In a major with primarily lab classes, mechanical engineering students are seeing a whole different side of learning with virtual classes.

Makenzie Kamei, a senior mechanical engineering student, explained just how difficult this online quarter is for her. This unimaginable quarter has thrown her for a loop. Typical classes are taking far more time than usual because of the technology gap. Learning new programs, sticking to a routine, and getting outside has kept Kamei sane these past five weeks. She, like every other student, is adjusting to her new way of life.

A Q&A with Makenzie Kamei

This Q&A has been edited for clarity and brevity. 

In your opinion, how are professors taking the transition to online?

I feel like professors behind the screen feel like they can just shoot a lot of information at you. I have one professor who puts up lectures per class meeting but also says “here’s some additional information” and I’m like OK, I’m going to watch it but it’s a lot. I think just because they don’t see you face to face they may not see how stressed out you are. 

How are your lab classes going?

I have a lab for thermal systems design which primarily focuses on radiation and combined-mode heat transfer. We have lab partners, which is kind of difficult because whereas normally you just say like “see, oh, here’s my floor plan” and you can sit next to each other and draw them out together and give each other feedback. Now we have to figure out how to do that virtually, so there’s a lot of drawing on Zoom shared screen and we started using this app called Bluebeam to mark up .pdf and stuff, but that is just another thing that we have to learn how to do. It’s something so rudimentary that has become this monumental effort. 

“The last college class I ever went to, I had no idea was my last one.”

How have these lab classes been changed for online learning?

I’m in another lab, and this lab would be one where we would build circuits. Clearly we can’t do that, so we’ve had to use circuit building software, and I think that’s worked out pretty well. In this lab we are doing it solo, which I feel like is kind of the way to go if you are doing online learning. The most complicated thing for me hasn’t been the material; it’s been figuring out how to work with other people. 

Do you have any tips on how to stay focused while learning from home?

I’m a huge creature of habit so I definitely have a routine. I will wake up at 6 [a.m.] and watch two lectures, then do an hour of homework, make breakfast, then do a yoga workout, after working out I try to just work until 5, like a normal person and not stay up until 2 a.m. because that is totally not the goal. 

How do your parents feel about you being in San Luis Obispo instead of being home?

They were kind of iffy about me coming back to SLO, but they said if I come to SLO for 10 weeks and then come home you’ll be fine. I think they’re worried about me hanging out with my friends a lot. They came to see me for Easter, and I think they feel better after seeing how SLO is handling it. I think they were kind of anticipating a bunch of wild college students not respecting the rules and it’s so not like that. 

Have your parents come to visit you in San Luis Obispo?

They came up and visited me for Easter. And, after seeing how SLO is handling it, I think they feel a lot better about me being here. I think they were kind of anticipating it being like a bunch of wild college students, not, not respecting the rules and it’s so not like that. So I definitely feel like they feel a lot more comfortable with me being here now. Just as long as I’m staying in as much as I can wearing my mask. 

Where did your parents stay when they visited you?

They slept in the car. We have a Honda Element. But, yeah, they were not about to stay in a hotel. My dad was actually talking about it. He was looking at HotelTonight. And HotelTonight is like, the hotels are dirt cheap because no one wants to stay in a hotel. So, yeah. And then everywhere has vacancies. But yeah, they were really sketched out about it. 

Do you miss having in-person class? 

I’m upset about the fact that the last college class I ever went to, I had no idea was my last one. I’m the type of person where if there is work to do and I have time to do it that’s what I’ll do. I’ll just settle into that. I like going to class, I miss it and I miss seeing people. Especially being face to face with professors because I feel like there is such a barrier when it’s just through a screen. I hope that education doesn’t move to this. I don’t like online classes. Engineering is such a team based thing and I am doing a lot of my work individually this quarter which is fine but at the same time I don’t really feel like I am getting the full experience. 

Do you feel like you’re missing out on the “college experience?”

I was planning on going to pint night or trivia night, just going downtown and enjoying all of the things that I can do before I have to leave. I was like, “oh, I probably won’t get as high of a GPA this quarter as I did throughout the rest of my college career,” but, now I feel like I’ll do OK just because there is nothing better to do. 

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