Three students with their model rocket car

Getting motivated through competition and seeing projects come to life

In the third and final blog in this series about the Engineering Practice module, Cristian, one of our Electrical Engineering students from Group 17, shares his thoughts on researching, workshops, cooperation, competition, and public speaking as part of this module.

Read about Theodore, Connor and Will’s experiences of the Engineering Practice module here

Read about Jake, Valentin, Edward, Connor and Isabel’s experience here

Engineering Without Borders

Since our objective was to help a region of the UK with relatively low life expectancy, we chose to go with a sustainable and overall cheaper way for the consumer to motivate them into exercising more frequently. Using our field in electrical engineering we opted to lower membership prices and have a reward system integrated by connecting electricity generating attachments to gym equipment. What made us the proudest was finishing a full-fledged project with complete research and being able to present in such a way that would be appealing to regional infrastructure developers and investors underlining the importance of physical exercise with some niche improvements on sustainability.

During our time spent in the Engineering Practice module, skills like researching and sifting through a lot of data was essential to comparing different aspects, effectiveness, and real-world application of our ideas. Many of which have already been proven right or wrong with detailed reports into a lot of fields. Although without cooperation none of this could have happened.

As for individually, I feel like we have now learnt more about what leadership and solidarity is really about and how it can improve nearly everything in anyone’s work spaces. Of course, an employer would also be interested in applicable skills which we are at the start of our careers but also having made significant improvements in such a short amount of time. And if there was a competition between teams for a particular employer, I would ask you this, would you rather have a team with a lot of applicable skills but them being innately uncooperative or a team that has just started out but has incredible team dynamics, a sense of reliance with unique potential? 

Competition keeps us motivated

Competition was quite frequently a major part of what motivated a lot of us to become better. It was just the right amount to not become toxic or low enough to make students not care. All in all, being put in a group with a handful of strangers might seem anxiety-inducing at first it quickly becomes unnoticeable once we all focus on the prospect of our project. Being put on stage and exercising our public speech, although not good at first, was also one very important skill that we need to become comfortable with if we want to become a well-rounded engineer as many of us might be in charge of our own team of workers in the future.

A key contributor to our motivation was practice-based environment where seeing our projects come to life gives an immediate reward. One of the side projects that gave us more insight of what engineering is all about was building a rocket car. This forced us to investigate many different solutions to achieving the greatest distance where we had to take into account a lot of variables including, mass, velocity, aerodynamics and overall construction design.

The constant guidance and direction in our lecture set us a clear path to follow in completing our project idea. Keeping us informed and not only making us understand the principles commonly used across the engineering field but also breaking down each tiny step along the way, which helped immensely when it comes to motivating students.

Unlocking potential in workshops

Another great resource we had access to was workshops. Even though as electrical engineering students, we initially planned to only have ECAD workshop sessions, we were able to explore different areas of interest that each of us might have. This sense of freedom is what I think a lot of students can benefit from. The same teaching model can be seen especially in other Nordic countries where students are given access to a vast variety of teaching materials and games that makes learning about things we might be interested/fun. If you can show someone learning is fun, you are only steps away from unlocking their potential

Academic support

As for the amount of support received by our module leader and personal academic tutor, we’ve received a lot of consistent feedback and improvement suggestions in ways we might never have thought of on our own, and have been offered 1:1 tutorials if needed. Uniqueness was another strong point of Dr Angad Panesar, incorporating group activities each lecture, using a large quantity of information in easily digestible forms like videos which we dissected in class. And probably the most unique aspect so far was his cat meme presentation at the beginning of our poster presentation which he successfully used to lighten up the mood of an end of semester assessment!

Our personal academic tutor and Angad both did very well when it came to including everybody. When it came to presenting our unfinished 4min poster on the spot, while it might have been very unimpressive, it showed us our flaws and how much room for improvement there is. They included statistics from previous years about student marks and patterns to show us the importance of a lot of tasks that at first might seem non-mandatory, ultimately become quite essential since we’re all here to improve.

The worksheets were quite the challenge for most of us I feel, I’ve noticed around the class the amount of groups having either one or two out of an entire group making comprehensive writing where other gave ideas and suggestions. We started doing worksheets quite early before becoming comfortable with one another so maybe that was part of the reason, but at the end of the day it was an exercise that later proved worthwhile when it came to assembling our poster and comparing information.

This module alone has probably taken most of our time relatively to the other modules assigned this year, it took a lot of planning to stay on track. It included knowledge from other modules, ECAD assignments, an extensive self-report and a poster with a concise presentation. Was it stimulating? Yes. Draining? Maybe. Worth it for how much we learnt in the amount of time provided? Definitely.

It made us realize the amount of effort needed to complete it with the goal of above average marks. This intern created a realistic expectation and shown us that even things we might have no clue how to do at first, if broken down into steps can be achieved with relative ease and consistency. And with one project done in our repertoire, there are an infinite number of options available for the future which ultimately feeds back into the motivation for us to finish our degree.

Lastly, our assessment and feedback, both summative and formative have been very thought out and reminded us of important aspects like ethics, reliability, how likely it is to be implemented and every step in the middle. With a team of motivated students and reliable personal academic tutors with experience I think great feats can be achieved, this was just the start.

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