My second semester - adrift in the U life


As I was telling you before, I was having many doubts and it wasn't that second semester was different than first but I simply was in some kind of knock-out. Next year I had to choose what mention did I want to follow and until the moment I was clueless.
I will put you in perspective, in PUC (I will say "La Católica, otherwise it sounds like puke") we have to choose one mention among:
  • Hydraulic
  • Construction
  • Transportation
  • Minning
  • Electrical
  • Computer Science
  • Information Technology (milder version of CS)
  • Mechanics
  • Chemistry
I might be missing some but this is all I remember in 2008. At the same time every engineering student should decide if they wanted to go for civil engineerings or industrial engineerings which if you ask me, the only difference is that the industrial engineer has five extra administration courses.

During the mid-semester, the faculty organizes a fair where all mentions show their best. Professors remove the dust from their most flashy projects and they take it to the main yard. You can see from turbines from the cold war to dummy skid-steer machines promoting that one day they will perform autonomously (We did not know any of Google's ambitions yet, do not even start with Uber). I remember nothing caught my attention that day. Everything was so regular, I mean, there is no doubt many of the things in the fair were worthy of publications and attention but for a regular student where was nothing remarkable. Remember I wanted to be an inventor and create my own crazy stuff. At the fair, I did not see any self-made staff, I saw more paper and heard ideas than actually seeing creations made by students and professors. Even worse, I keep hearing the concept that PUC engineers do not produce science but only CEO and managers for companies. C'mon! If I would have known it I could have applied to some other university - Now, calm down. If you are a student who is going through the same, don't worry. Things are going to take a different course in the next years and to be honest, the faculty did a lost to change this situation. Buildings were built, knowledge was imported and courses were created in order to change the way PUC engineers students see themselves. A lot has happened in the last 10 years but stay with me for a little, would you?










The best years of your life. What a cliche! - My first years as an engineer student

Well, it was 2008 when I decided to study Engineerings at Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile). I did not know quite well what kind of engineerings but one thing I always liked about engineers is how close to the inventor profession they are. When I was a kid I pictured myself as a hermit who was all day working in his workshop creating a whole new breed of inventions or crazy array of things, nothing strayer from the reality.
Anyway, if you decided to start an engineering career, probably you know how distant that picture is from the real frame. To start, engineerings at least in its early years is all about algebra, calculus, and basic physics. Which is completely understandable (since you need a solid foundation in order to learn advanced subjects) but also nagging if you are a more hands-on guy. What I wanted was to create devices that would amuse myself and others, computer programs that could do the non defying work for me (Please, if you are a math or physics guy do not judge, you must recognize that freshman subjects are made to be boring and a filter for most of the students; LHC rocks but is not comparable in any way to lethargic Free Body Diagram), and of course: I wanted to change a little bit the world in my way, why not? Clearly, there were some years ahead for that so first I should start making the best out of these years. Besides, maybe I could have a great time if I just permit myself to.
So guess what? That first year was a whole new experience. First, I don't know you but in my case I came from a medium-small school (San Pedro Nolasco) which certainly it is not among the top 200 schools in my country but at least they teach you everything you need to know to deal with your freshman year. I recognize I was a nerd at my school, math and physics were my favorite subjects, I believe because of this need to find a model that describes how the world behaves. As I was telling you, unlike some of my classmates I did not come to university with some fellow-known-gang. Instead, I was almost lonely. There were some high schools where even 10 or 15 of their students went to my same career program. So socially I was at disadvantage! Nevertheless, this was not to be an impediment. Like me, there were others who were in the same situation, so this was an opportunity to make new friends. I wasn't very popular at school so maybe this is a chance to meet new people. University is an opportunity to reinvent yourself, or so they say!
Classes were very demanding. I remember I got lost with all that calculus and geometry. As I told you, I was a nerd but receiving all this information in a single blast was too much for me. What really vexed me the most was how ambiguous and nonapplicable all this knowledge was. Many times I asked professors to give us a more concise example of possible applications for the new lessons but the answer was always the same, some professor said: This is useful 'cos it gives me a job every semester and pay my bills. Can you believe it? Of course, I won't reveal the professor name but I considered his answer to be very cheap.
Without any doubt that first semester was hard. Most of the time was spent on books. Engineerings back in 2008 was mostly a men career. If our generation considered 500 students, only 40 of them were female. Among every freshman there were mainly 3 obstacles (not considering financial) to surpass during their first semester, those are (in difficulty ascending order):
  1. Maintain a social life (family, friends, girlfriend) 
  2. Pass every class
  3. Engineerings challenge final project
Keeping a healthy social life might be difficult at first. You don't know many people and you might think that everybody knows between themselves but that thinking is not really accurate. Actually, the university is a pretty good chance to meet people who you would not meet under other circumstances. High schools (and universities also but less) are social bubbles where most of the time you only get to know people who think in a similar way as you do. Try to get the best out of this time, gather with people who have a different thinking as yours. Try to broaden your experiences and way of thinking! Talk to people who have a different political or religious perspective, also the ones who don't have any. Go to all the parties you can and are invited. Mention apart, always take care of yourself and enjoy responsibly. Read too, is incredible how little we read. Once I heard, on average people only read one book a year, Facebook. Not too stray from reality.

Passing every class might be hard. Many people told me that the important was to pass but I must tell you that grades are important too. If you are young you will not probably in a close future you will consider studying a masters degree or even a PhD. Well, most of the top universities will demand to have great grades as a requisite. If you realize this in your last years you are going to be in trouble because you won't have enough time. It's tricky because when you have the opportunity to have the best grades nobody tells you... Let me be that good old chap and give you a little advice: try to get good grades, nobody says they have to be perfect but do not feel satisfied with only the minimum grade to pass. I know you can do better! - I will tell you how I came to realize about this almost too late in a later post.

Finally, that freaking final project. Yes, it was 2008 and it already existed. Even worse, in my time there were no Facebook nor Whatsapp groups to organize. I remember we were assigned to teams of nine. The challenge was to design a solution for people living in poor conditions. So it had to be cost-effective and easy to use. Back in the days we did not have any fancy prototyping tools such as Arduino or those sleak render-making software (a.k.a Inventor, Rhino, etc). Actually, notebooks were pretty lame, we used to have netbooks which were a preterite and inchoate version of iPads. Anyway, we only had ourselves and 3 months to work so you must remember that no matter how much technology there is and how challenging the task may sound, humans remains humans so the principle is to start by visiting your final user and discover what are their needs (needfinding process). I won't get deeper in this point but I will only tell you it was tough. We lost many sleep hours and most of the time was spent in front of the computer, the hardware store or an improvised workshop some of our team members had (The Fablab was inaugured the year after).

Part of the course was to plant a tree. There were almost 50 teams in the program and this ritual was repeated during 3 years after. Most of the trees you can see behind Aula Magna in San Joaquín were planted by students like us 
All these computers were just a setup, we only had to design a ppt 
After working a whole week with little or no sleep; Our final product: an inverted container...






As a conclusion, I'm not going to lie to you. I finished my first semester thinking that I could do a lot better than just delivering some inverted container as your final project. I remember at the time I felt dubious. I did not know if the university was going to give me all the tools I was expecting. All the calculus was apparently no use (I was wrong, I know). Besides, the course that was supposed to be the opportunity to let my inventor shine (Engineering challenges) was a scam. you probably think we were the only mediocre team which delivered a neglectable project but I recall that most of the projects were very similar or a little bit more advanced but certainly nobody was able to deliver some nuclear reactor, we were all in the bronze age! Suddenly I started to think if this was the career I wanted to spend my next 7 years in...



Correlation between Post and Place

What you can see in the picture is this website's world distribution to August/ 2014. This social experiment is about how would this map change in one year if we make a little change, for an instance, start writing in some other language. If you look closely to the map you can see the pins for the locations where this blog has been visited at least once. Now, most of the pins are located in places where you speak spanish (Español) and that's very logical since this blog is written in Spanish but what if we start writing in English, French or Mandarin (Chinese). The Hypothesis is we are going to receive more visits aacording to the language we post. For one year I'll be writing English only and the result should be a lot more visits from different countries (Not only Latin ones). In one year from now on (September 1st) I will be sharing my results with you!