• The Story of the ECE Common Room

    Jerry Sharp

    Cannon Contributor

    Ah, the ECE Common Room. The spot where me and a few of my buddies would spend hours just chilling between classes during our first year. However, a large part of why we enjoyed staying there so much was that it was largely unused by students other than ourselves, and we could do whatever we wanted in it as a result. It is right around the corner from the Pit, yet even many ECEs don’t realize it exists. It is quite small, yet personal. However, visiting other discipline common rooms with my friends, I can’t help but wish it was something better, somewhere that would actually attract more ECEs to use it more often, somewhere I could spend even more time in, somewhere that could be used more than just for lunch breaks, pre-exam cramming sessions, and a good place to sleep overnight on campus.

    Of course, ECE has its much more widely used ECE Study Hall, however it is just that: a study room in Bahen with only chairs, sofas, tables, and a whiteboard, that always smells kind of funny. However, the Study Hall’s existence is a double-edged sword. While it was originally intended to be a new common room, those in charge of room allocation at Bahen insisted that it only be used as a Study Hall, citing the existence of both the ECE Common Room and the ECE Club Room as sufficient for social tasks.

    The Common Room is also a sad tale of once was. It currently contains three sofas and a chair with enough space to comfortably seat around eight, although the two cloth sofas are quite filthy and in a state of disrepair. It also has two footrests, which are mostly used to throw stuff on instead. It temporarily hosted two tables and some additional plastic chairs; however, they have since been removed, and this is a recurring theme. 

    It currently has one HDTV as its centerpiece; however, it is a shell of its former self. There used to be an Xbox 360 hooked up to it, but it red-ringed two years ago, so it sits back in its both with about 20 games collecting dust in the Club Room. It also used to have a Chromecast attached for easy streaming, however it too has seemingly disappeared. Now all it has left connected to it is a single HDMI cable that is far too short. 

    The only place you could keep your laptop high enough for that cable is on top of the Foosball table, which is probably the only thing it’s good for anymore as the balls required to play have also left the Common Room in recent times. It is also currently home to the ECE Arcade Machine, which was created for a prank this past year. Unfortunately, it often breaks down and is unplayable, but your mileage may vary. The ECE Club is also quite proud of its vending machine with “The Cheapest Pop on Campus,” at 75¢ apiece. However, that is only when the pop is in stock, as it is up to the discretion of the ECE Club Facilities Manager to decide when to refill it, and it is usually not frequent enough, sometimes going as long as two whole weeks to refill, by that time every single pop can going out of stock. Additionally, the machine only takes change of a loonie and under, making it quite inconvenient to buy from.

    Lastly, the ECE Common Room is also the home of the Skule Smash Club. There are two CRT TVs in the back, with a GameCube and Wii both housing copies of Super Smash Brothers Melee. However, there are no controllers anywhere in the room so you have to bring your own. Additionally, one of the CRTs takes up the entirety of the only table in the room, and both the GameCube and Wii are locked in cages so you can’t play other games even if you wanted to. Which is quite baffling considering there are cases for other games and some movies sitting doing nothing on that table. And of course, they only play Melee, when clearly Ultimate is the superior game.

    The presence of the Smash Club in the Common Room has created friction between themselves and many frequent Common Room denizens, as it is quite a small room, and the setups cause some deal of noise and distraction. Combine this with the Smash Clubs large membership, and it is literally impossible to sit in there doing anything else almost every day of the week after around 5pm. The majority of the Smash Club is not from ECE, and there are a good number that are not in Engineering altogether, so some ECEs really despise their presence. Many don’t enter the Common Room when there are Smashers present, while others have gone to the extremes of attempting to sabotage their equipment.

    Overall, the ECE Common Room is quite unpopular among ECEs, and is often considered to be a “man cave,” and it isn’t hard to see why. There is little to do other than sleeping on one of the couches or playing Melee, as the Xbox and Chromecast are gone, the foosball balls were stolen, the arcade machine works only half of the time, and the cables to the HDTV aren’t long enough. It gets quite stuffy with no good way to keep the door open. There are no tables to do work on anymore, and the Study Hall is better for that purpose anyways. It is constantly neglected, both in terms of the notoriously empty pop machine, and in general cleanliness, you will undoubtedly find garbage lying around, or the floor sticky. Most of the valuables and pretty much anything of interest owned by the ECE Club, which is actually a lot mind you, are kept locked up in the elusive ECE Club Room, which can only be accessed with one of around six keys given out only to the highest-ranking club members. But I cannot really blame them, with all the stuff that’s been stolen or just simply removed from the Common Room, like the foosballs, Chromecast, tables, and even one of my friend’s bookbags during a SUDs once.

    So, what can be done to improve it? Well plenty, and it’s easy to take some notes from the other common rooms. The first priority: find a new permanent room for the Smash Club, and kick them out, as this is a major deterrent for a lot of ECEs I spoke to. Get the tables that were removed back, so we could have the option of productivity. Invest in a new Chromecast and longer cables for the TV, and potentially lock them into place like the Smash systems. Get some more balls for the foosball table, and keep a few spares in the Club Room just it case. Get some more volunteers in the ECE Club for maintenance, in stocking the vending machine, cleaning, and making sure the arcade machine works properly. Figure out a way for the pop machine to accept toonies. Refurbish the couches, and potentially swap them for ones in the Study Hall. 

    Finally, do something about the state of the Club Room vs the Common Room. There is so much extra stuff in the Club Room that most ECEs cannot access, and even some borderline pointless stuff like the Xbox disks that cannot be played without the Xbox which no longer works. Sell some things off, invest in new equipment, and share more with the Common Room, the Club Room has two refrigerators, while the Common Room has none. I was a part of the ECE Club in the second semester of last year, only because I, like many, literally didn’t realize it existed in the first. But besides the Dinner Dance and a few small events and builds, even I as a club member didn’t feel like it did too much for the greater ECE population. However, with only one of the eight elected executive positions filled for this coming year, and only one class rep elected, there seems to be a severe lack of interest in the ECE Club and functions in general, so things aren’t looking too bright for the year ahead.

  • 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

     

     

     

     

  • 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.

  • Its Okay to Not Be Okay

    By Anonymous

     

    Another student death on campus. The third in a span of two years. I am sure all of you have seen the posts and emails indicating the different mental health resources and counsellors that are available on campus if you need to talk to someone. However, it never feels like enough. Somebody died. It makes me upset that we were too late. We were not able to help someone who was one of us. Someone who, just like each one of us, came to UofT with goals, dreams and aspirations. Someone who wanted to make something of themselves and hoped for a bright future. I cannot help feeling like in some way we have failed them.

    In times like this, we usually begin to point fingers at the faculty: “UofT should acknowledge these incidences”, “The University should give more importance to mental health”, “It’s like they don’t even care”. In the last six months, UofT has made more of an effort to address mental health issues. They started a mental health task force and last week the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering even eliminated the ranking system that showed students where they placed in their classes, a change appreciated by many. I am not saying that this is enough. The faculty still has a long way to go, but they have made some initial steps. Only time will tell how effective these measures are and there is no doubt that more will be needed.

    However, aside from the faculty, there are things that we as students can do to make a difference. Most of us are not licensed counsellors. We are not in a position to provide professional mental health. But, there are certain things that we say and do everyday that could do more harm than good and we need to learn to be aware of them.

    For starters, I would like to point out that when somebody tells you that they are overwhelmed or stressed, one of the worst things you can reply with is “But, school just started!”. It makes the person feel like if they cannot manage this now, there is no way they will be able to survive the next few weeks. It makes them feel weak and incapable, like maybe there’s something wrong with them. Maybe this is easy for everyone else and they are just not cut out for this. I do not know how many of you have been on the receiving end of this comment, but as someone who has, I can tell you right now, it does not help. It only adds on to the stress because now not only am I overwhelmed, but I also feel incompetent.

    Everybody’s situation is different. You cannot compare someone else’s situation to your own. Yes, there’s only one problem set due this week, but Sam has to work at his part-time job every night  and is in classes all day. She is afraid to ask for help because everyone else in her class thought the problem set was “so easy”. There are things we say that seem like no big deal, but the impact they can have on somebody who is in distress is something you cannot understand unless you have been on the other side.

    When somebody tells you that they are stressed out, the last thing you should do is to try to explain to them why they have no reason to be. People are allowed to feel how they feel. They have their reasons for it; reasons that you may not understand. But that does not give you the right to invalidate their feelings. It makes them feel like there is nobody out there who understands what they are going through. It makes it harder for them to ask for help.

    I am in my fifth year at UofT. I have only made it this far because I had some amazing friends beside me who were there to listen to me when I was overwhelmed, who held me when everything felt like it was falling apart and who listened, with no judgement, when I talked. All I am saying is that we as a community need to be there for each other. Be careful with your words, listen more and try to understand where the other person is coming from. Sometimes, it is okay to not be okay and to ask for help. Because, trust me, there are people out there who genuinely want to help.

  • 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 Inside Perspective on Group Midterms

    By Andrew Uderian

    One aspect of university all engineers experience is midterm tests and examinations. Generally, students tend to either be indifferent to these evaluations or despise them, and math midterms are often some of the most polarizing. However, progress has been made towards making math evaluations both more fun and more applicable to real world problem solving. Since 2011, the University of British Columbia has used two-stage evaluations on high-stakes math and science evaluations, leading to increased student engagement and averages. At the University of Toronto, Professor Bernardo Sousa has worked to implement two-stage examinations in mathematics courses, most notably in Calculus II (MAT187).

     

    When asked about the genesis of group tests within Skule, Professor Sousa replied, “My personal effort began with tutorials, …[which] used to be hosted by one TA who solved problems on the board with little to no interaction from students. Now, students work in teams on problems that are open-ended and involve critical thinking and problem solving skills.” After the introduction of team-based tutorial problems, Professor Sousa moved to implement similar problems in a group problem-solving section on calculus exams.

     

    Within the profession of engineering, it is incredibly rare for practitioners to work alone. The ability for engineers to work with their colleagues effectively is essential, yet difficult to develop. One of Professor Sousa’s primary motivations behind using two-stage evaluations was the desire to foster the skill of teamwork within engineering undergraduate students. Arguing for the alternative tests, he stated, “students get to see the social aspect of mathematics and engineering… engineers don’t work by themselves, they work in teams… they create a very dynamic feedback loop of ideas, bouncing off of each collaborator to get ideas that would be much harder to get to otherwise.”

     

    Despite the benefits of group evaluations, the tests have remained controversial amongst the student body. Students often question the fairness of two-stage examinations, particularly due to the freedom given to students to choose their own groups. Many students assume that their high-achieving peers will cluster together, leaving those who struggle in the subject to struggle and fail together.

     

    However, in the case of the two-stage mathematics examinations, that assumption is untrue. According to Professor Sousa, both random selection and self-selection were trialled in another course before the introduction of group examinations to MAT187, with self-selection leading to a greater correlation between the individual and group portions of the exam. Although the approach leads to a similar distribution of marks as the individual portion, if the individual portion is assumed to be fair then the group portion must be as well. Furthermore, random groups would simply be far more challenging logistically: “Assigning random groups means that we must organize students (250+ in some rooms) to find their own group/table quickly.”

     

    Despite the controversy surrounding group evaluations amongst the student populace, the method appears to produce results, with a higher average on the group portion of midterms versus the individual portion. Furthermore, the group portion allows more students to enjoy their evaluation and mathematics. Speaking from the perspective of an instructor, Professor Sousa stated, “students laugh while writing this part of the test, so you just get the feeling that everyone can enjoy math if put in the right setting. As a mathematics instructor, it is incredibly satisfying to witness the group part of the test.” Although midterms bring stress for many students, being able to collaborate with friends on the same problem appears to relieve that stress and even make parts of the evaluation enjoyable.

     

    The use of two-stage evaluations in subjects that have been traditionally individually evaluated, such as mathematics, seems counter-intuitive at first glance. Many students argue that such tests are less fair; however, the results from the midterms, both anecdotal and otherwise, have suggested that a group portion improves student learning and enjoyment of evaluations. Due to the results, group midterms will continue to be a part of the mathematics curriculum at UofT, and will continue to be refined in order to change midterm evaluations from a source of stress into a more pleasant learning experience.

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