My name is James, and I’m a fourth year Chemical Engineering student here at UNSW. It’s kind of hard to imagine that this time next year, I’ll be an actual engineer. I want to take this chance to reflect on my years in university, and share how getting involved in societies and projects have had a huge impact on my student experience.
One big part of my university life at UNSW has been the student societies. I started out in Save the Children UNSW as a marketing subcommittee member and then moved onto EngSoc, and after rising through the ranks I became the Vice President of Marketing. When I started, I thought that being part of a society would offer good experiencesbut I learnt that you create good experiences for yourself, and great society events are just a consequence of that. I think my favourite initiative was creating Enoch the Engineering Echidna and watching people fall in love with such a quirky character.
I was also part of the humanitarian engineering student project; Rice Cycle and their generator team, whose goal was to design and prototype a gasifier generator converting agricultural waste into electricity for farms in Uganda. I remember one time I had designed and 3D printed a piece to connect a pipe and valve. But when I tested it, the piece got stuck in the valve and I couldn’t get it out. My first instinct was to smash the plastic and print another one, but I thought back to something I learnt in thermodynamics. I put the metal valve in the freezer because I thought the cold temperature would’ve shrunk the metal teeth enough for the plastic to unscrew. To my surprise, it worked! You never know when the theory you learn will become practical. But honestly, I was just glad I didn’t have to wait 2 hours to 3D print another piece.
A key highlight and one of the best feelings I’ve had as a student, was winning the ARUP Sustainability Case Competition. A group of my friends and myself worked on the challenge to develop a sustainability initiative targeting 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations. We came up with the idea of self-sufficient colleges accommodation, consisting of green building envelopes to reduce heat ventilation and air conditioning costs, grey water reclamation to support the building and a system of hydroponics for the plant walls, as well as a solar roof and energy storage system between buildings. I remember jumping on a call with my group, and when we found out we had won, I turned up some music and pumped my fists in the air. I had not felt that excited in a long time.
I am forever grateful to everyone who ever took a chance on me to be apart of society, project or case-comp, and I am sad to see the end of my university career coming up. I will miss student life, but I will leave it knowing I made the most out of the time I had at university. It’s crazy to think in the near future, I’ll be wearing real clothes instead of rocking up to class in thongs.