APSC 100 FAQs - MECH

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Below are frequently asked questions and answers relating to the MECH program.

General

What is Mechanical Engineering?

Mechanical Engineering is the design and development of mechanical systems—basically, anything that moves. As such, mechanical engineers are involved in almost every industry, from the familiar/traditional sectors like cars, planes, and boats, to robotics, biomedical sector, or aerodynamics of a FIFA soccer ball. You can even find the fingerprint of a mechanical engineer just looking around the room: the stapler on your desk, the drawer of your dresser, the heating or cooling of the building you are in—these have all involved the work of mechanical engineers.

What are examples of the typical types of work or tasks that someone in Mechanical Engineering does?

Mechanical Engineers work in a wide range of industries, such as product design, energy, aerospace, robotics, biomedical, mining, automotive, forestry, manufacturing, automation, building systems, and more. To do this, mechanical engineers rely on many skills over a wide range of areas, including design, research, CAD, computer coding and simulation, prototype development and testing, fault detection and failure analysis, and many others. In addition, mechanical engineers work on specialized and multidisciplinary teams, and must be able to communicate designs and ideas to clients, and other technical and non-technical audiences through a variety of formats.

Program

What distinguishes Mechanical Engineering from other engineering programs at UBC?

Holistic education: We try to equip our students with the tools they need to be competitive in the workplace by providing a wide range of experiences: we have one of the strongest design components of any UBC engineering department, with industrially-relevant team design projects built into every year level; one of the highest participation rates in co-op; and strong departmental support for student teams.

Award-winning curriculum: The most distinguishing thing about UBC Mech is our revolutionary and award-winning second-year curriculum: Mech 2. Instead of studying each academic subject in isolation, as you would in other programs, all of the courses/content are integrated together into modules. Students don’t just learn dynamics, math, solid mechanics, etc. as stand-alone topics, but rather how each topic relates to each other and how to utilize all of them to solve practical engineering problems.

Community: Mech 2 fosters a strong sense of community within the department. Due to the unique structure of the curriculum, students work with the same peers and professors every day. This creates a tight-knit community and a culture of peer support not found in other programs where students attend several disconnected classes with different classmates and professors in each.

Highly customizable degree: In upper years, the program is distinguished by variety. We offer specializations in mechatronics, thermofluids, and biomedical engineering, or students have the option of taking the general stream and customizing their technical electives with a mix. There’s something to fit every passion and to prepare students for any of the many jobs that mechanical engineers can do.

What are the typical courses that someone in Mechanical Engineering takes?

Generally, all students take courses in math, dynamics, fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, design process, solid mechanics, statistics, and technical communication. In upper years, the courses you take will depend on your specialization. A full list of Mechanical Engineering courses with descriptions can be found here: https://courses.students.ubc.ca/cs/main?pname=subjarea&tname=subjareas&req=1&dept=MECH

What is a typical course load in Mechanical Engineering?

Students typically take 6 courses per term, although this can vary depending on specialization and co-op. Refer to our website for sample curriculum lists for each of the specializations: http://mech.ubc.ca/undergraduate/prospective/curriculum/

Options

What options or streams are there in Mechanical Engineering?

UBC Mechanical Engineering students have the option to remain in the general mechanical engineering stream after Mech 2, or to specialize in one of the following 3 areas: Thermofluids, Biomedical, or Mechatronics. These specializations allow students to pursue their interests in the broader context of Mechanical Engineering.

Biomedical Engineering involves the application of engineering principles to various aspects of medicine. Biomedical-specific courses focus on areas such as orthopaedic biomechanics, injury mechanics, biofluids, anatomy, biomedical equipment and industrial and clinical medical engineering.

Mechatronics combines the principles of mechanical, computer, electrical, and controls engineering. Mechatronic engineers can integrate electronics, actuators and sensors to control machinery in real time using computers. Mechatronics-specific courses focus on digital and analog electronics, electromechanics, real time software engineering, mechatronics systems modeling, sensors and actuators, instrumentation and mechatronics systems control.

Thermofluids is the combined study of heat transfer, fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, and combustion. Thermofluids-specific courses focus on building a firm foundation in each of these areas, but it is the technical electives that are key to adapting the curriculum to your personal interests. The most customizable of all the options, electives in this area may cover topics such as Aerodynamics, Naval Architecture, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning), Thermal Power Generation, and Energy Efficient Building Design.

For more information, see http://mech.ubc.ca/undergraduate/current/program-options/

How is the Biomedical option in Mechanical Engineering different than the Biomedical option in Electrical Engineering?

The Biomedical Option in both Mechanical and Electrical engineering includes material that enables students to develop an understanding of human anatomy and physiology, which the students use in their other courses and design projects. Students are also exposed to courses that introduce them to the regulation of medical devices in Canada, ethics and working in multi-disciplinary environments.

In Mechanical Engineering, biomedical students learn how the principles of solid mechanics, fluid dynamics, dynamics and kinematics and mechanical design are applied in the design of implantable and external biomedical devices and in the study of biological tissues. As an example, students study how orthopedic implants such as total joints replacements or bone fracture fixation pins are designed and how they are attached to and incorporated into the human skeleton.

Electrical Engineering Biomedical Students focus largely on the study of electrical and electronic devices and circuits, electromagnets and microcomputers as they are used in medical physiological monitoring devices (ECG, EEG, respirators, blood pressure), electrode designs, and signal analysis.

Students also learn about the design, optimization and use of medical imaging devices such as ultrasound, x-ray, computed tomography (CAT scan) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines.

What might attract someone to the Biomedical Option in Mechanical Engineering?

You might be interested in the Biomedical Option if:

  • You are interested in the design of biomedical devices
  • You have an interest in the analysis of human motion
  • You would like to design surgical tools or techniques
  • You are interested in doing graduate work in biomedical engineering or pursuing a degree in medicine
  • You would like to design protective equipment (helmets, airbags, etc)
  • You have an interest in medical imaging physics and analysis of medical images

What might attract someone to the Thermofluids Option in Mechanical Engineering?

You might be interested in the Thermofluids Option if:

  • You are interested in systems that involve the flow of material and energy, such as cars, engines, planes, boats, energy production systems, or buildings
  • You are interested in solving flow problems in these systems using advanced experimental and analytical tools
  • You are interested in a degree with extremely broad applications
  • You are interested in how the flow of fluid and heat affects the physical design of components and systems. This is where the Thermofluids Option in MECH differs from thermofluids in Chemical Engineering. Although some aspects of thermofluids overlap with electives in chemical engineering (especially process engineering), chemical engineers are more concerned with the interaction of flow with chemistry, while mechanical engineers are concerned with the interaction of flow with the physical design of the component or system (e.g. pipes, pressure vessels, wings, engines, propellers, and heat exchangers).

What might attract someone to the Mechatronics Option in Mechanical Engineering?

You might be interested in the Mechatronics Option if:

  • You want to have strong mechanical engineering skills complemented by practical knowledge of electronics and computer engineering
  • You have an interest in controlling machines, robots and devices with a computer
  • You are interested in integrating sensors, actuators and intelligent monitoring tasks to CNC machines, robots, tele-operated devices, cars, airplanes, fridges, heating and ventilation systems, or any other mechanical device

Career

What types of industries and jobs does someone in Mechanical Engineering work in?

Mechanical Engineering is very versatile. Almost every industry will have a mechanical engineering component or position. For example, graduates from our program work in the following industries:

  • Product design and development
  • Energy (oil, gas and renewable energy)
  • Pulp and paper
  • Naval Architecture
  • Engines and automotives
  • Building mechanical systems including heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
  • MicroElectroMechanical systems
  • Manufacturing
  • Mechatronics
  • Robotics
  • Aerospace
  • Biomedical
  • Maintenance and reliability
  • Forest products
  • Mining and minerals
  • Machinery design
  • Consulting and management
  • Generation/extraction, distribution, and utilization of energy
  • Transportation (ground, air, naval, etc.) and the design, development and operation of the associated devices/systems

Graduates who do not wish to go directly into industry may also go on to take graduate engineering research degrees and work in academia, or continue their studies in medical, business, or law school (to name only a few).

“I know that with a mechanical engineering degree I can take my future career down any path I want; the versatility and opportunity to work in nearly any industry was a major deciding factor in picking mechanical engineering over other departments.” - Robert Lion

“I chose Mechanical Engineering because there are so many different jobs I can do after university with a Mech degree. There are no boundaries with Mech.” - Cameron Harris

What is the job market like for Mechanical Engineering?

Mechanical Engineering is a stable, high-earning job with a low unemployment rate. According to the 2015 labour market report released by Engineers Canada, the Canadian economy alone is expected to produce 2,100 job openings for mechanical engineers annually over the next 5 years. The median annual wage for a mechanical engineering in British Columbia is currently $78,600, and this is expected to rise by 3-4% annually over the next 5 years (Engineers Canada). With mechanical engineering being central to so many diverse industries, the odds of finding employment will always be good for mechanical engineers.

What are typical student experiences in Co-op like for Mechanical Engineering?

“In Co-op, a student can apply for a variety of jobs. Some of these are desk/office jobs and some involve being out in the field doing technical work. It is important for you to experience both sides so that you find their calling, and co-op provides this opportunity. It allows you to move between different fields or industries to see what you would like to do in the future. For example, you might work in Research and Development for one term and spend the next term on the industrial and corporate side of things. Co-op gives you the opportunity to experiment with new fields before you start your career.

A student in co-op also has the benefit of seeing the material they are being taught in school actually applied in the field. Putting these engineering fundamentals to use in the real world deepens your understanding of the academic material and makes you a better engineer.

Finally, co-op gives you valuable connections and introduces you to the corporate side of the profession. There’s more to engineering than just technical information and co-op gives you the opportunity to see the many sides of engineering that academics alone cannot show you.” - Siddhant Malik

Student Experience

What is it like to be a student in Mechanical Engineering?

A typical day for a MECH 2 student (2nd year) could include anything from doing machining work in the machine shop, to going on a kayaking field trip, to pulling an all-nighter with their design group to get their project ready for the competition the next day, to sweating it out in the weekly 2 hour “quiz”. Their day will always include learning something new, doing something challenging, and spending time with the MECH 2 community.

For a senior level student (3rd or 4th year), a typical day could include spending time in one of our teaching labs, working with their design group on their 3rd year or capstone project, hanging out in Club Mech between classes, working with other engineering students on a student team project, or finding a familiar place to study with some friends.

What are the unique student experiences in Mechanical Engineering?

UBC Mechanical Engineering has a tightknit community of students, faculty, and staff. This is manifested both inside and outside the classroom. In Mech 2, students develop close relationships with their peers—not only through the intensive shared work environment and team projects, but also through more fun events like kayaking, rock climbing, and other field trips. Outside the classroom, we have vibrant student communities through Club Mech (our student government) and student teams. The department is committed to supporting these groups and strives to reward and recognize those who take an active role in our MECH community and the engineering community. Our Student Services Office is also one of the largest at UBC, and is dedicated to ensuring our students get the support they need at all points in their degree.

“I love UBC Mech because the projects are fun and the professors are awesome! In Mech 2 we learned by going kayaking and rock climbing, and we got to race a cardboard boat at the UBC pool! I have so much fun doing design projects and I am still close friends with all of my team-mates. I even got to go on exchange and study in another country for one semester!” - Andrea Slade

“I strongly believe there is no other engineering department here at UBC that supports student leadership so well.” - Amanda Li

How difficult / challenging is the program?

The program is challenging – MECH 2 is an intense program that challenges students to think outside the box and really learn how to apply the things they are learning to real engineering problems. Although it can be tough, this is partially what bonds them together so tight and overall the experience better prepares them for rest of their degree and their future.

“After completing my second year in Mechanical Engineering I can definitely say that the program is challenging but rewarding. Mech 2 definitely builds a strong sense of community. I felt like I knew everyone in my classes and was able to talk to my professors whenever I needed. Now that Mech 2 is over I feel like I have the determination and study skills that will help me succeed over the next few years.” - Renee Bernard