A day in the life of… a Mechanical Engineering student

Jenny Olsen mechanical engineering student

In this blog post mechanical engineering student Jenny Olsen takes us through a typical day for her, and explains what she loves about her course and being in Newcastle.

I chose Mechanical Engineering as I wanted to study a degree that covered lots of different areas of STEM. I’m really interested in Bio-Mechanical Engineering, but I’m also a big motorsport fan – studying Mechanical Engineering allowed me to pursue many things I was interested in whilst also keeping my career options open.

In a typical week I’d expect three full days of lectures, a day in the lab working on my group project and one day either on an industrial visit or a half-day practical assessment. The industrial visits were really fun. We got to learn some great skills – my favourite visit was to Caterpillar in Peterlee where I got a tour of the facilities and learned how to weld!

My most varied day is Friday – where I spend the morning in lectures and the afternoon working with my engineering team on our group project in the lab. Here’s a look at what you’d be studying if you decided to join us as a Mechanical Engineering student:

9am

To start the day, a mechanics lecture. I was really worried when I joined University that I’d struggle with mechanics because I didn’t study Physics at A level. Thankfully, first semester is mainly just a recap over topics covered at A level and our lecturer explained them really well. I managed to keep up and actually really enjoy the subject!

10am

Next, a maths tutorial. Here’s your chance to ask your lecturers or tutors any questions you have regarding the work covered during the week. This year, there are around 150 first year Mechanical Engineering students – this means that having the opportunity to get  1 to 1 help from a tutor or lecturer is really helpful! Most modules have tutorial sessions throughout the week.

11am

circuit board
We were taught to solder a simple circuit board in an Electrical Engineering practical session

Back to lectures for an hour. In a week, on average only 13 of your contact hours are lectures. Mechanical Engineering is a very diverse subject so expect lots of variety in your timetable. In addition to the lectures and tutorials I’ve already mentioned, you’ll have lots of practical sessions to do – for example I recently completed an Electrical Engineering lab where we learned to solder a small circuit board! This was a great experience – it was lots of fun and quite a challenge as it’s something I didn’t expect to learn as a Mechanical student. Like soldering, lots of the practical skills you’ll learn are not only relevant to the course but really useful for everyday life!

12pm

Time for lunch – an hour off to rest before the practical session on the afternoon. My favourite place to have a relaxing lunch would be the Quilliam Brothers Teahouse, just off Haymarket metro. Alternatively, I’d also recommend bringing a packed lunch, sitting outside and taking in the scenery of the campus – it looks amazing in Spring!

Tulips on campus at Newcastle University
A photo of the tulips outside of the Old Library, where you can sit outside and enjoy lunch

1pm

As an engineering student you’ll learn how to use CAD (Computer Aided Design) software to make digital models of your projects. This is a really useful skill for industry as many engineering companies require you to be comfortable using CAD and digital modelling software. Before the practical session starts, we get a short lecture about a CAD technique that we can use when we’re working on our projects.

Then, we all head to the labs in the Stephenson Building to work in groups on our projects. In first year, my group project has been to build a small turbine. This is the most ‘hands on’ part of the degree, and in my opinion the most fun. We started the year by making a turbine from recycled components, then improved our design and made another from new parts. This involved budgeting, sourcing parts and learning practical skills in the lab to assemble our turbine.

Mechanical engineering students and stage 1 wind turbine project
Two of my team members and myself with our completed turbine ready to be tested in the Stephenson Building

5pm

Time to head home – I don’t live near campus as I live at home, but thankfully there’s plenty of transport links to and from the city centre such as the Metro or the Buses. This also makes it really easy to see other parts of the North East! After a long day in lectures why not take a trip to Tynemouth Beach or Jesmond Dene to relax?

I’ve really enjoyed studying Mechanical Engineering at Newcastle, it’s been a challenge, but definitely worthwhile! I’ve learned so many practical skills that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise and made some great friends. I’ve also been lucky enough to take part in some great extra-curricular activities such as being a Street Scientist and having fun with ‘Give it a go’ activities.

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