Tag Archives: day in the life

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.

Measuring the Lake District

Every year our first year Surveying and Mapping  Sciences and GIS students take part in an eight day field trip to the Seathwaite Valley in the heart of the Lake District. In this blog post Tim Hajda tells us about his experience of it last Easter.

We arrived at Glaramara House, our hotel which served as a base for the fieldcourse, on Thursday morning after a scenic two-and-a-half hour coach ride from Newcastle.  The setting was stunning: a pastoral valley of green fields, dry stone walls and streams, surrounded by craggy fells, waterfalls and oak forests.  Our mission was to create a detailed map of the valley, so our first task was to lay the foundations by creating a network of known reference points.

Newcastle University surveying students setting up targets
Practicing setting up targets in front of the Glaramara House, our base for the fieldcourse

Shortly after arriving we donned our high-vis and waterproofs to brush up on the surveying skills we’d be using over the next eight days.  The valley is famous for being the wettest inhabited place in England, and it definitely lived up to its reputation.  After a soggy afternoon of measuring angles and levelling, we dried off and enjoyed what would be the first of many delicious dinners.

On Friday morning we enjoyed a full English breakfast before beginning our next task: establishing the primary control stations (reference points) throughout the valley.  We were divided into teams and taken by minibus to our assigned locations.  We spent the rest of the day measuring the angles and distances between points.  We would be using this data later to compute the coordinates of the stations.  The blustery weather was a challenge but we persevered.

Saturday’s assignment was to determine the height of points around the valley using spirit levelling.  Simple enough…or so we thought.  My team quickly realized that those lovely green fields were essentially giant mud pits and the stone walls an endless maze to navigate through, but it was a great feeling when we arrived at our last benchmark.  Another job finished and I’ve never been more grateful for a hot shower!

On Sunday the GIS students joined us, along with the sunshine – and we went out in teams to create secondary control networks around the valley.

Geomatic students walking in the Seathwaite Valley
Heading out into the field to design a control network.

One of my favourite aspects of the fieldcourse was working with my course mates.  It provided a great opportunity to get to know each other better.  Certain team members had particular strengths and we all worked together to complete our assigned tasks.  At the end of the exercise it was a great feeling to look at our finished maps together and be able to say, “we made this!”

I learned a lot of valuable lessons – good communication was vital, not only among team members but also with other teams to make sure everyone got the measurements they needed.  I also learned the importance of checking instrument settings before going out into the field and how important it is to book accurately and clearly with good sketches.  There are few things as frustrating as trying to decipher muddled notes after a long day in the field!

Newcastle University geomatics student surveying the Seathwaite Valley
Enjoying a sunny day of surveying in the beautiful Seathwaite Valley.

Another part of what made the fieldcourse enjoyable was the support of the staff and the surveying industry.  Throughout the trip, the staff were always ready to patiently answer questions, transport us to and from the field and give us helpful tips.  One evening, representatives from Leica Geosystems visited to present information about their company and entering the surveying industry.  It was a great opportunity to learn more about the jobs we’ll be doing after graduation.

All in all, it was a fantastic week at Glaramara and it shows what makes Newcastle University’s geomatics courses different from other universities’.  The hands-on learning approach using top-of-the-line equipment, in a beautiful setting, all with the constant support of a knowledgeable and patient staff, made it a truly fun and rewarding experience.

Find out more about our geomatics courses: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/engineering/undergraduate/geomatics/