An Educational Journey From Art To Engineering

"Engineers work collaboratively. When you’re on different projects you see how different people have different approaches."

Alex Rybka

Alexandra Rybka

Unlike many students, you didn’t go to university right after high school. Tell us about how you found your way to engineering. 

Growing up I was interested in art, math and science. So after high school, I did a year of college, focusing on fine art. I worked in Banff National Park for a few years and then decided that I wanted to pursue a degree in engineering. A few friends from high school had gone through different programs, and while they told me the courses were hard, they all were really happy with their decision to pursue engineering. 

I returned to Toronto to upgrade my credits and gain the course requirements I needed to apply to engineering. 

What I liked about engineering was that you didn’t need to get additional degrees or education after graduating, and you could begin working right away. 

It also seemed to me that there were so many interesting opportunities in engineering in terms of what you could do with the degree.

Skills you need to succeed as an engineer

How did you decide on UBC?

I knew I liked being around mountains from living in Banff, so I decided to try for UBC. Unlike other schools that only asked you to report on your grades in your application, UBC asked for a personal profile, which I really appreciated. UBC Okanagan also appealed to me because of its physical location, lower cost of living and smaller cohort.

UBC Okanagan

Student centred learning at UBCO

How did you choose Manufacturing Engineering? 

When it was time to choose a specialty, I was leaning towards mechanical. 

However, I attended an information session for the manufacturing program and was very inspired by one of the profs. 

On the Okanagan campus, manufacturing engineering is the closest program option to mechatronics. That’s what sold me on the program, because while I was enjoying the mechanical courses, I was also interested in the computer science and electrical courses. Manufacturing engineering brings it all together. 

Manufacturing engineering

What are some of the highlights of your university education so far?

I really enjoyed a first year course that focuses on SolidWorks. The professor was so enthusiastic and we had a lot of leeway about what we wanted to design. 

My team of about five students put together an F1 car that had something like 3,000 parts. It was a great project.Another project I enjoyed was in an electromechanical course where we built a three-phase generator that we hooked up to a power drill. 

What made this project satisfying was being able to apply the fundamental concepts we’d been learning in our courses to a tangible real-world application.

Questions about engineering

Tell us about your involvement with OK Motorsports.

OK Motorsports is UBC Okanagan’s Formula racing team. We build builds cars and compete in an annual competition in Michigan hosted by the Society of Automotive Engineers and attended by representatives from all the major automotive and tech companies, from Tesla and Ford to SpaceX. 

Our team designs and builds small-scale Formula-style race cars. In my first year, we were using designs from prior years to build the car. Going to the competition was new for all of us. 

It was a great learning experience and we received valuable feedback from industry professionals that we incorporated into our design for the next year – when we placed fourth in Canada and 36th overall. 

It's very expensive to enter the competition, so this past year has focused on sponsorship and funding as we prep for 2025.

It’s been a lot of work, but when you get to the competition and see the cars you’re racing against, it just makes it all worthwhile. 

Being part of a design team is also a valuable experience because you are building up your expertise and project experience – and that can help you stand out when you are applying for jobs. 

OK Motorsports

Why engineering is a versatile and future-proof degree

Any work experiences you’d like to share?

I’ve done two eight-month positions with two different companies. The first was with Enermax Mountain Manufacturing, which specializes in manufacturing heat exchangers and pressure vessels. 

I found my last position, with Multimatic, through connections and networks I made in OK Motorsports. 

Over the eight months, I worked on various sports cars for specific research and development project. 

I had support and guidance, but I also got to explore and figure things out, which I really enjoyed. While I was there, the company sent me to the UK for two weeks to tour their manufacturing plant and see the programs they are running there. 

This was an incredible opportunity to experience first hand the difference between the industry in North America and Europe. 

Enermax Mountain Manufacturing  Multimatic

Why Co-op? Launch Your Career While Still A Student

Do you have any advice for engineering students?

I think realizing how many resources you have at your disposal to find the information you need is really important! 

That could be going to office hours to ask questions or working with your classmates. Asking for help when you are struggling can also make a big difference in helping you get back on track.

Engineers work collaboratively. When you’re on different projects you see how different people have different approaches. 

In the end, you are all working towards the same goal, and you need to develop the skills so you can work cohesively and effectively as a team. 

Finally, work experiences are wonderful for expanding your skills and knowledge and figuring out what different workplaces are like and where you might like to pursue your career. 

UBC manufacturing engineering students

Manufacturing Engineering

Students in the Manufacturing program will gain broad exposure to foundational engineering disciplines, and training across a range of major manufacturing processes and platforms, and instruction in production management and modern manufacturing...

Manufacturing Engineering

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UBC Applied Science students are people who are passionate about their chosen field — architecture, landscape architecture, community and regional planning, engineering and nursing — and those that inspire others by making meaningful contributions to the betterment of society.

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