EMBER program bridges transitional gap for first year engineering students   – Faculty of Engineering

EMBER program bridges transitional gap for first year engineering students  

an instructor in a red t-shirt speaking to a group of four women sitting at a desk.

The transition from high school to university can feel daunting for incoming undergraduate students.  

To support students during this pivotal time of change, the Engineering Mentorship and Bridging Education Resources (EMBER) program launched in 2020. 

Available to all incoming first year students in the Faculty of Engineering, EMBER is offered at no additional cost and is designed to set students up for academic and social success through its offerings and structure. 

The three-part method  

The program operates over a course of three weeks, offering online, hybrid and in-person opportunities.  

In their very first week of EMBER, students are given a refresher on foundational knowledge through online learning modules in math, physics, chemistry and computing. Since the videos are pre-recorded and available asynchronously, students can learn at their own pace. While the modules become available in mid-July, students are able to access the modules for the entirety of summer as well as their first year of university.  

In the first two weeks of August, students can join live tutorials for each subject, allowing them to connect with instructors to fill any gaps they may have following their online learning sessions. Students also get an early introduction to the Fireball Family — the name for McMaster Engineering’s tight-knit community. These informational sessions cover topics like academic advising support, identity-based clubs and technical team opportunities.  

In their final EMBER week, students participate in Connect Week, engaging in interactive workshops to get the hands-on learning experience for which Mac Eng is known and getting the opportunity to connect in-person with upper-year students and professors.  

a group of students sitting at a desk discussing an assignment.

EMBER is unique in its asynchronous, synchronous and in-person components in the postsecondary sector and offers its participants flexibility. They can choose to enroll in particular parts of the program where they feel like they need the support while opting out of others.  

three students conducting an experiment with a bouncy ball.
three students conducting an experiment with a bouncy ball.

“This model offers students the freedom to carve their own path to achieving a successful transition to McMaster,” explains Vincent Leung, Assistant Professor and  Co-Director of the Engineering & Management program that is responsible for administering EMBER.

“We recognize that supporting students is not a ‘one-size fits all’ approach. Students have varying concerns and needs and that’s exactly why EMBER is so flexible. We want each student to feel that they can personalize their experience in our bridging program to get what they need to be first-year ready.”

Vincent Leung

Support where you need it 

Mrinal Singh and Robin Lewis joined the EMBER program in the summer of 2023. We sat down with both students to learn more about their experiences: 

headshot of Mrinal Singh.

Mrinal Singh 

What enticed you to join the EMBER program? 

As an international student, I was really excited to have an insight into the place that would be my home for the next four years. I loved the fact that I got the opportunity to interact with upper-year students, incoming students and learn about the courses that we would take. 

Something that also really stood out to me was how accessible and flexible it was. The modules were recorded so everyone could watch them at any time, regardless of their time zone. 

How would you describe your experience in EMBER? 

EMBER was truly a beautiful experience. The online tutorials with the Learning Resource Assistants (LRAs) were so refreshing and insightful. I also had the chance to meet some of the faculty and talk about my plans and career path. I felt much more confident going into my first year. 

How did EMBER prepare you academically and socially for first year? 

I never coded before coming to university and it was something that I struggled with when I tried to learn it on my own. However, the coding modules in EMBER broke down every complex concept into simpler ideas.  

Socially, I met some of my best friends through joining EMBER. It was so reassuring to make some friends before classes started. 

How have you benefitted from participating in EMBER? 

I grew more confident in my academic abilities and social connections. I learned so much about myself and the engineering profession. Talking to the upper-year students and professors, I received advice on how to handle my course load, applying to technical clubs and enrolling in co-op. 

What would you tell others who are considering joining EMBER? 

EMBER will make the transition from high school to university extremely smooth for you. It is going to be the best decision you make. You will make friends for life, learn about McMaster and gain invaluable advice on academics, co-op, housing, clubs, upper-year courses and more.  

headshot of Robin Lewis.

Robin Lewis 

What enticed you to join the EMBER program? 

Going into university, I was a bit nervous about how much of a jump it would be from high school. Having the opportunity to review necessary material at a flexible pace, get a taste of first year and make connections with other students early on was very enticing for me as an incoming student. 

How would you describe your experience in EMBER? 

The EMBER experience was great! The online modules were super convenient and great for catching up on material, and the live tutorials provided an extra boost of support for more difficult concepts. I particularly enjoyed the in-person Connect Week. It was amazing to meet other students, participate in hands-on workshops and see campus through the lens of preparing for first year. Everyone I interacted with from EMBER and the Faculty of Engineering was super nice throughout the entire process. 

How did EMBER prepare you academically and socially for first year? 

EMBER was extremely helpful in preparing me for academics and building social connections.  

I really appreciated being able to brush up on high school material I may have needed a refresher on, especially since the EMBER courses were designed to cover content that is essential for first year engineering students.  

The in-person Connect Week was especially valuable as it allowed me to meet other incoming students (some of whom I’m still friends with after first year!) and develop hands-on skills through the workshops in preparation for first year labs and design projects.  

I felt that I was able to get introduced to and used to what being a student at McMaster and being on campus was like. This also meant getting an understanding of the support resources available to students, before the chaos of move-in and the start of the year. The entire program felt like a bit of a head start for university, making the adjustment to first year that much easier. 

What would you tell others who are considering joining EMBER? 

Put yourself out there, but take it at your own pace! EMBER is an awesome opportunity to meet people and get a head start on first year, but the fact that the courses are as flexible as they are and that you can pick and choose them can be really helpful if you don’t feel comfortable doing all four.  

Whether you’re preparing to move away from home for the first time, are working over the summer or just need a bit of a break from school, you don’t have to do everything, and you don’t have to do it super quickly. If you do end up doing all four courses and Connect week, then great! If not, that’s totally fine too!  

I definitely recommend engaging with the program to feel that extra bit prepared going into first year and remember that EMBER allows you to tailor your experience to what feels right for you. 

Register for EMBER’S 2024 summer program.