A Day in the Life of an Engineering Student

Given the nature of this blog, I suppose it best that you perhaps understand what the schedule of an engineering student is like. I’ve heard most degrees have something like 20 hours a week of lectures and other classes. Assuming that’s correct, engineering is somewhat busier. At present, my timetable has 26 hours of scheduled time. 3 hours of that is a lab, and the rest is can be lectures or tutorials, though the lines blur as you progress through university. To give you an idea of my busiest day, I’ll give you a brief summary of my Tuesdays.


On Tuesday, I start at 8am (yes, that time does exist, despite what some teenagers may believe) at the Oteha Rohe Campus. It all begins with two hours of maths. A number of people feel that this is less than conducive to learning something supposedly hard, but I like to think it kicks my brain into gear whether I want it to or not. I do admit my eyes do droop a wee bit every now and then (I don’t drink coffee or energy drinks, having seen the horror people go through when they try to stop drinking them), but my ears function as well as ever the whole way through.

This week, we were learning about how to convert an n-order differential equation into a series of first order differential equations. For those of you who only know basic differentiation, it’s essentially an equation with differentials of equations and other differentials in it. Yes, if you haven’t gone through first year engineering maths that may sound convoluted and hard. Don’t worry, it’s not too bad by the time you get to it.

Try this:

3y” + 8y’ + y = x + 5


After maths comes a couple of hours of physics. The exact paper title is Analogue Signals and Systems, but we are essentially learning semi-advanced electronics with the theory behind the components. The main ones we cover are diodes, opamps and transistors. If you already know what they are and how they are constructed, you’ll be more than fine. Currently we are learning about what makes a semiconductor. Terms like n-type doping and Fermi levels are thrown around and most of us take something from the lecture. Some people still aren’t awake by now and some can be lost on them.

Currently, our lecturer is very insistent that we all participate in group discussions on the topics at hand. For someone like me who seems to have an uncontrollable urge to raise my hand, it’s great. For the less talkative members of the class, it can be daunting. What they may not realise though, is that and engineer must be happy to talk. They are a scientist and a salesman and a teacher and an inventor and likely more. Keep that in mind. Who cares about a jack of all trades? Why not be a master of all trades, and jack of none?

250px Op-Amp Internal

An Opamp


Now comes three hours of CAD. At present, we are spending this time ourselves working on our individual project. As such, it isn’t a lecture or tutorial in the strictest sense, but those who don’t use this time may find themselves a wee bit behind in the near future. By now, I’m realising my choice of a near fully asymmetrical Nerf gun may not have been my best idea, but oh well. Not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard, eh.

More Maths

By 3pm, we have the first break of the day. A nice hour to relax, eat something, and then head off to the engineering school down in the old Albany Village. Once the hour’s over, we’re back to maths. Due to the room we have not being great for lecturing, we pretty much spend this time solving problems and the lecturer just gives us a fair bit of help. Some people in the first year were of the opinion that tutorials were the thing you could skip. By now we all agree that tutorials are probably one of the most helpful parts of the course. Nothing better than being able to work through a problem and understand it as it is at its core. By 6pm, we’re all done and dusted and get to go home and rela- … do homework 😉

I hope that shines some light on things. Perhaps in the future, I may even shed some light on what a project day is like, which, spoiler alert, is significantly different to your usual uni day. Thank you for reading and shorel’aran.

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About Sean

My name is Sean Rutherfurd and I am a second year Mechatronics Engineering student. I've lived in New Zealand my entire life and went to high school at Rangitoto College. Despite my mathematical and scientific degree, I have a great enjoyment of the performing arts. At high school I performed in a couple of productions and spend some of my free time writing. Besides the performing arts, I enjoy a number of nerdy things, such as numerous video games, tabletop games and would be interested in trying other things, such as cosplaying or LARPing. On the whole, I like to think of myself as a relatively rounded individual, and hope that shines through my writing. Enjoy.

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