciting opportunity to meet with advocates from all across the world and discuss how they thought we can achieve a world without poverty!

And with that I concluded the month of May! Nothing but adventure and learning!

On June 1st I was back in Vancouver. Working full time, completely sleep deprived and living off coffee. But it was all worth it!

Moving like an Engineering Student

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Packing night, wheels installed, and obligatory decals

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

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

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

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

GOODBYE, FAREWELL MECH

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

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

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

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

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

Truman Burbank

 

Diana Nino

 

Reflecting Back On The Semester

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

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

Here’s my overall impression of my classes:

MECH305: Data Analysis and Mechanical Engineering Laboratories

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

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

MECH 358 – Engineering Analysis   

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

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

MECH360: Mechanics of Materials

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

MECH 375: Heat Transfer

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

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

MECH 380: Fluid Dynamics

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

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

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

Wish me luck,

Rigoberto

Finding a Summer Co-op Job

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

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

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

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

That’s my first point.

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck,

Rigoberto

Exchange Planning

Hoi,

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

1) Degree scheduling and Preparation

2) Picking a Destination

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

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

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

2) Picking a Destination

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

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

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

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

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

Tschuss for now!
Jason

Crunch Times

Gruezi alles,

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

For MECH2:

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

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

For MECH3/3.5:

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

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

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

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

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

Tschuss,
Jason