• Women in Engineering

    Dean Amon - "Boundless opportunities to address the world's most pressing challenges"

    In honour of the International Day of the Girl, we present to you some of the women in engineering saying what being a woman in engineering means to them (and an important reminder from your VP Academics). As of 2015, women account for 30.6% of undergraduate engineering students at UofT.

    The complement of female faculty members has more than doubled in the past decade, from 21 in 2006 to 44 in 2014. 17 percent of faculty members are women, which is three points higher than the Ontario average (14 percent) and four points higher than the Canadian average (13 percent).

    These numbers are expected to grow in the years ahead, as early-career faculty members move up in the academic ranks. More than a quarter (27.8 percent) of UofT Engineering’s associate professors (early-career, tenure-stream faculty members) were women in 2015, compared to an Ontario average of 15 percent and a national average of 15.7 percent.

    An article compiled by the Faculty details the timeline of women in engineering.

    Dean Amon - "Boundless opportunities to address the world's most pressing challenges" Prof. Dionne Alemon - "Why not?" Prof. Belinda Wang - "Make things happen." Susanna Ramsey - "It means I make really cool things!" Lia Codrington - "Bringing a different perspective!" Kashish Verma - "It means being given an equal opportunity to do what I love and bring a POSITIVE change to the world." Hannah Bendig - "Being a woman in engineering means I can be a role model." Nasteha Abdullahi -"I can let my ideas shape the way the future looks" Saaraa Ali - "I can empower other females. If I can do it , so can you." Pavani Perera - "Courage, strength, and determination will let you accomplish anything you set your mind to. Put yourself out there and you'll be surprised at how far you get :)"
  • Engineering Career Centre Shakeup

    Every year, the third year students step into the ambiguity that is job searching. And soon enough, they realize that this program the Faculty boasts about and puts in all their welcome brochures is not as well organized as it ought to be. The Engineering Career Centre (ECC) has received many complaints over the years, and students going on their PEY often complain of the high fees and the lack of jobs on the PEY portal.

    Some of the issues that have surfaced about the ECC are that despite UofT’s reputation as the best engineering school in Canada and that several employers are UofT grads themselves, many companies and startups are hiring primarily from Waterloo. While one might believe that this is due to UofT engineering students lacking the necessary skill set, an account from a startup founder (who prefers to be anonymous) states differently. “The ECC portal is difficult to navigate on the employer’s side, and on top of the technical difficulties they faced, the ECC was also difficult to deal with.” Furthermore, there is no review system in place for the recruiters to speak about their experiences with the students and vice versa.

    Moreover, as noticed by most, the job opportunities for MSE and Mineral Engineering students are close to none. Most of the ECC’s event calendar is based on Resume Writing workshops, and a few info sessions delivered by ECC staff and interested employers. Several such workshops, networking events, and career fairs are held by professional development clubs like YNCN and WISE, where the talks are given by people who are employed in the companies students are hoping to get into. Also, based on the harsh and aggravated responses to the 2015 Skule Census (which is conducted at the end of every academic year), the main issues students have with the ECC are:

    1. The ECC gives poor and often times disrespectful service.
    2. The ECC charges exorbitant fees ($925 for PEY and $250 for eSIP after placement) for no apparent reason.
    3. The ECC lacks accountability. They make no effort to find you a job, and once registered you are required to pay, regardless of if you found the job through their efforts or not.
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    Responses to “Each student who applies for jobs for PEY or eSIP pays the Engineering Career Centre (ECC) $110 in fees, with an additional $925 for PEY and $250 for eSIP upon accepting an offer. How much do you feel you get back in services from the ECC?” from the Skule 2015 Census. Students were asked to rate the fees they paid on a scale from 1 to 5; 3 is “I got exactly what I paid for”, 1 is “I barely got anything” and 5 is “I got much more than I paid for.” The official report for the 2016 census was not made available, but the 2016 ombudsman shared that similar sentiments were expressed in the 2016 census, in his end of year report.

    It is possible that some of these problems, such as inefficient dealings with companies and the lack of jobs for non-ECE students, could exist because none of the ECC team have degrees in technical fields, nor do they have any type of engineering liaison who could help them navigate the (sometimes) confusing field of technical jobs.

    After nearly a decade of inaction, the Faculty seems to have finally paid heed and are looking to make some changes. The recently established PEY advocacy committee formed by the Dean is seeking to implement a series of changes, starting with “Jose Pereira (The ex-director of the ECC) leaving the university effective immediately.” The University rationalized this by saying they were looking for a change in leadership and Pereira decided to leave.

    In a meeting between Tom Coyle, Vice Dean, and the President of EngSoc, the following information was established:

    • The Faculty is seeking a new style of operation of the ECC, which will heavily influence the selection of the next leadership of the ECC.
    • Efforts will be made to connect the ECC with the disciplinary departments, the Engineering Communication Program (ECP), ILead, the U of T Career Centre, and the You’re Next Career Network (YNCN).
    • In the interim, an “Academic Director” will work on establishing relationships with the aforementioned stakeholders; Professor Brenda McCabe (Dept. of Civil Engineering) will take on this role. Said role will also look into the current end-of-PEY reporting structure and identifying existing positions and contacts within departments for resume and cover letter writing.
    • A small group including Professor McCabe, Barbara McCann (former Registrar), and Professor Coyle will engage in consultation with relevant stakeholders over the coming months. The current staffing structure may change, and new training may need to be put in place.
    • A new director will not be appointed until 2017, as the responsibilities of such a position must be re-evaluated (including considerations of the current position compared to an individual more focused on outreach and position development).
    • The budget model may change (either increase or decrease) – the current structure predominantly consists of ECC staff salaries being paid off by student fees.
    • The Academic Advocacy Committee has prepared surveys and focus groups for current students and alumni with the intention of gathering information on student experience and expectations.

    While it is unclear what led the Faculty to take this step, pushback from EngSoc and students was likely an important part of it. It is important to understand that this is a period of transition, and while those of you looking for jobs currently may be at a slight disadvantage, future students will hopefully be able to benefit from more helpful services provided by the University and more harmony between the different professional services provided by the Faculty and EngSoc.
    Editor’s Note: All the statements and sources in this article are based on the Academic Advocacy #7 meeting minutes, the EngSoc President’s September Report, and the Skule Census of 2015 and 2016.

  • Interviewing Sadiq Motani: The DJ of ESP

    APS111, also known as ESP (Engineering Strategies and Practice), is a well-known first year Core 8 course. Sadiq Motani, the course assistant for said course, is a widely known figure; a man almost become legend. The Cannon decided to sit down and have a chat with the DJ of ESP to get some of his insights into ESP, engineering, and the university experience.

    Sadiq posing with his lunch outside the Pit Credit: Sadiq Motani

    Sadiq posing with his lunch outside the Pit
    Credit: Sadiq Motani

    The Cannon: Give us a one sentence introduction to yourself.

    Sadiq Motani: For the last two academic years, I’ve worked as a Course Assistant for the Engineering Strategies and Practice Program (a.k.a. during lectures for ESP I’m the person who sits on a little chair on the stage in Convocation Hall moderating the Top Hat discussion board and administering Top Hat questions.) I also make students listen to my lit music playlist before lectures.

    TC: What’s ESP? Why is it important?

    SM: ESP stands for Engineering Strategies and Practice; it’s an engineering communication and design course. Students work in teams to solve real-life client problems from an engineering perspective. Throughout the course, students will learn about problem-solving, professional communication, research methodologies, team dynamics, and independent learning.

    ESP is important because it’s a very hands-on and practical course where you are applying course concepts in simulated and real-life situations on an individual and team basis. As a result of this, students may find that there is no single, specific, correct answer to a client’s problem. Additionally, students will learn the various trials and tribulations and dynamics that take place when working in teams from creating written reports, to meeting with their client, and delivering a group presentation.

    TC: What do you think the most valuable quality an engineer is?

    SM: The most valuable quality for engineering, in my opinion, is communication. Having the technical knowledge, skills, and background are great. However, if you have trouble communicating/explaining (written or orally) an idea, design, or how you came up with a solution to a problem, this could most certainly be a potential problem going forward.

    TC: What is the biggest difference you’ve noticed between UofT and Ryerson?

    SM: The biggest difference I’ve noticed is the amazing community and family-like atmosphere, environment, and comradery that exists at U of T, not only in the present current day but also from years gone by in the past. It is very apparent that the Skule community is near and dear to the hearts of many engineering alumni but also current students as well. This can’t be more evident by looking at how many alumni volunteer, participate, and donate their time, energy, and resources to various social and educational endeavors long after they have graduated.

    That isn’t to say the above isn’t prevalent at Ryerson; however, U of T has been around a lot longer than Ryerson. I believe that Ryerson is going through a very big transformation right now while trying to find its identity and calling. It’s still establishing itself, its values, and its community. In the future, I believe Ryerson will look back at this time and realize and recognize how big of an impact it has truly had in shaping the university and its culture for future generations of students.

    TC: One funny experience that occurred on the job?

    SM: It was my third week on the job in ESP as Course Assistant and it was only the second ESP lecture that I was helping out with in Convocation Hall, which happened to coincide with Godiva Week.

    Imagine my surprise when I entered Convocation Hall to see a giant bouncy castle inflated on the stage. I had no idea what was going on, but thought it was really funny and clever. After being plugged in for a while there was a huge boom as the bouncy castle short-circuited one side of the speaker system and one of the screens in Convocation Hall.

    TC: If you could TA any other engineering course, what would it be?

    SM: APS100 – Orientation to Engineering.

    TC: What did you do for your undergrad and how was your experience?

    SM: I graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree in Information Technology Management with a minor in Human Resource Management from Ryerson University (Class of 2009).

    My experience was very enjoyable as I enjoyed the flexibility, depth, and variety of my program. The hybrid aspect of the degree was unique in that I was able to obtain a degree that focused not only on business management on commerce but also different areas of information and communication technologies. I loved being a small part of Ryerson’s growth, expansion, and evolution which resulted in classroom setup and teaching styles being approached in a more modernized environment and setup as opposed to a traditional style.

    TC: One sentence for the 2T0s?

    SM: University is a blank slate for you to reinvent, change, grow, and expand yourself; however, this can only be done if you open yourself up to meeting new people, challenges, and experiences. It may not seem like it from the outside, but remember: every first year student is in the same boat as you and probably has the same or similar anxieties, questions, and doubts even if they don’t show it.    

     

  • In a world dominated by fast food…

    When I first walked in this new tea store, the most striking aspect was the wall of large black and white paintings that were hung against a flush red wallpaper. The paintings are of people’s faces, but the most striking details were embedded in the eyes, through which, with their mouths closed shut, they ever so softly cry out. It wasn’t eerie or uncomfortable looking at them. On the contrary, they inspired strength and perseverance. I stood staring a little longer before zooming out onto the rest of the floor and furniture. There is a single, long, wooden table zig-zagging through the room with tree stumps acting as chairs arranged periodically on both sides and on my right are more paintings of what I assume to be Hanzi characters. The store has a modern-historic Chinese look to it. Across the store on the other side, Phillip, the store owner, waves and greets me. We exchange some pleasantries before I inquire about the paintings. He tells me that the paintings are by an artist who lived in Hong Kong. The artist was inspired by the people there, who speak, not with their mouths for fear of retribution, but with their eyes. Philip tells me that he exhibits different artist’s work in his store.

    ‘Crimson Tea’ is a new tea shop on College, near its intersection with Huron, specializing in traditional, wholesome and natural teas and foods. On the menu there are an assortment of teas, coffees, bakery items, and very reasonably priced entrees including green tea noodles with beef strips all served in a pumpkin stalk. The whole menu is not what I expected at all; it is surprisingly simple. Quite contrary to your neighborhood Teavana, you’re not going to find ‘Blueberry Mango Madness’ here. Phillip brews me a cup of milk tea and as he serves it, he excitedly tells me he deliberately left out sugar and that it came directly from a network of rural Chinese farmers. The tea is served in a very tall, rather daunting, clear mug, but as I hold it and take the first few sips, particularly since I had come from the cold, I feel its warmth spread throughout my stomach and hands and it leaves a milky, very delicately earthy after-taste in my mouth. We sit down to talk.

    Phillip tells me he wasn’t always passionate about tea. He came to Canada as an immigrant, working as an urban planner for many years, while simultaneously doing volunteer work for the local community through multiple organizations. But it all started in 2012 when the Yunnan earthquakes struck China, killing hundreds and displacing tens of thousands more. It was then that Phillip made the decision to apply his experience and expertise by joining a relief organization to assess disaster zones and write development proposals that would best help the area recover. He spent a remarkable three years of his life volunteering and on the way he would meet people in many different types of circumstances, and, as he put it, “help them become self-sufficient, because I can’t support them forever.” From a group of prostitutes, to young, illiterate children, two stood out. One was a young woman who could not walk whom he helped her start her own business. The second was a groups of Chinese tea farmers who grew Pu-Erh tea whom he helped build a distribution network and business. Not being a fan of tea, he was surprised to learn that the tea they grew was somehow very different from the teas he drank the city. Still, this wouldn’t be what sparked his passion, and after his time in China came to a close, he would buy some of the tea himself and take it back to Canada with him where it would be forgotten in the back of his mind.
    Back in Canada, Phillip would continue his volunteer work, this time at Hong Fook mental services as well as the Kidney Foundation of Canada. At Hong Fook, Phillip started to serve his Pu-Erh tea to the patients, to help them relax and so that they can drink something healthier than soda and juice. In parallel, at the Kidney Foundation, Phillip would realize the extent of the irreversible effects of sugar, on the kidney, and on the body. The circumstances were all aligned when the manager at Hong Fook raised concerns about the tea’s side effects with the patients’ medicine which sparked Phillip to research Pu-Erh tea.

    His research revealed that pu-erh tea is a radical scavenger and more critically the potential applications of Pu-Erh tea in the areas of obesity/weight management, liver issues especially fatty liver, diabetic kidney failure, and dementia.
    It was here that Phillip became excited about tea. He began introducing his tea to all patients, at Hong Fook and the Kidney Society alike, along with his friends and family. For the next year he would continue his volunteer work while serving tea, but as every day went by, he became more and more aware of the world he lived in; a world where all around him was fast food, highly processed sugary drinks and rampant obesity and neglecting of health. And in the back of his mind, a little idea, a dream, sprouted into existence; that one day he would leave his day job and open his own tea shop.

    It would be his experience in China that this time come to him to inspire. The young woman he had helped start her own business emailed him about her success, thanking him for helping her achieve her dreams and helping her to become self-sufficient. Here was a young woman who he inspired, but couldn’t he practice what he preached, and follow his own dream and truly become self-sufficient as well? He decided to bite the bullet and so opened a little tea shop near College and Huron called ‘Crimson Tea.’ As I left, I looked back one more time at the wall of paintings. They were definitely fitting.

  • The Booth & Bottle Project: When Engineering Prowess and the Entrepreneurial Spirit Cross Paths

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    Too often do we get lost in the daily grind – stuck with our heads down, window shoppers in a fast-paced, high-stress environment. As all engineers can attest to, sometimes the hardest part has nothing to do with passing an exam, and a lot to do with seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

     

    One of the greatest criticisms of the engineering student lifestyle is the cloudiness that comes with an intense workload – a cloudiness that, in a rather counterintuitive fashion, seems to take its toll on the creative, entrepreneurial spirit.

     

    Booth & Bottle, a nightlife-inspired, tech startup with strong ties to the University of Toronto’s Computer Engineering program, is a prime example of what can be accomplished when creativity is not lost to the rigors of a demanding curriculum.

     

    The Toronto-based company, co-founded by fourth year engineering student, Matthew Marji, leverages a cloud-based, mobile application to help curate nightlife events across the city. Users are able to explore what the city has to offer – from nightclub venues, events, and entertainment complexes – through a refined, city-wide directory, and instantly reserve their guest list and bottle service on-the-go.

     

    To really engage users, Booth & Bottle also deploys a unique Activity-based Rewards (ABR) program, where perks and promotions can be unlocked based on your on-going nightlife participation. Free complimentary entries, bottles of premium vodka and champagne – even a booth on the house – can be unlocked by using the Booth & Bottle service.

     

    Since operations officially began 6 months ago, Booth & Bottle has been attracting attention from some of the world’s most prominent figures in the tech community, and have just begun working directly out of the IBM Innovation Centre in downtown Toronto.

     

    Boasting over 4000 active users across the city and remaining profitable throughout the development and launch phases of their project is a testament to Marji’s vision and expertise, something he attributes to his experiences at U of T.

     

    When asked about his current outlook, the challenges he’s faced and the early successes he’s achieved, Marji had this to say:

     

    “It’s really been a labor of love. Obviously, focusing on my academic career while balancing the duties associated with running your own business – especially one in such an innovative and dynamic field – can be a tremendous challenge. But it’s also extremely rewarding. Through the technical problems we encounter on a daily basis, I find myself constantly applying strategies and principles learned through my four years at U of T. Whether they include computer engineering principles or otherwise, one thing has remained a constant – I’ve always tried to incubate the creative, entrepreneurial spirit within me. I think it’s something all engineers, from all fields, intrinsically share, and shouldn’t be afraid to pursue. “

  • HiSKULE Design Competition

    On Saturday November 28th 2015, the Hi-Skule Committee had the pleasure of hosting the 8th annual University of Toronto High School Design competition. This year showed a record turnout of 306 students from across Ontario ranging grades 9 – 12, all coming together for the big design build after spending a week preparing their materials from their challenge briefing. The 2015 challenge for students was to create a method of transporting goods from a city, up a cliff, to a small Bolivian community recently cut-off from their supplies due to a natural disaster.

    The event was carefully crafted by the Hi-Skule Committee to emulate the concepts covered in first year engineering design courses; students were required to satisfy the functions, objectives, and constraints of their client (the Bolivian government), and were provided with a “Design 101” appendix with the briefing to help them prepare both their designs, and their presentations.

    The event began with a bang, where students were inspired by keynote speeches from renowned U of T Professor Jason Foster, and HatchTM Engineer-in-Training Alex Wigle.

    Following the speeches there was an “unexpected” disturbance from the BNAD, brightening the morning as teams moved up to the design rooms to begin crafting their masterpieces. A lunch interlude for pizza, programming, and SKULE clubs also gave ample opportunity for the 50 Hi-Skule Mentors volunteering for the day to interact with participants and share their stories of SKULE. With the afternoon came judging, where students showcased their efforts to a group of professors, graduate engineering students, and engineering professionals from HatchTM and the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. The winning two design teams will be taken on a tour of the engineering laboratories at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute this coming March!

  • How to get a summer research position

    Summer research positions are a great way to show concrete evidence of your competence within your undergraduate education, as well as expand your overall learning experience. After speaking to Professor Paul Santerre and Professor Alison McGuigan, I’ve curated their advice to help you be successful in attaining your next research position!

    The general mechanics of getting a summer placement is very similar to getting any other job. It begins with an initial contact, which is normally an email to the professor of interest. This is followed with interviews, and decision making. However, within this whole process, there are some subtle changes you can make for a more successful job-hunt.

    Professor Santerre:

    The first step begins with homework. Any and every professor wants to know what interests you about their research, and this question can only be answered if you’ve read their articles. With this general awareness, you will be more able to compete against the rest of your class for the few placements available in each lab. Some professors will even test your ability to learn about a topic by making you write an impromptu article.

    Professor Santerre mentions that searching for a good research position will involve “shopping around”. Set up a time to meet with each professor, and begin comparing what you’ve learned about them. The structure of labs differ drastically, and the objective is to find one which best facilitates your learning. Your professors are also shopping for a student ideal for the role they have in mind; while you are looking for a unique learning experience, they are seeking an enthusiastic and motivated researcher.

    Expect a flexible summer schedule. Experiments can be unreliable, and aren’t as restrictive or structured as undergraduate laboratories. Be aware of professors who won’t be available to meet with you and support the progress of your research project. Gathering this type of information will involve talking to their graduate students, asking for a laboratory tour, and asking questions throughout the interview.

    Lastly, showcase your curiosity and creativity in your interview; you need to be interested and possess investigative spirit in order to excel as a researcher. Remember that your professor is a human being, they can relate with your love for chemistry or fascination with technology; discussing these topics clearly helps your professor to bond and relate to you. Your ability to collaborate and add to discussion will be essential in the research community. Ultimately, a position like this is to help make yourself more competitive for future experiences.

    Professor McGuigan:

    Professor McGuigan advises the use of formal language (i.e. “Dear Professor …”) and eliminating slang or colloquial terms within the overall interaction. Students are discouraged from calling or visiting professors spontaneously, since it serves as an unwanted interruption; sending an email is the default method of making initial contact. Also, be wary of your own online presence, and public photos. Overall, professionalism is essential in building a first impression. That said, choose to dress casually and conservatively; this isn’t the setting for a suit, or any offensive or provocative clothing.

    Any personal contacts that may be relevant (teaching assistants, upper-year peers, parents/relatives, etc.) are worth mentioning within the email. These contacts can also give you information about the general culture of the lab—this can be important for the logistics. As a summer student, the more effort you add into experience will result in much more value, and having a well-supported system is essential for a good learning opportunity.

    Don’t be afraid to diversify your experiences. Ultimately, the objective is to find a research placement that gives you the best opportunity to learn about the research process. Your GPA serve as currency for getting scholarships, and help you get an interview. However, once you get an interview with the professor, the playing field is even. Your enthusiasm will be much more crucial for the research process than your GPA. Being authentic throughout this process is crucial for your success in your long-term goals. Once you get your interview, believe that you deserve the position (See: TED talk by Amy Cuddy about Power Posing), and justify that claim with detailed examples of your previous experience. This is a way to showcase your involvement and enthusiasm in your previous positions.

  • Shai Cohen – On Managing Stress

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    I agreed to write an article on managing stress, so why not write it as if I am already under a lot of stress – Piazza screaming at me, a couple of assignments to create, and a host of household emergencies to quell. In my experience, we are given many solid stress management advices, but you need to figure out what exactly helps YOU in various situations (slightly stressed, angry-stressed, helpless-stressed, too-busy-stressed) and WRITE IT DOWN.

    So, how does one overcome the stress that Engineering creates?

    First, try to catch the bad situation early. Stress, like all great viruses (drunkenness, stupidity, etc.), first attacks your ability to recognize it.  By the time we realize we are stressed, we have often been long under its influence. Learn your “stress signals” – difficulty sleeping, inability to stick to a timetable- and stay vigilant for them. If the stress cannot be managed with just a few small tricks, please go to the Accessibility Services, Health and Wellness, or ask the wonderful folks at the First Year Office for assistance for froshes.

    Listening to music is helpful, but don’t listen to just anything.  Pick music that will help you with your current mood. I have playlists named after the Seven Deadly Sins- I put together the lists that became Wrath – all of the songs with angry emotions, and Sloth – slow songs to mellow my mood.  (When the Levee Breaks is actually on both.)

    Immersing yourself in the art form of your choice is also a great idea.  I like to settle into a good book and get away from the real world for a bit. I enjoy breaking into the world of a fellow teacher who applies his chemistry skills to the real world. By cooking meth.

    Exercising is useful, but again we need to be specific. Basketball and fútbol are, for me, the best.  Both are very fluid games that can be played at the level of intensity needed for de-stressing, and allow you to run fast enough to drown out the voices in your head.

    These are just some of my ideas. They work for me, but you need to figure out what works for you.  Understand that you need to examine your own self to figure out the indicators of stress, the different types of stress, and the specific things that can help you fight it.  Of course, one can always hold office hours in The Pit and have loud political ‘discussions’ with students.

     

  • Living On Your Own: An Insight into Student Life at UofT

    UofT Grad House (Spadina)

    Have butterflies in your stomach now that you will soon attend Canada’s most prestigious engineering school?  Fear not! Hear from some of UofT’s very own about the transition from high school to university, residence and commuting, the workload, and other invaluable advice.

    Adjusting to a new environment (like university) isn’t always easy, but some thoughts from students and graduates may ease off some of the nervousness. Joshua Calafato (EngSci 1T7), aka Mr. Blue and Gold, ecstatically said, “[The] Skule community was incredibly welcoming, provided a ton of support with extracurriculars, academia, mental health, and fun times, and I found my place quickly at UofT Engineering.”

    Amongst those worried about making new friends were Aidan Muller (MSE 1T4 + PEY), Gaurav and Kathy (ECE 1T8). Aidan stated that the commuter program during F!rosh week “helped [him] find a lot of friends in the first few days of school” while Gaurav and Kathy frankly said, “If you hang around with people in your classes, [or go to] common rooms or events, you’ll find great people.” Peter Murphy (Chem 1T5+PEY) was also able to “make friends very quickly”.

    Lu Chen (Indy 1T8) was slightly awestruck by “the fact that schoolwork wasn’t a breeze anymore” and advised incoming students “to learn how to learn”. A student studious, James Jin (ECE 1T8), emphasized how important it is “to focus on what you think is most important” as he initially got “too involved with extracurriculars” and wasn’t able to allocate sufficient time towards academics.

    Aidan advised to have a good time at university, saying that, “a balance between friends, work, and extracurriculars is important.” Jeremy Wang (EngSci 1T7) suggested the key to transitioning is “to be adaptable and to take some risks to see what is out there”.

    When asking students about their experiences of staying on residence, home, or off-campus, each category had its pros and cons.  Jeremy, former first-year resident at New College and present commuter, said that by living on residence he had “the freedom to dictate how [he] spent [his] time” and that his commutes were relaxing as he was “forced to do nothing”.

    James and Peter, former residents at Chestnut, claimed that they “loved living at residence” and “looked forward to feeling more independent” in the future.

    Meanwhile Joshua, a commuter, said that despite having to “stand in rush hour or having to leave events early” always reminded himself that he was “a) coming home to a hot meal and [his] own bed” and “b) saving a lot of money.”

    Some students had a few pro-tips worth sharing: “IF YOU HAVE A MIDTERM OR FINAL, LEAVE EARLIER; 30 MINUTES EARLIER TO BE SAFE!” (Lu Chen), “Make your commute a bit more productive [study, work on things during your commute]” (Gaurav), and “Get to know others in your residence, but make sure to spend time with the Skule community” (James).

    Most freshmen have already received their timetables and most are awestruck by the workload (i.e. homework in addition to 25+ hours of classes). But as Peter explained, “It is very [manageable]; 30+ [hours] of class and homework is less than what you do in high school.” He also advises students to make reasonable and achievable goals because university grades differ from high school ones.

    Many students like James underlined to stay on top of the workload, “Keep up with the homework and never ever, EVER fall behind”. Keeping on top of everything may not sound so easy, but Aidan Muller said that it is certainly doable with “organizational tools like Google calendars, organized email, timers, reminders, [and] task lists”.

    Joshua formulated an astonishing statistic for time wasting: “1 hour of mindlessly browsing social media over 30 days adds up to an extra week of classes’ worth of studying”. Aidan Malone (EngSci 1T7+PEY) recommends “to do your work in a distraction free environment”.

    Peter pointed out that despite all, one must “ensure some time for relaxation” so as to have “[an] active and awake brain.” Joshua spoke of health and diligence. The Undergraduate Chair also recommended resting on Friday nights, elaborating that “your grades will be better when you are mentally better”.

    “There are soooooooooo many clubs,” said Gaurav when asked about how to get involved in extracurricular activities at UofT. To be precise, there are 100 clubs in engineering, 900 clubs in the University in total, excluding sports teams, and 16 design teams.

    The clubs fair during F!rosh week is a great starting point to get an idea of the clubs available and sign up, or alternatively, clubs.skule.ca. Joshua advised participating in one or 2 clubs in 2 of the following three categories: sports, design, and social. Aidan Muller and Jeremy “HIGHLY recommend joining a design team” as they help you gain valuable practical engineering experience.

    Nonetheless, Peter said, “Do what you enjoy and are passionate about,” because as Joshua remarked, “Extracurriculars are only truly beneficial if you enjoy them.”

    Is UofT Engineering really as cutthroat competitive as rumours suggests? Definitely not according to the majority of students. Lu stated, “Engineers really don’t ever work by themselves; they’ll always be collaborating, and that’s the kind of experience you should be expecting when you come.”

    Aidan Malone further explained that unlike other fields, engineering students are not pitted against each other because it has unique niches which students can pursue in post-graduate programs; “The result is not a cut-throat environment, but a community where successes are celebrated and encouraged.”

    According to Aidan Muller, “There is a ridiculous amount of resources available.” For starters, “Never be afraid to send an email, or ask questions in class,” says Joshua, and as Kathy suggests, “Perhaps join the mentorship program where F!rosh students are paired with an upper year in their discipline to help them deal with academics and extracurriculars.” Get to know your Academic Counsellor, and some other significant resources which students mentioned included the Peer Assisted Study Sessions and the First Year’s office in Galbraith.

    It is essential to interact with those around you to make your university experience the best. A friend in need is a friend indeed and as Jeremy advised, “The key is to find a set of friends who motivate you and whom you motivate.”

  • 16 Rules to become a Polymath Frosh

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    Hey Frosh! Are you ready for S.K.U.L.E? Have you thought how you’re going to enjoy university life?
    Many of upper year students and alumni were in the same position as you were. They had to adjust to a new environment. They had to face many unknowns and deal with too many choices to make. After asking some of them what they would say to their younger selves, they have the following advice:
    1. Eat only a moderate amount before your lecture, else you will snoring in class!
    2. If you don’t have enough time to study, you can wing some of the test. However, if you wing every test, expect your classmates to be your upper years!
    3. From your first day at SKULE, attend social events, say hi to strangers to make more friends and meet new people.
    4. Study groups are really effective, and making friends never hurts! Don’t be afraid to talk to your classmates. Those are the ones that share the similar interests with you.
    5. If you’re an international student, OPEN yourself! You may be shy but this is Canada, people are from everywhere and they’re likely shy too!
    6. If you hear negative comments about anything at SKULE, ignore it. Try it for yourself. You might find out you might like it or it wasn’t that negative at all!
    7. Do past exams!! Beg for the past exams from upper years, if necessary, it will save you tons of time.
    8. GO TO LECTURES AND TUTORIALS.
    9. GO TO OFFICE HOURS. Professor may give you inside tips.
    10. Ask questions in class, it helps the professor know you better and also helps your classmates.
    11. Few people do very well in their first year exams, they are usually too well adjusted. So if you didn’t do well on one exam, remember it’s just first year. It’s all ano jusbout getting adjusted!
    12. The university has plenty of resources! Start at your academic counsellor!
    13. Get involved in the SKULE community ASAP. Especially engineering design opportunities to practice and develop the ‘hands-on’ technical skills. So you can apply your learning from courses, and develop your identity as an engineer earlier.
    Then for the part everyone is most concerned about! We got some advice on school and exams:
    14. Develop study plans. Think about how you’re going to tackle each course instead of the usual “study the night before the exam.
    Last but not least: here we got one tip for work out kids: (very important)
    15. The AC (Athletic Center) has girls-only hours. No matter how hard you try, only females are allowed to work out during that hour!
    And the last rule?
    16. Share this to your friends so the 1T9ers will be a student force to be reckoned with!

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