NOTE FROM CHINMAYA: To get a well-rounded view of Mechanical Engineering, I asked my good friend and rising hip-hop star Jerry Zhang to share his thoughts. This is quite a packed post filled with useful info, hope you enjoy!
My name’s Jerry and I’m also a part II mechanical engineering student this year.
Since it’s nearly the end of part I for you all, y’all have probably been constantly been asked by everyone left, right, and centre what specialisation you’ll pick, and ended up here for help. Firstly, congrats on making the effort to do so 👏👏 as it shows you’re more seriously thinking about your future, and not just deciding on superficial whims.
After hearing about Chinmaya’s take on things thus far, here I’d like to share my perspective of the year. Before I begin, if you haven’t read Chinmaya’s previous blog posts yet, I’d highly recommend doing so, as well as the ones from previous years for the those of you who’re especially onto it 😎. Doing so really helped me last year when I was in the exact same confused shoes you’re all in now!
Firstly, why did I choose Mech?
The two mech specialisations are the ones I reckon best encapsulate the meaning of engineering: design. A large focus is put on the engineering design process which is what distinguishes this degree from a science one—actually applying what we learn, to solve real-life problems. (Plus, not a single part one course’s worth of effort will go to waste, as knowledge from all of them will be drawn upon. Unlike other certain specialisations… love you, Di Kun.)
Something I want to make clear is that there’s no such thing as an easy specialisation. Each and every one of them is challenging but fun in their own way. Depending on what your strengths and interest are, however, that may make some specialisations more appealing or suitable to you than others. Like Chinmaya, I dread at the thought of looking at circuits all day, and like Vanessa (the mechatronics blogger), I find seeing your ideas take physical form in the real world so much more rewarding. Mech was hence a no-brainer for me!
Now onto the courses of part II!
ENGSCI 211 – Mathematical Modelling 2
As the name suggests, this course is a direct continuation of MM1 from first year. I’d say that this course is one of the best organised and taught course of part II overall. Every lecturer is leading in the field they pursue, and it’s honestly very motivating since you realise how much there is to learn and the potential where you can apply the content learnt. I did feel sorta gutted this year since Peter unfortunately wasn’t able to teach us but he will be back in future courses :D.
This course starts off directly with ODEs from part I. There’s also a quiz worth 4% of your grade right at the beginning so I’d defo recommend revising through your ENGSCI 111 notes the week before sem 1 begins! Otherwise, you know the drill. Because it’s maths, a lot of new concepts will be introduced and lots of practice is the only way to really learn! There’ll also be two coding projects—one using MATLAB, and another using a new language called R. These sound hard but they’re honestly not.
MECHENG 235 – Design and Manufacture 1
Feelings about this course have been heavily mixed. I don’t have too much to add on top of what Chinmaya said but I do want to reiterate the need to constantly make progress with your projects. With the weight of the part II courses, it can be easy brushing the project work to the side, but this can be the biggest mistake you’ll make.
It is also in this course where you learn the most about actually working in a team and about member compatibility. Being thrown into the deep end of a design project with people who have different strengths and work styles to you can sound scary, but as long as you all keep up to date, take the initiative as much as possible, and ask you tutors for help, you’ll defo be fine!
In terms of lecture content, I’ll talk about that later for MECHENG 236 since it’s a continuation of this paper.
MECHENG 242 – Mechanics of Materials 1
This course was very intellectually stimulating and taught well. The thing with this course, in particular, is that you MUST MUST MUST do your practice problems! Content covered in lectures is usually derivations to new concepts and simple examples to get you started. The actual learning in applying the concepts comes with practice (which I, unfortunately, should’ve done a lot more off haha…). Be sure to keep up with the course as some stuff learnt will be necessary for your MECHENG 235 & 236 design projects!
MECHENG 201 – Introduction to Mechatronics
You might be thinking “huh, but I chose mechanical. Why am I doing this course?” Since many engineering marvels today are systems composed of not only mechanical aspects but also electronic aspects with software integration etc, it is fundamental that mechanical engineers should have an understanding, not only of what they directly produce, but how it comes together with what the electrical, computer, and software engineers integrate it with. (Plus, this course forms the base of the control systems paper we do in part III.)
This course has actually got to be my favourite because you get to put your ENGGEN 131 skills to use in actually coding VEX robots to complete line following tasks etc! (Oh yeah, and Hazim too 😉.) It’s a shame conjoint students will miss out on this course, however.
MECHENG 236 – Design and Manufacture 2
As mentioned earlier, this course is a direct continuation of MECHENG 235. Everything you learnt in 235 is also applied in this course + new stuff so defo stay on top of your note making! In regards to the lecture content of this course, as well as 235, the stuff taught is definitely interesting as well as the lecturers who teach, however, I’m honestly not a fan of the exams. The nature of these design courses is very hands-on, making you directly apply what you learn to projects (a robust bridge in this course). The exams, I feel, aren’t the best way to assess if we’re learning the principles of design and manufacture but at least there are the design projects ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
MECHENG 211 – Thermofluids
Think of ENGGEN 140 thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and heat transfer, but on super-steroids. This course has definitely got to be one of the more difficult courses this year, largely because so much of the concepts are foreign and new (i.e. thinking of things from a particle’s perspective). Overall, I must say learning about how important the content of this course actually is is really surprising. Why planes can fly, how refrigerators work, why ventilation systems are designed the way they are. This course introduces them all and a lot more!
MECHENG 222 – Dynamics
Like what MM1 was to MM2, ENGGEN 121 (dynamics half) is to this course. 222 starts directly after the end of 121 so if you’re a forgetful person (like me 😢), it’ll be a good idea to revise that stuff a week before sem 2 starts so that you don’t get overwhelmed with the already demanding workload this course gives you. Though this is also one of the hardest courses this year (alongside MECHENG 211), the demonstrations in class are really helpful! As usual, loads of practice will get you through.
Another great thing about 222 is you get Hazim for the 2nd time for the year :D! As motivation to study, Hazim has set up the clan wars where groups of students in this course compete in who can get the highest quiz scores each week. Chinmaya and I both happen to be in the “Hazim’s Hardworking (evil) Minions” clan with Vanessa (the mechatronics blogger) as the leader. With a line up of members like that, it’s clear which clan is the best 😉.
ENGGEN 204 – Managing Design and Communication
Again, Chinmaya covered most of what I’d say about this course. Though a lot of content is common knowledge, you still have to pay attention in the lectures as the tests (a new addition this year) really checks whether you’ve been paying attention or not. The lecture topics also got me thinking about a lot of things in the world today. The biggest part of this course, however, is the team report. You get into a team of 10 people across all specialisations and get a 5-6 week report to write.
Similar to MECHENG 235 & 236, you’ll learn a lot about teamwork, member compatibly, and working around everyone’s schedules. Same with any group project, also keep ensuring progress is being made despite the mid-sem tests and project due dates. In that sense, I’d say you have an advantage if you do mech since you get a lot of first-hand group work experience before this project.
Choosing mech has been quite beneficial to me in other ways. The ENGGEN 299 workshop Chinmaya explained in his 3rd post (here: https://student-editorials.blogs.auckland.ac.nz/2019/09/12/enggen-299-a-review-a-k-a-cool-scars-on-my-hands/) is the most useful (if not only) for us.
Also, we finally have lectures (for about half our courses) in the engineering building! (This may or not make you feel more like an actual engineering student but it did for me 😛 .)
Overall, I feel like I’ve made the right choice in my specialisation. Though some things didn’t really appeal to me last year (e.g. getting my hand dirty in a workshop), only once you actually start doing it (e.g. seeing your CAD models for your bridge/Warman robot in real life), you find out it can be a lot of fun!
Yikes, this was really long but I hope this helped! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions (firstname.lastname@example.org) and all the best, regardless of what specialisation you pursue! ✊