I have mentioned my rocket project a few times now, so I thought it's time to write a blog on it properly! To make it a bit more clear a dissertation/final year project is an individual piece of work that you must complete in your last year at University. To achieve an Honours degree you must pass this project. Each project is unique, so every person has a different title project. You can submit a recommendation for a project, ask for a specific project or choose one from a University list. You have no formal teaching time in the project as it is up to you to research and plan your project. You have a supervisor who you can use and is very useful, but again it is very independent. Projects last all final year, so approximately 9 months, but this does depend on the degree of choice.
Dissertations have a reputation of being the most stressful pieces of work you will encounter at your time at university. I know this as I was worried about it in my 4 years prior to my final year. This illusion is because the amount of work that goes into a standard dissertation is huge, with me putting in about 2 - 6 hours a day for roughly 8 months. Yes this does look scary but when you have a plan and stick to it the workload becomes manageable. People who say their dissertation was an awful experience are the ones who left it two weeks before it was due in and hence stayed up for two weeks trying to do 9 months worth of work.
I did have to make sacrifices to complete my project, mainly because my project is a big one with actual construction time and a tangible end product with large University level implications. I gave up skydiving for the best part of 4 months, which is like drug withdrawal for me, and also going out every week. Now it is done I just think that 4 months worth of giving up what you like is such a small payment for a first class project that will impact your job hunting for many years to come, as employers are attracted to people who have produced high quality work.
Now to be more specific on my project, I had to design a rocket engine from scratch that I would have to ultimately construct. This is no Lego mock up or plastic model, but an actual rocket system that is used on satellites and space missions but scaled down. The engine will combust fuels (controlled explosions) to produce a jet of hot gases that produce a thrust force. The output is 50 Newton's, still enough to demonstrate rocket fundamentals, with the capacity to increase to 500 Newton's. Apart from just the engine I have to build the rocket test facility at Kingston University, the safe environment where the rocket will actually fire. What I enjoyed about my dissertation is that I had the development freedom to design to my imagination, where as if I was in a company I would have co workers changing components and management decisions affecting me.
A dissertation introduces you to new fields of study that you would not come across in the course originally. For example I had to deal with the separate propellants (Gaseous Oxygen and Propane) for a large part of the calculation and construction stages, something I had no experience in. After using the University libraries to research and learn I then designed a unique injection system for my project. It is this self learning skill that underpins your whole time at University, so try to learn how you learn.
People who don't understand rockets ask me what are the practicalities of my engine or its significance. First off it will be the only bi propellant system at any University in the UK, and will allow students to gather hands on experience with rocket operations and firings. Secondary I designed a modular system that can allow interchangeable parts, therefore allowing parts testing, a very unique feature as now testing of rocket components can be achieved fully in house at Kingston University. This is normally a practice only reserved for space companies with unlimited budgets. Lastly it is just cool to build your own rocket from off cuts of metal and fire it!
My system will be installed into the rocket laboratory at Kingston University for future students to utilise, so if you want to be a rocket scientist and are coming to Kingston University then you will most likely use my rocket.
I won an award with the Industry Advisory Board for best student project in Engineering at Kingston University. This highlights that if you put in the effort and plan your dissertation then it should not be a bad experience but a good one with possible future benefits. I did not think I would have achieved what I have 5 years ago when I was a fresher, but it shows think positive and you can do it!
I have had a few exams and coursework submissions this month (May) and only the other day did I finish off my last assignment by staying up for almost 48 hours straight! I always try to not leave things to the last minute, but I guess I just never learn! Anyway now I have almost 4 and a half months of a summer holiday and am about to go on holiday in the next week to Tenerife, Madrid and Tangier (Morocco) for a well deserved break. I have to also figure out what I will be doing with myself for the next four months off after my mini break.
Students generally won't get any work to do over the summer break, but it might always be a good idea to have a glance of what to expect in the next academic year if you want to jump slightly ahead of the game, not that I have ever 'yet'! I am thinking that I might see if I can get a few summer jobs, mainly for Kingston University, travel some more, possibly to Florida, and of course most importantly rest so I can re-charge my batteries ready for my final year. In previous years this is generally the same kind of thing I usually get up to, as well as lots of sports and even last year some sports volunteering coaching in America.
Some students use their time to get volunteering work, summer placements or internships. Internships and placements are a great way to get some real life experience and a good opportunity to do one as you have so much free time at your hands. So many jobs now require some experience and experience can make the difference between someone with the same degree classification as yours and one of you having the experience may really help. Also on top of that it can be a great way to develop your own skills and may help you a bit on your course even. It also acts as an opportunity to see if the actual workplace environment and area you are in are right for you or not. Sometimes interns even get offered a proper graduate job at the end of their degree if they impressed. If I get some time this summer I may try find somewhere suitable for me. The university regularly help students find them as well as placements by having lots of connections with major companies.
As you can probably gather from this blog University summer holidays are a lot longer than most schools/ colleges and it is important to be pro active as well as do something fun otherwise you may get bored! In addition to the long summer break our Easter break and Christmas break is also a little longer, and instead of half terms we get 2 one week reading weeks, one each semester. At Kingston we have two semesters each consisting of 11 weeks actual teaching time. They are usually then followed by a 3 week exam period, so all in all you are in University for only about half a year. Of course some of this time is during holidays and there are lots of gaps in timetables but that's what makes University so different to school and college is that it consists of lots of independent studying!
Time to brush up on my Spanish now for my mini break and will do a blog on my vacation next month with some pictures! Good luck with any exams you may have, or if they are over enjoy your summer break and make the most out of it! Adios!
I already wrote about how it is to study in a foreign country, but attending University is not only about studying experience. Deciding to study in the UK you will have to deal with all the nuances of the life in a foreign country with all the hassle and amazing experiences that are waiting for you.
There is no better way to experience a country with its people, culture, habits and lifestyle than living in it. A week long holiday will allow you to see landmarks and other touristy stuff but you will not really experience it. Everyday life is different to the one of the tourists and in the adult life there is simply no excuse for 'I didn't know'. The differences can be small and appear not important at all until you end up buying something you don't want/ need or having no food at all because you thought that the shopping hours were different. Not to mention the change in the direction of traffic you might experience for the first time, which when ignored can be disastrous in consequences.
You should get from this experience as much as you can. You can discover all those beautiful places in the UK that were too far away before and see them on your own. You can experience London like any other tourist. Depending on your course, you can participate in local field trips. Discover, discover, discover! Flavours of the British cuisine and countless flavours of the cultures that inhabit this diverse country - Chinese, Indian, Polish, Russian, Japanese shops with foods that will surprise you for sure!
I wouldn't be myself if I didn't mention travelling. Kingston University allows you participation in Erasmus/Study Abroad programs which will allow you to travel and discover even more places. I spent the past academic year in Australia and I'm writing to you from New Zealand, which is so far from Europe but so close to Australia. Those are places where I wouldn't be if not for my study exchange.
Living abroad can be the experience of your life! Sure it will be different for everyone but I can guarantee you that if you open yourself for new experiences, you can have the time of your life. Before starting University I spent a year each in England, Italy and Spain and now I'm at the end of my Australian adventure. In each of those places I had an amazing time, made new friends and learned about the different cultures and languages. Each of those experiences was unique and special. I can't wait for more to come!
Christmas in Kingston
Uploaded 22 Nov 2013
Keeping organised at Uni
Uploaded 22 Nov 2013
Finding private accommodation and university support.
Uploaded 21 Oct 2013