Cornell Engineering: A Virtual Visit

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My Favorite Spot on Campus

Cornell Engineering student GlennWhen the weather is warm in Ithaca, I make sure to always be outside, taking advantage of the gorgeous nature surrounding campus. When I was a freshman, I was overwhelmed with the physical size of Cornell. Everyday I was discovering new places to see, new buildings to study in, or new places to eat at. It was not until the beginning of my sophomore year that I discovered what is now my favorite spot on campus, the arboretum.

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The Experience of Winter

Coming from California, the most common question I would get from my friends at home focused on the contrast in weather patterns: “why would you go across the country to a place with worse weather when you can stay in the ever-pleasant California Sunshine?”. It was never a question I took seriously, as I naively assumed that an Ithaca winter couldn’t be that challenging even for me. In fact, I even took some excitement in my first snowstorm, as well as my first snow day the following morning, during the end of the first semester of my Freshman year. Although my college experience has been more than a little modified by the COVID-19 pandemic, I have still been able to experience the better part of two Ithaca winters.

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Project Team: CU Solar Boat

CU Solar Boat: gathering the skills and the experience needed to bring alternative energy into the mainstream and fuel a more sustainable future.

While the link between engineering and positive world change can often get lost in a flurry of detailed formulations and carefully crafted diagrams, nowhere is this connection clearer than in the landscape of project teams housed under Cornell’s College of Engineering. My experience with CU Solar Boat, for example, has been Project Team CU Solar Boatinstrumental in helping to strengthen this tie between our curriculum and our role in revolutionizing the future. We are an undergraduate project team working to design and construct a single-occupant, solar-powered vessel that will carry the Cornell spirit to the intercollegiate Solar Splash Competition. While our objective is speed, what we learn along the way is vastly more important — we are gathering the skills and the experience needed to bring alternative energy into the mainstream and fuel a more sustainable future. As the youngest and smallest project team on campus, CUSB is unique in that every member can remain incredibly involved in each aspect of the production process. Our team is composed of five engineering sub-teams — drivetrain and steering, hull, solar, system controls, and business — that each specialize in actualizing one facet of our boat’s design. More seasoned teammates serve as guides for younger members as they acquire technical expertise that surpasses what is learned in a lecture hall. From working with CAD software to soldering solar cells or machining anti-ventilation plates, the emphasis on hands-on discovery is an essential component of the project team advantage.

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Life Outside the Classroom

Cornell Engineering student StanleyBeing a Cornell Engineer isn’t only about taking classes, but also about working and interacting with other students, both in and outside of the engineering college. One of the most notable activities is project teams. Taking classes really focuses on giving you the foundation you need to understand important concepts in different engineering fields, but it usually doesn’t offer as many chances to apply that knowledge to real, physical projects. I joined a project team called Cornell Cup Robotics in my freshman year, and even though I was still new to developing large software projects at the time, I was immediately integrated into teams working on core features for the robot we were developing. I really appreciated being able to work on major parts of the project, all while learning about the tools commonly used in the industry. Another nice perk is that many project teams usually have large lab spaces, which are also open outside of regular club meetings, making it a perfect study spot!

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