International Engineering Ambassadors
Insight into the life & course of international students.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Meet our International Engineering Ambassador: Wai Keat Lau (Lucas)

Utopia, a concept so far fetched that one might say it borders on the absurd; it presents the ideal world where science and technology overcomes all physical limitations; a universe free of suffering, disease, destruction and death.

Hi! I’m Lucas, and I’m an International Engineering Ambassador at the University of Sheffield. If you would allow me, I’d like to walk you through my journey in engineering, and show you how the University is preparing me for the ambitious task of creating the Utopian world.

First, a brief introduction of myself. At the time of writing, I am a first year civil & structural engineering undergraduate student. I hail from the exotic country of Malaysia, a land of abundant natural treasures, booming development and boundless diversity of cultures. Until a few months ago, I’ve spent my whole life at the heart of the nation’s former capital, Kuala Lumpur. Being a young boy in a bustling metropolis, I was always dazzled by the marvels of the big city: the breathtaking skyline, the ever-busy roads and rails, the towering high-rises such as the renowned Petronas Twin Towers, structures so high that they touch the heavens. There was a time when I was younger, a time when this lively city seemed to be a close representation of the ideal city. But with time, the ‘perfection’ of the city began to fade as it progressively rears its ugly head. Looking past the glamour of skyscrapers and tourist districts, the city wasn’t unlike any other; scourged by pollution, logistical issues, undesirable aesthetics, and at times, deploring hygienic conditions. Perhaps it was my naive personality or an ambitious patriotic calling, I aspired to bring about change in the city and transform Kuala Lumpur into an emblem of efficiency and comfort.

However, my passion for engineering goes beyond the minuscule desires of improving a city, it is however largely driven by the prospects of orchestrating global change. In a world where the resilience of mankind is tested daily by the ferocity of mother nature, engineers stand on the forefront of the battle for our survival. My interest in civil engineering was propelled by the discipline’s role in devising sustainable solutions to improve lives. These solutions increase the standard of living by providing accessibility, security, convenience, and sanitation to populations while also skillfully managing the surrounding environment. Without a doubt, I knew that the significance of engineering in our modern world has never been greater. Adopting this perspective, I have chosen to tread down this path with the University of Sheffield as my guide.

Beyond the university’s remarkable reputation and modern infrastructure, the university has stood out from the rest through its holistic approach in shaping the engineering talents of tomorrow. After a term at the university, I could clearly deduce the University’s intention to impart onto its students’ knowledge beyond that of science and technique required for their professions. Through a set of diverse modules that incorporates engineering issues (e.g. sustainability), seminars by industry-leading engineers and a range of coursework, the University has designed a curriculum aimed at shaping ‘the ideal engineer’ by instilling technical knowledge, ethics and transferable skills in its students. I’ve had the personal opportunity to undertake a variety of tasks with case studies from different nations of the world, some examples include researching the historical development of wastewater systems that eradicated cholera and drafting strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in urban water catchments in the UK. The upcoming Global Engineering Challenge also provides an opportunity to engineering students of all disciplines to plan and design solutions for one of many issues (energy, housing, water supply, market planning etc.) faced by a rapidly urbanising region of Cameroon.

Beyond the lecture hall, engineering students are also provided with numerous opportunities to exercise their craft through projects hosted by various faculties and societies. Having considered a seemingly infinite number of choices, I am currently involved in a wind turbine design project and a project constructing a human powered aircraft for competition purposes. There are countless other projects that may suit the appetites of a variety of engineering enthusiasts, one can find themselves constructing a train for the Railway Challenge, be part of a team that creates UAVs, be involved in constructing local water systems with Engineers without Borders and many others! With the long journey that I ahead at the University of Sheffield, my heart is filled with both excitement and anxiety as I ponder upon the various challenges that the university has to offer in the future.

Currently, the possibility of engineering the ideal world seems faint, but the future is filled with boundless possibilities. In the meantime, my fellow peers and I will be arming ourselves with an arsenal of knowledge in preparation of the day we step into the world, and begin to turn the impossible, into reality. It won’t be an easy undertaking; the world needs many like-minded visionaries. Will you take on the challenge? Will you join us in creating a Utopia? 

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