Warwick School of Engineering: Making the most of it
I’m now in my fifth year in the engineering department at Warwick – I took four years for my BEng (I was abroad for a year between second and third year) and am now doing an MSc. In that time, I’ve gotten to know the department fairly well and so I thought it worth sharing some of those insights with anyone who’s a little newer to Warwick Engineering.
To start with, if you’re studying engineering at Warwick: well done. You’ve made a good choice. Not just because the courses are great, but the resources available to you are really pretty good, objectively, and as compared to other universities. Considering the fees we pay to attend university, engineering courses may be some of the few where you can tangibly see your money at work – in expensive facilities, software licenses for students and decent teaching contact hours. Now that you’re here, and while you have access to them, here’s some tips for making the most of these things and feeling like university is worth the money because of your department, not just the certificate you walk away with.
Engineering has good labs and equipment which we often only use in timetables sessions but many are actually available to use at other times. Take the engineering build space (EBS) as the best example. You can come here most days (even during times when there is a teaching session going on) and use it for course related things or your own personal projects. They have most tools you wish for and helpful staff who’ll show you where to find things and help you achieve what you’re trying to do. I’ve gone there in the past to fix cycling equipment and went just this week to modify a pair of headphones to replace its fixed cable with an audio socket. They also have a bank of 3D-printers you can use for anything you like – and they don’t charge for the filament. Similarly, the workshop on the ground floor (down the stairs from the entrance) is also helpful. Engineering stores in manned by experienced technicians who will assist you with any specific questions or design problems you have.
You’ll usually walk past the complex-looking lab equipment on the ground floor of engineering on your way somewhere else, and maybe you’ve wondered what it’s for. But you can make use of it in the context of a third or fourth year project. So, if you want to maximise your use of engineering resources, pick a project with which you get to use some piece of equipment worth tens of thousands of pounds, like I’ve done – my project this year will use the solar simulator, a piece of equipment you can’t access in many places.
Finally, go and work in the computer rooms! F2.11 and F2.10 have lots of machines, each with a double-monitor set-up, and the rooms are open 24/7 which is really handy. I often see people struggling over some CAD model on their small, comparatively slow, laptops using a touch pad. Make the most of the access to fast machines for renders, simulations and the like.
A helpful resource in my time at Warwick has been my personal tutor. Some people don’t make the most of theirs and, admittedly, some aren’t very helpful, but on the whole they’re there to help and can offer advice on the whole of uni life, or life in general. My personal tutor also became my project supervisor, as well as helping me apply to become a resident tutor.
It goes without saying, but a lot of the engineering textbooks are available to download digitally via the library website. But what is worth a mention is software – what some don’t realise is that a lot of the software we use in the labs are accessible to us for our own machines. It’s always worth checking to see if you can get something for your own computer, and if at first glance it seems you can’t, speak to someone in the know (the ESO or your tutor) and it may be possible to get you a license nonetheless, to save you from being limited to the labs. And if your laptop is too slow, use a VDI remote desktop; these are still accessible at time of writing. Use the software for your own projects – personal licenses are extremely expensive, so make the most of your options while at uni.
A popular and useful resource is the engineering common room – I’ve used this for group meetings mainly, but also to have lunch there as they have a sink, microwave and boiling water tap. Vending machines are also available.
A few random things to round off. I would reiterate the point about third year/MSc projects – don’t be scared to propose your own in order to best shape your Warwick engineering experience and make the most of facilities while pursuing your person interests. Also, the School of Engineering offers the chance to do an exchange year without adding a year to your degree – this isn’t available at many universities. Take the chance and give it a go, or do a year in industry to boost your employability when you graduate.
Warwick Engineering has a lot of industrial connections. Use these to find a job – if you take part in an industry supported project while you’re here, this could help you get a foot in the door. Join the engineering society, Warwick Hyperloop, Formula Student, Engineering Without Borders or another such project to make the most of facilities and give you something to talk about in job interviews.
The School of Engineering offers a few work opportunities such as to be a student ambassador. Apply for this to earn a little cash on the side. Finally, remember the course flexibility and options offered by Warwick – just because you applied for the BEng, doesn’t mean that what you need to stick with. I dropped from the MEng to the BEng at the very end of the third year of my course, so that I could graduate and do an MSc instead because that better suited what I wanted to do in future.
So, go to the build space. Talk to your personal tutor. Use all those things the uni grant access to while you’re here. Go on an exchange year. And join a society. I may not have said much that you’ve not heard at some point before. But I hope bringing these things together has encouraged you to make more of what’s available to engineering students and to maximise your experience.