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With the winter semester underway, here’s how students are embracing new and ground-breaking engineering design courses – 2PX3 and 1P13 – and returning to classroom activity.
As professors, instructors, and engineering students come together at McMaster University, collaboration is in the air – the classrooms, workshops and labs are filled, once again, with the soundscape of contemplative murmurs and joyful laughter.
Inside transformational courses Integrated Engineering Design Project (2PX3) and Integrated Cornerstone Design Projects in Engineering (1P13), students are diving into their bustling design studios. Their curriculum is part of The Pivot – a reimagined approach to teaching, learning and research in the undergraduate engineering experience.
The winter term brings with it a newly launched course: it’s the first time second-year students will undergo the multi-disciplinary learning environment of 2PX3. Classmates will work together on one of four sophisticated design projects over the course of the term: 3D Printed Housing for Canadian Neighbourhoods, Infrastructure for Self-Driving Vehicles, McMaster Recycling Plant, or Source Water Monitoring.
“2PX3 is a lot different from our other courses and gives us the opportunity to work purely hands-on. It’s so cool to see students from varying streams of engineering come together to solve the same issue. It brings a diverse mindset to the table and encourages having an open mind,” said Dania Sherif, a second-year electrical engineering student.
Along with team members Tina Ismail, Pragya Khanna and Emilia Pisic, the students will be capturing their journey on the Fireball Diaries student blog.
“I know this group has so much potential and I’m excited to witness what we can achieve as a team.”
The course follows the PERSEID process: Performance + Environmental + Regulatory + Socio-cultural screening for Engineering Integrated Design.
André Phillion, director of experiential learning and associate professor in materials science and engineering, says it’s only fitting that Perseid – an August meteor shower symbolized by massive fireballs – reflects the pillars of the McMaster course. The tenants of 2PX3 also stress communication and the necessity of conversations about equity, diversity, and inclusion in engineering design.
“We are really excited for this course, which focuses on all the inherent complexities of modern engineering design. Our students are exposed not only to the technical challenges of engineering, but also how they must factor in environmental, regulatory, and socio-cultural considerations to create a design solution that will be adopted, embraced, and supported by the community that requires it,” he said.
Basem Yassa, instructional assistant, says it’s been a pleasure to engage with students and see them collaborate in-person again.
“I’ve missed the feeling of having students around us,” he said. “It’s also a good experience for us as teaching staff and TAs to be able to walk between different groups…being able to help them and answer their questions right away.”
Meanwhile, first-year students are into their second term of 1P13, where students learn fundamental skills in engineering and design, applying them through four industry-relevant design projects. While the course launched in 2020-2021, its programming was entirely virtual, including the interactive design studio.
This academic year, students are utilizing their strengths and learning in labs to design together. Their current project is a system for sorting and recycling containers. Click here to watch the recycling robot in action.
“Our design studio space is meant to foster a collaborative environment and provide students the needed resources to work together through the design challenge we’ve provided them,” said Colin McDonald, one of eight instructors for 1P13 and associate director of the Integrated Biomedical Engineering & Health Sciences (iBioMed) program.
“It’s quite invigorating to finally see this space come to life the way it has been intended, and to see so many energized students working together.”
First-year student Anna Hirelhey says her excitement lies in manufacturing.
“Getting to work with the 3D printers and a laser cutter makes me much more invested in Project 3 and my contributions to it. It is also great to see my peers, TAs and professors face-to-face as we make the return and gives it a more human and personal touch to make these connections,” Hirelhey said.
“In-person demonstrations with Dr. Bosco Yu in our 1P13 lectures are great. I cannot wait to see what the rest of the term brings!”
Another student, Kaitlyn Kenwell, was thrilled to explore computing and robotics.
“I’d say that in the short term, I’m super excited to be able to start to transition our Project 3 out of the simulator and onto real Q-Bots. It makes the work spent on the code feel a lot more real, and it also really brings the team together,” Kenwell said.
“Looking a bit further, I’m super excited to see what an in-person Project 4 looks like. I’ve heard a lot of great things from TAs about their experience with P4, and I’m sure that it’ll only get better being able to do it face-to-face.”
Click here to read more about 1P13
You can read more stories and check out photos of the community reconnecting on campus here.
Here are more student perspectives in the first weeks back to in-person learning:
“Online classes had its upsides that included saving commute time and living costs. It was essential for the development of herd immunity and health and safety of all. McMaster has shifted towards a hybrid of online and in-person classes. In this picture, my group and I are working on a lab for our fourth-year embedded systems course. I missed the tangible hands-on experience of labs, tutorials and lectures. I’m grateful to have had a few years on campus pre-pandemic. Things are definitely different than before, but the campus life is slowly rejuvenating.”
“As a first-year student I felt we were missing out on a lot of interactive sessions and in-person experience of university life, but finally it feels good to be back on campus. Meeting our peers and friends and attending classes in-person is a whole new vibe. Attending in-person classes after a long time feels great and new. I feel offline classes are a better way of learning as we can physically meet the professor/TA’s, clear all the queries during lecture/lab time, sit with our peers, study together, and get more hands-on experience. Also, the best thing about coming back to campus is I can get coffee from Starbucks every day.”
“I got so used to online classes I forgot how amazing getting to be in person was. Lectures and labs can be rough but it’s so much easier when you have a friend beside you to work through them. It’s great to be home!”
“Getting back to McMaster felt great! It was amazing seeing the campus full of life again and just like it was two years ago before COVID. The only difference I guess you could say is the restrictions and masks we must all wear to practice safety precautions. With all the individuals back on campus, the lines for the GO Bus were quite long but it feels good to know we are slowly returning back to our regular lives. Looking forward to the rest of my commutes to McMaster and the rest of the semester!”
“The first days back in person have been surreal. It is so nice to finally put faces to voices I have heard or names I have only seen through a computer. Everyone is very excited to be back and I love being able to study with my friends on a daily basis. The feeling on campus is amazing, with everyone constantly buzzing with excitement. It’s a great feeling to finally be back.”
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