The current environment has created a disruption in the college experience – and daily lives – for MechSE Illinois students. Undergraduates, in particular, must spend the rest of the semester learning from outside the walls of the traditional classroom, along with other big transitions. MechSE graduating senior Amanda Maher reflects on what all the changes mean for her and several of her classmates.
I don’t know if there’s a great way to start a piece like this. But I will preface it with the reassurance that I will share my full truth with you. I’m sure everyone reading this has been affected by COVID-19 in one way or another. As I sit nestled safely with my parents at our home in a Chicago suburb I can’t help but plunge into retrospection.
With just about two months left in the semester after spring break, there were many closing events and capstone projects awaiting us. My senior design project was going to be a planetary orbit exhibit geared toward toddlers that would live at the Orpheum Science Museum in Champaign. In addition to our instructions for completion for future teams and quality assurance, all that my team will be able to give the museum will be 24 loose wooden rings that were going serve as the tracks for the planets to rotate around in, the wooden planets, and a few other components.
My dear friends Stefanie Anderson and Veronica Holloway are leadership members for the Baja SAE teams, and their senior design projects were intertwined with the team. They both passionately dedicated all four years of their college experience to this team, and the cancellation of EOH and shut down of all RSO work is heartbreaking. They will not be able to fully demonstrate their car’s performance in dynamic competition, and never receive the closure they deserve of seeing their final car compete.
I also feel this lack of project closure. I spent a lot of time establishing my student organization, Alma’s Talking Dogs, this year, and my team has done great work to improve and iterate our device to understand a dog’s neural response to stimulus. We will not have the chance to demonstrate our work at EOH, and continued work on the project has been halted. Regardless of this, I want to say that I am beyond proud of my team and all their efforts.
In addition to projects being prematurely canceled, there are many events, both formal and informal, that we all looked forward to that will no longer take place. I will not get the chance to sing a proper final concert with my choir, Women’s Glee. With the future of Commencement uncertain, there is the question of how we will celebrate our graduates, especially first-generation students, one of which is our very own Stef Anderson.
As class resumes online after spring break, I know that Stef, Veronica, and I will all be thinking of our second home that is the Mechanical Engineering Laboratory. As all three of us spent our fair share of late nights and marathon days in that space collaborating with our friends, it will be a challenge, to say the very least, to resume course work without that sense of community.
In spite of all this, I am grateful. I am grateful for that community that we all found in MEL, and on campus. I am grateful for the technical skills that this program has given me. I am grateful for the confidence in my ability to execute that I have gained from the university. I am grateful for all of the unforgettable memories of these past four years, and all of the lovely friends who made those memories even better.
So as we all hunker down for an order to stay indoors, I want to invite anyone who reads this to join me in remaining optimistic and grateful. We live in an age where we are fortunate enough to be just a message, call, or picture away from our loved ones. We can recognize that everyone is going through this difficult time along with us, and our collective priority must be our safety and protecting those most susceptible. This trying time will not last forever, and our collective future is still very bright.
All campus visits have been suspended indefinitely in response to proactive policies instituted by the university to protect the health and welfare of participants and attendees amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. Get the latest news and updates on COVID-19 as it relates to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. >>