Wilson, eNotes’ Math and Science intern, shares his experiences of creating a car from scratch and racing it in a statewide contest. Science nerds, prepare to freak out!
The day finally came. After hours and hours of testing, we were finally ready to have our miniature car compete with those of 10 other California universities, including Stanford, UC Davis, UC Berkeley, and San Jose State, at the Chem-E (Chemical Engineering) Car competition hosted over the weekend at UC San Diego.
The requirements were that this car should be relatively light, be powered by a chemical reaction of our choice, be able to have a time-dependent braking mechanism, and be able to carry a certain amount of weight (water) across a certain distance in under 2 minutes.
Our “Bruin Car” ran off of an electric motor powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, which was supplied hydrogen using a chemical reaction between hydrochloric acid and magnesium. The braking mechanism was an iodine clock reaction that would interfere with the transmittance of light onto the photoresistor in our circuit; thus, when the solution turned completely dark, the photoresistor’s resistance would increase, causing the current to drop and cut off the source of electricity to our electric motor.
The length of the magnesium would be our primary determining factor of how far the Bruin Car travels, so for 4 hours a week and for 10 weeks (in addition to perfecting the iodine clock reaction) we would perform test runs on varying lengths of magnesium to acquire data for the day of the competition, as the distance that the judges would want our car to travel was unknown to us until the day of.
The trip there was very exciting; a good break from all the stress in the average college student’s life. The drive from UCLA to UC San Diego took roughly two hours, but it went by extremely quick. We were all having such a good time talking and goofing around in the van that time just flew by. (We also decided to stop by Phil’s BBQ in San Diego for a quick lunch break. If you ever get the chance, try it out! Their food is amazing!)
We arrived at the engineering schools of UCSD at around 3:00PM. The first thing we noticed was that their engineering buildings are so much nicer than ours. The engineering building at UCLA seems to be one of the older buildings on campus that needed serious reconstruction while those at UCSD appeared to be the nicest buildings on campus. We were most amazed with one particular artistic object they had known as the, “Fallen Star.” It is a small house positioned off the ledge of one of their engineering buildings. This was quite an incredible sight.
The rest of the day consisted of checking in, registering our Bruin Car, participating in the poster competition (where other engineers and students would be able to read about the design and mechanism of your car), preparing all the chemicals that were needed for the competition the next day, and playing beach football. Then we all went out for a late-night meal before checking in at a Howard Johnson hotel a few miles off of campus.
We all woke up the next morning after 4 hours of sleep to try out the dining hall food of UCSD and see how it compared with those of our own. Although the variety was definitely different and provided a fresh perspective, the taste exceeds that at UCLA’s dining halls.
Judgment day was finally here. The judges had decided to hold the competition right outside one of the engineering buildings, where there was a pretty steep, downward slope. The finish line was 50 feet away from the starting point. To test both the acceleration and deceleration of the car, we would have to try to get the car to stop as close to the finish line as possible in the shortest amount of time.
Due to the limited space and the amount of competitors there were, the schools were divided into groups of three. When it started, the cheers from each school, in support of their car, were deafening. Out of the first group that went, only Cal Poly Pamona did very well. They were within 3 feet of the finish line, while the others had trouble just getting started or managing to stop at the finish line. The next group went with the same success rate as the first; only one car was able to successfully get close to the finish line.
Finally, our group was up. The UCLA 8-clap cheer rang out. A 25cm-strand magnesium was dropped into the hydrochloric acid. The circuit was turned on and………… our car blew 10 feet past the finish line. We had no idea that the slope had that much effect on our momentum. It also didn’t help that our wheels lacked sufficient traction. Fortunately, each car is allowed two attempts. Unfortunately though, we had no data on how far a strand of magnesium shorter than 20cm would take us, and we definitely needed something shorter if we wanted the car to stop near the finish line. We were basically shooting in the dark after that. We decided to try 18cm. The magnesium was dropped. The 8-clap began again. We all crossed our fingers and watched as the car strolled about 8 feet past the finish line.
Unfortunately, we didn’t place. Cal Poly Pamona got 1st. San Jose State got 2nd. UC Berkeley got 3rd.
Although we were all a tad disappointed, overall this was a very good and fun experience. We got to see the beautiful engineering buildings at UCSD. We got to try the delicious food at Phil’s BBQ. We networked with the students at other schools. We bonded with one another in the van and at the beach. It was definitely a weekend well spent. Now, we are back in the lab, preparing for next year because this time, we will be much better prepared. We will be claiming first. Let’s go Bruins!
Success: “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose” (Merriam-Webster). Success is what every person should strive to reach every day. It is the backbone and motivator for all of our wants and needs. Achieving success in college requires hard work and a little bit of knowledge about how to beat the system. The university system differs from high school in a plethora of ways. You don’t have the same classes every day, there are up to 500 students in your classes, there is no mandatory attendance, and your grade can be based on your performance on one or two tests. If you just graduated from high school and are about to begin college, or are already in college and have a newfound resolve for success, read on to discover how to be successful at a large university.
1. Define your success. What are you looking to get out of college? Is this just the next step in your educational journey? Do you plan on using it as a stepping stone to a particular job or graduate program? Do you just want to have fun? Knowing what you want to get out of college before you begin is important. Perhaps you want to make a difference on campus and run for a position on student government. If you want a strong sense of fulfillment, giving back to the community and volunteering can get you there. I was recruited at UCLA to play baseball, so my goal was to be as successful as I could in the classroom and on the field.
2. Plan. Where are you going after college? This can have a tremendous impact on your collegiate educational journey. If you plan on attending some form of post-undergraduate education, you will need to get top marks in order to be accepted into a quality program. If you have a specific job or career path in mind, apply to a major that will help get you there. If you aren’t sure what you want to do, sample a wide variety of electives and general education classes. Communications and English degrees are highly valuable degrees that appeal to employers because they accentuate your written and verbal skills. I had no idea what I wanted to do after college, so after my freshman year I applied as a communication studies major because of the fascinating classes and competitiveness of the program.
3. Do your research. Think of the phrase, “work smart, not hard.” Although you will probably have to do both. Find classes that interest you. Read the course descriptions from your school’s registrar. Talk to other students and use websites such as ratemyprofessors.com to discover what your potential professors are like. If a high GPA is more important to you, sign up for the easy classes. I always tried to find manageable classes that had stimulating enough subject material to keep me wanting more.
4. Show up. No, attendance is not mandatory at large universities. You will have huge classes in a giant auditorium and the professor and TA’s will never know if you don’t show up. But if you care about getting something out of your education and earning a good grade, then spending the couple hours per week in that class is the best way to learn. It gets you outside and in contact with your friends as well. Don’t rely on Powerpoints or Podcasts from home. You’re likely to procrastinate on reviewing them, and they aren’t as affective. It’s also important to know the classes that you must show up for, and recognize those that you can skip every once in a while when necessary.
5. Make a good first impression. Be aware of the power of first impressions, and realize that your first interaction with a professor or TA can be impactful in the lasting conclusions they draw about you. Although professors try to grade tests and assignments “objectively”, there is no doubt that at least sometimes they give preferential treatment to students they like. Could you really blame them if they were stricter on a student who was constantly late, didn’t participate, and didn’t pay attention? So dress nicely, sit in the front of class, participate during discussion, know what you’re talking about, and perhaps even visit their office hours to talk about the class and their research. People like to talk about themselves.
6. Focus. Don’t go to lecture just to go to lecture. If you’re going to sleep, talk to friends on Facebook, or play internet games, just stay at home. You won’t get anything out of class, and you won’t do as well at playing Bloons Tower Defense (my favorite game to play in class) or whatever you’re doing. When class is over, go home and review your notes for ten minutes. The material will be fresh on your mind, and looking it over again will solidify your understanding of important concepts. I always viewed this as time spent studying for midterms and finals way in advance. If you spent ten minutes reviewing your notes twice a week for ten weeks, you have already studied over three hours for your final, and probably only need to study two or three more hours to be adequately prepared. This step is the key to academic achievement.
7. Get the easy credit. Know the grading rubric for each of your classes. If attendance is 10% of your grade, you better show up and get all of that 10%. If easy homework assignments make up any portion of your grade, be organized enough to turn in every one. Lose points on the hard stuff…midterms, finals, and papers.
8. Utilize your TA’s for the hard stuff. A Teaching Assistant’s primary concern is the academic research he or she is pursuing as a Masters or Ph.D. student. However, most of them are open to help their students outside of discussion sections, as long as you are respectful of their time. For ALL assigned essays, check your topic and thesis with the TA! This guarantees that you will at least get a B- on the assignment. As long as you are writing about something that is important, on topic, or interesting and you have an argument that is important, on topic, or interesting then your paper will be at least decent no matter what you write for your supporting details and commentary. This requires intense periods of deep thinking, but ensures a good start.
9. Build relationships. If you are worried about academic anonymity, make an effort to expose yourself to your professors. Go to office hours, participate in class, and offer to volunteer in assisting with their research. Professors at research universities were hired for one reason: to conduct experiments under the name of that institution. Any help you give your professors is likely to be reciprocated, whether in the form of a good grade in that class or as a valuable reference down the road.
10. Be comfortable outside of class. College can be stressful. It’s easy to get tied up in all of your homework and independence. A healthy social life and saving some time to unwind with friends takes the load off and helps you acclamate to your new environment. Working out and staying physically fit can increase your self-confidence and enhance your mood to keep you happy :)
College and high school seniors, graduation day is almost upon us! What a happy and exciting time. But lurking behind that eagerness to rush out into the world is that old nagging reminder—it says, “You need a job. Like, yesterday.” But how to make that happen? Turns out our editorial intern Matt is going through the exact same steps as you…
How To Land a Job in 12 Easy Steps
Getting a job or pursuing your dreams in a career field is often the talk of many people who are looking towards their future. As a senior in college, so much of the conversation amongst classmates is about what everyone is going to do once they graduate. These students are beginning to put their future into focus and consider what they want to do for the rest of their life. There’s a lot of pressure that accompanies this. How is a 22 year old supposed to know exactly what they want to end up doing for work? The problem with so many people’s approach is that it is results-oriented rather than process-driven. Everyone often focuses on the result of landing that job or working in their desired industry rather than breaking it down and taking the appropriate initial steps to naturally get there.
Preparing for job interviews is a productive first step in advancing a career. Most jobs in today’s world require applicants to interview for the position. This can be daunting to many people, particularly those who are more introverted. Following these twelve easy steps will ensure you dominate that interview and land that job that will begin your journey in the professional world.
1. Use your resources. “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” If your friend’s dad has your dream job, don’t be afraid to reach out to him and talk about your future. Most adults are open to helping out young and upcoming graduates. Simply talking or getting lunch with people can vastly expand your network and professional options.
2. Do your research. Once you have an interview set up, do a little bit of investigative work on the company and the position you’re applying for. You may not know exactly what you’re getting into, but having an idea can help you better prepare for the interview (if you have no idea what you’re applying for, you’re probably wasting your time). Also, review who you’ve been in contact with and their names and positions, and those of the interviewers as well if you know who they will be.
3. Get your mind going. This is particularly important if you’re interviewing in the morning (and even more important if you’re not a morning person). Review your resume and some key points that you want to mention during the interview. I like to pull out my Rubix cube for a couple minutes to get my improvisational side going. Watching the news can provide topics to discuss if your conversation goes beyond just your employment.
4. Dress for success. If the person you’re in contact with didn’t tell you what to wear, it’s not a bad thing to ask. You should be at least as formal as the people you’re interviewing with, and probably one step more formal. Numerous studies have been published that have found that people are perceived as more competent and knowledgeable when dressed in more formal attire. Dressing up also makes you feel better about yourself and increases your confidence.
5. Be early. Even earlier than you think. Take into account your walk to the car, traffic, finding the correct building, parking, and walking to the correct room. Stressing yourself out and raising your heart rate before your interview won’t help your nerves or confidence. You want to be slow and steady.
6. Be respectful to everyone you encounter. This is a great rule of thumb to live by, but pay particular attention to this on your interviewing day. Treat everyone with respect from the parking attendant to the secretary at the front desk to the CEO. You never know who is watching and might recommend you to your employer. Leaving everyone with a positive impression feels good intrinsically too, and is reflected in your optimistic attitude.
7. Be yourself. People can see through fakes. If you act naturally, you will feel more confident and less tense. If you are yourself and it didn’t work out with that company, then it wasn’t a good fit and things probably wouldn’t have worked out well in the long run. With this being said, don’t be afraid to do a little bragging. Be tactful about it, but essentially you want to sell yourself and your past to your interviewers and what you have to offer in the future.
8. Display confident body language. There are many factors that people take into account during encounters, both consciously and unconsciously. Your attire, facial hair, make-up, and body language are all things that are not said, but can have just as big of an impact on another’s impression of you. Hold your head high, take your hands out of your pockets, lean forward when listening, and use your hands when speaking. These things will make you more likable and engaging. Beware of the “steeple”, however. It can make you seem arrogant or haughty. If you’ve ever seen the show “Shark Tank” and observed Kevin O’Leary, then you’ll know what I’m talking about.
9. Differentiate yourself. There are likely other candidates interviewing for the same position. How are you going to set yourself apart from them? You want to appeal to the interviewer in a way that will help them remember you and think you are the best fit for the job. For example, you might mention you speak another language, have lived in another country, or have had a previous job where you learned something valuable.
10. Ask questions. Paraphrasing and asking relevant questions throughout the interview reflects that you understand what’s being said and are interested. Most of the time there will be a point when your interviewers ask if you have any general questions. Ask any pending questions you have about the position, but also ask questions about the interviewers. People love to talk about themselves. This is an opportunity for you to listen to the backgrounds of professionals and their career paths, while also seeming curious and engaging to them.
11. Thank the interviewers. Show appreciation that you were invited to come speak with them and tell them one thing you were surprised or happy with about the company or position. This will leave them with a positive last impression of you as you walk out the door. But before you do that, shake their hands. Body contact is a strong connector that has been proven to facilitate cooperation among humans dating back to the ancestral times.
12. Follow up with an email. A thank you email a couple days after your interview puts you back in the company’s mind and shows you are still interested in the position.