Abdul's diary entry - Summer 2011

Completing final exams, working on group projects and searching for internships. Abdul share's his highs and lows from the last few months.

Abdul (centre) with his teammates for the Digital Systems Design Project Hurrah, I'm done with the finals at last! Now I have only one more semester before I become officially qualified as an engineer.

I used to hear that the final year of your course is the one where you really get to experience engineering and I cannot agree more. This semester I've experienced the true meaning of "getting your hands dirty" with practical engineering work.

Getting my hands dirty

Playing with mechanical parts, electric circuits, electronic chips/devices and tangles of wires is a messy job. It was in one of the two major design projects - the Digital Systems Design Project - that I got the chance to get my hands dirty with engineering.

This project took four months to complete, starting off with a month's worth of discussions, brainstorming and research on what exactly the majority of us wanted to build.

Once we'd decided, we had to go through the procedure of writing proposals which involved collection and analysis of the requirements and thinking of potential applications/benefits that our project could deliver, putting our ideas in technical terms and definitions, distributing and categorising them to have division of labour and a plan of action.

We were a group of 15 students, so we worked in three teams to break down the work. We converted a manually pedaled four-wheeled vehicle into an electrically powered, wirelessly controlled one, equipped with state-of-the-art features like location mapping, speed, stability, proximity sensing and orientation feedback, and two-way streaming of audio/video to assist the remote controller of the vehicle.

It was an amazing experience even though we had to pull a couple of all nighters in the labs and were faced with fire incidents, burning chips/controllers/wires and messed up circuits!

Good and bad teamwork experiences

When you have to work in a large team, you find some really committed and energetic colleagues, and at the same time there are really lazy and careless ones as well. I've experienced this and although it gets on your nerves at times, at the end of the day, it is all part of the fun and training.

The most important lesson I've learnt about teamwork during this project is that every individual has a certain pace with which he/she does a job. As a good team player, you need to balance yourself. If you are a slower worker you need to catch up in order to make sure the project's completion isn't delayed. On the other hand, if you're a faster worker, you'd need to be able to wait for the slower ones and help them get their job done - and man, this is really tough!

The summer internship hunt

I feel that internships are one of the most interesting components of an engineering student's life and I can't wait to experience it this July and August. I've been visiting career fairs and applied to companies I've met there for industrial experience, approached research centres for research internships etc, but all to no avail - despite my excellent academic, volunteering and extra-curricular records.

I guess people don't really think that an undergrad student can do helpful stuff for them in an eight-week internship, although they ask us to apply!

There are a few more places I've got in mind to approach and I hope to fix a deal there. Well, I'm almost an engineer now, and more than willing to throw myself into the job and deliver what they require. I'm sure that I will find something great to work on, and something interesting to share with you all in my next diary entry…