Although Engineering Is Not Easy, It Is Worth It

"Focus on learning. The goal is not to be perfect, but to always be improving."

Danny Wanjohi

Danny Wanjohi

Year: 5th year as of September 2023

Why did you want to study engineering?

I was interested in pursuing astrophysics, but you really need a PhD to work in that field. My dad recommended I think about engineering as an option as it would enable me to work in an area that fascinated me without needing to pursue so many years of education, and I could still keep a door open for astrophysics if I ever wanted to pivot my path towards that field.

Why did you decide on UBC Engineering?

A representative from UBC visited my high school in Kenya. That’s when I first learned about the university, and further research into UBC made me aware of the co-op program, which led me to apply. 

Co-op

How did you choose Mechanical Engineering and Mechatronics? 

I was very involved with a robotics club in high school, and I was torn between electrical and mechanical engineering. After doing the first-year foundation program, I found myself more inclined to the mechanical side. Thankfully I learned that the mechatronics option was a possibility, which seemed to be a natural fit for me: I could still study mechanical engineering while gaining some knowledge of electrical engineering, as well as build insight into how the two fields mesh with each other.

Foundation Year

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

The third-year course on fluid mechanics taught by Dr. Joshua Brinkerhoff was fantastic. It wasn’t easy, but I’ve found that some of the best learning experiences happen when you are challenged. I also thoroughly liked the mechatronics course on industrial automation, which was an introduction to control theory and control systems in an industrial context. The professor was great, and it was through him that I connected to the CEO/CTO of the company where I ended up doing a 12-month co-op term. 

Dr. Joshua Brinkerhoff

Tell us about your co-op experience.

I worked for 12 months at EnCann Solutions in an automation co-op role, followed by a three-month automation consultant position. EnCann is a startup company that connects industrial farmers with licensed cannabinoid businesses via a proprietary automated extraction system. These are early days for applying an engineering approach to the cannabinoid industry. My primary role was to design, build up and test the communication architecture between all the various manufacturing devices that EnCann employs in its extraction process. I just loved it, and it felt extremely satisfying to see my creations having a direct impact, not just for the startup but also in making the lives of the operators easier. This is a startup, after all, so my role was very fluid, and I was learning something new every day.

EnCann Solutions

Have you been involved in any extracurricular activities?

In second year I was part of the UBC Okanagan Aero Club and helped the team create an airplane that could house drones and other craft. I’ve also been part of the Healthy Masculinities Club since COVID, which was a difficult time for a lot of people, and it was nice to be part of a space where I could share what I was feeling and chat with others about what positive masculinity looks like. In third year, I was also a math, physics and engineering tutor with the Student Learning Hub.

UBC Okanagan Aero Club

As a result of your engineering education, do you approach problems in new ways?

Definitely. It used to be very easy for me to get lost in the details of a problem. This served me well for a time, but I’ve learned to change my mindset. No matter what the problem is, I now start at a bird’s eye view to understand the big picture and how everything fits together at a high level, and then work down to the details. 

Any idea of what kind of impact you’d like to make with your engineering degree?

I returned to Kenya in December 2022 for the first time in three years since I had left home to come to Canada. I quickly realized there had been a lot of technological advances while I was away, and it made me interested in the idea of returning at some point to use my engineering knowledge to make a difference, perhaps in the area of water supply or food security. Looking ahead, I know that Kenya is one of the countries that will be disproportionately affected by climate change and I wonder if I can use my knowledge to create a buffer to limit some of those negative impacts.

Any advice for other students considering engineering?

Focus on learning. The goal is not to be perfect, but to always be improving.

Although engineering is not going to be easy, it is going to be worth it.

Finally, while it is good to have knowledge and project experience, it is equally important to know people and nurture relationships. 

Having a community of people who know and care about you makes it easier when your initial plans don’t quite work out as expected. I have a few examples of this, starting with my first-year roommate who I had exchanged emails with before I arrived in Canada. When I landed in Vancouver, I missed my flight to Kelowna because of study permit processing delays and all the other flights that weekend were booked up. I contacted my roommate, and his family picked me up, gave me a place to sleep and drove me to Kelowna. Or my undergraduate professor who believed in me and introduced me to the company where I had my co-op job. Or my work colleague from co-op who took me into their home when I was evacuated during the wildfires in Kelowna. My friends have also been very supportive, and we have helped each other to achieve our goals. Knowledge is necessary for a foundation, but people will take your knowledge further.

Find me on:

LinkedIn
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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