BY ALEX RIESE
In today’s world, we are all in debt to engineers. They are the innovators who design the smartphones of today and shape the future of technology. And thanks to Conestoga College’s second annual National Engineering Month (NEM) event held on March 24, the engineers of the future got the recognition they deserve.
The event, hosted by the Conestoga student branch of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), was a collection of interactive exhibits that showcased the prominent role of engineering in modern society and the opportunities available to engineering students at the college level. It featured several exhibits, including a Raspberry Pi computer designed and built by engineering students at Conestoga, a hexapod robot, a flying fish robot and an interactive button-making station. All of these exhibits gave participants a taste of what Conestoga’s engineering programs have to offer.
NEM was sponsored by the Ontario Association of Civil Engineering Technology and Technologists (OACETT). It is a self-governing, non-profit organization that manages the certification of new civil engineering technologists (C.E.T.). The representative present at NEM was Larry Black, a project manager at ACL Steel and an associate member of OACETT. A graduate of Cambrian College’s C.E.T. program, Black deems it crucial that students understand the opportunities available to them in college-level engineering programs.
“University isn’t for everybody. In the past, there’s been a big push for people to go to university,” he said. “But there are opportunities at both levels, and we believe the college level offers a more hands-on approach that allows students to build computers and robotics.”
One of the most captivating attractions at NEM was the hexapod robot made by engineering students Tarek Rahim and Roger Bongers. Built from an open-source template and controlled via a PS4 controller, the robot can be used in scenarios ranging from surveillance of inhospitable areas to diffusion of bombs and landmines when it may be too dangerous for humans to handle the situation. According to Rahim, he and Bongers built the robot in their spare time to impress a local robotics company.
“It was actually just to get us a co-op position,” he said. “We did this on our side time with the expectation that one of the founders of Clearpath Robotics would see it, and he was very impressed.”
A career path in engineering may not be for everybody. Those who choose the career must be prepared for problems developing in every area of a project, and they must learn to stay calm in the face of failure. But, according to Rahim, if done right, engineering can be a massively rewarding career.
“It’s a great career to get into,” he said. “Before coming to Conestoga I pursued a biology degree, but it wasn’t really beneficial because I didn’t have access to a million-dollar lab to do research. Now, with the practical education I’ve gotten at Conestoga, I can build really cool stuff at home on a budget,” he said.