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School of Engineering Blog

School of Engineering Blog

A blog for students, staff, alumni and friends of the School of Engineering.

Highlights of my mechanical engineering degree so far

Lavinia welding
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By Lavinia, third year, MEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering

It’s safe to say that a mechanical engineering degree is a challenge, but it’s also one of the most rewarding degrees. There are significant moments of triumph during an engineering degree which make it all worth it, and I’ll take you through these favourite moments as I reflect on the nearly three years that I’ve completed so far.  

First year: Creative team work 

From my recollection of first year, the standout experience for me was the Rube Goldberg project. It was light-hearted and whimsical, but required a surprising amount of engineering intuition and design thinking.  

Collaborating with fellow classmates, the task was to each create a complex contraption to perform a simple task – inspired by the inventions of American cartoonist Rube Goldberg –  and connect each of our stages together in a video.  It was a lesson in creativity and problem solving (of which there were many problems to be solved!), and allowed us to properly meet our classmates with whom we’d be learning for the next four or five years.  

Another highlight of first year was the Engineers Without Borders project. Again as a team, we tackled a real-world issue, designing solutions to our chosen problem facing the people of Cape York, Australia.  

This project brought me together with more members of my cohort who I hadn’t yet met, and allowed us to think creatively and critically to find a solution. It taught me that design is iterative (i.e. involves refining and improving ideas as you go along) and can be frustrating, but seeing a final design after weeks of hard work is incredibly rewarding.  

Second year: Thinking like an engineer 

Moving onto second year is a significant shock to the system. With much less project work and more technical learning, it really shapes the way that you study at university.  

For me, a standout course was Fluid Mechanics 2, taught by the incredible Professor Tom Bruce. Studying this course was the first time I felt like a proper engineer, understanding technical knowledge of fluids and learning how these relate to the real world. Professor Bruce’s teaching style makes this course engaging and interesting, and allows students to take on the challenge of fluid mechanics head on.  

There were two other courses which stood out for me in second year. These were Materials 2 and Tools for Engineering Design (TED2). Both of these courses provided a welcome break from the mathematical rigour of other second-year courses, and allowed creativity and innovation.  

Materials 2 involved relaxed, conversational tutorial sessions and interesting guest speakers. It taught real-world solutions to problems and a new perspective of engineering. In TED2, the highlight was learning about Computer Aided Design (CAD). This has now become one of my favourite aspects of engineering, bridging the gap between creativity and maths. 

Third year: Hands-on opportunities 

The curriculum of third year becomes very hands-on, and you start to understand why they’ve been teaching you all these things up until now. A significant highlight for me has been the practical sessions, where you aren’t graded and can fully relax into what you’re learning. These involved learning to weld, as well as the opportunity to take apart a gear box, which proved incredibly helpful when it came to the Manufacture 3 course.  

As a group we were tasked with designing a gearbox, and animating the final CAD design to show the gears moving. It felt like such a daunting project at the start but came to be an incredibly rewarding experience (following from a few late nights in the library). Being able to visualise the final idea at the end was something I’ll remember for a long time. 

Latest highlights 

And finally, my very favourite project is one that I completed earlier this year. In a group of six, we were tasked with the designing, building and testing of a mini wind turbine. The brief was extensive, and the challenge daunting. 

The group experience was exciting and enjoyable, and our lab sessions were full of energy and creativity. The freedom of being in the lab with whichever tools and materials we chose really made me appreciate the hard work in the years up until to that point.  

I often have conversations with friends after a long day at the King’s Buildings campus when they ask what I’ve been up to and how my day has been. Recently, my response is one of strong positivity. I tell them about the projects I’m working on and the progress made, and so often do I hear the words “I’m so jealous of your degree!”

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