• Opportunities in the summer

    Prerna Anand

    Cannon Editor

    Every winter semester the biggest question that pops up in every student’s head is “What should I do in the summer?”. Deciding what to do and achieving it is by itself a job which most students undertake in the winter semester. As Engineers, our go-to option usually is an internship in a field we would like to work in. During my third year, I found out about many other opportunities which I believe would be beneficial to most students. 

    1. NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards: It is a research award which is applicable for canadian citizens or permanent residents who are in their second year of undergraduate study or higher. The forms come out at the start of the winter semester. Through this, you can apply to specific research topics you like and can get selected based on your resume and cover letter, as long as you have a professor willing  to supervise you. Check with your department for the application process since it varies from department to department.
    2. General research position: Many professors are looking for students who they have taught during the semester to help them with their research. Go to the office hours of the course you like and ask the professor about their research. If it is something you’re interested in, you can directly talk to the professor. This makes the procedure of getting a research way easier as there is no need to fill a form and the professor already knows you which helps in making a good decision. Unlike the USRA, it’s open to all students, however the professor may be less willing to fully fund you without the funding from NSERC.
    3. International research positions through the Centre of International Experience (CIE): You can apply for research abroad in the fall semester to multiple universities in different countries. After getting selected by the university, you get the choice to select the research you like and then join that team over the summer. It’s a fantastic opportunity as you not only get to explore a new country but also develop new skills while working on interesting projects you love. (https://www.studentlife.utoronto.ca/cie)
    4. NASA Internship: I have great news for all you space geeks here. NASA has announced internships in Canada which start this year! The application comes out in the fall semester. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I would recommend you give it a shot. (https://intern.nasa.gov)
    5. Junior Deep: This is an outreach program for school students done by the university. Students can apply to be instructors where they would either be assigned to teach or talk to students in GTA and promote engineering. Some of these are paid positions. (https://outreach.engineering.utoronto.ca/pre-university-programs/jr-deep/)

    Summer is a great time to try out new things and these opportunities are a great way to explore what you really like. In case, none of these work, you can always take some courses at the university or online along with a part time job, or even get a certification in machining, business models and innumerable other things. The possibilities are endless! Don’t lose hope if you don’t get an internship during the summer. You decide where your future lies.

  • What U of T Engineering Taught Me

    Rick Liu

    Cannon Editor-In-Chief

    By the time this gets published, I would have already gone to my Iron Ring ceremony, or more formally The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer. If I were being honest, I found myself feeling uneasy about going. I expressed this thought to friends, family and peers.

    “I don’t feel like going. I had other plans anyway”, I said.

    Needless to say, I was met with the same reaction from all of them.

    “You deserve to go. You worked hard for it, man.”

    “You can only flex the ring if you go.”

    “WHY?”

    The last person wasn’t wrong for asking that. Why didn’t I want to go? 

    Because I was struck with feelings of guilt and regret. 

    I could have done things differently. 

    I could have done things better.

    My first mistake was that I didn’t ask for help.

    This is my very last semester of school (possibly forever), and I recently found myself sitting in the office of our learning strategist. Her name’s Melissa.

    I’m not going to lie, I wondered what in the world could she teach me that I didn’t already know? I mean, I already got through four years of engineering. I stumbled, but I got through.

    But, I learned some cool tricks that day that made me wonder. Could all of those moments of abhorrent test anxieties been prevented had I just given this a try earlier? Could I have reached my unsung goals by now had I allowed myself to be vulnerable?

    I admit. I’m not organized. I am terrible at learning too. You might be terrible at it too. Wondering why that GPA is so low? 

    You’re not stupid. There’s always a way to improve. Seek it out.

    My second mistake was that  I didn’t take care of the basics.

    I suffered from a lot of sleepless nights, only to find myself snoozing at the most inconvenient of times. In second year, my TA asked me to look into the microscope in front of our lab group. I started dozing off on the eyepiece, and my classmate (who is now one of my best friends), had to poke me to take her turn. 

    She still taunts me with that memory.

    I found that my performance tremendously increased once I just slept more. School, work and extracurriculars started to align into an almost perfect array. One of the greatest surprises I learned throughout university is that some of the smartest people put themselves first above their grades.

    They will take the “L” if it comes down to their health and well-being. Engineering is hard. There is a lot going on. Sometimes, you can’t do it all without failing altogether. I just know that I started doing better when I capped myself off at 10PM.

    Whatever’s done is done. I’m off to bed now.

    My third mistake was that I got too involved with school.

    I’m not talking about extracurriculars. I’m talking about people and this always surprises everyone. How could someone like myself, who leveraged the connections she forged with people on a personal level into grand opportunities, say such a thing? My ability to relate and start the awkward conversations has gotten me through the door so many times.

    But, it has also hurt me in my professional development. The unfortunate truth about any professional community, engineering or not, is that preconceived, controversial notions of an individual can hinder them. I found that people were quick to use these against me in group settings, and discredit the value of my technical input.

    Their thought process went along the lines of, “What could she possibly know? I mean, I’ve seen her outside of class, and she is a screw-up on all levels.”

    There were so many times where I felt the subtlety of their stigma with this hidden connotation. And trust me, it really stings.

    So, here’s my advice to my younger self: Don’t overshare or trust too easily. Keep it simple and professional with your peers. Get a life outside of this place.

    I finally did. I reconnected with old friends before my chapter here—some even from my childhood. I forged relationships with new friends I made in other places. I borrow my brother’s cat on the occasion to keep me company and sane. 

    There’s nothing wrong with being personable—it helped me in a lot of ways. Just know that there’s always a hidden limit when you’re approaching the beginning of your career. 

    My fourth mistake was that I didn’t learn for myself. Learn for yourself and not others.

    “I don’t think you can handle it. Just stick to what you know.”

    I have been told that so many times. And unfortunately, I have given into those criticisms. I let those dictate my choices that ultimately left me unhappy, and sometimes scarred. 

    I got the worst set of grades once, and I did everything the ‘right’ way—I started to gain the approval of my peers. I showed up to every class. I did all the readings in advance. 

    I just did horrible. I even ended up hating school.

    But, the moment I regained my appreciation for in-class education, and started to do somewhat decently again, was when I reconciled with the fact that I don’t learn best by going to lecture. 

    To all my professors: It’s not you. It’s me. 

    To myself not too long ago: Don’t go to lecture if it doesn’t mean anything to you. Don’t go just to show your face—you don’t owe these people anything. But you owe yourself the right to learn and succeed. I mean, that 60K tuition speaks for itself.

    And even with all these mistakes, I found that I’m still learning new things everyday. I’m amazed by how vastly the landscape has changed in our faculty—I somehow find myself confiding in many of you, who are quite younger than me. It’s almost as if every incoming class is getting smarter and smarter—both in terms of “book smart” and “street smart”..

    So maybe you won’t have to worry about the mistakes I have made. Or maybe, you will make your own set of mistakes.

    Just know that making mistakes is learning––and learning is still winning.

  • Is 18% Turnout Okay? (No)

    Rick Liu

    Cannon Editor-In-Chief

    On November 10th, The Varsity published an article titled “Participation in student government elections at UofT among lowest in Canada”. While most students know voter turnout for student elections is low,  what is surprising, at least to me, is that the author found that turnout for UTSU elections is abnormally low compared to other schools. Most schools in that article had a student turnout of around 20% compared to the 4% of the last UTSU election. UBC, which is a similar institution to UofT with its large commuter and international student cohort, had a turnout of 24%, so low turnout cannot solely be caused by UofT’s large student body, international students, or large numbers of commuters. 

    This article pushed us to do an analysis of student turnout at a more local level. I decided to compile the turnout for all class representatives, Officers, Discipline Club Chairs, and Board of Directors elections from the previous election cycle. This would include the March, April, September, and November 2019 elections. I excluded elections for positions such as Common Room Manager, or Social Director, and other discipline club positions, because I did not or could not find the associated rules in the discipline club constitutions for who is eligible to vote or run for those elections in all disciplines. In addition, not all disciplines have the same set of elected positions; many don’t have an elected common room manager for example, so it would be unfair to include those positions for comparisons. I also excluded levy referenda, since turnout to those are more driven by “get out the vote” efforts by design teams. 

    What I found is not surprising. At 18%, EngSoc elections have a higher turnout than UTSU elections, but turnout is still very low, and many races are uncontested, meaning there’s only one candidate running to be a representative. Acclamation is a huge concern, because having only one candidate depresses turnout. Participation in these elections is still important, because the student body still has a chance to be able to reject the candidate. On average, I saw races with one candidate running have an average turnout of 14%, compared to an average turnout of 24% with two or more candidates running. 

    Turnout isn’t the same across all the disciplines, years or elections. I found that Chemical Engineering had by far the highest turnout. At an average turnout of 34%, 4% higher than the next highest discipline of Materials Engineering, and 5% higher than Mineral Engineering, it suggests a very robust student culture and engagement. On the other hand, EngSoc elections have a 6% average turnout for its Officer elections, and both Electrical and Computer Engineering are at the bottom among the disciplines with a 7% and 9% average turnout, respectively. The results of my analysis, shown on the graph, is somewhat indicative of how lively a discipline is. Similarly, 2nd year elections have the highest turnout at an average of 29%; after that, it slowly decreases the longer students stay in the program. Board of Director elections have noticeably lower turnout than Discipline Club Chair elections, which may indicate students aren’t as clear on the responsibilities of directors, or have higher voter apathy. Discipline Club Chair elections, as expected, have a turnout that’s the average of the turnout of the 2nd, 3rd,4th year, and PEY rep elections.

    Low voter turnout is a huge problem in any democratic institution because it questions the legitimacy of the election in the first place. Statistics, and the Central Limit Theorem, show that a sample can generally represent the wider population, but this is usually only true when the sample is unbiased and when there is a large enough sample. With some turnouts lower than 10%, it’s very hard to justify that these elections actually represent the will of the community, especially as the turnout rate might not be the same across different demographics in the engineering community. Chances are, the people who are already highly involved in EngSoc or other forms of student government are more likely to vote, but for the people who  don’t vote or aren’t involved, they still have an equal say in the decision making process. While Chemical Engineering should be commended for their high turnout, is 34% really a number we should be aiming for? With 24% turnout for a school wide election at UBC, we can reasonably assume that their divisional elections’ turnout would be much higher than even Chemical Engineering. 34% means that around two-thirds of all Chemical Engineering students don’t have their voices heard, and this number grows to 94% for all engineering students with regards to who their EngSoc Officer is.

    Low voter turnout has real life consequences too. In some elections, such as two EngSoc Officer elections, and the Board of Directors representative for Computer Engineering during the elections in March and April of 2019, the difference between the two candidates was a margin of less than 10%, and turnout was also below 10%. At this point, 1% of all eligible voters held the power to decide who wins the election. Can we be reasonably sure that the majority of the student body preferred the winning candidate as their representative, with such a razor thin margin, and a low voter turnout?

    However, uncontested elections is an even greater problem. Four disciplines have rates higher than 80%: Mineral and TrackOne both had a rate of 100%, while Materials and Civil had rates of 80% and 83% respectfully. Roughly 57% of all EngSoc elections are uncontested. This means that voter apathy is so high that people aren’t even motivated to run. There is a mechanism to reopen nominations, which provides the voters another option in uncontested elections, but in my time at UofT, I’ve only seen it used once. Its use is rare, and about as meaningful as declining your ballot at federal elections. Representative democracy in general is all about giving the people the choice and the means to decide who represents them to make their voices heard, and when there is nobody to challenge another candidate in an election, or offer an alternative that reflects the diverse opinions of the student body, then the system is not performing the way it should. Whenever I think of acclaimed elections, I think of authoritarian regimes where they hold elections to seem legitimate, but only have one serious candidate running, who usually wins with an over 90% margin. I’m not saying that EngSoc elections are unfair or undemocratic, but it definitely creates the perception to some people that they might be.

    After the 2015 federal election, Stephen Harper said something that I think any respected elected official, from Jagmeet Singh to Justin Trudeau, would agree with: the voter is always right. The low turnout, even compared to universities similar to UofT like UBC, as well as high uncontested election rates, are actually messages that the student body is sending to us. Either they don’t think student government is important, or they distrust student government, or they think that EngSoc and Discipline positions are a clique meant for only a certain type of people. Any of these three mindsets are bad for the community, and it brings up questions of how much legitimacy EngSoc and discipline clubs have. It may be easy to blame the voter, or focus our attention on more “get out the vote” efforts, but voter turnouts have been abnormally low for many years, and more and more elections are being uncontested every year. My opinion is that this is a serious problem that goes beyond the lack of voter awareness, and we should be devoting more of our attention to correcting the structural problems leading to low turnout and uncontested elections.

     

  • What is a PEY worth?

    Prerna Anand

    Cannon Contributor

    The Engineering Career Centre is potentially planning to change their PEY services starting with the 2T4 class. The new PEY program starts from First Year which offers services for $600 per semester. There are multiple questions that these changes raise. Do we need training for PEY from First Year? Are these new services worth the money? How can students be sure if they want to do a PEY before third year?

    Here’s a breakdown of the services, and their pros and cons. 

    1. The two main services for First Year’s which is currently being offered as part of their pilot program are a welcome information event and peer mentorship programs where students are paired with students who have already completed their PEY.

    Pros: Students are well informed about what PEY is and what criteria they need to meet to qualify to do one. The mentorship program helps them get advice from students and professionals who have first-hand experiences and can teach them how to network and present themselves at career fairs. 

    Cons: First year is a tough year for most students. Many of them are not sure of the disciplines that they are currently enrolled in and some even switch out of it during or after the first year. PEY is not their priority at that point. They are usually more worried about passing their courses, dealing with low grades probably for the first time and deciding if they want to continue with their program. They will most likely be only interested in having a brief idea which they already get as PEY is highly advertised by the university on their websites and campus fairs for incoming students. They’re also informed about it during Frosh Week by upper-year students.

    2. For planning out their career and professional development they have a PEY handbook with all dates, an online tool with assessments, and activities and a list for all opportunities across the faculty.

    Pros: The handbook will help them in planning out the next two years. The online tool and the list of resources are tools to make a career action plan which would be beneficial for students who have figured out what their career goals are.

    Cons: All the information about PEY is already present on the PEY website and the University also sends reminders at the start of the semester about all key dates. YNCN  (You’re Next Career Network), a student organization, aids with professional development which students can avail for free anytime during their time at UofT.

    3. To improve networking and interviewing skills they will be organizing industry engagement events and online mock interview tools. 

    Pros: This offers many opportunities to create connections and practice how to answer questions that would be useful while finding a PEY and even jobs in the future. 

    Cons: Such events are already organized by WISE and YNCN which is open to all students throughout the year. 

    4. Assistance with Resume and Cover Letters through webinars, guides and online feedback tools.

    Pros: Students usually have never prepared either of these before and aren’t aware that you need to change it based on the type of job and whether it is part-time or full time. So, these services would be very useful in guiding them.

    Cons: Resume building is already taught as part of APS100 and the University can make changes to the curriculum for this course to focus more on professional development. Additional help is also provided by professionals during specific resume and cover letter building events organized by WISE and YNCN. 

    After analyzing this breakdown, the charges for these services set by ECC are too high as students already have access to these services for free from other clubs at UofT. The ECC is providing many of these services as part of the current programs, for a maximum of $1100 for PEY and $400 for ESIP, only if you are able to secure a job through them. For students who find jobs through other websites and/or those who decide to drop out of the program in between the third year, it would not make sense to pay for all six semesters. More importantly, due to the expense associated with PEY, many students might even opt-out of it. 

    The ECC needs to re-evaluate its decision to go ahead with these changes. We as part of the engineering community need to speak up and suggest ways to improve the PEY program without making it expensive.

  • Why I Took 5 Years to Buy a Jacket

    Rick Liu

    Cannon Editor-In-Chief

    When I first told my friends that I was going to buy a UofT engineering jacket, they asked a lot of pointed questions. One of them was wondering why I waited four years to buy one instead of buying it after first year, like most people. Others wondered why I decided to squander $500 on a jacket. I even questioned the purchase myself, and asked myself why I was buying a jacket at all, since my friends and I were clearly not the types of people to wear one.

    Compared to many other schools, the cost of a jacket is very high. Students at UBC pay only $100 for their bright red jacket and many other schools in English Canada pay much less than UofT for their engineering jacket. The cost factor definitely weighed on me, and it didn’t seem worth it to pay $500 for a glorified piece of memorabilia, when the same money could have bought me a new pair of glasses or a new phone. For something that was supposed to tie every engineering student from every engineering school together, the cost was a huge deterrent to myself, and probably multiple other engineering students at UofT. With each passing year, it became less and less worth it, as there wouldn’t be much opportunity to wear the jacket after graduation. 

    Beyond the cost factor, I didn’t feel like a part of the group of people who should wear a jacket. All of my friends, even those who are heavily involved in student life activities, don’t own a jacket, and we all joke about the type of people who bought a jacket. To me, and to many people, the stereotypical  group of people who wear a jacket are those that go to SUDS every Friday, are heavily involved in the Engineering Society, and hang around the Pit every day and hour, and students who believe “C’s get degrees”. As someone who almost never drinks (out of respect to my closest friends at UofT), someone who isn’t involved in discipline clubs or EngSoc, and someone who spent most Friday nights this semester working on an undergraduate thesis (which may have been a mistake in the first place, but that’s another article entirely), I definitely feel like I didn’t belong to the group of people who would buy an engineering jacket.

    When the time came to buy a jacket in second year, all these factors ultimately made me decide not to buy one. Despite the fact that the jacket is viewed as a symbol of the collective engineering culture, not everyone had one at UofT. For me and my friends, it was too expensive, and it carried a connotation that didn’t represent us. 

    It wasn’t until my first competition as part of Concrete Canoe where that began to change. Laval University was the first opportunity I had to meet engineers from across Canada, and explore what it meant to be an engineering student. On race day, each team put on their brightest and most eye catching displays of spirit. Sherbrook had their bandanas, and green and yellow face paint. Queen’s had every member of their team slamming their jackets on the ground. While our team all generally wore our club T-shirts, it never reached the same level as Queen’s, Sherbrooke, or Laval. That was the first time I really wished I had an engineering jacket. Only 3 people on our team of 25 bought one, and we sort of looked out of place among the sea of teams that all wore their school’s engineering jackets, with each school’s jacket designed by and carrying symbols of their student culture. 

    At that point, and especially at the more recent Concrete Canoe competitions in Waterloo and Montreal, I changed how I viewed the jacket. With the ability to customize the lettering and most importantly, add patches, the jacket became more of a representation of me, and my involvement in UofT engineering. For me, it wasn’t a $500 piece of memorabilia to how much time I spent at SUDS or the Pit, but more as two $250 pieces to the 2 clubs I put all my blood, sweat and tears in. 

    Sometime during PEY, I made the decision to buy a jacket as soon as The Cannon released its new patch. The old patch of The Cannon was from the mid-2000s, and didn’t represent the paper that I put so much of my time in. The new patch, using the 2017 logo, holds a special place in my heart, since re-designing the logo was one of the first things I did as an exec, and it makes me proud to see stickers using the new logo slowly spread throughout campus.

    While I wish I could completely customize my jacket to make it even more personal to me, and less reflective about the parts of engineering I didn’t experience, and wish the jacket didn’t cost so much, I’m glad to say I bought one. I have patches from The Cannon and Concrete Canoe adorning both my sleeves. One sleeve has “CIV1T9” on it, while the other has “YYC YYZ” on it, reflecting my history, love for aviation, and more broadly, love for transportation.

    So I encourage all of you to rethink the jacket and what it means. At the end of the day, it is a reflection of you and your time at UofT. Whatever you choose to do with this period, you should display it with pride; pride in what you have accomplished, pride in what you have gotten involved in, pride in what you have experienced and learnt along the way. Pride in being a UofT Engineer.

  • Joy of Little Things

    Najah Hassan

    Cannon Contributor

    It is a cloudy and gloomy morning. I am walking to the bus stop, lost in my own thoughts. I am thinking about the midterm I wrote a few days ago and how it went terribly. I studied so hard for it and now I am not even sure if it was worth it. Everything seems like it is falling apart. I am watching my feet as I walk and I am reminding myself to breathe while the cold air is hitting my face. There is a man in front of me walking his dog. Together, they are blocking the sidewalk. I begin walking behind the man but he is moving very slowly and I just need to find a way to overtake them. I see a small opening and I walk by them trying to move fast so I do not get in their way.

    “You gave me a fright!”, says the old man once I am about five steps ahead of him.

    I turned around to face him. “I’m sorry,” I say. “I didn’t mean to.”

    “You moved by me so quietly. Gave me a fright,” he replies.

    “I’m sorry,” I say again before continuing with my walk to the bus stop, accompanied by my bitter thoughts. 

    He passes by me again a few minutes later.

    “I hope you have an umbrella. It looks like it’s going to rain,” he says, while looking at the sky. I smile and nod at him.

    I do not have an umbrella. I never did. I am not prepared for rain. But, something about that interaction made me think. Here is a perfect stranger, who does not know who I am or what I have been through. In fact, I have probably annoyed him by creeping up behind him so early in the morning. Yet, he is kind enough to remind me about the rain and make sure I am prepared. This morning, I decided to do something different. I am going to pay attention to all the nice things people do around me. 

    In the span of an hour, I see enough things to turn my day around. I see people offer up their seats to others. I see a father carrying his daughter’s school bag as he walks her to school. I see someone on St. George street walk into the middle of the road and pick up a dead squirrel that was lying there and move it near a tree. 

    After that, I start noticing all the nice things people do for me. My friends checking up on me everyday to make sure I am doing okay. They remember little details from the long and irrelevant stories I tell. They help me with my problem sets no matter what hour of the day it is. And when I begin to question my own abilities, they show me how I can do more than I give myself credit for. 

    Sometimes, it feels like the whole world is out to get you. Like everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong. On days like that, I start to lose faith in everything. I doubt people, question their intentions, doubt myself, worry about my future, and feel helpless. When that happens, I notice and sum up all the good things, no matter how insignificant they seem relative to the mishaps. 

    Adding up all the little things in my day, make me realize that there really is more positivity then we let in. Yes, it does not make one’s problems go away. My terrible midterm is still a terrible midterm. But appreciating the little things make me feel more motivated to get back up and try again. 

    From time to time I hear the phrase “happiness is a choice”. I never understood it. How can you be happy when nothing seems to go as planned? Yet, one of the hardest things we have to learn is that there are only so many things that are under our control. We keep our heads down, work hard and do our best. Anything that happens after that is not in our hands. So maybe instead of worrying about all the things that are going wrong, we should pay attention to all the things that are going right. And hold on to those while they last. 

    So, maybe I do have an umbrella. Maybe I am prepared for rain. I just could not see it until now.

  • Humans of Skule

    Frosh week is when I realized that this was something special. The stories, the people, and the diversity. Skule took me in without hesitation and opened up a new world of possibilities and a social web to weave myself into. Hearing all the different background stories of my fellow frosh, I was eager to share them with everyone else around me. You travelled all the way from India for ECE? And you play the violin while dropping your pants around campus? How the heck is no one paying any attention to you?! Being the initiative taker that I am, of course I had to do something.

    Humans of UofT. No, that’s already taken. How about “Humans of Skule”? Ya … that sounds cheeky, fits into the wholesome vibe … let’s do it! At the same time, I joined the Skulebook photography team. Photography is super cool, and if it weren’t for me liking science as much as I do, I wouldn’t have cancelled my applications to go to film school. Turns out Skulebook also wanted to do this initiative. They piloted it the year prior (2014) with great feedback and wanted to start again in 2015 – my first year! So all the more reason for me to get this going.

    Without asking, I grabbed three of my friends in the Track One common room and interviewed them with my camera. Why don’t we have a facebook group at this point? Let’s push to get that going. Eventually, Skulebook gave in and we got it up that very day. How many photos should I be posting? Twice a day sounds sweet. Let’s do that. Turns out that taking photos, editing, transcribing interviews, and posting is time-consuming. Let’s slow down the pace to once a day. Okay, I can’t keep up, let’s do a few times a week. Ok, that works!

    “I recently added two of my friends into a group chat, typed in a dot, then left the chat. Now they’re dating.”
    — Kevin Nguyen [ECE 1T8]. The most popular post to date, reaching over 13k screens in 2016.
    In my first year, the Skulebook team and I posted 110 photo interviews ranging from professors to TAs to classmates to fellow Skuligans I’ve never met before. The Facebook page received tons of likes in under a month. We began receiving messages thanking us for putting a smile on their face and having something to look forward to every day. You can’t ask for better validation than that for your idea, now can you? Apparently you can, since “Get on Humans of Skule” was a featured item in the following year’s Havenger Scunt. Luckily, Skulebook got us a spread in the yearbook, so clever engineers got the point and stood on top of the book.

    Come second year, the burnout kicked in. After a hype first year and time-consuming summer job, I was not ready for more non-stop action. That year, the posting fell back onto me and I got up just over 30 posts: a 70% reduction from the prior year. My interest in Skule was dwindling, while my extracurriculars now included building a satellite in UTAT and marketing events in YNCN. Third year of Mech – the 2nd year ECE equivalent – hit even harder. Down to 8 posts by the end of the year. At this point, I didn’t have the motivation to put in work and get back up to the level I wanted HOS to be at – it’s too late, move on.

    After I decided to pursue a PEY in the States, I gave up all hope. Out of nowhere, the new Skulebook team reached out, and wanted to take over the posting. Great! Now I can be abroad, but still have the page going. It’s a tough task, but they got some good posts in that year. A year later, coming back from PEY, I realized this is not acceptable. The success of this page can’t be reliant on Mr. Addy. It needs to be driven by Skuligans who believe in the message and want to get other classmates in the spotlight.

    “Mean girls. But Min girls.” — Ksenia Bilaniuk [Min 1T9] and Aurora Zhang [Min 1T9].
    That’s when I decided to convert this one-man show into a team wonder. Delegate delegate delegate. That’s what a good leader does, so why don’t I? I clearly don’t have time to photograph everyone, or reach outside my social networks to cover the wide array of students, or market across the community. A week before Frosh week, I put out a call for interested students. In two days, I got over 10 responses, and had to turn off the signups. This was proof that love still existed for this project.

    Fast forward to today, and we have a robust photography team trained on taking consistent, high quality, candid photos of their friends and professors, as well as a dope marketing team to help redesign the brand and get our word out there. And the cherry on the cake? We’re on our way to getting recognized as an official club in Skule!  Oh, and finally an Instagram account (we’re hip now).

    “I f***ing hate celery sticks, I almost threw up eating one yesterday.” —  Farah Zabin Rahman [Indy 2T2]
    The proof is in the pudding. In the first two months of school, we have posted 35 posts. At this rate, we’ll get to 140 by the end of the year – surpassing my first year peak! And when I do leave next year, I’ll be confident that this project will be transferred into good hands. There’s still lots of work to do. Like getting the HOS name ingrained in our community and seeing these posts all over our campus. Engineers deserve a spotlight, a beautiful portrait, and a moment to share their life. We are the engineers. We are humans of Skule.

  • A+ Education Group

    Smriti Mehrotra

    Cannon Contributor

    The A+ Education group is “an educational institute” that offers tutoring services for first year core eight engineering and Rotman Commerce students. Throughout this semester, you’ve probably gotten Facebook notifications about the A+ Education group. They advertise their sessions and services by posting bios of their instructors or information posters about review sessions and early bird discounts. Yup, you heard it right. Of course these are paid services, and they don’t come cheap either. According to one of their latest postings, an “early bird” discounted price is equivalent to $60.

    Their list of services include 6 hours of review, a review package, a group chat, office hours, and “personalised” mentorship. Two of these services, namely office hours and review, are offered by profs in every course I’ve taken so far. Also, am I the only one who thinks it’s strange to include a group chat in their cost? It seems that the only additional services provided by the group are personalised mentorship and a review package. I got in touch with a few first years about their review packages, and it turns out that these packages are a compilation of some of the most challenging questions the prof could throw at you in an exam. However, I also heard from students that when they ask their regular course TAs’ questions about the review packages, some TAs’ dismissed them for being too hard. The fact that the students had to approach their course TA’s for help on the A+ paid tutoring services is pretty ironic. I haven’t been able to get reviews on the personalised mentorship, so let’s assume that this service is effective and helpful. Regardless, that’s also something any junior can get from messaging a senior on Facebook and asking them for advice. I’ve been doing it for the last three years, and thankfully have not had to pay $60 for it.

    Perhaps we’re being too critical about the group. I’ve known friends who were excited to join the group as tutors, and that’s a sign that at least the instructors at A+ are enthusiastic about their roles. Coming from a high school education that stressed on the importance of after-school tutorial classes, especially for competitive exams, I understand the need for providing these services. It would make sense that students would work better with the additional support. They are assured of constant help and feedback that some TA’s and profs don’t fully provide. Let’s not forget the fact that their instructors are second year or third year students themselves, who have recently passed said courses with stellar marks and know the course from a student’s perspective very well. I’ve known TA’s who are PhD students, and because of their expertise,  sometimes skip over information that may seem obvious to them, but not to the students. This kind of oversight seems to be less likely to happen with the instructors at A+.

    So we’ve concluded that joining A+ could potentially give you additional support for a course or two, but let’s address what the goal of A+ Education is. As stated on their Facebook and information pages, their goal is to “light up university life”. Wow. That’s promising a lot. They state that their mission is to make university life easier, but given that their original promise is getting you a 4.0 in your course, I don’t see how they can claim to make life itself easier. There’s a lot more to life than grades and exams.  

    According to their logic, they’re implying that getting 4.0’s is directly proportional to the happiness you can experience inside and outside of university. This contradicts the countless upper years and profs who have told me that while grades do matter, they don’t define you. You should not obsess over getting a 4.0, because the results of your work are just a by-product of the amazing journey you will experience to get to the end of a semester. 

    What A+ may be trying to say is that by joining their tutoring classes, students would be encouraged to aim high and work to meet their expectations. If that’s their message, then they should consider being a little less cryptic about it and reconsider their advertising methods.

  • Far From Home

    Shreya Mehta

    Cannon Contributor

    When I arrived in Canada two years ago, with brimming suitcases in hand and an entourage of family members pouring in to say their goodbyes, I had little idea how wildly different my life would become in the coming years. As familiarity was gradually replaced by reminiscence, the adult world began to shape itself into an experience best described as bittersweet. 

    As someone who has been moving countries all my life, it was inevitable that I would end up pursuing an education abroad to start afresh yet again, and immerse myself in a brand new culture. Canada is one of the countries that caught my attention from the very beginning: popular media is brimming with depictions of its exhilarating maritime and mountainous landscapes, and its moose-riding, maple-syrup-chugging populace. When the opportunity to live in this country known for its friendly, polite people presented itself, I did not hesitate to accept the U of T Engineering offer letter and hop on a jet 14,991 kilometers from home. 

    My hometown Singapore is a tiny city-state in Southeast Asia. The once turbulent country has quickly established itself as a global hub for education, finance, technology, innovation, and trade, in addition to ranking highly on every standard of living index in the world. As such, moving to another metropolitan city like Toronto did not seem like too much of a change from home. However, when I arrived in Canada two years ago, I had no idea how nerve-wracking the experience of moving away from the comfort of home would turn out to be. 

    The beginning of a college career is always stressful, and comes with a tonne of learning and demanding experiences that shape your personality as you transition into adulthood. This experience is a thousand times more daunting for international students, who have to simultaneously adapt to a brand new country with barely any time to figure things out. 

    The first blow came when I perched myself upon the 23-hour flight, and the abrupt realization hit me all at once: I would soon be all alone. My parents, who have been incredibly nurturing throughout my childhood, would no longer be there to love and support me. My sister would no longer be the best friend just a room away. The last hug with my family crushed my heart in ways I cannot describe, and moving away from the loving embrace of home made me quickly learn that I was no longer the sheltered cocoon in the nest there was no longer anyone to cushion the blows. 

    The whirlwind of emotions I felt in the first week while surrounded by hyped-up Frosh made me feel like I did not belong here. I was an anxious mess, overwhelmed by simple things such as figuring out transportation, groceries, or how to do laundry and cook meals while I had a mound of unfinished homework waiting on the desk. To top it off, it took me a month to finish unpacking my suitcases and setting up my place. In the midst of it all, overcoming my fears about fitting in 

    seemed impossible: What if I picked the wrong major? What if I did not manage to connect with the people here? What if I could not make any friends? 

    The fears were understandable, but that did not mean that I would let my anxiety triumph over my goals and aspirations. After a brief period of accepting my fate, I got tired of wallowing in my own self-loathing and took a leap: yes, I joined a club. When I initially saw the columns and columns of reddit armchair advisors talk about how clubs and societies was the easiest way to expose oneself to like-minded people, I initially thought it was just generic meaningless advice.

    Taking that leap of faith at a low point slowly but surely began to fill the gap that the lack of support system, such as family and high school friends back home, had provided. As I was patient with my growth and allowed myself to make mistakes over time, I was able to establish routines; tackling life by the day was not so hard anymore. 

    Of course, the emotional poignancy of starting afresh would always be lurking at the back of my mind, but learning to be comfortable and happy in moments of loneliness and diverting my energy towards academic growth powered me through the tough days. 

    College is an opportunity for liberation: many people were not as fortunate as I was growing up, and coming here gives them the chance to be exposed to new perspectives and redefine their entire persona if they so desire. 

    While I was once comfortable in my own space, university has made me a strong proponent of trying new things: whether it be that one food item from a certain cuisine, travelling to the far-flung corners of the country I just moved to, or joining an intense looking design tea. Taking leaps of faith whether small or huge – and putting myself in situations where I stepped out of my introverted, socially anxious comfort zone was the best way to turn college life into one of the favourite moments of my life.

  • The SCI Is Here, Now What?

    Rick Liu

    Cannon Editor-in-Chief

     

    Articles published in The Cannon are solely the opinion of the author and do not reflect the position of EngSoc or The Cannon. This applies to all opinion pieces, written by writers or Cannon executives.

    On September 20, the University organized a career fair in the Exam Centre. For many, including myself, it was not a pleasant experience. There were lines going past the Nursing Building, and it took roughly an hour for students waiting in line to get in the building. Once inside, the crowds were just as bad, with the atmosphere being hot and humid. Students could barely pass by one another, and the lines to talk to the employers, who were split across multiple floors, were enormous. Much of it was caused by students in unrelated fields lining up at every booth, since there was no information of which employers were looking for who. I personally observed a Life Sciences major lining up at the Arup booth, only to be told that Arup was primarily looking for Civil Engineers interested in structural or transportation design. The quality of employers were also questionable. While it’s understandable that for a career fair that caters to the entire school, there would be many non-engineering companies, many companies were clearly geared to software and hardware companies. In the 100 companies that were present, around 30% were software and hardware companies, while a surprising large number of companies were not geared towards full time or even PEY work, such as Tutor Doctor. There were very few companies catering to the policy, medical or finance fields that so much of the undergraduate are enrolled in.

    On September 27th, students from around engineering collectively organized the YNCN Fall Career Fair. This career fair not only featured 70 engineering companies, including around 20 companies hiring for my discipline (civil engineering), but YNCN listed both on its website and at the event which employers were looking for each discipline. The venue, the Mars Building, is bigger than the Exam Centre, with space being easily navigable. Many top tier engineering companies, including Facebook, Proctor & Gamble, and Accenture had a presence at the career fair, and all companies were clearly looking for PEY and new grads. The YNCN career fair also had other benefits such as a LinkedIn photo booth, and onsite interviews for certain companies.

    For most students, the question as to which career fair was better is obvious. YNCN had more top tier engineering companies, with less students, in a bigger venue, catering to all sectors of engineering. This has been the mission behind YNCN’s existence, which was partially created by students who were unsatisfied behind the services offered by the Engineering Career Centre. Ask any engineering student which of the two organizations offers the more comprehensive career fair, more detailed resume critiques, and more thorough panels, and it’s YNCN rather than the Engineering Career Centre. This is because students know what other students want the best, and are uniquely motivated and possess the experience and skillset to make this happen.

    This extends way beyond the simple issue of which organization offers better career services. For most international students, their go-to to help them transition into engineering is their respective cultural club, such as the Indian Student Society or the National Society of Black Engineers, rather than the UofT International Student Center. For all the noise the administration makes about ensuring a vibrant student life and community to ease the transitions of students into engineering, clubs such as Skule Nite and Concrete Canoe are the ones who are actively creating a student life scene. For many students, it’s the quality of student clubs and services that exist to specifically cater to students that convince them to come to UofT. And the university realizes this; the advertising brochures and videos the university creates to attract high schoolers are filled with happy students building a concrete toboggan sliding down a giant hill or the dinner dances that are the biggest social events of the year, rather than endless facts about how UofT is home to one of the most comprehensive structural analysis facilities in the country.

    For many of these services, their budgets are going to be significantly cut by the Student Choice Initiative. The final numbers aren’t out, but one club I’ve talked to has predicted a 30% cut to their budget. This article isn’t a plea to you, the student community, to opt in. Some students are going to opt out no matter what – that’s a fact. Rather, the university should recognize that most students rely on student services for a variety of reasons, and they perform a critical role that many people in the administration, most of whom are not engineering graduates, cannot fully grasp the context of as much as students themselves, and cannot organize as effectively as motivated students. The career fair saga is only the latest example of this. 

    As a current and former club leader for multiple clubs, I personally feel frustrated that the faculty constantly shows off the work made by student organizations, such as the next generation solar car roaring down the highways of Australia, or LGTQ+ students providing support to one another in one of LGBTOut’s events, without providing much financial support to these organizations. In the past, the bulk of the funding has been from student fees, which mitigated this funding issue. As the Student Choice Initiative comes into full effect however, the administration should realize rather than offering duplicate but lower quality services, they should increase their support of the organizations they’re proud to put on admission brochures sent around the world. The faculty’s upcoming round of Centralized Process for Student Initiative Funding, the faculty’s main mechanism for providing student funding, will test if that is the case.

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