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College of Engineering

What makes Rowan’s COE tick?

February 28, 2011

Engineering is an art. Sure, we have plenty of equations and theories to help us out, but deep down, we engineering students are quirky, creative people with very diverse passions. On any given day in Rowan Hall, our professors see us dashing off from thermodynamics and electromagnetics courses for rehearsals, games, competitions, you name it. So, what do some of us engineering students do with our free time?

Well, since I’ve been at Rowan, I’ve met engineering students who are intramural street hockey champions, EMS heroes, video game junkies, chess monsters, photography experts, varsity athletes, mechanic geniuses, snowboarding masters, and, of course, top-notch students. Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything we engineers don’t do. And don’t get me started on our professors. From Shakespeare gurus to basketball fiends, our professors cover all of the bases.

So, when you think of engineering as a constructive art, Rowan’s COE is lucky to be home to so many students bringing such diverse life experiences to the drafting table. After all, the quality of what we design, from the definition the problem being solved to the final product’s sustainability, is influenced by our experiences, interests, and passions.

Brighid Burgin

Rowan’s “Amazing Race”

February 7, 2011

Boston, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., La Ceiba, El Salvador, Orlando, Florida, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois and in a few weeks, Binghamton, New York and Portland, Maine.

I like to travel. More importantly, I like to travel with friends. And that’s exactly what we do in the College of Engineering.

Here at Rowan, engineering professional societies groom notorious jetsetters. At international and regional conferences, Rowan engineering students and professors present our cutting-edge inventions, research, and teaching methods to the world. These conferences and meetings are designed to help us stay current on the latest advances in core and emerging fields of engineering. The breath of these fields range from bioengineering and nanotechnology to process safety and robotics, and includes many topical conferences covering science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). In addition, Rowan students have traveled for concrete canoe and steel bridge competitions as well as Mini-baja races – not that you’d ever catch me behind the wheel of a “Fast and Furious” desert dart careening across the sand!

So, long story short, if you’ve ever wanted to travel, Rowan’s your rolling stone. You never know, but you might just catch the travel bug.

Brighid Burgin

Sun-baked and blistered

January 21, 2011

Sun-baked and blistered, I’m thankful for toilet paper, plumbing, and Ben & Jerry’s. More importantly, I’m thankful to be home, where clean water in just a faucet away and parasites aren’t even a blip on my radar.

This winter break, I spent ten days building biosand filters in La Ceiba, El Salvador (my second visit to this beautiful nation), working on our Engineers Without Borders (EWB) clean water project. Currently, the residents of La Ceiba drink water collected from shallow, hand dug, household wells and a local river. All of the community’s water sources are contaminated with harmful bacteria, leaving community members to suffer chronic illnesses associated with drinking unclean water. Over the 5 year period between 2002 and 2007, the community reported 34 children died as a result of drinking unclean water.

La Ceiba is a beautiful town of dirt roads and brick homes. Brimming with charity and happiness, the residents of La Ceiba warmly welcome us into every home. La Ceiba is, without a doubt, a community thankful for the blessing of clean water.

Our EWB clean water project in La Ceiba is just one example of how Rowan students bring sustainable engineering solutions to communities around the world. Rowan EWB hosts projects in El Salvador, The Gambia, and throughout South Jersey, empowering communities to achieve a higher quality of life. We are thankful for the opportunity to share ourselves with the people of La Ceiba. We are thankful for the College of Engineering’s continuous encouragement to design and implement sustainable engineering solutions to real life problems. And above all else, we are thankful that each year our organization welcomes bright young engineers into our international family, ensuring the success of the hands-on, multilingual engineering experiences that have changed our lives forever.

Brighid Burgin

Let’s talk turkey…

December 5, 2010

Nothing is better than a hands-on learning experience… except a hands-on engineering learning experience involving a home cooked Thanksgiving feast!

So please, allow me to talk some turkey and debunk two common engineering myths in one shot – yes, engineers do have fun and, yes, engineers do eat! Granted, sometimes we do spend long, frustrating hours in Rowan Hall and sometimes we do scrounge for food when tempting treats are left over from an event held in the Atrium, but I promise that on at least one day of the year we feast in honor of our success as engineers!

Long story short, each year the Chemical Engineering Department conducts a Thanksgiving lab where we look at the heat transfer of a turkey. We also check out the differences in heat transfer of a boiling potato, a potato baking in a natural convection oven, and a potato baking in a forced convection oven. All in all, we follow up what we’ve been learning during the semester with a delicious experiment. Oh, and if anyone has a heat transfer test involving stuffing, you know where to find us.

And yes, we all chow down together in the student study lounge.

Brighid Burgin

Bacteria under a microscope

November 22, 2010

Let’s be honest, interviews make us squirm just like bacteria under a microscope, especially at the end of the interview when we’re asked if we have any questions for the interviewer. So how can we avoid that sinking feeling in our stomachs as we scramble for questions to ask a potential employer? By preparing a few questions ahead of time! For example, we can ask…

What is a typical career path for an engineer in your company?

How is a career with your company better than with your competition?

What do you enjoy most about your job and working for this company?

Is your company involved in the community surrounding your operations? How so?

Is your company environmentally conscious? How so?

Does your company encourage further education, help pay for, or allow flexible work schedules to accommodate those continuing their education or have family commitments?

What are some of the qualities and skills you are looking for in the perfect candidate?

What are some of the assignments I can expect?

Are assignments team-oriented, hands-on learning opportunities?

What characteristics do successful employees in this company share?

Finally, if you really want to be bold, you can always include, “Show me the money!” but I wouldn’t recommend it. Well, at least not on the first interview.

Brighid Burgin

Workshops, career fairs, and travel, oh my!

October 30, 2010

Trust me, packing is a lot less painful when you’re prepping for an awesome trip. Can you think of a more exciting travel destination than Orlando, Florida, home of Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and to my delight, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) National Conference 2010? In a nut shell, WE10 is the largest gathering of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. During the first weekend in November, seven other Rowan engineers and I will be hopping on a plane and flying off to Orlando for this exhilarating event.

Adding to the already high energy of the conference, this event offers unparalleled opportunities for inspiration. Throughout the conference, like at other professional engineering conferences held throughout the country, students and professionals will experience numerous unique career-shaping opportunities. From career fairs including representatives from the nation’s top ten engineering companies to workshops detailing everything from balancing life and career to how to prepare for graduate studies, this year’s SWE National Conference promises to be an electrifying event.

Besides, I might even make it over to Harry Potter World!

Brighid Burgin

This one time…

October 16, 2010

This one time, at Rowan, I rode a dinosaur. Pretty cool, huh?

I think it’s safe to assume that if you’re considering engineering at Rowan, you’ve probably heard of the South Jersey Technology Park (SJTP). Conveniently located off of Route 55, Rowan’s SJTP brings together promising entrepreneurs, technology business leaders, and cutting-edge researchers in one innovative, not to mention beautiful, environment. So, it’s no surprise that this little lady and a few of her friends from Engineers Without Borders (EWB) jumped at the opportunity for a meet and greet at the SJTP’s after presenting our work in El Salvador and Africa to the American Society of Civil Engineers this past spring.

So, long story short, after detailing our travels and demolishing our dinners, our little EWB gang wandered over to the CAVE. Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, Rowan recently acquired the Cave Automated Virtual Environment (CAVE), an immersive, interactive, and navigable virtual reality room. Adequately describing the technology supporting the CAVE is a task I just can’t accomplish, but from my experiences with the CAVE, I know it as a room with screens on three walls and the floor that somehow uses mirrors, projectors, and 3D glasses to simulate a three-dimensional reality.

Of course, the CAVE is constantly updated to simulate different realities, but being your typical science fiction junkie, I choose to experience the virtual reality world of the dinosaurs. And so, during my adventures Rowan, I rode a dinosaur.

My final conclusion: dinosaurs are awesome. And, of course, so is the CAVE.

Brighid Burgin

Exam Prep

September 28, 2010

“Never show up to an exam without a calculator, and make sure the doggone thing works.”

With our first exam coming up on Friday, this was clearly an appropriate statement for my professor to make in class this morning. Was it the best recommendation I’ve ever heard on how to survive engineering exams? Probably not. Was it the funniest? You bet!

With the first round of exams creeping up on us unsuspecting engineering students, I’ve tried to put together some helpful tips on acing engineering exams.

  1. Remember your calculator and make sure your calculator has fresh batteries. It’s even a good idea to bring extra batteries to the exam. You won’t regret being prepared.
  2. While engineering paper might not be necessary, nearly all engineering professors require exams be completed in pencil. Also, take spare pencils just in case.
  3. Most professors provide solutions to all homework problems, quizzes, etc., either on BlackBoard or via email. Before the exam, make sure to review the official solutions, and if the exam is open note, make sure you bring all solutions with you. These solutions are well worth a review, as they are a sound engineering resource beyond your textbook and notes. They can give you an idea of exactly what the professor is looking for in terms of a well-presented problem solution.
  4. Leave early for exams, allowing for potential hold-ups or traffic jams that may make you late to your exam. It’s never fun beginning an exam in a frantic rush or with the clock well on its way to expiring.
  5. It may sound silly, but don’t forget to read the instructions and make sure you know exactly what the problem is asking you to do. You don’t want to waste time solving for a value you don’t need or using incorrect values.
  6. Engineering exams are not a test of memorization, so cramming the night before won’t work. Exams are designed to test your knowledge of engineering principles and your effort throughout the course. Don’t worry too much about calculator errors as your professor would rather see a clear, logical solution than a correct numerical value without any assumptions, general equations, or problem sketches.
  7. Most importantly, get a good night’s sleep the night before any exams! Your brain, body and GPA will thank you for it.

Brighid Burgin

College of Engineering Culture

September 18, 2010

Like every social establishment, the College of Engineering has its own culture. Eventually, the ins and outs of that culture are second nature to any engineering student. But, for new students, knocking on a professor’s door might seem intimidating and staking out a semi-permanent claim in the Rowan Hall computer lab may seem a tremendous feat.

So, here are my 10 simple rules to quickly embracing the Rowan engineering culture:

  1. Know when people are selling food in the Rowan Hall atrium. You’ll get awfully hungry if you attempt to spend 10 hours without eating. But, if you time things right, you can score some grub by taking advantage of the various engineering organizations that fundraise by selling bagels, pizza, baked goods, pulled pork sandwiches, and everything else you can think of to, you guessed it, other starving engineers.
  2. Get involved with engineering organizations. Whether it be your discipline-specific organization (ASME, AIChE, IEEE, ASCE, or NJWEA) or a more general organization (SWE, EWB, or Tau Beta Pi), this is a perfect opportunity to meet upperclassman and spend some time with professors. Plus, these organizations host great events and participate in exciting competitions!
  3. Try your hand at research as early as possible. You might not freshman, but professors are always looking for bright new students to get involved. Even as a freshman you can land a pretty sweet research job, so keep your ears open!
  4. Visit professors during office hours. Whether you need a bit more explanation on a concept from the day’s lecture or you’re struggling with a homework problem, put together a few good questions and go visit your professor. They’ll not only help you better understand the topic, they’ll be impressed by your motivation!
  5. Organize a study group. Homework is always easier with friends. As long as you can concentrate and won’t get distracted, working through practice problems together reinforces understanding and offers new problem-solving perspectives.
  6. Attend presentations by guest lecturers. The departments within the College of Engineering often have guest presenters discuss new technology, career experiences, etc. Check them out!
  7. Travel, travel, travel. If you have the opportunity to attend a conference, visit a local manufacturing site, or experience another university through study abroad, take it. You might need to juggle your schedule and plan ahead, but I promise, travel is always worth the effort, especially with the networking opportunities you’ll have throughout your trip.
  8. Give honest feedback. If you think a certain textbook might not be the best available or a course didn’t include enough hands-on experience, let the department know through the evaluations at the end of each semester. Your professors will appreciate your input, and the engineers coming up behind you will be very grateful.
  9. Don’t let challenges get you down. I know I’ve had some times when I felt so overwhelmed, I wondered if I was really cut out for engineering. If you never have this experience, great! But if you do ever need some encouragement, look for support from your friends in study groups and engineering organizations. I promise, someone will be able to work through that problem with you. We’re your family, remember? That’s what we’re here for.
  10. Give back. Whether you volunteer to introduce local elementary school students to science, engineering, technology, and math, you give a tour to a prospective student, or you sit on a question & answer panel during an open house, share your experiences with others. I’ll never forget when Brandon invited me to join his project group in Math for Engineering Analysis I because I don’t know anyone else in the class. Be that friend for someone else. Who knows, you might even end up being blog buddies!

Brighid Burgin

“Engineers can’t blog.”

September 5, 2010

“Engineers can’t blog.”

Alright, so no one’s actually ever told me that, but when I was approached to blog for Rowan’s College of Engineering, I immediately thought of the steadfast stereotype that engineers can’t write. Of course, this must be because we’re calculator-toting, acid/base titrating brainiacs, right?

Not on Rowan’s watch!

Seriously, though, what’s the point of having some chemE student blog about her life as an aspiring engineer? Hopefully, over the course of my “journalism” experience, I’ll give you a glimpse into the energizing, not to mention ever-evolving, engineering experience at Rowan University. I’ll sneak you into lectures, whisk you off to conferences, romance you into research, and introduce you to the family.

After all, that’s our goal – to one day welcome you into the Rowan University College of Engineering family.

Brighid Burgin