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Jin Lee

McMaster Engineering meets Detroit and OrlandoMay 3, 2019

McMaster Engineering attended the FIRST Robotics World Championship in Detroit and DECA's International Career Development Conference (ICDC) in Orlando to connect with top students from around the globe.

Last year, McMaster Engineering took over the tech industry equivalents of Disney World in Silicon Valley. This year, we went to Orlando and Detroit to connect with top students, where plenty of magic happened, both on the outskirts of Disney and in the automobile capital of the world.

The #MeetMacEng tour kicked off on April 24 at the FIRST Robotics World Championship in Detroit and ended at the DECA International Career Development Conference (ICDC) in Orlando on April 30. At each event, we were the only Canadian post-secondary institution represented.

Two FIRST Robotics graduates, Areeba Aziz, a third-year Computer Engineering student and Prakhar Garg, a Mechatronics Engineering graduate and now masters student, made the trip from Hamilton to Detroit to talk to students, parents, mentors and teachers about their experiences with FIRST Robotics, McMaster Engineering and why they love calling Hamilton home. 

One of the students who divided his time between the arena and our booth was Reyansh Patange, a Grade 11 student from Brampton. He says FIRST sparked his interest in engineering and hopes to receive his iron ring from McMaster University.

"A lot of my friends have gone to McMaster University and I’ve heard great things that have made me excited about attending such a great and prestigious program," says Patange.

He says that FIRST didn't just amplify his technology skills, but that it lead to meaningful relationships and aha moments.

"The first time I came to Robotics and drove a robot, I realized that kids really came together and created this project all by themselves and it really inspired me," says Patange. "We have the power to do great things that can be used in the future and in our careers."

For Grade 12 student and FIRST participant Mackenzie Keeler, a visit to McMaster last year is what made her consider a degree and career in engineering.

"I have a lot of wide interests," says Keeler. "I like science, technology and math, so it's really hard to pick just one program that could encapsulate all of the different things I'm interested in. That's what drew me to [McMaster's] Biomedical Engineering program... It takes all my interests and passions into one cool program."

She says she's also interested in McMaster's emphasis of learning both inside and outside of the classroom, and hopes her university experience is filled with "something that I can get a lot of different things from," like being in labs, hands-on experiences and the ability to participate in clubs and teams.

Falling in love with engineering

One of Nicholas Carbonara's favourite childhood memories is attending robotics competitions with his dad, who works at General Motors in St. Catharines. Once he tried robotics himself, he "kind of fell in love with it."

The abundance of extracurriculars, as well as the scholarships available to FIRST students and co-op program, is what makes Grade 12 student Nicholas Carbonara interested in studying at McMaster. He says he hopes his university experience is "filled with people related to my interests and people I can relate to." While his main interests are engineering, physics and math, he's also interested is pursuing his passion for sports statistics, and wants to attend a university that embraces his desire to be agile while also being in a country that offers not just a high quality of life, but high-quality education.

"I think it’s important for people to pursue university in Canada because we have a lot of great programs available and resources like co-op," says Carbonara. "A lot of the universities are in the top 100 in the world. Canada offers great education."

Areeba Aziz.

Carbonara is right — McMaster is one of the top 100 in the world, and among the top three universities in Canada

Business, meet McMaster Engineering

While the events (and temperature) varied between Detroit and Orlando, one of the common themes of the Meet Mac Eng Tour was connecting with people who were excited to see McMaster and curious about what attending a Canadian university is like.

Just like DECA, McMaster Engineering's focus is on educating emerging engineering leaders who have the technical know-how, innovative thinking, communications and business skills necessary to implement big ideas to create a brighter world within a company or by starting a new one. 

When Stephanie Tywonek saw McMaster at DECA ICDC, she said it made her feel that the university sees the same importance as DECA as she did.

"Having that representation around me and that home aspect is nice," says Tywonek. "It’s a different experience from what I’ve seen with American colleges."

The Grade 12 student from Ancaster says the problem-solving aspect of math and science always peaked her interest, but her father influenced her to consider engineering.

"My dad is very keen on pushing me and my sister to think about how things work in an efficient way," says Tywonek. "Being able to create things and explain to other people how things work is really interesting."

One of the highlights of the Meet Mac Eng Tour was sharing our national passion for trivia and knowledge. Maanav Dalal, an Engineering 1 student, was at DECA ICDC from April 27-30 to talk about his own experience with DECA, what it's like to study engineering at a Canadian university and impressing students with facts about Canada, such as approximately how many of the world's lakes we have (50 per cent) and where Canada ranks in the list of the world’s most educated countries (Number One).

Maanav Dalal.

Find inspiration and be inspirational 

It wasn't just students who found inspiration at ICDC. Omari Rhoden, the head of business and library at Turner Fenton Secondary School in Brampton, encourages students to pursue business because the skills are transferable.

"DECA gives the science student, the music student, the student involved in athletics a platform to work on skills that are important and not necessarily formed within the classroom itself," says Rhoden. "It’s about skill development... A lot of us aren’t born with this ability to take over a room, but DECA gives you an opportunity to just start practicing."

He says he's seen friends descent to higher heights in their organizations because of their ability to communicate.

"They’re not in the silo of just engineers," says Rhoden. "They can explain things to top executives and work with their peers and speak technically. Being able to bridge with someone who doesn’t have an engineering background really steps them apart."

Steven Wang, a Grade 12 student from Guelph, says DECA's ability to help bridge the gap between business and engineering is exactly why he got involved in the program.

"To be able to combine them both together... is really important for the development of our economy," says Wang. He says he was impressed that McMaster was the only Canadian university at ICDC and that he applied to Mac Eng because of its reputation to "always lead in doing new things... It prepares people really well for the real world."

"Donna Strickland, the Nobel Prize winner, went to McMaster for her undergrad, and now look at her?" says Wang. "It shows how well McMaster prepares students for their life, wherever it takes them."