Mechatronics: A Class to Remember

Author: Jonathan Cousins, SEAS’14

I have taken a lot of classes at Penn to this point, but none of them have been like Mechatronics.  I have written about this class before, first before it started in “Junior Year is Here” and again in the middle of the “MEAMpocalypse 2012.”   Last Tuesday, the class came to an end, with our final project culminating in the public tournament of Robockey.  There was a nice Philly Inquirer article about that night.  Sadly, our team was on the losing end of the “bloodbath” described in the article, but by the end of the project our team had done pretty well, making it into the Champions bracket (top 10 out of 17 teams).  But what set this class apart was what I experienced when it was over.

Coming back into the Engineering Quad a few days later, I was confronted with the sight of an empty space where the practice rink had been for the past month.  And instantly, I was hit with a flood of emotion.  It then dawned on me how much of my life I had spent sitting around that rink, working on our robots.  And that event, which had been the majority of my life for such a long time, was finally gone.  Behind that space is the GM Lab, where we did the majority of the circuit work and fabrication of the robots, and I had the same emotional rush facing that room.  I had spent so much time there, and yet it was over.  It was like a piece of me had been torn out, a piece that I will never forget, but also a piece that will never be quite the same again.

But the emotional response did not end there.  For a few nights after the conclusion of the project, I had trouble getting to sleep, because my brain was thinking about Mechatronics.  I wanted to go back and keep working on Robockey.  Perhaps my brain was used to this behavior, as after long nights in the lab I would often think about roadblocks I had encountered as I dozed off to sleep, and managed to solve a large number of problems during those uninhibited thinking periods.  But now it was all for naught, as there was nothing more I could do to work on these robots.  There was no more rink, no more pucks, no more crowds and late nights.

Needless to say, no other class has ever made me feel this way before.  I have never put as much heart and soul into anything before, and now the fact that it has been taken away from me is painful.  I am sure that as I move forward with my Penn career, this hole will begin to heal.  I will look back on the class fondly, as even with its late nights and tough problems, this class made an impact on my life.  From now on, every time I pass the GM lab I will think of Mechatronics.  I have signed up to potentially be a TA for this course next year, and I am sure that if I am selected, I will experience these emotions again when the class starts up again next fall.  And next December, when the practice rink returns to its home outside the GM lab and teams start occupying it 24/7 again, I will be reminded of all the memories and all of the work I put in.  Mechatronics has changed me, and I am interested to see if any other class has that kind of power in the future.

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Filed under Jonathan C., Student Perspective

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