Lighting Up First Year with EMBER
Abduljawad Kourabi and Kavya Sundaresan
Entering first year in the middle of a pandemic on a virtual platform was nerve-wracking and exciting all at once. I was initially anxious because I was unsure if I was academically prepared for iBioMed after completing Grade 12 in a self-taught online environment. When McMaster launched EMBER, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to refresh my knowledge from Grade 12 STEM courses before classes began. EMBER is a two-week program for incoming students entering the Faculty of Engineering, that offers courses in Math, Chemistry, Physics and Computing taught by brilliant upper-year students. Beyond helping tons of first years overcome academic barriers induced by the pandemic; the upper years also provided a lot of guidance including study tips and pointers to thrive in University. The most important advice I learned was to get involved at McMaster University through extracurriculars and events as it’s the best way to build connections and gain unique opportunities!
EMBER hosted a series of workshops introducing many clubs and societies under the Faculty. The exposure helped me decide how I wanted to get involved and where my passion lies. I joined MacChangers, an extracurricular program where student teams partner with community members to develop innovative solutions for challenges local to Hamilton. My team worked with representatives of Hamilton Conservation spaces to educate the public about trail etiquette. We developed EcoLight, a competitive waste management program that encourages visitors to engage in the cleanup of conservation spaces in exchange for trail points that can be collected to be eligible for prizes. Being a part of MacChangers was an enlightening experience that enabled me to solve real-world problems through engineering design principles.
The highlight of my first year was being a high school ambassador for the McMaster Women in Engineering Society. I returned to my high school to share my first-year experience in iBioMed and to promote STEM education for women. I enjoyed listening to students talk about their career aspirations and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to guide them towards their goals. For the upcoming school year, I plan to pursue the Mechatronics and Biomedical Engineering program. I will also be creating media content as a Junior Graphics member for the McMaster Design League (MDL) who host UI/UX and CAD workshops to help students develop their technical skills in preparation for their annual Designathons.
Currently, I’m on coop as a Learning Resources Assistant (LRA) for the EMBER team! This year we are expanding EMBER with the new ‘Introduction to Python’ course that will focus on computing concepts covered in the first semester of Engineering 1P13 and IBEHS 1P10. Furthermore, we are adding a third week of activities called “CONNECT”, where students can meet first-year professors, teaching assistants, and faculty mentors. CONNECT will also host technical workshops where students will be introduced to softwares including MatLab and AutoDesk Inventor that will be used throughout first year. In addition, there will be several social events throughout the week so students can meet each other and build connections within their program. I am stoked to meet you soon and I hope you will enjoy EMBER. We look forward to welcoming you to the Fireball Family!
Much like many of my peers, I felt excited yet apprehensive of first year. The uncertainty of what my experience was going to look like, coupled with the fact that I did not feel the most academically prepared, kept me tense. When EMBER was announced, I knew it was going to help me in integrating both socially and academically. More than that, I felt supported. I felt a hand reaching out to help me get over an unexpectedly large step. If anything, that was my favourite part about EMBER. Being supported in this capacity, and knowing there was a program to back me up really gave me the empowerment I needed to set off on my own journey.
The academic preparation I received was rigorous yet flexible. I was able to fit it into my schedule and optimize my learning. Additionally, the external sessions relating to the MacEng community helped me unpack and understand how to get involved, and which clubs to focus on.
I was initially vaguely aware of the McMaster Engineering Society (MES), but I knew I wanted to be involved. I always had a passion for serving others, and the sense of empowerment I got from EMBER just made me want to “pass it on” even more. This particular motivation led me to consider running for the position of First Year Representative for Engineering I at the MES. I’ll be honest — I doubted myself. However, what EMBER instilled in me is a sense of “no matter what, the MacEng community has your back”. I went for it!
A year later, my experience as a part of the MES was worth it. Serving my peers and connecting with professors is more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined it to be. It was also through EMBER that I was introduced to the Startup School at The Forge Business Incubator here at McMaster, which was definitely another highlight of my year. Moving onto second year, I plan to specialize in Engineering Physics, and continue to be involved in the MES as the Associate Vice President of Academic Resources. My drive for leading others through empowering them also manifests itself in my current job as a Learning Resource Assistant (LRA) for EMBER. It was a program that gave me so much that I couldn’t help not give back! From the inclusion of a computing module this year to the addition to CONNECT week, I am so thrilled for all the incoming first years. I look forward to helping students get settled not only academically, but also in a communal sense. The Fireball Family welcomes you with open arms!
Click here to chat with our student ambassadors through the Unibuddy platform!