Engineering Failure Rates-Redux

Here’s an update on a popular old post, with some new data and comments.

I’m never quite sure why people ask about failure rates, or what they are expecting.  Do they want to hear that the failure rate is high, so they are convinced it’s a tough (and therefore good) program?  Or maybe they don’t want the failure rate to be high, because they are concerned that they won’t be successful?  I’m not sure what the motivation for the question is, but anyways let’s examine failure rates.  Continue reading

Chances for 2019

Since I’ve left the Admissions role I’m not going to post my traditional graphic of chances for the upcoming cycle, BUT let me introduce you to a new Waterloo engineering admissions-focused blog where you can find it:   The Road to Engineering

Follow that blog for updates on current Waterloo Engineering admissions news, suggestions and updates, including some information about the upcoming Ontario Universities Fair.

 

German Baking

Waterloo Region has a long history of German immigration and influence since its initial settlement, leading to place names like Berlin (now Kitchener), New Hamburg, Baden, and local events like Oktoberfest.  Around the area you can find various places with German-style cuisine and products including at the bakery featured in this local news video link:  https://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1477166   From personal experience, their Christmas Stollen bread and chocolates are highly addictive.  But what does this have to do with chemical engineering? Continue reading

Transitions

‘I pass the test,’ she said. ‘I will diminish, and go into the West and remain Galadriel.’ (The Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter VII)

I too have passed a test, managing engineering admissions for the past decade through a period of rapid growth and various changes.  And it is now time for me to diminish and remain a professor, finishing my term as Director of Admissions and returning to a focus on teaching and research in Chemical Engineering.  As of September 1 a new Director takes over, and he will likely continue our recent tradition of running an admissions blog with up to date information and insights.  Since my blog URL is rather eponymous, there will be a new site and I’ll provide an introduction and link to it when available in the near future.

I plan to continue this blog with things related to engineering teaching, careers, research, and other topics of interest to me.  I will also post things about admissions in a more generic sense, looking at trends across Canada, the U.S. and suggestions and insights for applicants considering an engineering program at any university.  However, I won’t be answering questions or posting details about current Waterloo admissions news, since I will no longer be directly connected to it.

Reflecting on what has happened during my time as Director of Admissions, Engineering has seen applications grow from about 6,300 to just under 13,000.  We’ve added two new programs (Biomedical and Architectural Engineering), expanded the Mechatronics program to two streams, implemented an optional video interview system, hired more staff to handle the increased volumes, and seen dramatic growth in applications from outside Canada, including the U.S. and India.  The time has flown by, and I’ve had fun and satisfaction working with lots of different people, including faculty and staff, applicants, current students, alumni, parents, guidance counselors, and secondary school teachers.  There have been plenty of behind the scenes challenges along the way, but our talented Associate Directors and hard-working admissions team has always helped me to hit the annual admissions targets with no major surprises or disasters, and for this I’m very thankful!

For faculty members, these administrative positions are usually something we do out of interest and a desire to help out with the operations of the university.  But as they say in business, my “core mission” is in teaching and research.  So, having done what I can to continuously improve engineering admissions practices it’s time to step back and let someone with a fresh outlook carry on.

So now I can focus on other things and make some progress on teaching and research projects.  These projects include some course updating and redevelopment, and new research studies with industrial partners on air pollution control, water testing, and antimicrobial materials.  Unlike Galadriel however, I have no plans to go into the West.

Ideas Clinic-Scanning Tunneling Microscope

I was visiting my colleagues in the Engineering Ideas Clinic the other day, to discuss a design-fabricate-test project for a heat exchanger that we’re working on for Chemical Engineering students.  The basic concept for the Ideas Clinic is that students can do hands-on activities requiring engineering design, some fabrication and assembly, and some performance testing, part of our experiential learning philosophy.  A bunch of activities have been developed over the past few years, and many more are in development to take advantage of new space available in our Engineering 7 building,  opening soon.

One activity they previewed for me was the building of a desktop Scanning Tunneling Microscope for imaging surfaces at the atomic scale.  The video below shows the basic principle of an STM.  Once it’s finalized, this will be an activity for our Nanotechnology Engineering students, and it’s amazing that something like this can be built by students for a couple of hundred dollars.  I look forward to seeing it in action.

 

University of Waterloo engineering applicants sell themselves differently based on gender, new research says – The Globe and Mail

An interesting summary article of Prof. Golab’s semantic analysis work using parts of our Admissions Information Form.  Prof. Golab and his students are affiliated with our Management Engineering program, and semantic analysis is one aspect of data analysis and artificial intelligence.

Female applicants emphasized their desire to use engineering as a way to improve society. Male applicants choose to highlight their technical abilities

Source: University of Waterloo engineering applicants sell themselves differently based on gender, new research says – The Globe and Mail

Student design team flies high at rocketry competition

Congratulations to our rocketry team! I particularly like the fact that they design and build their own rocket engine; chemistry in action.

A student design team from Waterloo Engineering recently took first place in its class for the second year in a row at an international rocketry competition in New Mexico. Waterloo Rocketry, which is comprised primarily of engineering undergraduates, successfully launched its new rocket, Unexploded Ordnance (UXO), to an altitude of 13,412 feet to top 14 teams in the hybrid and liquid rocket category.

Source: Student design team flies high at rocketry competition | Engineering | University of Waterloo

College Admissions Are Getting Even Less Predictable – The Atlantic

When so many students have outstanding grades and test scores, schools have to get creative about triaging applicants.

Source: College Admissions Are Getting Even Less Predictable – The Atlantic

This is an interesting article from the U.S., and somewhat speaks to our situation.  So many applicants with high marks, it’s hard to distinguish among them.  One comment in the article stood out, namely “half of American teenagers now graduate high school with an A average”.  If that’s the case everywhere, no wonder it’s hard to differentiate between applicants. Continue reading

Countdown

The deadline is quickly approaching for accepting offers on the OUAC application site.  Our deadline for Engineering offers is Friday June 1 at midnight (Toronto/Eastern time).  As a word of advice, don’t leave it to the last few minutes.  If you have computer problems and miss the deadline there aren’t any extensions available, the system closes.

Preliminary data indicates that we will likely meet or exceed our targets for the programs but we won’t know for sure for a few more weeks while we check the data and ensure that all the offer conditions have been met.  However, if you’re accepting an offer with the intention of transferring into Computer Engineering, it is pretty clear now that there will be no spaces.  If Computer Engineering is your true goal, you’re better off accepting an offer at another university if you have one.  This likely even applies to students in Electrical Engineering looking to switch to Computer.  In the past this has been straightforward, but the numbers may make this switch difficult from now on due to upper year course space limits.  Computer/Electrical Engineering transfers are generally possible in the early part of the programs, but there are never guarantees.

Overall, our general advice still applies:  don’t accept an engineering offer with the intention of immediately trying to change programs.  Generally, this is not going to happen because our lab and class facilities are full and going any further impacts on the quality we can offer the current students.

 

Admissions Decisions Finished

All offers and rejections for our Engineering programs have now been posted on our Quest system and the offers eventually show up on the OUAC system too.  Every year’s admissions seems to get a little more challenging and complicated and this year was no different with about 13,000 applications and the launch of our new Architectural Engineering program.  As usual, there are a few happy people and a lot that are not so happy.  For perspective, a few statistics might be helpful:

  1. Applications overall were up between 5 and 10%, but a few programs stood out.  Namely, Computer and Systems Design Engineering applications were up about 30% each, and Biomedical up about 15%.  Increased applications means higher competition and more rejections since the available spaces didn’t change.
  2. Overall, about 75% of our applicants did not receive an offer.  For some programs like Software and Biomedical Engineering, closer to 90% of applicants didn’t receive offers since there were so many applicants and a very limited number of spaces.
  3. As usual, we gave out some alternate choice offers in a number of programs, although there are limits to how many we will offer in any one program.  This year, a lot of Software applicants put Computer Engineering as an alternate, which makes some sense.  But with the 30% increase in Computer applications, there was quite a bottleneck and many were no doubt surprised to get no offer.

At this stage, all of our spaces are now allocated and we wait until the summer to see if the predicted number of people accept the offers.  We don’t have an appeal or reconsideration process, because the spaces are filled to the limits (and beyond).  We make more offers than there are spaces, with the assumption that a certain fraction will choose to go somewhere else.  Generally our predictions are accurate within 1 or 2%, and there are usually no spaces opening up during the summer.

For those with offers to engineering and are thinking about wanting to change programs, our suggestion is to forget about it.  Recent experience suggests that it is not likely to happen because of space limitations in most programs, even after first year.  The engineering programs have no obligation to take transfers, and lately many have refused to do so.  Therefore, if you’re not reasonably sure that you will be satisfied with the offer you have, you should seriously consider another offer.  Our open house event for admitted applicants on Saturday May 26 is a good last chance to visit and discuss your potential future program with faculty and students.