Lara van der Walt: Final year BEng Mechanical Engineering at UJ APK and involved in the SAIMechE Student Chapter at UJ APK since 2019.

SAIMechE Student Chapters have long been a part of the SAIMechE family and universities around the country. For the University of Johannesburg, this relationship began in 2016 and for me, SAIMechE UJ Student Chapter became a large part of my life in 2018. After having failed some modules in my first year, my entire view of my career as an engineer came crashing down. Out of desperation to do something to redeem myself, I joined the SAIMechE UJ Student Chapter. 

This soon became one of the best decisions I have ever made. Later, I served as the chairperson of the chapter for 2020 and 2021, and now I am taking an active mentorship role for the next generation of student leaders as I am scaling down my involvement during the end of my studies.

Large impact 

The impact of Student Chapters in my, and many other students’ lives cannot be overstated. Whether a part of the executive committee of these chapters or simply a student who participates in events and projects, they allow students a unique opportunity to access industry and gain experience in a way that is no longer possible in standard university programmes. While vacation work and internships are vital, unfortunately, they are not available for everyone. Student Chapter events and projects fill this gap and allow students to build their CVs. 

For the UJ Student Chapter, projects such as Formula E design and converting internal combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles, have offered students practical experience and project management experience. This has allowed them to gain leadership-, resource management-, and time management skills.

The events hosted by the chapter also allow students the opportunity to network and gain access to industry mentors. For the committee members who form part of the events portfolio, organisational skills and professionalism can be practised. While all these experiences and skills are valuable to a student and a necessary gap to fill in our tertiary education system, personally, student chapters offer so much more than this.

Personal growth

The SAIMechE UJ Student Chapter has offered me a fantastic network of colleagues, mentors, and friends over the years. I have been surrounded by hard-working and passionate students who inspire me to be the same. As the saying goes: “You are the sum of who you surround yourself with” and SAIMechE has truly surrounded me with only the best people.

I joined the student chapter after a bad first year of studies, believing that I had made a mistake in my choice to study engineering. Since then, my confidence and excitement for the field and my place in it have only grown. 

I now have the opportunity to give back what SAIMechE has offered me and mentor and guide others. When speaking to first-year engineering students now, I always say that engineering is a team sport and the SAIMechE UJ Student Chapter has given me the best team possible. I am forever grateful for the support and mentorship given to me by Central branch and National branch members.

I am a better person and a better engineer because of the student chapter. I am sure that the UJ Student Chapter, and many other chapters nationally, will continue to change lives for the better and I hope that the impact of these student chapters will never be underestimated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *