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Completing the Gauntlet: Life After BCIT for Three Graduating Students

ironman helmet on a school table

If you’re graduating, congratulations! You’ve made it through. The gruelling years of “accelerated learning” are finally coming to an end, and that’s no small achievement. Or maybe you’ve just started your studies and are curious to peek at what’s possible in this place. Whether or not you’re about to transition into post-BCIT life, I hope this article can provide some insight into the opportunities at and beyond BCIT. 

With all the hours we’ve each invested in our busy programs, it is easy to forget that there are people who exist in other programs and go through the same struggles. That was the case for me. As a burnt-out Electrical Engineering second-year, I was happy to get a chance to connect with other students outside my program and learn what I could expect after my studies. 

I reached out to several graduating students to chat about the work they’ve accomplished during their time at BCIT and what’s next for them. Most were extremely busy (as expected) so they couldn’t complete the interviews I prepared. Many thanks to Ramon, Helen, and Rehatbir for taking time out of their schedules to share their experiences and advice.

Ramon Vincencio

Electrical Engineering
man holding medal and wearing ironman helmet
Ramon won first place at the Canadian Engineering Competition (CEC) with his classmate, Laurel Kinahan, for Communications this year!

Ramon is in his fourth year of the Electrical Engineering program, with plans to work in engineering consulting. That’s a field where teams of engineers are contracted to consulting firms to complete projects assigned by client companies. This kind of work is business-to-business, not business-to-consumer (the model for companies that sell products to us, like Nintendo and Apple).

Ramon has accomplished a ton in the last couple of years, with a focus being project work. Last Halloween, he, with great help from two classmates, Jimmy Bates and Tom Kuzma, built an Iron Man costume. It consists of a voice-activated helmet and a repulsor replica that functions like an actual taser. 

The part about this project that impressed me the most is the fact that the repulsor wasn’t simply LEDs with speakers. Instead, Ramon designed the repulsor such that it would ionize the air, producing electric sparks. This ionization is achieved by raising the voltage between two points on the glove to around 30,000 volts—the same principle behind how lightning is formed. (The typical student would opt to approach this idea by developing something a little simpler, like making a repulsor lookalike.)

“This project was inspired by Michael Reeves[’s videos],” Ramon explains, referring to the YouTuber popular for doing wild projects centered on robotics and automation. “When I had the idea for the project, it couldn’t be something small. It had to be crazy. I had to go all out; you know what I mean?” 

You may wonder, why do something like this? This project didn’t simply serve as a fun hobby to experiment with—projects like this stand out to employers and underpin a strong portfolio. Ramon says, “If there’s something you want to do other than working, something that could [benefit you as a person or engineer] like a personal project, then don’t be afraid to go for it.”

Another of Ramon’s key pieces of advice for younger students is to build relationships with program faculty and peers from other years. “Start mingling with your profs a little bit—don’t be afraid to be an idiot in front of them.” 

three friends and one is wearing an ironman helmet
Ramon (middle) working with two classmates on the project, Jimmy Bates (left) and Tom Kuzma (right).

With a strong portfolio, you will be more confident and aware of your skills when job-searching. You can stand out as a candidate and prove that you have the skills needed in the workforce. By joining clubs, talking to students outside your program, and overall contributing to the BCIT culture, you get to not only connect with more students to build your network, but also gain many skills you may not have realized can further expand your portfolio and help you stand out to employers. After all, getting a job is what we came here to do, isn’t it?

Helen Cheung 

Occupational Health and Safety

Graduating from the two-year program in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) this May, Helen has gained an in-depth understanding of the complexities behind workplace safety. OHS is the practice of identifying and managing workplace hazards to prevent accidents and injuries, achieved by assessing and controlling risks associated with factors spanning the physical, chemical, biological, and psychosocial. 

Class field trip at Lulu Island’s wastewater treatment plant. Who said safety can’t be fun?

Vast and promising, the job prospects for OHS professionals are growing and diverse. Safety is required in all work environments, especially in industries including construction, healthcare, manufacturing, and mining. Even everyday environments involve OHS—for example, ensuring chair ergonomics in office spaces are adequate and inspecting hygiene and air quality in classrooms. “It’s a pretty broad scope,” says Helen. “Pretty much any workplace you can think of [has] some aspect of health and safety.”

Studying at BCIT has prepared Helen well for the workforce as an OHS professional and she is certain to make a significant impact in this field. Throughout her studies, she has had the opportunity to develop her skills in industrial hygiene (using equipment such as the midget impinger) and learn various types of workplace hazards and health risks such as chemical exposures, heat stress, and musculoskeletal disorders.

Most recently, Helen has been sampling particulates with air filters in her hygiene lab. These filters detect particles that could pose health hazards. You can see these tools applied in places such as shop environments, construction sites, and public areas like hospitals and restaurants. These are all places where proper air quality is critical for operations.

Helen’s education has also emphasized the importance of communication and collaboration in ensuring workplace safety. OHS professionals must be able to effectively communicate with workers, managers, and stakeholders to promote a culture of safety and prevent accidents. 

“I find that whatever job you take on is where you will learn a lot of specialized learning on the job,” Helen reflects. “So, whatever we learn [here at BCIT] gives us the knowledge to start at a lot of areas, and once we are working, we gain a lot more knowledge specific to the industry that we are in.” 

Rehatbir Dhingra

Mechanical Engineering

Rehatbir is a fourth-year wrapping up his degree in Mechanical Engineering. Currently, he’s working on a capstone project for a YVR design problem. The goal is to measure the flow rate of the water in rivers around YVR, with the collected data to be used for developing preventative measures against airport floods, which cause massive issues.

From left to right: Rehatbir, Wesley and Sahib together with a functional prototype of their capstone project.

The tricky part about this problem is that the water to be tested contains a lot of debris, making it hard to get accurate measurements. It may have been easier to get by with electronic sensors that could filter out the debris, but that means more costs as they are prone to damage and need frequent maintenance. So, unable to use sensors, Rehatbir’s group has to rely on physics, translating forces into measurable signals. They designed a small boat model from scratch as a simulation. 

After his third year, Rehatbir did a co-op term at Solaris, a consulting firm in the energy industry where sources like natural gas, hydrogen, and renewable energy are used. Solaris works with FortisBC and many other companies across the Lower Mainland. 

At Solaris, Rehatbir’s work was to help manage a project on a Coquitlam-to-Squamish pipeline. His primary responsibility was to verify data sheets and acquisition requests, ensuring schedules were met between vendors and contractors. This was surprising to me since I always thought that entry-level co-ops just involved doing grunt work. Instead, Rehatbir had a role in project management—something I’d never have expected.

Being in the workplace, Rehatbir learned ways to build discipline and a goal-oriented mindset. And through his project management role, he discovered a lot of aspects of the workforce that he didn’t expect were connected to his program. He got to learn about the focus and structure of a company and how tasks are split and outsourced to others: it was often not just one company getting the project done, but many working together behind the scenes. In Rehatbir’s words: “The company makes boilers [for example], but who’s getting the boilers?”

Testing the boat model under various situations. The boat was also tested at Guichon Creek on campus.

Rehatbir also speaks to the biggest things he learned from working: “Applying learning was probably one of the biggest. Really seeing applications of my schooling made what I was doing at BCIT more tangible.” Certainly, no matter how applicable BCIT learning can be, actually applying it in the workplace will always be a different experience. 

This resonates with me since I came to BCIT with the goal of getting hands-on experience. Talking to Rehatbir helped reassure me that BCIT will continue to teach me skills the workplace cannot and vice versa, and this has made me appreciate my education and time here a lot more. It has helped me let go of the frustration of being in classes and labs where I wasn’t always directly doing what I would do in the workplace.

And there you have it. Three BCIT students, all graduating this term, each with very different experiences and amazing projects yet all sharing the goal of pursuing their passions and contributing to the workforce.

Take the time to observe what your peers have achieved and take what you see as inspiration: whether it’s Ramon’s Iron Man costume, Helen’s breadth of knowledge in occupational safety, or Rehatbir’s capstone project—so much is possible. Understand that your ideas can be tangible and you have what it takes to create amazing projects yourself. Shia said it best: “Don’t let your dreams be dreams.” Now, what will you do next?