Catarina Rodriguez chose to study mechanical engineering because “it is the most involved in terms of design and very hands-on. “

“I love going from the idea stage through to physical design and testing.”

Catarina Rodriguez

Year: 4th year

Why did you want to study engineering?

I’ve always loved coming up with ideas and then designing and making things – whether that’s sewing something or doing projects in shop and woodworking. In high school I got involved in competitive robotics, which made me consider mechanical engineering because it is the most involved in terms of design and very hands-on. I love going from the idea stage through to physical design and testing.

UBCO Mechanical Engineering

Why did you choose UBC?

I received a Beedie Luminaries scholarship, which covers tuition at a BC university. I am from the Lower Mainland so moving to Kelowna to go to UBC Okanagan represented a new adventure.   

Beedie Luminaries Scholarship UBC Okanagan

Was engineering what you thought it would be?

I am the first in my family to go to university and didn’t have a clear picture of what was involved. It’s been very positive and there’s a real camaraderie with the other students.

I just loved working on a SolidWorks design project in first year where my group designed an engine transmission suspension system. I am not even into cars, but it was just a super fun project.

This year, in one of my biomedical engineering courses, I was part of a team designing a low-tech wearable device for adults with dementia. We called it a memory sleeve, and it included various modular components that provide the wearer with personalized memory cues about where they live or important contacts. It was very meaningful to take everything we’ve learned to design and create this device, and to optimize it based on feedback from community partners.

 

What skills have you developed as an engineer?

You learn how to think and how to build up your knowledge so that when you go into a new experience – like a co-op position, for example – where you’re being asked to do something you’ve never done before, you know how to think methodically and apply your knowledge. You also learn how to grow your knowledge on your own, which is a useful skill in all areas of life!.

 

Tell us about your research work.

I received an NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA) in the summer of 2021, working with Dr. Vicki Komisar to understand the forces that people apply to handrails with they fall. I presented my research at two conferences. This work then led into some biomechanics research I’ve been doing part-time since January 2022 to conduct a systematic review of the effectiveness of different mobility aids, like grab rails. It’s a huge project and I am learning a lot. (Read more about Catarina’s research project)

NSERC USRA Catarina's Research Project

What are you doing for your current co-op term?

For one project, we had to propose the location for Vancouver’s next protected bike lane. The project was not what I had thought of as a traditional engineering assignment, so it exposed us to some of the lesser-known work that engineers do. We learned to understand and balance the viewpoints of multiple stakeholders affected by the location, consider how the bike lane integrates with public transit, and then plan out the construction phase and how that works with current traffic flow.

Another project I enjoyed was designing a simple rainwater harvesting system for a remote community in BC. We got into the nitty-gritty of various filtering components and there were a lot of physics equations involved!

Where do you see yourself going from here? How will you use your engineering degree?

The biggest skill I’ve acquired is the ability to pick up new information quickly and effectively. I have not found myself with a lot of free time (there are only 24 hours in a day, and I try to sleep for at least eight of them), which has forced me to make the most of my time through organized scheduling and efficient work.

Any advice for other students?

I was torn in high school when choosing a program as I really enjoy arts and humanities as well as sciences and math. But I have the desire and aptitude to be an engineer and thought I would give it a try. Also, keep in mind that if you get in and don’t like it, it’s much easier to switch out of engineering than into it. Set your goals high! Hard work pays off, and even if you don’t get into your top choice, everything will ultimately work out. 

Two UBC mechanical engineering students prepare for the autonomous landing platform competition.

Mechanical Engineering

As a student in UBC’s Mechanical Engineering stream, you’ll begin by mastering the fundamentals, building a knowledge base in solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, dynamics, thermodynamics, vibrations, heat transfer, controls and design.As a student in UBC’s Mechanical Engineering stream, you’ll begin by mastering the fundamentals, building a knowledge base in solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, dynamics, thermodynamics, vibrations, heat transfer, controls and design.

Mechanical Engineering

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