• Consumerism on a Normal Day

    Rick Liu

    Cannon Editor-in-Chief

    In recent developments of the global economy, there is one driving factor that stands out: consumerism. This concept has not only established a death grip on markets worldwide but has also extended its roots into virtually every aspect of daily life. As engineers, consumerism has become a major player in the profession; whether this intrusion is an unwelcome one is something that is very controversial. One thing that is certain is that consumerism has brought about major changes in the engineering industry and will continue to do so for many years to come.

    Consumerism is the practice of selling ever-increasing amounts of goods, often characterized more by a display of status than any real necessity or functionality to the buyer. There is no concrete origin for the rise of consumerism, but many point to the rapid growth of the middle class in the 18th century as a possible starting point. The idea of a system of mass production to promote the consumer markets came to life in the Industrial Revolution with people such as Henry Ford. This later evolved into today’s culture of conspicuous consumption and emphasis on materialistic status.

    The engineering profession has become deeply affected by consumerism in recent years. One of the areas that we may encounter on a regular basis is cost cutting. This idea in of itself is not a fully detrimental one, but the methods that many corporations attempt to achieve it lead to a lackluster quality in products. This is often due to financial constraints on the engineering teams tasked with the manufacturing of these products. Some might say that the engineering profession has been misled by the dubious glories of consumerism. Instead of pursuing an optimal design, financial gain and consumer pressure often take precedence and become the defining factors in a project.

    On September 11, Apple revealed their newest addition to the iPhone family. With only select major upgrades, such as the triple camera setup, over the previous model, one might wonder if this was merely a lackluster effort to please those who expect a new model released annually. This was but the latest in a series of product by Apple that have demonstrated a decline in the engineering prowess of the company. Where once Apple stood at the forefront of innovation, it’s now too concentrated on making profit to achieve any real breakthroughs anymore. 

    In a similar fashion, the food industry has been excessively impacted by the idea of consumerism. With recent developments in technology, genetic manipulations and chemically induced growth have become commonplace. Corporations neglect to consider the side effects of such methods in favour of the cheap and drastic increase in production, which is often followed by an increase in profit. As a result, the people who have to suffer the consequences of these actions are the consumers themselves. 

    Professional integrity is an important part of the engineering industry. However, the current state of affairs in the global market will often put pressure on us to prioritize profit over anything else. It will be up to ourselves to decide whether to heed our inner compass or follow the lures of consumerism.

  • Changes in our Student Body

    Smriti Mehrotra

    Cannon Contributor

    A “generation gap” is a term used to describe the difference in characteristics of one generation of people from another generation. A generation is estimated to be a time period of about 30 years. However, after meeting and interacting with this year’s frosh, I’m forced to believe that a generation gap can now occur within the span of three years.

    The frosh of 2T3 are essentially everything I planned to become by the time I reached fourth year in university. This opinion is based off meeting about 15 first year students, and may seem extreme, but the fact that every one of those 15 students were similar in their confident and mature attitudes speaks volumes about the rest of their class. I remember how unsure and visibly overwhelmed I was as a first year student at UofT. I was a nervous wreck for most of first semester, and to cut myself some slack, I assumed that this was a normal reaction, especially given I was an international student in a totally alien environment. This opinion was echoed by a majority of my classmates and friends. From what I’ve seen, that excuse would not be accepted by the 2T3’s.

    These are students who have assimilated all the information about where they are, how things work, and what the bigger picture of university education is to them. They might not have planned the next ten years of their lives, but they understand what’s expected of them, and have no inhibitions towards achieving these goals. The 2T3’s (and other classes) might scoff after reading this, but the fact is that students are improving with every passing year. I’m not talking about academic performance, but rather the work ethic and habits of the students. Any class of students can achieve a high average, but what has changed now is the degree of effort required. From a young age, the incoming frosh have been exposed to a demanding and competitive environment, given the rate of advancement of technology and related industries. The rapidly developing tech fields have increased exposure to millennials in unimaginable ways. As people witnessed such improvements and feats in creating a smarter society, they gradually raised the bar on expectations. Our incoming frosh are a product of this smarter society, and uphold the same level of expectations from themselves as well as other members of society. Given this general escalation in work expectations, you can be assured of standard of overachieving students UofT has admitted over the past few years.

    The major difference between the 2T3’s and their seniors is in their approach to work. These students tend to seek nothing less than perfection in their work, but their focus is process optimization. Anyone can achieve the required quality of work, given sufficient time. The younger generations strive to accomplish tasks through smart work, not hard work.

    Since the frosh have such high expectations from their work, it’s natural for them to be significantly more ambitious than we were in our first year at university. They are familiar with the accelerated pace of work at university, and rarely require time to adjust to a new environment. The most admirable trait of the frosh is their level of self awareness. This makes their transition into new phases of life smooth and not nearly as daunting as it would’ve been for us seniors.

    Here’s a message for the frosh: this article may seem like a long pep talk you’ve all heard before, but your inculcated work skills are your most valuable assets, and if you use them to your maximum potential, there’s almost nothing you can’t achieve.

              Smriti Mehrotra

     

     

     

     

  • A Rundown on the 2019 Federal Election

    Ruknoon Shadid Dinder

    Cannon Contributor

    I feel like I’m making a poor attempt at a joke by mentioning Russia at the very beginning of an article about another big Western election but allow me to explain myself. Canada’s neighbour down south is waging everything short of a full-scale war against everyone and our great nation is following something closely akin to appeasement (sounds familiar?). China is back to making concentration camps. The UK is trying to get the EU to pay them to leave while EU itself can’t stop people spilling over into their borders. Hypernationalistic movements are sweeping across India and they are once again locked in a fierce battle with Pakistan over every issue. Turkey is trying its best not to become the rest of Middle East and Brazil, surprisingly, might be the one that kills us all by burning down the Amazon. 

    Hopefully this made you sad today. But talks like these happen almost once every few years. Every election comes with the rhetoric that humanity is on the brink of extinction and voting for the right person will somehow prevent Armageddon. The world is heading towards an increasingly perilous scenario no matter which angle you look from: social, economical, militaristic, environmental, even cultural. So why should you care? Because Russia somehow stayed unaffected, and now Putin remains the sole player left in a global game taken over by madmen. To some, that should ring a few alarm bells.

    Now, you may ask why that is so significant. Well that’s because a similar situation occurred only 4 years ago. Destabilised regions in the world, financial crises and bipartisan divides fracturing nations left North America without a strong national leader to sway the masses. Everyone made the most out of it. Russia [allegedly] fixed the US elections and even made headways into Canadian and Mexican politics. China took this opportunity to bolster their tech and dominate in their regional conflicts while Germany conquered Europe economically. Now I am not trying to say that the good guys are losing to the bad guys. There is no such distinction in world politics. Instead, the important thing to note is that strong leaders are necessary to hold a country together, more so for countries as large and divisive as ours. Just look back to the 90s and you will see that it is true in the cases of Russia, Turkey and many more. These countries started to stabilise at the start of this century when charismatic leaders such as Putin and Erdogan arrived at the helm.

    With the next federal election at our doorstep, Canada is once again going through the same predicament as the USA. Our nation doesn’t have that anchor we can all rally behind. In the eyes of many, the Liberals have failed to offer any real good news for the past year or two and it has soured the minds of their voter base with the SNC Lavalin controversy. On the other hand, there is still widespread mistrust against the Conservatives since they nearly ran our economy to the ground 5-6 odd years ago. NDP and Green still don’t have a large enough majority to really challenge for government and they are doing everything in their power to come 4th in any case. So what can we do in this scenario? 

    Much like the majority of the voters this year, our candidates party leaders are largely young and inexperienced in the governance of a country. Justin Trudeau, at 47, one of the youngest PMs in history, is still seven years older than his main opponents, Conservative Andrew Scheer and New Democrat Jagmeet Singh. Either challenger would be the second-youngest Canadian prime minister ever, barely older than Joe Clark was in 1979. Of course, age is no guarantee of wisdom, but neither of Trudeau’s opponents bears distinguished records of achievement. They may yet become great public figures. But that will have to come later, if it ever does. Ideologically we have hit a dead end with them as you cannot vote them on their legacy or principles. Promises are all we can rely on. But which promises exactly? 

    This election will be the election for our environment and it shows. 2 out of the top 5 trending topics are about the environment and most parties are basing their platforms around that. Apart from that, conversation is revolving around our economy as always and, with the recent headlines on mass shooting, gun safety.

    Climate Change: If we can discount the People’s Party’s belief that climate change is not a human caused predicament, all parties agree on taking steps to mitigate the damage to our environment. The most divisive issue seems to be the Carbon tax. While most left leaning parties argue that it is a good method to reduce emissions according to the Paris Accords, Conservatives seem to believe it is simply another Liberal tax grab. Instead, they are going to offer tax credit towards the reduction in carbon footprint. The methods in reducing the impact on the environment has also varied. The conservatives have not offered a timeline for their projects, the NDP has set some extremely unpopular and relatively unachievable targets. Liberal support for pipelines and oil projects has left many questioning where their allegiances truly lie. Amidst this, the Green Party seems to have realistic goals which do not hamper economic progression while aiming towards total carbon neutrality by 2050.

    Winner: Green Party 

    Gun Regulation: Trudeau’s party seems to have the most comprehensive plan for increasing gun regulation. However, those who believe gun ownership is not related to shootings will find the Conservative plan more appealing. The other parties have not offered plans that cover all bases or flatly refused to admit the reality of mass shootings. It boils down to individual preference but for the time being, the liberals seem more ready to tackle the issue with their well-fleshed out plan of action.

    Winner: Liberal 

    Taxation: The Conservatives are going against the flow to lower tax rates for all. How Scheer’s party will recoup the deficit from this remains to be seen. However, the Liberals have failed on their promises to balance the budget and as long as they keep increasing their spending on social reforms, increased taxes will not reduce deficits. With a growing economy it may not be a problem but one recession with the deficits could ruin the economy built over the years. The other parties have released no tangible plan to balance the budget so this remains a two horse race.

    Winner: Conservative

    Before I wrap this up, I must add a disclaimer. Everything I said is solely how I view things based on the information I have gathered. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my views. This is merely to help you make an informed decision. If you would like to discuss your views, I am always happy to talk and learn. However, partisan attacks on my beliefs are something I don’t tolerate. Failure to reach a common ground is why there is presently so much divisiveness between us and we must attempt to remove this plague.

  • Behind the Purple Curtain : An Interview with the Executive Team of the Orientation Committee 

    Ben Mucsi – Orientation Chair (OC)

    What inspired you to get involved with F!rosh week?

    What inspired me to get involved was the amazing passion and energy that the community brings to F!rosh Week. So many people are so heavily invested in giving the incoming class the best welcome possible, and it really shows through the amount of work and effort that is put in. I  have never seen anything else like it! All of this culminates in one amazing week that can have lasting impacts throughout one’s university life (and beyond) with the friends and memories they carry forward.

    What is one thing you want F!rosh to know?

    One thing I would want all F!rosh to know is that there is something for everyone here at Skule(TM). We have countless clubs, teams, and student groups you can be a part of, and each has awesome people who you can become great friends with. Regardless of where you come from or what you are interested in, there is a place for you here, with so much to offer!

    What is your favourite memory as a f!rosh?

    My favourite memory as a F!rosh was our group cheer-off at Nathan Phillips Square. We had just finished half of the downtown walk-around, and there was an incredibly hype moment when we all started cheering together in the square. At that point I really felt like I was a part of something bigger, and I think those situations really help overcome the nervous anxiety that so many of us had felt coming into university. It was truly an unforgettable experience!

    Stephanie McDonald – Vice Chair Leadership (VCL)

    What inspired you to get involved with F!rosh week?

    Part of my inspiration for the past 3 years was remembering how impactful F!rosh week was for me when I first showed up at UofT. Some friends in high school made me believe that I was in for a really rough ride and that at UofT I would be on my own. But from the first minute I spent on front campus with my F!rosh group, I knew I made the right choice of school. All of my leedurs were so open and fun to be around, and throughout F!rosh week I was reassured that I wouldn’t be getting my degree on my own. And now, as VC Leadership I feel like I can make a big impact on the incoming class as well as the incredible volunteers and leedurs who make F!rosh week the magical thing that it is.

    What is one thing you want F!rosh to know?

    I want F!rosh to know that while UofT can be a big and intimidating school, it offers a place for every single person. No matter their interests, orientation, identity, past, or hopes for the future.

    What is your favourite memory as a f!rosh?

    One of my favourite F!rosh week memories as a F!rosh was just talking to different F!rosh and leedurs on downtown walkaround and leading cheers for the first time. By then I was already comfortable with a few people. Going around fully purple, showing off my pride in UofT engineering both as a school and as a community, it all was overwhelming in the best way!

    Edward Luo – Vice Chair Logistics (VCLog)

    What inspired you to get involved with F!rosh week?

    F!rosh week is definitely one of my favourite parts of Skule. It brings people together and provides people with an opportunity to share their experiences. I really enjoyed my time when I was a F!rosh and I want to be a part of delivering the great experience to incoming students as well.

    What is one thing you want F!rosh to know?

    You’re only f!rosh once! You are handed with opportunities to make amazing memories and spend your time in the way you want! Live your best live and don’t be shy!

    What is your favourite memory as a f!rosh?

    Probably F!rosh Retreat! It was really nice to get away for the weekend and good bonding time. Also I love s’mores.

    Chinmayee (May) Gidwani – Vice Chair Operations (VCOps)

    What inspired you to get involved with F!rosh week?

    One of my HLs! He was really hype during my F!rosh week and made sure to keep in touch throughout the year. It made me feel very welcomed into the Skule community, and I wanted to create the same experience for others. 

    What is one thing you want F!rosh to know?

    No matter where you come from, you always have a place here at Skule. There’s something for everyone and I’ve never met a more supportive community. Skule’s got your back!

    What is your favourite memory as a F!rosh?

    Definitely parading through downtown screaming at the top of my lungs. Downtown walkaround was such a fun way to see and explore the city!

    Valerie Ajayi – Vice Chair Finance (VCF)

    What inspired you to get involved with F!rosh week?

    I was inspired to get involved with F!rosh Week because of how much of an impact it left on me in my first year! I think F!rosh Week helps so much with the awkward and unclear transition between secondary and post-secondary life. It gives you the perfect setting to meet new people, make friends, explore interests and best of all, relax some of your fears about uni right before starting! Like a weeklong human pep-talk! For me, Orientation helped humanize UofT and Skule. The more I met people and participated in the community, the less I was worried about not being smart enough or loud enough!

    What is one thing you want F!rosh to know?

    I’d want F!rosh to know that though you might be worried or nervous, basically everyone is just as nervous as you; whether it be about how hard classes will be, making new friends or being in a new city. I’d tell them that as a result, there’s always a community of people who understand and are willing to help. It might not even be the overall Skule community or  Leedurs, but could be a community of friends or upper years you’ve met outside of Skule. I think I can speak for Orientation when I say that we would be honoured to help introduce F!roshto their community in anyway we can!

    What is your favourite memory as a F!rosh?

    My favourite memory as a F!rosh was Nathan Phillips Square. As a F!rosh, I thought that fight was the stuff of movies and in my mind a series of climatic early 2000s alternative rock songs played as the soundtrack to the whole experience. It was a complete surprise to me and that only made it more fun! I think Nathan Phillips really sets us apart from other F!rosh Weeks and shows that we work hard & play hard.

    Anthony Tang – Vice Chair Marketing (VCM)

    What inspired you to get involved with F!rosh week?

    I wanted to give something back to the Skule community. They welcomed me into first year and gave me all the tips and tricks that made my experience the best it could be. F!rosh week seemed like the best way since it’s the potentially first experience anyone coming into engineering has.

    What is one thing you want F!rosh to know?

    One thing I want F!rosh to know is the value that exists from immersing yourself in a community at university. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Skule. Whichever community you choose becomes an indispensable resource in both academics and life in general. How you choose to immerse yourself is entirely up to you.

    What is your favourite memory as a F!rosh?

    My favourite memory as a F!rosh was sitting by the campfire at F!rosh retreat and talking about nonsense with a few of the friends I’d made that week. It felt great realizing they would eventually be my best friends for the foreseeable future.

  • Bnading Together for Mischief

    Amanda Leigh

    Cannon Contributor

    There’s a good chance you heard the Lady Godiva Memorial Bnad before you even heard of them. For the past 70 years, the LGMB has been a bastion of engineering in all its noisy, obnoxious glory. Sporting blue and white jerseys and a haphazard mixture of instruments including trumpets, drums, trombones, and, a true classic, the stop sign. Whether you like it or not, if you ’are an engineering student, you’ are already a part of the Bnad, so dust off your old harmonica and let yourself get caught up in the spectacle. 

    Seemingly a nonsensical entity that clawed its way out of the drunken void of SkuleTM history, the Bnad was founded in 1949 by A.J. Paul LaPrairie (Min 5T0). Like many members of the current Bnad, LaPrairie couldn’t read music, so the original 15-member LGMB was led by Tom Kenney (Chem 5T0). The Bnad first entered the public eye in that year’s Annual Homecoming Parade, aboard a flatbed truck, and the notably silly moments quickly began to pile up. During a football game in 1950 held at Varsity Stadium, the Bnad, sporting fake moustaches, marched straight on to the field and straight up to University of Toronto President Sidney Smith (whose name you may recognize from the building) to offer him a fake moustache of his own. From then on, Sidney Smith was considered an honorary member of the Bnad. 

    Despite all the engineering-brand tomfoolery, the Bnad also holds several awards from the Kiwanis Music Festival as well as the honour of being the first band to have played in the CN tower. Every year the Bnad is bound to cause more notable ruckuses—just wait until you hear the full LGMB Rant. As a member of the “SkuleTM Trinity” along with the SkuleTM Cannon and Brute Force Committee (BFC), the LGMB is often invited to spirit events both around the University and city. You may see (and hear) them at dinner dances, alumni reunions, F!rosh and Godiva Week celebrations, the Toronto Santa Claus Parade, and anywhere else that could benefit from a whole lot of SkuleTM spirit and noise. Occasionally, and much to the dismay of the professors involved, this includes lectures.

    Nothing says Skule like the Bnad. If you find yourself searching for a way to express your passion for SkuleTM, or even just a place to let off some steam, the LGMB is always looking for new musicians. Thanks to modern email technology, joining the LGMB (or Joyning Teh Bnad, if you will) is as simple as signing up for the mailing list on their website and coming out to whichever events you choose. Jerseys and instruments are freely available in the Bnad Room, and the music is online if you wish to bother with such formalities. The rich history of the Bnad has made it a staple of SkuleTM culture and events, but more importantly, it’s a whole lot of fun.

  • Dealing with disappointment

    Smriti Mehrota

    Cannon Contributor

    Welcome to UofT! This is where you’ll learn and grow to be well rounded, productive members of society. This is your time to explore, experiment and discover yourself. This is when you’ll aim to peak in academics and social life, and this will be stressful.  

    Stress, however, is something you can handle. The fact that you made it to UofT proves that. You’ve learned to convert stress into a driving force which makes you work towards a goal and usually, all your work pays off. Now you’ll learn something even more important: there is no “recipe for success”. Sometimes, even after all the stress management and hard work, things just don’t work out the way you want them to, and that’s something you may not have experienced before. These are times when you begin to learn how to cope with disappointments. 

    The first step is to acknowledge your mistake. Acting as if it never happened is like sabotaging yourself for all future attempts at improvement. A low mark on Quercus shouldn’t paralyse your thought process. Another act to avoid is jumping the gun and impulsively claiming you deserved a better result. No prof or T.A will consider re-evaluating your test unless your claim is backed by evidence. 

    To rationalise your claim, you must analyse your mistake. Being ignorant about your failure increases the chances of repeating your mistake. In my first year Praxis class, I learnt about how to understand my results and performance. 

    Regardless of whether you’ve aced or flunked the test, what matters is that you know how and why you got that result. Treating your result as a mystery tends to induce a fear of the unknown, and this will inhibit you from learning from your mistakes. A rigorous analysis of your work will replace this fear with determination to not commit those erroneous actions again. 

    If you find that even after your introspection, you’re unsure of the reasons behind your performance, get advice! UofT is filled with intelligent people, treat them as your biggest assets. Don’t hesitate to approach your professors, T.A’s or academic advisors. They’ve taught and mentored thousands of students before you, so be rest assured their advice is foolproof. If you feel the need to have more personal connections, build a network of like-minded people in your class. There’s no shame in asking a classmate for help with an assignment. Engineering at UofT is by no means a one-man job. 

    Don’t fall under the illusion that you’re the only one facing these difficult situations. It’s true that every predicament is subjective to the person experiencing it, but to err is human. Isolating yourself in challenging times will have a more adverse impact on you than it would if you share your hardships with others.  

    Now that you’ve invested time and energy in analysing your work, it’s time to draw your conclusions and set your lessons learnt in stone. There’s a fine line between introspection and over thinking, and overthinking is just going to be a waste of your time. The objective of this whole process is to learn and move on. Overthinking will lead to an obsession with the past. 

    Disappointments and mistakes don’t remain sources of negativity once you’ve dealt with them. They are converted into invaluable experiences that you can rely upon, and use to brace yourself for all the challenges yet to come. 

  • Balance

    Fletcher Clugston

    Cannon Contributor

    Engineering at UofT is hard work. We put in more hours than most full-time jobs. It’s easy to let school take over, especially when it is midterm or exam season. When I came to Engineering the workload was a shock. I was forced, or at least I thought I was, to give up all of the things I had done for fun. My hobbies got pushed to the side and forgotten about. I stopped reading and didn’t even bother to get a library card in first year. I stopped drawing and painting, thinking that I didn’t have the time to spare. All of the hobbies I had enjoyed in high school were put off. I would pick them back up when I had more time I told myself, perhaps after midterms, or after that big assignment. The time never came for me however, I didn’t jump back into painting or a good book or anything that I truly loved to do. Engineering took up all my time.

     

    After a year of mediocre grades and tons of stress I decided I needed change. My first year was the worst year I had in engineering. I was homesick, struggled to make good friends, felt overwhelmed by school, and considered dropping out. I felt like school was consuming my life. In my second year, I knew I needed to things differently. I changed how I studied and how I scheduled my time. I took days off from studying and went out with friends. I made sure to make time for the things I loved. Things that had nothing to do with school or engineering. I started reading novels again and drawing in between assignments. I forced myself to make time for the things I actually enjoyed doing. The amount of time I spent studying and thinking about school in general decreased. School was still a priority in my life, but I just made sure it wasn’t the only priority in my life. I became happier and felt less stress from school, even though second year was more academically challenging than the first. Throughout my second year, I started to feel the weight lifting off my chest. 

     

    Counter to my intuition, my marks soared. I was studying less than in first year, but I was back to my high school marks. Making time for the things that made me happy paid off. Engineering was still extremely difficult and stress-inducing but I’d learned how to deal with it more effectively. Making time in my life for things that had absolutely nothing to do with school such as reading a book, drawing a picture of my favourite character from a game, or simply hanging out with my friends allowed me to spend the time I devoted to studying more efficiently. It’s important to have balance in your life. School is important, but so is your happiness. If I wasn’t happy at school, I couldn’t do well no matter how much time I spent studying. Studying less and investing my time in my own well being paid off more than I could have hoped for. 

     

    Fast forward to a few years later, I have great friends, a growing portfolio of art, and several books on the go. I’ve become a tap dancer and am working towards creating a performance piece in the future. I also have the best grades I have ever had and I still don’t spend the same number of hours studying as I did in my first year. Learning how to balance my life was the best thing I ever learned how to do. Balancing life is part of becoming an adult. When we enter university, our time becomes our own. It is up to us how we choose to spend it. Finding out how to effectively use my time is one of the greatest lessons engineering taught me. Engineering doesn’t have to be four years of stress and sleepless nights spent studying. Most of us only go to university once, and it’s important to spend our time here as best we can.

  • The struggle of embracing creativity within engineering

     

    Neetha Parameswaran

    Cannon Contributor

    I am an introvert by nature, most comfortable spending my time lurking in corners and observing people from afar. I enjoyed writing throughout my life. I always credited my deep train of thought for it. All of those silent, philosophical contemplations that always consumed my mind, turning into untimely whispers that were only meant for none other than my own two ears; as people stood around me and wondered, “Who else could she possibly be talking to?!” It all makes sense now.

    Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay 

    Except I haven’t picked up a pen and a leather-bound book in the last four years of my undergrad until more recent months. I deprived myself of the simplest pleasures that could have went a long way. I thought, Engineers don’t write. Engineers engineer

    It’s great to build onto your soft skills and technical expertise as an engineering student. I have learned some invaluable lessons by putting time into activities for my professional development. However, I should have spent just as much, if not, more time exploring those interests I know I would have enjoyed most. 

    Though some part of me internalized that I would be less of one if I expressed my creativity beyond numbers, so I refrained from it. I thought, What kind of value would this add to my resume? 

    I am not going to blatantly lie and assure you that everyone loves an artist. I have come across people who hardly cared for it, and even held preconceived judgments against me quite evident in their passive aggressions. However, I came to a personal realization that I do not intend to, nor do I have the need to settle for such environments. They will find their perfect fits, and so will I if I just look harder. At least for my own sake.

    You see the problem here? I was searching for an affirmation that I was never going to receive. Not unless I fight for it and set an example. ‘Engineering’ means something different for every individual. From recounting past conversations with others, here is what it meant to them:

    Building things.

    Makings things possible.

    Aren’t there branches to this?

    Um, pipelines, computers and buildings…! 

    Boundless.

    A lot of math!

    … Hard physics.

    Math and physics?

    Out-of-the-box thinking.

    Smart.

    A means to an end. 

    I wronged myself. I used other people’s views to ultimately influence mine. It cannot be universally defined by a sole word or phrase. What it is to me is what I choose to make it out to be. Starting from this point on, I choose: Creative. That is how engineering speaks out to me within my own respect. 

    It took four years and countless failures to realize the secret sauce to my successes. My performance as a volunteer and leader spiked upward, as I started to strongly pursue my recent writing ventures. My anxieties started relieving as I took those much-needed breaks to write out these mind-numbing emotions and create something beautiful while I’m at it. 

    I have now realized that I could have made it work all along. Social issues have always been personal to me, and although I’ve taken on more ‘serious’ angles of working on these, such as project management and engineering design, I could have also leveraged these amazing opportunities I’ve had to do something I truly loved. Instead, I ruled out my ability to dream boundlessly as wishful thinking. And my passion to write? Utterly useless.

    Turns out, I wasn’t the only one guilty of this. This discovery took a while for many others too, but that doesn’t have to be the case for you. University is a scary realm to enter, and the best thing you can do to feel comfortable in your own skin is to hold onto those few things that keep you sane. Whether it’s writing, drawing, film, music or anything else concocted by your wildest imagination. Be boundless. Free. Creative. Be uniquely you.

  • Why Engineering?

    Andrew Zhao

    Cannon Contributor

    At one point or another, many of us have questioned our choice of post-secondary education. For those who choose a program in engineering, during the long nights of studying, anything from the high tuition cost to the heavy workload appears to be a perfectly justified reason to give up on your degree. However, not all is lost. The pros of attaining an engineering degree often outweigh the downsides tremendously, and a few of them will be explored here to provide some motivation for anyone second guessing their decision.

    Engineers are often held in high esteem, and rightly so. The work that engineers do often affects the world at large. Engineers are the ones who solve the world’s most impactful problems, and as a result, their achievements are often widespread in society and likely to impact the lives of many people. Many engineers get the opportunity to be part of a project that will change the way that a community or organization operates. The results of your effort and dedication are often tangible and can bring about the satisfaction that motivates you to excel in your work. If you want to experience this during your studies, U of T has some clubs like Engineers Without Borders that can provide great opportunities for you.

    Another reason to do engineering is that it can be a lot of fun. The work that engineers do can vary from day to day. Depending on the job, they might often get the chance to travel and interact with people of other educational and cultural backgrounds. Moreover, many engineers work with, and on, cutting-edge technology. This often involves problem-solving that requires unconventional ideas and methods. Logic and reasoning are two important skills that any engineer would need to have in order to succeed. For people who enjoy solving difficult problems, this may make for a very interesting and enjoyable job. 

    If neither of the above has given you incentive to continue with engineering, then perhaps the careers prospects will motivate you. An engineering degree provides you with many opportunities that you may not have otherwise. The knowledge and skills that can be obtained from engineering programs allow you to transition into the workplace with relative ease. Moreover, the demand for engineers is consistently high due to the learning skills that are instilled into students and its exclusivity compared to other degrees. Additionally, the average pay of engineers is also higher than many other degrees out there. You can rest relatively assured that the vast amount of opportunities and flexibility in your degree will be more than enough to justify the few years of hard work that will encompass your engineering education. If money, or any of the aforementioned are important factors, then do not distress, engineering is the right degree for you.

  • The Engineering Failures of the Boeing 737 MAX

    Rick Liu

    Cannon Editor-in-Chief

    In 2011, American Airlines signed a massive $38 billion order for the next generation A320neo with Airbus. Having lost a longtime customer, Boeing had a major dilemma on its hands. The company was working on a replacement aircraft to its Boeing 737 at the time, but the threat of even more customers defecting to the A320neo changed its decision making. After three generations, dating back to 1966, Boeing decided to design a fourth generation Boeing 737, named the Boeing 737 MAX, with brand new engines in order to compete with the newer Airbus plane in terms of fuel efficiency. 

     

    Nothing appeared particularly out of the ordinary until the Lion Air crash on October 29, 2018. Almost two weeks after the crash, speculation immediately turned to the MCAS system Boeing implemented on its plane. 

     

    The MCAS system was a software fix for changes in the engine that led to increased fuel economy, but also changed the way the plane flew in the air. The 4th generation plane had larger engines, which meant that the engines had to be shifted forward and higher on the wing than previous generations in order to provide sufficient ground clearance. However, this created different aerodynamic handling characteristics which could cause stalls to occur more often. MCAS was designed to fix that problem by taking over some control of the plane in order to prevent stalls. While this level of automation is not unprecedented since similar electronic handling existed in the previous generation 737 and A320, MCAS was more aggressive in “correcting” the plane’s handling, and was activated more often than other anti-stall measures. 

     

    While many in the industry pointed to MCAS, many others questioned the safety record of the airline. Lion Air had a questionable history of safety, and was previously banned from flying to the European Union and the United States until 2016. It was not until the Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10, 2019 where it seemed that the fault was clearly on the aircraft.

     

    Even before the March 2019 crash, it was clear that a brand new aircraft crashing, especially with a new design that incorporated all of the latest innovations in the aircraft industry, meant that there was a high likelihood that this was not a fluke. Media outlets such as the New York Times and aviation analysts such as Leeham Group pointed out that the MCAS system was a likely cause in the aircraft undergoing a sharp and sudden descent. 

     

    Moreover, Boeing did not disclose the presence of the system to pilots in its manual, or the steps needed to dis-engage it. As a new feature, that only existed on the 4th generation 737, engineers at Boeing should have held “paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public” as stated in the National Society of Professional Engineers in the United States. Many other professional engineering institutions have a similar clause, including the Professional Engineers of Ontario. 

     

    Not specific to engineering, the practice of informed consent also applies, where pilots should have had the right to know that the plane, even when auto-pilot was off, would suddenly take over the operation of the aircraft much more than existing “fly-by-wire” automation systems found in other aircrafts. 

     

    However, it was purely an economic decision by Boeing to not disclose the existence of the system. In advertising the plane to airlines, Boeing emphasized the plane’s commonality with the previous three generations. This was done so that airlines with large existing fleets of 737s did not face enormous expenses of re-stocking parts, training mechanics, and especially re-training pilots to fly the new plane. This trade-off clearly showed that engineers at Boeing prioritized economics over the safety of the public in not disclosing this feature to pilots.

     

    After the October crash, Boeing did disclose the existence of the system to pilots and ways to dis-engage the system. However, the March crash by a reputable and reliable carrier in Ethiopian Airlines raises more questions about the engineering failures. Black box data, released in the interim report, showed that the pilots did exactly as Boeing recommended to dis-engage MCAS when it forced the nose of the airplane down. However, the system kept re-enabling and eventually pushed the aircraft to enter a steep descent. 

     

    This brings into question the need for the system in the first place. The New York Times reported on June 1st that the original design for MCAS system was far less aggressive in its automated corrections. This was the original justification for removing any mention of MCAS from pilot training and the manual. But initial test flights and simulator runs brought up unsatisfactory maneuvering characteristics caused by the larger engines. On two occasions, engineers increased the aggressiveness and the level of control of MCAS to make the aircraft fly smoother. These actions highlight another common problem of engineering, where decisions are made in a vacuum.

     

    Engineers at Boeing were too fixated on the maneuvering characteristics of the plane, and wanting to minimize the difference between the 737 MAX and previous generations of 737s, that they did not realize how much bigger they were making the holes in the swiss cheese theory of safety, or how increasingly reliant the plane was on MCAS over manual control. Quick fixes that Boeing is considering now to get the 737 MAX in the air, such as making MCAS less aggressive in its corrections, or making it reliant on more than one airspeed and angle sensors (as is the case currently) should have been considered earlier.

     

    Moreover, there are further questions on how much  Boeing can safely optimize what is already a 53 year old design. Boeing focused too much on optimizing fuel burn with the larger engine and minimizing cost to itself, without considering more creative and radical approaches to lowering fuel economy. The 737’s ground clearance, by far the lowest among any modern airplane, has not changed since 1966, while Airbus in its A320, or Boeing in their 777, can easily add larger engines to improve fuel burn without shifting the positioning of the engines like on the 737, or modifying the maneuverability of the plane. 

     

    Many students probably remember one of the very first lectures in APS100: Orientation to Engineering. In it, Professor Stickel quotes an excerpt from the book “Educating the Engineer of 2020”. The book cites a number of attributes for the engineer of 2020 that engineers at Boeing could have shown more of.  However, this “engineering in the vacuum” shows that there was not good communication, and not all stakeholders with different perspectives were engaged. Engineers did not engage their creativity in finding ways to fit larger engines (or even designing a brand new aircraft instead of rehashing a 53 year old plane). And probably the most significant error was the lack of high ethical standards and professionalism in doing their full due diligence and proper disclosure in designing the plane. 

     

    With automation playing an increasing role in today’s society, engineers should not just be relied on for their technical and analytical skills, which machines can probably do a much better job of. Rather, it’s these skills described in the Engineer of 2020 (analytical skills, practical ingenuity, communication, business and management, leadership, high ethical standards, agility, and lifelong learning) that will truly make great engineers, and avoid engineering failures in the future.

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