Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Turf in POETS

Tricia and I were on our way to a Women in Engineering meeting when we saw that POETS had been turfed! POETS is an on-campus engineering bar full of couches. Movies are always showing during lunch hours, and there is a foosball table on the upper level.

We don't know who, but somebody covered POETS in grass. We took some pictures:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Society of Women Engineers: Choosing Engineering

The following videos are from the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Oral History Project. The women in these videos were some of the first women to pursue engineering as a profession.

You can find more of these videos on the SWE Website

Bonnie J. Dunbar, Mechanical Engineer & Former NASA Astronaut

Eleanor Baum, Electrical Engineer & Dean of Engineering

Lois Cooper, Transportation Engineer

Margaret Taber, Electrical Engineer

Quicktime is required to view these movies.

Monday, September 14, 2009

High School Co-op Opportunity: Kitchener-Waterloo Area

About a week ago, I received an email from a local business owner who saw our blog and has an opportunity for high school students interested in pursuing a career in computers or IT.

OnTech Computers is owned by Jess & Rob Green, a husband-wife team who jointly run their shop. Jess and Rob are both Microsoft Master Instructors with years of experience.

In the past, they have hired co-op students through local high schools as well as Conestoga College's Women in IT program. This year they were discouraged when all of their high school applicants were male.

I remember being the only female student in my high school computer engineering class and at times it was pretty lonely. This would be a great opportunity for a female high school student, interested in a career in computers, to have the chance to gain valuable experience and work with a female mentor with tones of experience.

If this sounds like an opportunity that would interest you, here some further details:

Who can apply? High school or college co-op students

How to apply? High school students: Through your high school co-op teacher
College students: By email, phone or in person or through your appropriate course leader. A resume is essential.

What are they looking for?
-Someone who is enthusiastic about technology and wants to learn.
-In depth knowledge is not crucial as this is meant to be a learning experience and we will train applicants
-Familiarity with basic computer use is a good place to be starting from.

What would you be doing?
-Everything you would expect a computer repair center to do including Windows installations, hardware/software upgrades and repairs, anti-virus work, cleaning, and testing.
-They sell all kinds of computers and parts.
-They build new PCs and custom designed computers (if you ever have a chance go and check out their aqua pc, keg-puter and encyclo-pc-dia!)
-How much you get to do while you're there depends upon how much and how fast they want to learn.

When to apply?
They are accepting applications right now, so if you are interested, you should apply as soon as possible. There are 3 positions available but one has already been filled.

Contact Info:
Address: 84 Queen St. South, Kitchener, ON
Website: OnTech Computers
Telephone: 519-585-3100

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Women at Google

A Google recruiting video targeting & featuring women.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

It’s gonna be EPIC!

In my four years in Engineering one thing has become very apparent to me, there are a lot of really interesting people doing some really cool things in technology. The problem is – it’s so hard to find out about this! My mission this summer was to try to find a way to change this. The solution – start an organization dedicated to connecting students with a passion for technology and informing them of some of the amazing things going on in tech.

The organization I helped found is called EPIC! EPIC is a student run not-for-profit organization dedicated to Educating, Promoting, Inspiring, and Connecting students with a passion for technology, in a fun and exciting way. EPIC is a platform for collaboration between industry, academia and the student body on topics relating to technology, innovation, ideas and action.

EPIC serves as a cross-platform medium where individuals from different institutes can collaborate and connect. Where ideas can be discussed and shared with an audience of students with a vested interest in technology.

EPIC reaches out to students in high school s, Colleges and Universities from across Canada to help inform students about some of the newest advancements in technology and spark discussion on where these advancements will take us in the future.

The EPIC team currently consists of about 20 Executives and 10 Campus Ambassadors from various schools including: University of Waterloo, University of Toronto, York University, Ryerson, Conestoga and UOIT. We also have a Board of Advisors with members from companies like Google and Rogers!

The first conference (or EpCon as we are calling it) will be taking place on January 15-16, 2010 in Waterloo, On. Check out our website: to find out more and join our mailing list to stay informed. We also have a facebook page that you can become a fan of to keep up on some of the cool things we are going to be doing!

We are always looking for people to join the team and help out so if you are interested please contact me at!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Lesson in What Not To Do

Being in Engineering definitely makes you view the world around you differently.

I have spent my last two work term designing the mechanical systems used in buildings (such as the heating and air conditioning systems). If I do my job right, you'll never notice all of the work that I've done (because you will always be a comfortable temperature and all of the ugly and noisy mechanical equipment will be hidden away).

On my bus ride home from work, I pass by this apartment building which is always a reminder to me of what not to do! Overall, this apartment building looks very well kept, out front there is lots of nice landscaping. However, when I look at this apartment building, all I can see is the TERRIBLE location of the mechanical roof top unit!

In the picture below, I've zoomed in on the penthouse patios which are supposed to open to a beautiful view of the sky. Unfortunately, some mechanical engineer located a roof top unit right behind the opening. Now all you can see when you look up is the mechanical equipment which completely destroys the view that the architect was aiming for!

This is a perfect example of why it is so important to see the bigger picture and to think a problem through from all angles. I'm sure this piece of equipment keeps the apartments the right temperature but because the engineer forgot to think about other implications of her/his mechanical system, the view has been destroyed.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wouldn't it be cool if you had a gigantic multi-touch computer screen (like the iPhone)? Well, we made one for our 4th year design project. The screen measures 48" diagonally, a nice size for a workspace or for multi-player games. Here's a video of our table in action, running on Windows 7.

How does it work? We used a physics phenomenon called frustrated total internal reflection. If you shine light into the side of a sheet of acrylic (Plexiglas), the light will be trapped inside due to total internal reflection (gr 12 physics). Now when you touch the surface, it "frustrates" the light at that spot and so light escapes. You use a camera to capture this image and figure out where the finger was pressed. You can see a picture of what our camera captures when a hand touches the table:

Clarification: The team consists of myself and 3 male classmates. Nonetheless, 25% is still several times higher than the percentage of female students in my class.

Friday, August 7, 2009

What I do at work:

Whenever people ask me exactly what I do at work, I find it very hard to describe. I usually give them a vague reply like “I design the mechanical systems in buildings”. Although, I know that this doesn’t really mean much to most people. So I thought I’d write a blog post where I try to actually explain what I do at work.

The mechanical systems that I design are the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and plumbing systems within buildings. This might sound straightforward but there are a lot of different variables involved.

The first thing that needs to be determined is which type of systems will be used and how heating and cooling will be provided. Most commonly, an air handling unit is used to heat and cool air which is then blown into the space that you are trying to heat or cool.

There are a few different options for how heating and cooling will be provided. Here are some examples of how the air can be heated within the air handler:

-Hot Water Coils: Hot water runs through metal coils and a fan blows the air over the coils so that the heat will transfer from the hot water to the air.
-Electric heat: Air is heated by being blown over electric heating coils.
-Gas heat: Gas is burned within the units to heat the air.

Every system has pros and cons. For example, hot water coils are very efficient but require a lot of space because a boiler is required to heat the hot water (and pumps to circulate the hot water).

Once you’ve figured out how you are going to provide heating and cooling, you need to figure out how you are going to keep all of the spaces that the air handler services comfortable at the same time. The air handler will service many different spaces and they won’t always need the same amount of heating and cooling. Here are a couple different options for that:

-Control Air Volume (CAV) Systems with terminal re-heat: Use your air handler to heat the air to the lowest temperature required by any of the spaces you are controlling. Then use a small re-heat unit in each space to increase the temperature for just that space to whatever it requires. (Now you have to go back and determine how you will provide this heat - hot water or electric?).
-Variable Air Volume (VAV) Systems: Use your air handler to heat the air to be really hot (or really cold) but control the amount of air which flows into each room. If a room is already a good temperature, don’t supply it with air. If a room is really cold, provide it will lots of air. Etc...

Each of these systems has their own pros and cons. A CAV system is great if your rooms will usually all need the same amount of heating and cooling but a VAV system is better if there is lots of variation between the rooms.

Next, you need to determine how much heating and cooling each space will likely require. This is done by determining where you will loose heat and where you will gain heat. For example, windows will make the space loose heat and people will make the space gain heat. This is important so that you can determine how much airflow each room will need and how large your air handling unit must be.

Once you’ve decided all of that, you need to determine how you will get the air to the space (i.e. with ductwork). This requires lots of coordination with the architect and structural engineer to make sure that ducts will fit within the ceiling space.

Once you’ve brought the air into each room, you need to select diffusers appropriate for the space. When selecting diffusers, it is important to consider noise and speed. You don’t want your diffusers to be sending out so much air that they make a whistling noise or that people feel drafts of hot (or cold) air blowing on them.

Ultimately, what I love about my job is that every day is different because every building is different. This means that I am constantly learning and everyday provides a new challenge.

The classes that most strongly relate to what I do at work are heat transfer and fluid mechanics.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


One of the unique challenges that women in engineering get to face (or rather one set of them) is that people just aren't used to things that women often do but men rarely do. Like changing their last name. It's not that there isn't a system in place for this, but when using it you tend to get the feeling that no one expects you to do so.

I recently got married, and I submitted my change of name papers to the university. There's an easy way to do this (one form), but it just feels really awkward, like I'm standing out more than I already do, when I have to tell my prof that "oh, by the way, the university is going to start referring to me by a different name". My mother had similiar problems. She got married after she had started her paperwork to become a professional engineer. She called up, and asked about if it was possible to get her stamp in a different name. The response was that "no, it's impossible. Oh, unless your name legally changed". There is a procedure - it's just that everyone forgets it.

However, I must say, that having what is almost a private washroom in the building where I have my new office, makes up for a lot.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Engineering in Classical Rome

A couple terms ago, as an elective, I took a course on Roman Art & Archaeology. The course as a whole was very interesting but one small aspect of the course really caught my attention. One of the items that we discussed was Roman aqueducts.

Historically, cities always had to be located close to a body of water because all humans need water to survive. This really limited where cities could be located. Before the classical period, there was no way to transport water across long distances (think about how heavy water is!) but in ancient Rome they engineered a system for transporting water across great distances using aqueducts.

Aqueducts were large structures that spanned great distances at a very slight angle. These aqueducts connected large bodies of water to remote city locations and used gravity to maintain a continuous flow of water into the city. Some aqueducts even ran through mountains – the engineers would tunnel through the mountain from each side and meet in the middle. This required incredible precision and is an amazing engineering feat!

When the aqueducts reached the city, the water was then directed into the homes and fountains of the city and for the first time in history, people had the luxury of running water into their homes!

It is really interesting to reflect on how much engineering has impacted the world – imagine life without something as fundamental as running water.

Final thoughts – what is yet to be invented that 2000 years from now will be considered as fundamental as running water?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Joining a new class, and course matching issues for exchanges

As I was writing this entry last week I fell asleep on my keyboard. Total failure! Now let's try again :)

So I have just completed two weeks with my new class, the Mechatronics '11. People there are all very friendly and I don't feel alienated at all. I'm even going to karaoke with some of my new classmates tomorrow!

Although I am now officially in 4th year, I am joining the 3rd year Mechatronics class for the spring term... and I get quite a few confused looks because of this. Actually, the reason why I'm joining a younger class is because I am making up for some courses that I have missed while being on exchange.

Since all students of the same class from Waterloo engineering usually share the same schedule, many complain that Waterloo's system is not flexible, when in fact that's not true at all. I have found that the class schedules are more of a "recommendation" than anything, and if you have good reasons to deviate from it, the academic advisors are more than willing to accomodate you. In fact, when I proposed my plan for a change of study stream and a second exchange to my program director, I was actually surprised as how easily it had gotten approved. I've found that as long as you have done your research, know exactly what you're doing and can find valid arguments as to why your plans should be approved, the advisors are usually very reasonable and gives you a lot of freedom with your classes. I know people who have switched study streams, taking double majors, taken two one-year work terms, extended their degree for a year for no big reason, etc. so I guess it's not uncommon to change your course plan in Waterloo at all.

The next thing I want to blog about, now, is the sacrifices you have to make to go on exchanges and such. I don't want to talk purely about one side of things, or to rave about all the good things of exchanges without mentioning the bad side.

First, going on exchange requires a lot of planning, paperwork and meetings with advisors. You have to be on top of your own things, choose your courses wisely, get them approved, prepare back-up plans, etc. both before and after the exchange. You cannot sit on your bum and expect your advisors to tell you everything you need to know; you'll have to do your own research, and schedule meetings with profs yourself. I have a friend who didn't consult his advisor after his exchange, and ended up having to stay for an extra term to make up a course he did not get credited for. It's a lot of work and it gobbles up a lot of time, but you'll know it's worth it once you step on your plane.

Then there's the course plan issue. Many students have messaged me about going on exchanges and many of them have been scared off because of the course matching problems I've had (4 out of my 5 courses couldn't get transferred). Having to make up for courses is not an uncommon issue for exchange students, but since courses taken abroad can be counted as "technical electives", most don't have to lengthen their degree and have no problem graduating in time. Sure, right now I am giving up my last work term because of my exchanges, but considering that I am doing TWO exchanges plus a minor in psychology (which requires 10 extra courses) and STILL graduating in time, it's really more than worth it. Plus, now I get to join other classes and meet new friends!

So the bottom line is, no pain no gain... Lame, I know, but it's so true! Going abroad and exploring a new country with friends from all over the world is an amazing experience, but if you're gonna have to work for it to deserve it! ;)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Being involved outside of your world - experiences from Engineers Without Borders

I remember wanting to come to UW so badly when I was in high school. I was going to an environmental engineer, and be involved in Engineers Without Borders (EWB), and that was how I was going to save the world. 

After 3 years into my program, and 3 years being involved in EWB (helping out here in Canada and volunteering for four months in Malawi last summer), I don't really think that I'm going to 'save the world'. I am, however, still heavily involved and very optimistic that what I'm doing is right and will help bring about the change I want to see. I find that environmental engineering satisfies my interest in how things work and how to fix them, and I find that my involvement in EWB satisfies my passion for social change and human development. 

So I'm going to spend this post talking about what EWB does and how to get involved in EWB, as well as tell you about my personal experience with how I have grown through this organization. 

What is EWB?

In Canada
There are university and professional chapters across Canada, all working together to end poverty from home. Whether we are students or graduates working in the real world, EWB is all about getting Canadians involved in international development. We believe that Canada should be a leader in foreign aid issues. Through our members, we learn about development issues, discuss challenges and opportunities, and bring this message to Canadians. We try to keep our government accountable for its actions in foreign aid by trying to make aid better and petitioning the government

We also want all of our members to grow and become great leaders in whatever future endeavours they pursue. We do this through leadership skills training and one-on-one coaching. 

EWB works in four countries in Africa (Ghana, Burkina Faso, Zambia and Malawi) and partners with local organizations. We don't develop our own projects, and we definitely don't build things. There are locally run organizations already set up in the countries we work in, and we just want to help them to reach the goals that they have set for themselves. EWB is a strong believer in African-led solutions to African problems. 

So what kind of work do we do? 
  • We help develop entrepreneurial lesson plans for the Ministry of Food & Africulture in Ghana;
  • We research and help set up monitoring & evaluation systems in water and sanitation organizations (we're not the ones drilling the boreholes and hoping people use them - we want to know if these boreholes are placed in a good location, if people are using & maintaining them, if the organization's hand washing promotions are effective, etc.)
  • We help district assemblies (similar to a regional level in Canada) to record, maintain, and improve their rural infrastructure systems to encourage community led development
These are just some of the examples of our work...check this out for more examples of projects. There are long term placements (a year or more, intended for graduates) and short term placements (4 months, intended for chapter members). 

How to get involved

Join a chapter (preferably the UW chapter, but I am clearly biased here). There are so many different roles to get involved in! Planning events, running education sessions, trying to get engineering curriculum to include more development issues, fundraising for our overseas volunteers, being a Junior Fellow (4-month placement overseas), being involved in media relations, just being a general volunteer, and so many more. 

What I've learned from EWB

This could be a very long list...and this post is long enough so I'll try and keep this short! 
  • how to lead a meeting
  • how to be a good mentor for people
  • to think critically about development work (what is good, what is bad, how can we be doing better?)
  • how to get money from companies, the university, my family, etc.
  • better public speaking skills
  • different methods for creating change - through government or through consumer demand
  • that creating change is really hard, but when we win those small battles (such as getting more fair trade fruit in our local grocery stores) we've got to celebrate
  • an appreciation of the complexities of development (dealing with people and what they want is so much more complex than drilling a well)
And so much more...and the lessons are different for every person depending on who they are and what they are interested in. 

No matter what you decide to get involved with when you enter university, make sure you get out of it what you want to learn. The things I've learned from EWB are things I never could have gotten through class. So take whatever opportunities you can, and make the most of them. And of course, have fun at the same time. 

Monday, May 11, 2009

Lady engineers in Kenya

As I mentioned before, I am volunteering in Kenya this summer. I am living at an all girls boarding school up in the mountains. I have no electricity in my house, but I do have a rooster to wake me up each morning!

This morning was my first day teaching. At assembly, when I was introduced, the principal said, "I hope she will motivate you to become engineers even if people tell you that you can't, because you are ladies."

This sort of got me thinking. In Kenya, I guess sometimes females are told outright that their gender gives limitations. While such a sentiment would certainly be uncouth in Canada, I think it still exists. In my experience, some people have expressed surprise when I tell them my field of study, or even confusion. What push back have you experienced, and what steps do you think need to be taken to irradicate the stereotype?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

It's Just Rocket Science!

In high school physics class, students learn how to calculate the speed and acceleration caused by forces acting on an object and the forces that occur when objects interact with one another. But what happens when you have a constant stream of fluid on an object? How can you calculate and analyze the force applied by a fluid?

The answer is through the study of Fluid Mechanics. It was my favourite course last term. I think it is really cool to be able to analyze the pressure and forces that a fluid will exert on an object and it is useful for so many different applications!

Fluid mechanics is used in the design of the following:

-Rocket Science – It is a knowledge of fluid mechanics that allows engineers to design rockets. They need to determine how much gas must be produced through combustion to propel the rocket at the acceleration that it needs.

-Aerodynamics of cars – The shape of a car can drastically change its performance. Cars are designed to allow the air to flow smoothly across them without creating too much drag (which really slows cars down). A car without much drag is much more fuel efficient – so this is pretty important!

- Environmental water systems such as dams – A dam has to be built to be strong enough to support the weight of the water it holds, so it is really important to be able to calculate how much force the water will exert on the dam

-Air planes – What makes a plane fly? Fluid Mechanics! The shape of planes’ wings are designed so that when the air passes around them, more force is exerted on the bottom of the wing and this pushes the whole plane upwards. Without a knowledge of fluid mechanics we definitely wouldn’t have the amazing huge planes that we have today.

As you can see, fluid mechanics has a lot of important applications, which makes it pretty interesting. Plus, it's pretty cool to be able to say that you really are studying rocket science!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

MSci 452: Decision Making Under Uncertainty

The most interesting and enjoyable course that I have taken as part of my Management Sciences option has to be MSci 452: Decision Making Under Uncertainty. The course deals with different approaches to decision making process by looking at factors (for example biases) that exist when we are making decisions under uncertainty. Last spring term, when I took the course, it was taught by Professor Scott Jeffrey who clearly enjoys teaching the course material and always has some great advice to share!

In addition to learning a great deal about the mistakes that are made when we make decisions, the course also focuses on how to improve this process. At the end of the term, we were also able to do negotiations, and I believe I speak for the majority of the class when I say that was the most enjoyable part of the course. During the various negotiations, we were partnered up and had to negotiate based on case studies, using what we had learned during the course. We had to negotiate deals for things like buying a car, selling an antique set, and getting funding for a project. This was a fun way to put in use the course material and interact with our classmates.

This spring, if you are looking for a course where you can learn a lot while having lots of fun, take MSci 452!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Summer Term in Kenya

This summer I've actually decided to take my 6th co-op term off, and instead travel to Kenya to volunteer as a teacher of math and science in an all girls secondary school.I was feeling pretty excited but now I'm just downright nervous since I leave on Monday. I'll be in transit for 18 hours, going from the Toronto airport to the Amsterdam airport and finally to the Nairobi airport. I'll then spend a few days in Nairobi and then travel to a village so remote that it doesn't even exist on Google maps!

I know I'll have some ups and downs over the next 3 months, but I'm trying to plan accordingly. For example, I'm packing some Crystal Light and instead oatmeal packets for when my mouth gets homesick, the complete novels of Jane Austen for when my girly and romantic side gets homesick, and an iPod full of my all my favourite songs for when my ears get homesick.

I'm also nervous about getting sick. I seem to react more strongly to food poisoning than others, and in Kenya I'm sure I'll be subjected to conditions less sanitary than here in Canada. I talked to my doctor and I think I've packed appropriate meds, including some rehydrating crystals for just in case.

Most of all, I'm nervous about being a good teacher. I love helping people reach their potential and I feel like I might have a big impact on a bunch of girls in a country where female education isn't a high priority. Hey! Maybe I can convince them all to be engineers!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Another term begins...

On Monday I am returning to work for the start of another co-op job. Although I'm sad to see my time off coming to an end, I am very exciting to begin my last co-op term.

At UW, all engineering students are in the co-op program, which means that every four months we swap between work and school. This definitely keeps life interesting!

I think my favorite thing about alternating between work and school is that it really makes you realize how useful all of your courses are. There are so many times at work when I have a moment where I stop and think "wow! this is exactly what I learned in --- class!" and so many times when I am reading a textbook and I realize "oh, that's why we do things they way we do at work!". It is really neat to be able to constantly connect learning to application. It really keeps me motivated in school because I have such a good sense of why I am learning what I'm learning and I know exactly how I will use it when I go back to work.

I'm really excited to find out what projects I'll be working on this term - whatever they are, I know they'll be interesting!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A new tron blogger

Hello all, my name is Yuki, and I'm a Mechatronics '10 girl, entering 4th year. There are already quite a few mechatronics girls blogging so I think I can spare the details about our class, but what I hope to share is my experience going on exchange.

I have gone on exchange to Japan for five months in 2008, and planning to go on a second exchange to Taiwan in the fall 2009. I'll be blogging about my past experience abroad as well as the application procedures... and if I go to Taiwan, I'll hopefully be blogging while being abroad.

Meanwhile, I'm enjoying my 2-week vacation here in Montreal (where I grew up), and I'm trying to stay away from my computer as much as possible, so blogging will come later. I must say that life without a computer is... hard!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The View from Computer Engineering

I’m a student in Computer Engineering at the University of Waterloo, starting 4th year this summer. There are only 4 girls in my class (out of about 100) so I want to share my rather unique experiences with the women in engineering blog. I want to give an inside view of computer engineering for students who are considering this or electrical engineering.

So what is computer engineering (CE)? At Waterloo, it is part of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department, which means there’s quite a bit of overlap with electrical engineering. Courses in the 1st year cover a wide range of topics, including introduction to calculus, discrete math, physics, computer programming, circuits, and even chemistry. Once thing that surprised me was that the stuff you learn in these foundation courses are actually used in upper year courses. The core CE courses start in 2nd and 3rd year and include digital circuit design, operating systems, and compilers. Because of this, it would be difficult to switch between electrical and computer engineering after 2nd year. In 4th year, there is a design project course and 9 electives.

I know some of these subjects might seem daunting to high school students, but if you have a good background in math, science, and preferably computer programming, you can learn the rest of it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring has Sprung

Coming from Toronto, I find Waterloo to be a perfect sized city. Despite what some people claim about Waterloo, it's a fair sized city. I spent a workterm in Goderich, Ontario, and I did not take well to the lack of everything. I expect there to be sushi places, and yarn stores within the city, even if not in walking distance. So living somewhere with public transit, and wide selection in restaurants and stores is a lot more comfortable for me.

I do, however, also enjoy the fact that Waterloo is actually smaller than Toronto. It's possible to WALK out of the city, from campus, out to where there's cornfields on either side of the road. I've done it once, when I needed to go to market and wasn't able to bike. Actually there's also at least one cornfield in the city itself, which is another thing I like. There's also more wildlife. Not that I didn't have geese and ducks and groundhogs and rabbits around in Toronto, but I'm used to seeing them mostly in parks. Well... parks and in traps that the annoyed gardeners leave out. (Just as an aside for anyone from the country reading this: in the city you don't kill the critters that attack the garden, you trap them and take them to a park).

The other day, for example, I watched a duck fly across a major road, and then come in for a landing on the green strip next to the parking lot at a local business. To me, that's really cool. If I wanted to see ducks back home I had to pack up and go out to the park. Here, I walk to the uptown business park and they're just there on the way.

Even around campus there's some places that are more like parks. Around engineering it isn't bad - I've run halfway across in about two minues (we had a project due), but if you walk around other parts of campus - say over the creek by the church colleges, or around the Physical Activites Complex - you're pretty likely to scare a groundhog which is trying to tell if it's safe to come out. Or get stopped by a goose while the goslings cross the pathway.

All in all, it's quite a nice change. I'm going to be sticking around Waterloo for a while longer and get my Master's degree, but I'm going to miss this place when I leave.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Man and the Banana Peel

An interesting thing happened on the bus ride to work today...

In the downtown area of Waterloo, A man ran to catch up to the bus, and the driver stopped for him. As the doors were opening, the man took one last bite of his banana and dropped the peel on the grass beside the bus. If he had taken the time to look, he would have known that there was a garbage can about 6 feet behind him. When he climbed inside, the bus driver made a comment about picking up the banana peel, and they got into a bit of an argument. He refused to pick it up and took his seat in the back.

He claimed that the banana peel was not garbage. His arguments were that the peel was biodegradable, and that back in history, people did that every day.

She claimed that it was indeed garbage, and that we have littering laws and garbage cans at bus stops for a reason.

This whole thing got me thinking about our morals and priorities as a society. That banana was completely organic, and it's true that it will decompose, but it would take weeks to completely disappear back into the earth as soil. I imagine that a city worker will probably pick it up off the ground as 'garbage' before that time comes anyway. So did he do the right thing? His argument that people did it all the time back in history may be true, but I don't feel that it's a valid argument for his case. There are dozens of things that people did hundreds of years ago, but we would never do those things today. Examples: living in caves, never shaving or bathing or cutting our hair, accusing gifted women of being "witches" and burning them at the stake..

Sure, those examples are a bit extreme, but I got my point across. In the middle of a forest it may be different, but it's generally unacceptable to throw a banana peel on the grass in the middle of the city. Would you be happy if someone dumped some banana peels on your front lawn?

So then I take the other side of the story. If he had dismissed that peel as garbage, and thrown it in the garbage can, then it would have gone off to a landfill. Rather than being put into a compost container and left to decompose in a "proper" place, it would just be another piece of garbage clogging up the landfill, forcing the city to eventually increase the size of its landfill and smother many more natural greenspaces with piles of garbage. Having only a garbage can with no recycling bin or compost at that bus stop forces any passersby to classify their waste as garbage, unless they want to hold onto the waste until they reach a better spot down the street. Perhaps it's the city's fault for not providing the options.

The whole ordeal reminded me of SE 101, a course that I took in first term. ("SE" stands for Software Engineering). We looked at a few case studies of example situations where the person involved had to make a tough choice, and their ethics were what helped them through.

Engineering is all about designing and planning and building to improve the world we live in. As engineers, it's our job to make the right decisions and know where we stand. So who was truly "right"? This kind of reminds me of a possible PDEng assignment topic, eh? :)

So my train of thought got stuck on its tracks. I don't feel that there really was a "right" thing to do in that situation. What do you think?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Co-op Term on Campus

I am currently on a co-op work term, working on campus with a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Working on campus is great. I did not have to suffer the trauma of traveling somewhere unheard of and I already know the bus route.

My boss has a contract with the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) that involves predicting rainfall patterns throughout the province. The MTO is concerned with rainfall information because it would help them to design highways to handle the rainfall at a given location. Highways span the entire province, not just in cities areas where weather stations provide local data. Finding a suitable method of predicting rainfall patterns between stations is the objective of the contract. The challenge is that weather stations are so inconsistantly distributed. The stations are almost exclusively located in southern Ontario. This makes it difficult to predict rainfall in the northern parts of the province. The project involved an interim report, which will be my work report after a few tune-ups. It has also encouraged me to develop my computer skills emmensly. I did not know there was so much that I did not know.

Working in the faculty is a great experience. I have hands on experience with cutting edge research! Seeing the faculty from the inside changed my entire preception of universities. There is so much more that goes on than I knew about. Class is clearly not the highest priority, but it is all that a first year student sees. There is so much more after an undergraduate degree, so much fullfillment and so many applications. There is so much passion in the faculty. Everyone loves what they do, they would not have a PhD in it if they didn't. It is inspiring; it makes me want to learn!

My boss was teaching a graduate class this past term. It was very interesting to see such advanced applications of Civil Engineering, but also to see classes from the instructors perspective. He also manages all of the work reports for the faculty, actually his co-op (me) does this. It was nice to get so many tips on report writing from the guy who controls them.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Studying Help

It's exam time here at Waterloo. High stakes! Big Pressure! Huge Stress!

Not really, though. In engineering everybody takes the exact same courses as everybody else in their class, so it's easy for a pretty good exam schedule to be arranged. Unless you're taking an elective, you never have more than one exam per day. That's kind of nice.

Also, most profs give pretty fair exams. If you've done all the homework, you can usually get a good mid-70.

I've found that most of the TAs are incredibly helpful. If you email them a question during the day, you can get answer back within a few hours. A lot of TAs are really accommodating in their office hours, especially around exam time. One of our TAs just gave a 3 hour tutorial today. I don't think giving up 3 hours on a day when the university if closed is within her job description- she just really wanted to see us do well. Earlier in the week another TA did the same for another course.

Sometimes TAs are unhelpful and sometimes exams are unfair and cover strange topics that you can't remember talking about in class. Those times are frustrating. Oh well, I guess.

Back to the books!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Thoughts on Admissions and Applications...

It is that time of year when grade 12 students are anxiously waiting to hear if they have been admitted or not. This has made me reflect on when I was in grade 12 and what I've learned since then.

I remember when I was in grade 12, everyone told me that UW Engineering was so hard to get accepted into and that once you were there it was an extremely difficult program. I was worried that even if I was accepted, it would be too difficult and that I wouldn't be successful. I was so worried about this, that for a while I almost chose to go into science instead. Looking back, I am so glad that I faced my fears and accepted my offer!

That was a few years ago now. So I have a much different perspective on UW Engineering than I did when I was in grade 12 and there are a few things that I wish I could have heard.

1. Engineering is challenging but it is not impossible and you can still have other interests!
The people who study Engineering are regular people. We all have lives and interests outside of engineering (as you can see from all the awesome things that people are posting about on this blog!) Engineering will make you work hard but it will also help you to learn so much about the world around you. Most importantly, if you are struggling there are so many people watching out for you who are willing to help if you need it.

2. Extracurricular Activities really do matter!
UW really does read every admissions information form that they receive. Engineering is so broad that all different skill sets and abilities bring different assets to one's experiences as an Engineer.

3. The guys who apply for engineering don't actually know any more than you do!
I remember for the first couple of months in Engineering I was so worried! All of the guys in my class could go on and on about engineering things that I had never heard of - so I figured that they all knew so much more than I did. I was so shocked when midterms came and I did just as well as them. Eventually, I came to realize that most of those guys didn't know anything more than me - they were just better at pretending. If you speak with confidence it is amazing how many people you can convince! So don't be scared off by people who are good at pretending to know more than you.

4. You won't be just a number!
I remember in high school all of my teachers and guidance counselors tried to prepare all of us for becoming 'just a number' in university. In engineering this is not the case! At UW, you will have almost all of your classes with the same group of about 50-100 people. That may seem like a lot of people, but you will be surprised by how quickly you learn everyone's name. Everyone in my class knows each other - which is really helpful whenever you have a question with homework or a project! Also, professors really care about their students. Whenever I pass by a professor in the hall, she or he always recognizes me and says hi.

5. Engineering is full of group work!
This was a huge surprise to me. In high school, I always thought that engineering would be such a solitary degree and that I would always be working by myself. I couldn't have been more wrong! Every term we have tonnes of group projects (probably more group projects than individual projects). This is really important to being an Engineer because at work I am always working as a part of a team!

Some final thoughts...
As a Women in Engineering Director, I participate in meetings with the Women in Engineering Committee. One of the past members of this committee was the UW Engineering Admissions Director. One of the things that she would frequently talk about was that girls in high school tend to "self-select" themselves. Meaning that if a program required an average of 80%, girls would generally only apply if they had an average of 82% but lots of guys with an average of 78% would end up getting accepted. These guys will then go on to be completely successful in the program. So my final piece of encouragement is that "you can do it!"

So.. if you're in grade 11 - apply next year! If you're in grade 12 - accept your offer!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Engineering Society Directorships

A great way to get involved in university life is through the Engineering Society (EngSoc). After being a part of many different clubs in high school, I felt the need to do something out of the classroom once I got to university. This is when I found out about EngSoc; basically the engineering student council.

Ranging from the engineering play director, Canada day director, to wheelchair basketball, there are various directorships that one can take on. I have really enjoyed holding directorships like Women in Engineering, Academic Rep Advisor, Charities, and Student Life 101. It is a great way to meet new people, plan lots of fun events, and take a short break from the school work!

This term, one of my directorships was charities. Every other Thursday morning, we sold pancakes to raise funds for Hope Spring Cancer Centre. Even though it was hard getting up early in the morning, by the time we were making the pancakes, my fellow directors and I, had a big smile on our faces! What better way to spend your morning than making pancakes,and raising a $1000 for a great cause?!

I really encourage anyone who likes to get involved in university life to look into the awesome directorships EngSoc has and apply for them. It really makes your time at university much more fun!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A day in the life of an EngSoc President

I get a pretty unique experience as President of the Engineering Society. At Waterloo we alternate between Society A and Society B every four months since everyone is in the coop program. This means I’m elected for a 16 month term and I will spend 8 months of that in school and the other 8 months on coop while another executive takes over. I’m also a full time student, so I take the same course load as everyone else in Engineering. That keeps me pretty busy!

My favourite part about being President is the incredible group of people I get to work with. The executive consists of the President and four VP’s (that’s us below, along with our endowment fund director). I also get to work with Mary, our fabulous corporate manager, and a lot of really fun and dedicated directors.

A big chunk of my job is being the student representative at meetings – this term I’ve had anywhere from 4 to 17 meetings per week! I sit on a lot of academic committees (like the faculty council and examinations and promotions committee), as well as meetings with Presidents from all the other societies on campus, and the committee that reviews the structure of orientation week.

There are also a ton of events that EngSoc puts on every term. We run everything from pub nights, to pulling a bus for charity, to spa nights, to a 24 hour scavenger hunt! You can see a picture of some of us below during Frost Week when we dyed ourselves purple, the official engineering colour. At the right is our acting-Dean Rothenburg, showing off his purple hand.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

We Women Can Be...

I though this Sesame Street video might bring back some great memories:

I want to be a roller skating alligator hunting mechanical engineer. Don't you?

Engineering Jazz Band

If you've been following this blog, you've probably noticed that we all keep up a ton of hobbies that are not engineering related at all.  For me, one of my favourite hobbies is playing jazz music.  I started playing trombone in highschool and I expected to stop when I came to university.   At the end of my 1B term, I was walking through the student life centre when I heard a band practicing.  I was curious, so I barged into the practice and was met with an entire band.  It blew me away and I ended up joining a term later. Four terms later, I'm still a part of the band and still loving it.  I have met some really good friends and have had tons of fun.  The band is completely student run.  We are funded by the student run Engineering Society, our conductor is a student, our website was made by a member of the band and everyone that plays is a student (and not just undergrad, we sometimes have grad students too!).  Tonight, we are performing at our termly End of Term Charity Show.  We're playing with another student run choir (Accent Choir) and all our proceeds are going to Habitat for Humanity.  Wish us luck! 

Here is a video of the band in action:

Friday, April 3, 2009

Girl Guides Outreach

Last fall, my younger sister (also an Engineer) and I ran a girl guides workshop at a local Girl Guides camp where we had approximately 150 girls participate in our activity. The event was a great success and we had a ton of fun!

My sister with all of our supplies before the girls arrived

We gave the girls a small introduction about what engineering is and what engineers do and then we let them loose on all of the materials we had available. The task we gave them was to build a bridge. We didn't show them any examples or give them any tips. So the designs were completely left to the girls' imaginations. The results were incredible!

Some of the groups were a bit hesitant to start but once they got building they were full of ideas! Each bridge was completely unique and nothing was overlooked. Some bridges even included street lights and miniature cars. It was amazing to see the confidence, creativity and team work that they displayed.

One of the designs

The most rewarding part of the day for me was being able to tell the girls that my sister and I are in engineering - to which the girls would look at me with wide eyes and ask "really?!" I think by meeting current women in engineering they were really able to see that engineering is something that girls can be amazing at! I even had one girl tell me, very enthusiastically, that she'd never considered engineering before but she would now!

All in all, it was a great day and I hope that it left as lasting an impression on the girl guides as it did on myself.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Design Symposium

Well, I was intending on finding some pictures and getting permissions to post them from the people in them and the people who took them. However, as this draught has just turned one week old, I'll post it now, and come back and edit with pictures later.

One of the things that everyone in engineering at Waterloo has to do is a fourth year project. This varies from department to department, but what MME (Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering) students do is to tackle a design project. There's two courses to this - ME 481 in the 4A term, where we have to design something, and then come up with enough detailed drawings, component lists, etc that we could give our final report to someone who knew nothing else about the project, and get it made exactly right. The second course is ME 482, in 4B. For Mechanical students this is optional, but for those of us in Mechatronics it's mandatory. This is where you build the project, and discover all the places where you left out information in the design phase.

On Monday, all the Mechatronics students had the penultimate part of our course. We took our finished projects and went to the great hall in the student life centre to set up our symposium. For four hours, we took questions from visitors to campus - lots of parents came, younger engineering students- especially the third year mechatronics students who have to do this next year, and other students who to figure out why the chairs that normally sit in the great hall had been moved.

My project was an automated window. Basically the relevant parts are that it will open and close itself, based on how warm it feels inside and outside. There's a couple of manual overrides, and a few other constraints on how it works, but those weren't why we made it. Basically we wanted to make something that would encourage green technology, things like opening the windows instead of turning on the A/C.

My partner and I were kept talking all afternoon, explaining to people what the project was. There were a surprisingly large number of people.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Outnumbered? So what?

Engineering at the University of Waterloo.

It's true: it's a male-dominated faculty by the numbers. So how will this affect your university life? How will you make friends, and fit in amongst your classmates? It's really not a problem.. just ask any female engineering student, and you'll find that there are tons of outlets to meet other girls (and make friends with your male peers as well!).

In my Software Engineering class, out of just over 100 people, just less than ten of us are girls. Sounds pretty scary, huh? Not really... I promise!

Starting your first year of Engineering as one of the few females in a large class can be intimidating, but don't let it affect you. It's really an asset to be one of the few women. Just being here, in the first place, allows you to stand out from the crowd. Many females are drawn to other fields, and the stereotype may make people believe that women aren't suited for something as "difficult" and "scary" as being in an Engineering program, so just the fact that you made the decision to pursue Engineering (and got accepted) means a lot. People recognize that, and respect you for choosing a field you're interested in, rather than going along with the crowd.

There are tons of events and organizations that you can join to meet other female Engineering students, including Orientation Week, Women in Engineering, and EngSoc events. University is a chance to break free from the high school life and become anyone you want to be. You're free to pursue countless new interests, join clubs, teams and societies, and yes, make new friends along the way.

During the first week of lectures in my first year, my class was electing Class Representatives for the term. I didn't know anybody when I entered the program, but met a small handful during Orientation Week. I'm not sure what got into me, but when they asked for anyone who wanted to be considered as a candidate, I stood up in front of 100+ strangers to plead my case. To my surprise, I was elected a Class Rep! Taking on that position allowed me to get over my fear of speaking in front of large groups. I was also able to meet dozens of my classmates and made friends with many of them. I became well-known in my class as I sent out informational e-mails about upcoming events and received class feedback regarding issues to be addressed. Almost 2 full years later, I'm still a Class Rep. It just goes to show, even the smallest decision can make a world of difference.

Long story short, being a woman in Engineering isn't scary. It doesn't have to isolate you or make you feel out of place. It's truly an awesome experience that I wish more women would pursue. The things you learn, the people you meet, and the community you become a part of are all things that will stick with you for life, so make the most of it. :)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mechatronics - Nut Sorter Project

One of the exciting things that I have done in Mechatronics so far is this Nut Sorter Project.

The idea is to design a Mechatronics system that can sort nut of different sizes and types. It should also be able to detect coins in the process and reject them. There were size constrains as to how big the sorter can be and we also had a budget that we had to work within.

At the start of the term we were given a kit that contained some sensors, stepper and DC motors and some basic electronics components. At the end of the term a competition was held to evaluate the sorter based on speed, accuracy and design.

Here is the picture of the nut sorter that our group had designed. This sorter works based on the shadow a nut casts. Depending on the size of the shadow, the nut is dispensed into the respective bin.

Attached are two of the videos that shows how the sorter works

Enjoy the videos. You can look at other nut sorter projects on Youtube.

Martha's Sons

Part of going to a Canadian engineering school is a special ceremony called "The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer". This was alluded to in the previous post. If any of you already know engineers, then you're familiar with the iron ring. It is a reminder to engineers that the work we do is important, and we get it when we participate in a ceremony in which we agree to always do our best to produce good work. Both my parents are engineers, and I've grown up knowing about the iron ring. It's really cool (and weird) to finally have my own. You cannot attend the ritual unless you are an engineer who has an iron ring already, but since both my parents are, and one of my grandfathers, here you can see me with my guests.

This ritual was written by Rudyard Kipling for Canadian engineers back in the 1920's, and to this day every graduate of Canadian engineering schools is given the opportunity to participate. So it means a lot to me that I got to take part in this ritual. The ritual is semi-private, so I can't really give a lot of details here, but here's a picture of the iron ring, what everyone spends their time here looking forward to. Sorry for the quality of the picture, but the ring is worn on the dominant hand, so anyone trying to take a picture of their own ring is forced to use their non-dominant hand (left in my case).

The post title comes from one of Kipling's poems. It's one that really shows why he was considered appropriate to write a ritual for engineers, and the high esteem in which he holds the work of engineers.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Engineering Antics

My class has been looking pretty ridiculous lately. Somebody decided that this month would be Moustache March so there's been a lot of not shaving going on.

The girls in the class were the judges today, and we awarded the following titles
  • best musketeer
  • most original design
  • least kissable (they all won)
  • creepiest 'stache
  • best use of mascara
  • dirtiest
Also, tomorrow is IRS (Iron Ring Stag) so basically all the graduating engineers get their rings, and then go to a giant party. However, that means today is the day the engineers get dressed up, parade around campus, disrupt class rooms, etc.

I'm really excited because if the class of 2009 has gotten their rings, it means that I am next in line. Class of 2010, here we come!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Co-op Experiences as a Mechatronics Undergrad

Mechatronics Engineering is a combination of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering which has given me very broad opportunities. Through my work terms I have gained experience working on sheet metal enclosures for high voltage switches, working at a high tech company that makes software and working for a building design consulting company.

My favorite work experiences have been doing building design consulting. Through my work terms in building design, I have worked on the renovation of the UW Dana Porter Library and on the design of the new Waterloo Regional History Museum. Both projects were full of learning opportunities and it was amazing to work on buildings that are so important to the community that I live in.

Through this position, I did both Mechanical and Electrical building design. Mechanical building design includes: heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, sizing air flows, ducts and pipes and ensuring temperature and humidity requirements can be met and maintained all year round. Electrical building design includes: service load calculations, lighting calculations and ensuring user requirements for lighting and power were satisfied.

One of the most important parts of design is ensuring that the design is actually possible in the real world. This means that a lot of time is spent coordinating with all of the other engineers and architects involved in the building design process to make sure that everything will fit and work together seamlessly.

In addition to doing design work, I was also given opportunities to interact with clients and partnering firms. People skills are a very important part of my job as an engineer because it is important to be able to explain technical results and findings to clients in a way that they will understand. Organizational skills are also essential to my work because I always have many deadlines and milestones that I need to keep track of, as well as, long lists of things which must be designed, verified or confirmed.

The Waterloo Regional History Museum

One of the most exciting aspects of my work in building design has been the opportunity to work on environmentally friendly buildings. The museum that I worked on has been designed to be very environmentally friendly. A couple of the things that are being incorporated into the museum include rainwater collection, and energy recovery systems.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Design of a Culvert Crossing

I am a current first year environmental engineering student. The final project for our 'Introduction to Civil & Environmental Engineering' course involved the predesign of a culvert crossing on campus. A culvert is a tunnel that allows water to pass through. They are often used to allow water to pass under roadways.

Currently there is a by-pass channel (flowing body of water) on campus. There is a crossing with two steel culverts that allows water to flow under the crossing. The project was to develop a more advanced culvert system that would be able to handle a greater amount and speed of water. The replacement culvert was to be designed to stand up to a hundred year storm. A hundred year storm is the largest storm that would be expected to occur in the area within a hundred year period.

We spent hours outside surveying the site. We recorded the elevations of the land around the channel and even put on waders and surveyed through the channel. We recorded the distance between all points so that they could accurately be plotted on an AutoCAD map.

Once the data were collected we created a map of the area, and developed a design for a replacement culvert. We had to consider the quantity and speed of water from a hundred year storm.

The project was very open ended. It was up to us to specify the finer details of the proposed crossing. We had the option of designing a sidewalk and guardrail if we thought it was necessary and we had to determine a suitable road width based on how much traffic the site sees. We had to compare the efficiency of 5 different culvert diameters and the number of culverts was completely up to us.

Ultimately, the design that I proposed included 6 culverts, each having a 1.2 meter diameter.

Through the experience, we all developed our surveying and autocad skills, and learned about report writing.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thoughts of Summer

The recent warm and sunny weather has made me think of nothing but this upcoming summer term. Last summer I was in school so I am really looking forward to being on a work-term this summer and I am planning to enjoy my free-time and the sunshine to the fullest.
The past few days I’ve been daydreaming of all the things that I am going to do this summer:

-Go camping and enjoy the outdoors – I’m not much of an outdoorsy person but much to my surprise I actually love camping (as long as there are decent washrooms and showers... I know some may not consider this to be real camping but for me it is a must!) So I am definitely looking forward to a weekend of campfires in the bush.

-Make a long overdue trip to the rock store in uptown Waterloo – Uptown Waterloo has so many awesome little stores like the rock store in the Valu-mart plaza. I swore I was going to bring my friends to see the rock store over the last work term and this just never happened – probably because of the prospect of walking to uptown waterloo in freezing cold weather. (Other notably awesome places in uptown waterloo: Yukiko’s cafe, Gen X movie rental and Whole lotta gelata)

-Use the other side of my brain – Over the work term I am taking two night classes, Intro to Psychology and Macroeconomics. Even though it is more school I am definitely looking forward to classes focused on something completely different.

-Read a book – I love to read but somehow I can never fit it into school terms so this summer I am going to force myself to take some time to relax and enjoy a good book.

-Enjoy smoothies in the sun – no explaination needed on this one!

-Visit the clay and glass gallery – The clay and glass gallery is such a short walk from my place and I pass by it all the time. Ever since I moved into my place about 3 years ago I’ve been planning to visit the gallery. This summer I am definitely going!

-Relish in the ability to say “I graduate in less than a year!” – This is probably one of the most exciting prospects of this summer!

-Learn a ton at my co-op job – I’ll dedicate a whole post to this later in the term...

I’m sure this summer is going to be amazing!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Engineering Explorations 2009

This past Monday was Explorations 2009. Explorations is an outreach event that is run every term for elementary school students in grades 6, 7 and 8. The students are toured around the campus and shown different things that people are working on within engineering.

I volunteered as a tour guide for the evening and brought a group of about 8 interested students around to our various stops. They all had lots of fun and learned a lot about what engineering is all about.

Some of the highlights of the tour were:
-the autonomous landmine detectors which are being built by the UW Robotics Group
-the Connect 4 robot which is able to play the game connect 4 (and it usually wins!)
-the geological display where the kids were shown how quicksand occurs and were able to simulate an earthquake
-the Solar car which runs entirely on solar energy that has been collected by the solar panels covering the entire car

I think Explorations is a great event and such a fun way to introduce young students to engineering!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Orientation Week is Coming!

We are! We are! We are the engineers!
We can! We can! Fix anything with gears!

Ah, the echo of Orientation Week.. it's something that you never forget. Being a head leader for Software Engineering's 2009 Orientation Week makes it something that I never want to forget. Let me take you back to last year:

Orientation Week is a longstanding tradition of the University of Waterloo. Although the events have changed drastically over the years, the same spirit of excitement and pride in our school and faculties can be seen today.

Take Engineering Orientation, for example:

Over a period of two days, the incoming students last year were invited to participate in such ridiculous events as sliding down an enormous homemade "Slip 'n Slide" to splash into a big puddle at the bottom, grasping onto their very muddy leaders to guide them safely over a 20-foot long mud pit, working together to form a human conveyor belt to transport their leaders across a lawn and into a kiddie pool, and forming teams to transform a junkyard mess into carts and catapults. And that's not even the half of it!

All joking aside, the greatest quote that I have ever heard regarding Waterloo's Orientation Week is, "The purpose of Orientation Week is not to have fun". Although it may sound a little harsh at first, the meaning behind it is that Orientation Week's true purpose is to make all incoming students feel welcome. It's a chance to make new friends, get acquainted with your school, and get to know a little more about your faculty and program... all the fun is just a bonus.

The planning and excitement for this year's Orientation Week is well underway, and I can safely say that Engineering's Orientation Week will be an event not to be missed. With any luck, I'll see you there! :)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference

This week was the 10th annual Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference. The CUTC is the largest undergraduate-run conference in Canada and was founded 10 years ago by UW Engineering students. Three of my classmates and myself attended the conference as delegates and it was a great experience and we took away a lot of valuable knowledge from the speakers and seminars.

This year there were three excellent keynote speakers from OpenText (a well established UW spin-off company), Rypple (a small start up company based out of Toronto) and Engineers without Borders (an international non-profit organization founded by UW Engineering students). Each speaker had a unique and valuable message and each had an insightful and inspiring message to share.

In addition to the keynote speakers, the conference also included seminars on a broad range of technology related topics including nanotechnology, technical entrepreneurship, technology sectors and air traffic control. Each of these speakers had impressive credentials and years of experience. This made them an invaluable resource for the undergraduate delegates.

The conference was held in downtown Toronto - which was a blast! During some free time my friends and I took a trip to the newly opened Art Gallery of Ontario. The architecture of the building was absolutely phenomenal and the art gallery was so much larger than I had anticipated. I'm sure we could have spent hours longer viewing all of the art. It was a great change of pace and an awesome culmination to our trip to Toronto.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Introductory Post

I am a current Women in Engineering director for the University of Waterloo. I am studying Mechatronics Engineering and I am currently in 3rd year.

At the University of Waterloo the Undergraduate enrollment in Engineering is only about 16%. The percentage of women varies between programs with some programs as high as 50% and others as low as 3%.

In my class of approximately 100 students, there are only 7 women (Which means this picture from last year's Engineering Semi-Formal shows 43% of the women in my class!)

I am planning to blog about the experiences of undergraduate women in engineering with the hope of broadening the perceptions of engineering as a profession.