Engineering Science – Shasa

Join Shasa as he looks for an answer to that age-old question: what is Engineering Science?

The Story So Far…

As of writing we have just finished lectures for semester 1.

First, here’s a general overview of the semester.

Over all specialisations, everybody agrees they are working much harder.

Most people in Engineering would agree that we thought we worked hard in school until we got to Uni.

Engineering graduates also say they thought they worked hard in Uni until they started working in a real job 🙁

It appears there is a constant stream of assignments and labs.

Over the semester there has been:

  • A project (report and presentation)
  • 10 coding labs
  • 4 Biomechanics labs
  • 9 assignments
  • 5 tests

The massive time sink this semester was the coding labs. For the second half of the semester these coding labs usually took most people two full days to complete. I am 100% serious. These two day labs occur every week, for 4 weeks in the second half of semester 1.

Below is one of the lab rooms where much of the Parts 2, 3 & 4 will be spent as an Engsci student.

While the semester has been very difficult, it has also been very enjoyable. Most part 2s seem to agree. Everybody is working harder but they love it. This is probably due to both doing your favourite parts of engineering more and NOT doing the other parts.

Engsci is small specialisation (about 50 people) which means everybody gets to know each other.

We have three out of four courses with the Biomeds this semester so we are also tight with them.

Engsci and Biomed have a weekend trip away at the start of the year in Rotorua hence we become great friends. During an initiation by the part 3 students on the trip we learn the 5 commandments of Engineering science.

  1. I will always respect Jon Pearce
  2. I will always shower before entering the labs
  3. I will not distinguish between Engsci and Biomed
  4. When copying code, I will always change variable names
  5. I will look down on all others specialisations as inferior

Up at 70 Symonds street (a 5 minute walk up Symonds street from the Engineering building) there is an Engineering Science/Biomed Building. Basically there is a couple of floors of computer labs, the offices of the lecturers, and a few floors of Engineering Science/Biomedical Engineers doing research and consulting.

To sum it up so far, Engsci has been

  1. Very hard work
  2. A lot of coding
  3. A lot of fun

If that sounds alright, maybe Engsci’s for you…


Inside EngSci

This post will cover the 8 courses taken in Engineering Science Part II.

In Engineering Science, we get two elective courses at Part II and Part III. This is one of the things that makes Engineering Science unique. No other engineering specialisation has this choice (to my knowledge). Note these elective courses are not just your choice of courses out of a small selection of Engsci courses.

For your electives you can choose any two courses that interest you from the Engineering or Science departments (not just the Engineering Science department). Electives could be courses from mechanical, civil, software, computer systems, biomedical, chemical, mechatronics or electrical engineering. They could also be physics, statistics, geology, maths, geophysics or computer science courses.

The electives can be a combination of courses from either department – your selection doesn’t have to make sense. Of course you have to have to have required prerequisite knowledge – you can’t just go and do very obscure niche courses or Part III and Part IV courses.

This doesn’t mean all is lost if you haven’t taken the required prerequisites for a course. The Engineering Science Course Adviser (Dr John Cater in 2016) enjoys challenging students.  If you are keen for a challenging Part III paper or you don’t have the right prerequisites for a course – don’t despair. Some Part II Engsci students in 2016 were denied Part II Stats papers and instead encouraged to do Part III Stats papers! I guess they don’t like people copping out on easy options for their electives.

Note that some courses by other departments are offered only in first semester. You can do both electives in first semester or one in each. Keep this in mind as I decided to postpone the elective decision to Semester 2 and unfortunately missed out on a great software engineering course that looked really cool.  Just something to keep in mind when enrolling.

Now for the six compulsory courses.

In no particular order (certainly not alphabetical) the courses are:

1.       Engsci 211      (Semester 1)

2.       Engsci 233      (Semester 1)

3.       Biomeng 221 (Semester 1)

4.       Engsci 255      (Semester 1 or 2)

5.       Engsci 263      (Semester 2)

6.       Enggen 204    (Semester 2)

ENGSCI 233 – Computational Techniques and Computer Systems (15 points)
Introduction to digital electronics, computer organisation and computational techniques. Digital gates, combinatorial and synchronous circuits, data representation, instruction sets, memory, hardware, interfacing. Numerical computation, numerical algorithms.

This is a very challenging course. The course is split 40% coursework (we had 9 labs of 4.44% each) 60% exam. With 12 weeks in Semester 1, most weeks you will have a lab.

In first quarter the labs are okay and took me about 6 hours to complete them. In second quarter the labs are a nightmare and took me about two days to complete one on average. These two-day labs come week after week in the second half of the semester. The good news is if you complete the lab you will likely get 95-100% for it. Surprisingly, this was my favourite course.

BIOMENG 221 – Mechanics of Engineered and Biological Materials (15 points)
The principles of mechanics and the special circumstances associated with applying these principles to living and prosthetic structures will be presented. Topics include: introduction to linear elasticity, stresses and strains specific to direct and torsional loading, material constitutive relationships (including anisotropy, nonlinearity, and viscoelasticity), axial and transverse loading of bone, pressure loading of the heart, and theories of failure.

In the first quarter we derive stress, strain and torsion in 1-dimension. In the second, we do the same but in 2 and 3 dimensions. Fun course of medium-hard difficulty.

ENGSCI 255 – Modelling in Operations Research (15 points)
Emphasises the relationship between business and industrial applications and their associated operations research models. Software packages will be used to solve practical problems. Topics such as: linear programming, transportation and assignment models, network algorithms, queues, inventory models and simulation will be considered.

This could be an easy course but a 25% group project makes it a proper challenge. This is a real project (unlike those done in 115) and takes a lot of work. Once the project is done, there is an immense feeling of satisfaction.

ENGSCI 263 – Engineering Science Design I (15 points)
Introduction to concepts of modelling of engineering problems, including model formulation, dimensional analysis, solution procedures, comparisons with reality, and shortcomings, with examples from elementary mechanics, structures, hydrostatics, one-dimensional heat, diffusion and fluid motion. Further development of problem-solving skills and group project work. The use of computer tools in engineering design, including advanced spreadsheeting integrated with solid modelling.

This is another course with projects. There are two group projects, the first a VBA/Design project, the second a Solidworks (similar to Creo) project. So far, this course is of medium hard difficulty and very enjoyable (possibly second favourite course?).

Engsci 211 and Enggen 204 weren’t discussed as they are compulsory for all Part II engineering students. They are two easiest courses of the year though.

That’s it! The next post will be released towards the end of Semester 2, 2016.


What is EngSci?

So far the Engineering Science degree can be summed up by a testimonial by a former Engineering Science student.

“A lot of what we learn in our degree is how to think, rather than what to think”

Engineering Science will give a toolkit of the technical hard skills of mathematics, statistics and computer skills.  This isn’t unique to Engsci and the technical soft skills you will learn are what make Engineering Science different. Engsci spends a lot of time developing versatility and problem-solving.

For example, in Engsci the coding languages are thrust upon you, much unlike Enggen 131. It’s like learning how to swim by being thrown in the deep end. Learning VBA and Python was as much “learn it yourself” as it was “here’s how to do it”. Having to quickly adapt to unfamiliar software builds versatility and great confidence. This practice of being thrust into new languages continues into later years in the Engsci degree. The high expectations set by the course co-ordinators make it a difficult ride, but out the other side you appreciate having being tested.

Engsci also spends time developing problem solving skills. Operations research (optimisation) and mathematical modelling are a big part of the Engsci degree so you learn quickly that there are usually several solutions to a problem. The issue usually becomes: Is the solution good enough, due as diminishing returns on further efforts?

Some parts of Engsci (and Engineering) were unexpected. In Part II we do three big group projects with presentations (other specialisations usually do two). This continues into later years with course co-ordinators placing a high emphasis on working with others, allocating tasks and combining individual output into a final solution.

Report writing also becomes an important issue. Report writing isn’t what you think of when someone says “Engineering”, but it will become a big part of your degree, and an even a bigger part of your career. Thankfully, report writing is nothing like the misery of writing a poetry essay.

Are Engineering Science students happy with their choice?

Yes. The majority of students are very happy. However, some students are concerned with how “broad” the Engineering Science degree is. I personally see this as one of the strengths of Engineering Science but some feel different.

Engineering Science covers a broad range of topics: modelling, continuum mechanics, CAD, coding, computational techniques, statistics, optimisation… This develops your brain in many different ways and gives you many different perspectives in solving engineering problems. I believe this is very valuable and allows for creativity and better engineering solutions. Mark Twain said it best, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.

In conclusion, Engineering Science is a fantastic specialisation for those who love to learn, use software and problem solve. The variety of Engsci makes every course a new adventure and I hope Part III and IV will be a rewarding as Part II. (Note Part II has been WAY more satisfying than Part I).


Another Year Down (Time, Please Slow Down)

Over the next few weeks there are two things you will be doing.

1.       Choosing your engineering specialisation

2.       Searching for practical work for your engineering general hours

I think the best choice is to choose the specialisation that will be doing things that you enjoy. For me, Part I was easier than high school and Part II was easier than Part I because you are only doing subjects you enjoy. When the material is fun, it’s never hard to study.

In summary, ENGSCI is a challenging specialisation that involves the writing and using of many types of software with a bit of maths as well. If that sounds like something you enjoy and would do recreationally (eg Saturday night) then ENGSCI is 100% for you.

Engsci is more ‘doing’ vs ‘learning’. For example, for a coding assignment, the task is to do ‘X’. But you have absolutely no clue how to do ‘X’. You have to inspect the documentation of the programming language, inspect the documentation of any additional modules being used, talk with others and then finally ask the instructors for help. This is very different from ENGGEN 131 when you have everything you need to know in the course book. This form of self-education is fantastic as this is what it is like in the real world.

Another reason to choose ENGSCI would be that you don’t know what specialisation you want to pick. Engineering science is very general so it keeps your options open. Engineering Science graduates have worked in data science, biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering, software development and even the financial sector to name but a few. If your still not sure, ENGSCI is a great way to stay flexible.

Last year the grade requirement was a 6.7 GPA for ENGSCI. If you are above that and plan on picking ENGSCI as your specialisation I HIGHLY recommend searching for practical work. Practical work is part of the Engineering degree and you must complete a minimum of 800 hours of practical work, with a minimum 200 hours of general work and a minimum 200 hours of sub-professional work.

This summer is a great way to knock out the general work with any sort of factory work being an easy example of work you can do for ENGSCI. All the details are here.

Anything that involves a machine or a computer is perfect for your general hours. Last summer I worked in a printing factory and ran printers, laminators, die-cutters etc. Working in a factory is a lot of fun and there is a lot of banter but it is hard, heavy work.  An easy job would be any sort of work involving Microsoft Excel.

It sad to finish up with Uni but it means there is more time for any personal projects you have going on. The summer is a great time to write up a piece of software or create an app.

I hope these blogs have been useful to you in your difficult choice of choosing an engineering specialisation. Remember you can never go wrong with choosing the one you enjoy and good luck for the job search!




Hey I’m Shasa Gimblett and I have chosen to specialize in Engineering Science (Engsci).

If you choose engineering science you will get very good at explaining what engineering science is as no one is really sure what it is.

If that is your question also, here is my perfected one liner:

“Engineering science is the use of mathematics, modelling and computational techniques to solve engineering problems.”

If that doesn’t mean too much to you, the most relevant content from Part 1 is from ENGSCI 111 and ENGGEN 131.

The little time I have after Uni is spent at the gym and going on adventures. If you have any questions feel free to hit me up on Facebook.

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