Monday, January 4, 2016

Robotics Engineering at WPI

Hey everyone,
    I also wanted to take a moment to update you on college life. I go to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), majoring in robotics engineering. WPI's robotics degree program is a combination of electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer science and programming. I want to focus on the mechanical aspect of robotics, but every robotics engineering major must study all three areas extensively.
    It was easy to adjust to the college schedule. WPI has four terms, or quarters, during the year, much like high school marking periods. Everyone takes three to four classes per term. Our seven week classes equate to ordinary 14 week classes at other colleges. Terms pass very quickly, but they are manageable.
    My classes are rigorous, but very enjoyable. For the first two terms I did not take any specific engineering courses, only prerequisite physics and calculus classes. I also took WPI's freshman seminar course, where I was part of a team assigned to solve a problem related to technology in education. In the spring, I'll have my first electrical engineering and computer science courses, as well as history, literature, differential equations, and my first robotics engineering class.
    I've found most rumors about college to be true. One homework problem does in fact take up multiple pages, and up to an hour, even if it doesn't count for much. No, you don't have to go to class, but if you miss it you'll be behind. Studying engineering takes up a lot of time, but there is still plenty of free time as long as you organize yourself well. Most importantly, you will be challenged, but nobody wants you to fail, and there are plenty of people who will help you if you need it.
    To get involved, I got a job in a surface metrology lab on campus, studying the fine-scale roughness of surfaces. Ever since my EVO lab internship, I've wanted to get back into a lab. In fact, having that experience helped me get the job. All of the skills I learned there are proving to be extremely helpful. My new lab job is a good opportunity to build connections and study something interesting outside of class. Surface roughness of materials actually turns out to be a very fascinating and important property. Looking at things under a microscope might not sound too exciting, but it's very cool and I love my job.
    I also plan to join Engineers Without Borders, an organization that does projects to help communities around the world. The challenge and experience of designing something for real world use to help people in need speaks to everything I believe in. College is full of ways to find and pursue your passion in ways you never could have imagined, as I have discovered.
    The general experience of studying engineering in college has been cathartic and satisfying. If you're anything like me, you will thoroughly enjoy the increased freedom and decreased pressure that comes with college. I've wanted to study engineering for a long time; finally being able to without distraction is liberating.
    Good luck in the last few months of senior year, and I would be happy to help if you ever want to know more about college or the process of getting there.
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Daniel Wivagg
Robotics Engineering '19