Semester 2 Stimulations: a Wrap-up?

Boom.

Before you know it, semester two’s over already. Wow, who would have thought? It felt like we just went into lockdown a few days ago, but you wake up one day and puff, no more classes. Finally, time to catch up on all those lectures you missed the week before the exams 🙃. But while you have the lectures playing in the background and procrastinating, why not read about this random student’s opinions on Mech semester 2 courses? There may even be some bonus content at the end of this post (foreshadowing!) if you stick around.

Still here? Excellent. Now, where should we begin?

Let’s start small: MECHENG 211. While marketed as “Thermofluids”, there was way more thermal than fluids. As an example, the big late-sem assignment we got this year was to design a heat exchanger, where we basically just ignored all fluid motion in the setup. A non-negligible amount of coding was involved, which I found sad and unfortunate. Some third-year students said it was a lot more difficult than the one they’ve got, which is true. Still, this assignment was an outlier, and the rest of the course was super chill 😉.

In increasing level of weirdness, we have ENGGEN 204. It… well… let’s say “defied expectations”. While the course content was mostly on ethics and philosophy etc, the group assignments felt like they were aimed to assess one’s ability to do groupwork above everything else. In the course’s defence,  as most of the assignments were pre-recorded presentations (a good editor saves the day), they were actually not too bad. Beyond the stress of coordinating seven other people in the group of course.

On the runner up, MECHENG 222. “The hardest course in second year” according to our glorious Hazim (praise the seven holy steps). The first half was pretty chill, all of the content could actually be summarised by one generalised equation. It, incidentally, was the half not taught by Hazim. By the second half, well, let’s just say enjoy your mid-semester break while it lasted.

And lastly, MECHENG 236. The course that brought mechatronics students sublime schadenfreude, because they didn’t do it. Here, we got into groups of four, and spend an entire semester drawing up a concept design based on a brief. Then, at the end of the semester, we “pitched” our design to the lecturers as if we were selling it. This year we got to design half of a car (yes, only one half of it), which is split into four parts among each group member. The design was, at times, frustrating and painful. But thankfully, good time management plus good teamwork usually fixes things fairly easily. We also actually got to use a lot of the concepts we got taught in class, which is a noticeable change compared to other courses. Aside from that, it was that one course which reminded me that “other humans” actually exist! Which… I guess is a good thing to realise amidst a lockdown?

So, that was a brief opinion piece on semester 2. It probably wasn’t as descriptive as I could get, but you could get exact course descriptions all over the place. Instead, I hope that offered at least some amount of information which you’d normally only get by talking to a second-year. Still, there’s this post done. See you all next time!

Joking! I said bonus content, I shall deliver bonus content!


Bonus: Why Not Mechatronics?

A man once said, “science isn’t about why, its about why not”. Fortunately, engineering is not science, which raises the need to address the question “why not choose mechatronics?” A small disclaimer that this section is only my opinion, please don’t make any irreversible decisions based on this section alone.

First and foremost, you may have noticed that mech and mechatronics are very similar in their second year, differing by only one course. This may mean that any second year students you talk to will, inevitably, have very similar experiences. This is very unrepresentative the overall experiences in each specialisation, as third and forth year will be very different between the two. As a consequence of this, it might seem easy to switch from one to another after second year, but it is very likely just as difficult as switching between any other specialisations. It may be helpful keeping this in mind while making your choices.

Secondly, mechatronics is hard to get into. It has consistently been one of the higher GPA demanding specialisation, usually needing a 6.0 or above. That’s at least a B+. Mech, on the other hand, is usually way less demanding. As GPA cut-off is determined by the specialisation’s popularity, this difference doesn’t necessarily have relations with the courses’ quality. If you don’t think you’ll make the cut definitively, I’d say it’s best to talk to the academic advisors and hear their opinions first before deciding.

Lastly, the two specialisations have reasonably significant differences in foci. While it is cool looking at the robots your higher-year mechatronics friends flex at you (trust me, I had that experience), mechatronics engineers don’t spend all day just building robots. It is a specialisation of diverse topics, ranging from concrete stuff like mechanics and electronics, to things abstract like coding and software development. Consequently, the average mechatronics engineer is less likely to study into each of these subject with as a someone more specialised, eg, a mechanical engineer. As us mech dive into the depth of thermodynamics, fluid-dynamics, or… regular dynamics (?), many of these concepts will never again be taught in mechatronics. As such, it may be important to consider “what do you really like”? Would you prefer roaming the seven seas, or dive deep into one?

And that shall be the end of the bonus content. Or is it?


Bonus 2: Internship Updates

This post is getting long, so I’ll keep this short. A while ago, the pessimistic past Jerry spend one entire post talking about not getting internships. Well, through probably an extreme amount of luck, and being at the right place at the right time, the present Jerry actually got one! Should everything flow swimmingly, I’ll be working for Victoria Uni this summer (does that make me a traitor? 🤔). Despite only having one data point, I could confidently say that luck probably played the deciding factor in me getting this role. Which means, still, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get an internship, it more than likely means you just have to keep looking!


Conclusions

Apologises for this, again, extraordinarily long post. Although if we tally the long vs not-long post ratio for everything I’ve written, this post is probably still average length 😛. I hope you’ve gained a bit more insights into specialisation choices, which you should consider very carefully in the next month. Don’t leave this till the last minute! Ask as many friends as you can, check out some resources by the uni, and talk to the advisors if you still can’t decide.

I also wish you the best of luck for your exams. Please don’t overstress, and take some breaks regularly (not during the exams of course). I have one more post to go, which will probably come in two week’s time. Why not read some other blogs here if you want a rest?

Rise and shine, 

Jerry


Footnote: Cover photo taken at Mt Eden. Observe and learn as what not to do as a mechanical engineer 🙃.

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