The Big Super-Happy Lab Report of Doom
Hi there all, and firstly a big thanks to all those who attended the Engineering Day here at Warwick on the 11 March! It was great to see so many people (children and adults!) getting excited about Engineering. I was on the Bridge Building stall for most of the day, where the activity was to create a bridge to hold as many crème eggs as possible using only paper and tape. Our winner was 45 eggs – rather impressive given we only had 45 eggs left at that point! For the record, my own, somewhat inglorious total was 14…
Me helping out at the Bridge Building stand. Image used with permission.
One of the things I always say when people ask me about the workload for Engineering is, “It gets pretty tough at times, but it’s manageable so long as you’re organised." Today, I’m talking about a case when only the first half is true.
One of the anti-highlights of first and second year is the lab report at the end of Term 2, which will hereby be known as the Big Super-Happy Lab Report of Doom (BSHLRoD for short). The BSHLRoD is a 10-page writeup on any one of the labs you’ve completed in the relevant module this term. The catch is, you don’t know which one you’ve got until it’s released this Tuesday afternoon. The deadline is on Thursday. Ouch. For what it’s worth, the deadline coincides with that of the third year dissertations. They have it worse. They also have all the computers in the IT suites.
This year, I’ll be allocated one of four labs to talk about. You might think this means I have a pretty good odds of getting an OK one. You’d be wrong. Of the four, one will always not work, the next will work but when you get home you realise your results are garbage, and the third looks good but hinges on some incomprehensible theory at best tangentially related to a casual remark your lecturer once made. The last lab will have gone quite well, and you’ll probably have already come up with some insightful comments to make in the discussion section. You will not be assigned the last lab.
Even using data from a massive wind tunnel can’t make Excel spreadsheets exciting. I shrunk the image to save space, but it’s not as if you were going to read it all anyway
Naturally, this leads to a feeling of collective panic amongst the year. As part of the uni’s obligations to student welfare, second years have tutorials twice a term, which involve checking in with your tutor to make sure you’re still alive and that everything is going OK. Many students live a good distance from campus, so attending can be a time commitment of at least two hours for some. This tutorial is the only thing scheduled this Wednesday. Part of me feels this is somewhat counter-productive.
For me, this situation is intensified by making the somewhat foolhardy decision to sign up for this Wednesday’s Offer Holders’ Day also. Showing prospective students round the uni is usually pretty fun, but I’m guessing a surprisingly high number of helpers will be suddenly otherwise engaged come Wednesday morn. If you’re coming this week, please come say hi, and try to ignore the rising panic in the air. If it feels like the students just can’t get you round the facilities quick enough, remember that they too are desperate to finish the BSHLRoD. Why not set them at ease with a knowing remark about how much work engineering students have? They’ll love you for it. I promise.
As always, feel free to leave comments below, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can (i.e. not before Friday). Until next time!