• The Story of Tales Of Harmonia


    Clubs are a bit of a mystery at UofT. Right from the start the number of groups presenting themselves at the Frosh club fair can be very overwhelming. However, despite the vast array of available distractions at our university there are a number of students who haven’t taken the opportunity to put themselves out there. A big reason for this is simply a lack of information; it’s difficult for a student to discover all the clubs that meet on campus, and it’s even harder to learn about major clubs’ executive positions or especially about how to start one’s own club. To facilitate our readers’ education in the matter of club participation, club running and club founding, The Cannon interviewed Tian-Yuan Zhao, the founder and former head of Tales of Harmonia, a very creative and fun performance-arts organization. They can be seen organizing free shows around the university featuring a vast array of delightfully entertaining content including songs from the Lion King, to Super Mario Brothers, to Howard Shore, and really anything else you can imagine. On top of all their success in their performances, this club’s creativity and pizzazz won them the UTSU Outstanding Creative Arts Club Award in 2013.

    Cannon: Tell me about ToH. Do you consider it only an engineering club? How many members does it have?

    Tian: No, actually, that’s a misconception. It is a UofT wide club, with around half of its members that are engineers. It has a diverse array of students, and it has around 25-30 members. One other interesting fact is that we don’t restrict ourselves to UofT students.

    C: But you’re associated with the Engineering Society?

    T: Yes, as well as Ulife and UTSU.

    C: When and why did you start this club?

    T: I started it three years ago. I looked at the top three choirs on campus and I thought to myself, none of them celebrated music of all kinds; they all specialise in just one genre of music. So I decided to flip a famous quote on its head. The quote is, “if you can’t beat them, join them”, while what I did instead was, “if you can beat them, then don’t join them”. So I decided to start my own choir that involved music of all walks of life.

    C: In practical terms, did you find starting a club to be a difficult process?

    T: Yes. But it was a good kind of difficult, in that it allowed me to learn. It was a good challenge. I learned marketing and strategy, both online and offline. I did HR management, for example auditioning and finding the right people for the positions we needed to fill. I learned graphical design and web development, organizational development, event management, and overall, leadership skills. And of course I got to apply musical arrangement and composition.

    C: What about finance?

    T: What with us being a UofT wide choir, we have so many more funding opportunities than if it was just a Skule-related group.

    C: Why might a student want to get involved with a creative club, like ToH?

    T: There’s multiple answers. One is: if you join as an executive, then you can definitely gain a lot of opportunities to develop your soft skills as well as some hard skills, such as technical skills, depending on the role you take.

    Another is the networking. Because it’s a UofT-wide club, you get to interact with non-engineering students. If you learn to communicate and work with other people who are not in engineering, it can help you develop a better understanding. It will help you develop humility, empathy and teamwork skills.

    But aside from that, there are artistic reasons. One: It merges the best of your right brain and your left brain; your intellectual side and your creative side, and that can help you in your engineering career. Two: It’s a good way to release stress. Yes, there are other ways to release stress, like drinking, or other clubs, but artistic expression is a more productive way to do it. And three: Personal development.

    C: In operating a club, what would you say is your biggest success, and your biggest failure?

    T: You might think the biggest success was our award, but for me personally, I think it was it was when we organized our most recent concert back in late March. It was our biggest concert, with a 10 member mini-orchestra and a full libretto. We pulled off a musical theatre concert; it was like a mini Skule Nite. It had the biggest turnout and we had the most fun doing it, compared to any of our other concerts.

    As for failure, I’d say it had to do with the way I went about my resignation. I think I could have handled it more professionally. At the time leading up to my resignation I could have treated ToH with more value. But despite all that I’m pleased to see all the success that ToH is having right now!

    C: Would you encourage other students to start their own clubs?

    T: Yes. However, be wise about it, which is kind of obvious. Specifically what I mean by that is that UofT is so big; there’s already 400+ clubs. SKULE already has 100+ clubs. When you want to start a club, really assess what problem you’re solving and what value you provide, and don’t try to oversaturate something that is already filled with many things.

    But if you really think you have a great idea for a club, then just put your heart and soul into it, and you will eventually taste from the fruits of your labour.

    Starting a club is like starting a company, except that you have a wider safety net. But it still requires you to embody the basics of what it means to be an entrepreneur, and that is to never give up and to never give in. ToH is a part of me as I am a part of it. You need to have that sense of responsibility that it takes to run a business, right from the get-go. Then you can and will succeed.

    C: Is there anything that you’d like to add?

    T: To those just entering Skule, these next 4 or 5 years will be the best time of your lives, so make the most of it. And to those who are or were in ToH, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you’ve done for the group and for me, directly or indirectly, I love you all!

  • Much Ado About Homework


    After The Cannon’s Rabab Haider made this post about the best way to tackle note-taking, I felt a piece on homework only seemed appropriate.

    Many of you are just beginning to settle into the new environment life has thrown you into; adjusting to new surroundings, making new friends, and learning a lot. But as fun as these weeks have been, midterms start in just two weeks, so there’s work that needs to be done.
    Spending my first year in EngSci, I observed the strategic and oddly breathtaking efficiency of my classmates as they seemed to study work that would take me 5-6 hours in a matter of 1-2 hours, leaving me wondering what I could be doing better. It wasn’t until I ultimately took a step back over the summer and observed how the EngSci specimen operates. They are not super-human. It just takes some practice in prioritizing and efficiency and you’ll see that any task can be adequately handled.
    Here are some study tips that I learned from the EngSci Class of 1T7 and plan to use for my remainder of my undergraduate in Chemical Eng and academic career:
    Free time isn’t exactly free time
    So you have just finished an eight-hour day. Time to put your feet up, grab a drink and browse Reddit, right? Not a chance. Honestly, if your professor has just posted a problem set that is not due until next week, finish it now. Doing this will help you down the road in two very important ways.
    First and most obviously, it will help academically. Getting as much work out of the way now will save time for 2am CIV problem set writing or practicing drawing those Pringles for Calculus (hyperbolic paraboloids, whatever). Even the most diligent students who think they have time allocated for all of their homework forget about an assignment here, or presentation there. Avoid falling behind by giving yourself breathing room.
    Secondly, it will help socially. Living in residence, I have several friends in Arts & Science who naturally have more free time and therefore come knocking on my door to hang out more often than not. Looking back, I can’t say there is a worse feeling than when your friends have simply given up on asking to hang out because they are tired of hearing how busy you are. This happens because when they’re not around (i.e. when you should be getting work done) you’re on Netflix or playing PC games, and when Friday night is here and the midnight deadline for that Praxis submission is hours away, you’re stuck inside trying to finish it instead of having the night off to enjoy with friends.
    I would do the same amount of work as my classmates, but take twice as long to finish it. We were EngScis; we knew we only had so may hours of free time. Those who were smart knew how to reap the benefits of those hours.
    You’re only a number if you choose to be one
    This is actually one thing that students of smaller institutions show off quite often; the idea that at large school like UofT, you will only ever be a number your professors and TAs, and not get the one-on-one help that people crave the most. While for many of you this may turn out to be true, it is true because you made it so. You posses the power to make each and every one of your instructors know you by name, simply by introducing yourself and asking for help. I see every day of class, the smartest are the ones who run up to the lecture podium as quickly as possible after every lecture to ask all of the questions they have.
    Now that is an effective use of UofT Time.
    Go to your professors’ office hours, go to tutorial and raise your hand in the middle of a lecture to ask a question. The more people you reach out to, the more help you can get when it really counts during midterm and exam season.
    Leave. Your. Room.
    This one I didn’t pick up from observing classmates but is one I am trying now after seeing how much it could have helped me last year. The truth is, I cannot any work done when I am in my room. The Internet is an unforgivable time robber, sucking away precious hours of studying. This is what would lead to the social handicapping I mentioned before.
    My strategy this year? Every day after class, head back to New College, eat dinner, go upstairs to my room to drop off anything I don’t need, and take only what I need for my night’s work and go to my building’s lounge or the library. Anything to get me away from my computer.
    Another tip. I would highly recommend also leaving your laptop at home before heading out. I recently replaced my laptop with a PC + iPad w/ keyboard combination and I’m loving it. I get all of the functionality I need, but when I need to limit my connectivity to just Blackboard and some Googling, the iPad is much better at blocking distractions.
    I hope these tips will help you out this year as much as I hope they help me. I’d like to thank all of my friends and classmates from this past year who have helped me become a better student and in turn, a better friend.

    Tyler Weil

  • Student Profile: Jeremy Wang


    Jeremy Wang is a second year Engineering Science student looking to pursue the Aerospace Engineering option.

    What was your strategy for success in first year?

    I wasn’t too concerned about academics in first year just because it was so early on. So the emphasis for first year was kind of understanding where boundaries lie, and pushing what I was capable of to know where those boundaries rested. It’s easier to put more effort into academics than it is to put more effort into extracurriculars when you know that you have very high grades and you want to maintain that. So for me, it was about getting experiences and risking academics in an environment where I had more liberty to screw up…A self proclaimed academic masochist is probably the best way to describe me.

    Could you go into being a ‘masochist’ a little farther?

    It’s the reason I came into EngSci! The most significant moments and rewarding experiences have come out from really hard challenges that at the time seemed like a lot of pain and a lot of suffering, but in hindsight proved to be more valuable than it seemed when you were actually in the moment. It’s not always comfortable, but I think you benefit in the end. It’s the kind of thing that you need to try it once and then look back at how valuable it was. Until you’ve actually tried it it just seems insane to you.

    What would be your number one tip you’d want to give to the new first year EngScis?

    Time management. And figuring that out quickly. And also not being daunted by the intense amount of failure you will experience.

    What have you been involved in this past year?

    The UofT Aerospace Team (UTAT)! There was also Toronto Students for the Advancement of Aerospace, which is a collaboration between UofT and Ryerson where they try to organize a local aerospace conference every year. There’s also the Space Generation Advisory Council, an international organization [that has a] permanent observatory status on the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. They host different events to get together to talk about different issues in space. It’s a really great way to get in touch with people who are a little more advanced in their career.

    Where should student go or who should they contact if they’re interested in being a part of UTAT?

    They can email me at outreach@utat.skule.ca or they can listen up during the beginning of the year. We’ll be hosting a lot of intro seminars to different things in aerospace, getting students some hands-on technical skills like electronics and composite fabrication, it’s going to be interesting.

    One of the hardest things to do in first year is getting yourself out there. What did you do to get yourself out there?

    First year is probably the best time one can have to take risks. If you are comfortable with being uncomfortable, then just throwing yourself out into as many opportunities as you can and getting a sense of the community you’re in [really helps]. There’s no way to safely convince yourself that everything you do will have long term merit, but if you can find intrinsic motivation for things…just jumping in and seeing what things are like is all I can really say.

    Did you already have an interest in rocketry, or did you get into that by joining UTAT?

    No, I got into that by joining UTAT and seeing what it was like!

    If there was one thing that you’d want to change about Skule or EngSoc that would better the experience for the students, what would that be?

    The exact choice of professors and the ways in which professors are chosen. They’re not trained teachers, they’re mostly research oriented and it gets tricky in class…

    To be honest I don’t have much [else] to harp about. I have a tendency to treat bad things as a challenge to myself to become better at them rather than change the external environemt. So rather than saying the professors are terrible, which some of them are, I say, “How can I accommodate this?”

    What was your favourite F!rosh week event?

    Full purple dye, no question.

    What have you decorated your hard hat as?

    I have covered it with equations. Equations from rocketry. My helmet is like my wearable reference guide!

    What would you recommend to first year students as the best place to be when they want to (a) hang out with friends and (b) meet new people & make friends?

    (a) If you’re living on res then you’re floors common room. If not, you’re discipline’s common room. (b) UTAT.

    Tyler Weil

  • Essential Apps and Gadgets


    The transition to university can be difficult. Here are some tools that will make the path a bit smoother.

    Wolfram Alpha

    This will become your best friend, as this online computational software is no normal calculator. It can solve complex calculus problems, and is a great tool for checking your answers. However, be careful not to get too dependent on the software, because you’ll find yourself extremely lost during exams. You can also use Wolfram to answer critical life questions; “am I drunk?” should prove a useful one. Ask it to plot a Pokémon curve. Try to find the hidden easter eggs in between plugging in derivatives and integrals.

    Note: For linear algebra, a number of matrix calculators are also available on the internet.


    Not all problems are created equal. Questions on exams are often entirely different than the ones given in class and homework. To truly get an idea of what your test will look like, you need to do the past exams. Courses.skule.ca has a large library of past tests and quizzes from all your courses, separated by discipline end year, for your practising pleasure.


    This app is designed to help you locate available computers and printers in the Engineering Computer Facility (ECF) labs. Engineering students tend to take full advantage of the 900 page printing quota provided each semester, often printing out booklets of notes or textbooks. Use Citoprint when you need to find a printer that’s not backlogged a hundred pages.

    Organization Apps

    Course loads in university can feel like a juggling act. If everything’s starting to blur together, use an organizer to keep all the assignments, deadlines and exam dates straight so you don’t drop the ball. Popular to-do list apps include Todoist and Wunderlist, which sync across your devices. If you want simplicity, ColorNote offers a word pad function and a sticky note widget – organized by colour, of course. Google Calendar is a classic choice for reminders and events, although Sunrise, a new app that’s more visually appealing, is worth checking out too.


    As first-years your timetables are set, but come electives selection, keep this site in mind. Enter a course code and you’ll see all the sections that are offered, which ones conflict with your existing courses, and which are in free timeslots. Plug courses into your timetable and build your ideal schedule. Even in first year, some of you will eventually want to attend a different lecture than your own – for a better prof, or merely for some extra shut-eye in the morning.


    If citations aren’t your strong point and IEEE is making your head spin, try Zotero. It’s available as a browser plug-in, and collects and cites your references. It can be inaccurate occasionally though, so beware. This is by no means an exhaustive or definitive list of useful technology, but hopefully it will serve you well. Good luck frosh! Don’t forget to have some fun, too.

    Jenny Deng

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