Pipsqueak engine malfunctions, contributions to work on a mars rover are just a few things that make life as a mechanical engineering major exciting for Alex Wonnacott.
Working on the robotics behind major entertainment industry staples like rollercoasters is a dream for the Brigham Young University junior. Through his involvement, he is making that dream a reality in his time at BYU.
As his TA for a mechatronics class, Wonnacott loves the association he has with Dr. Colton. The professor has worked on the mechanics of roller coaster rides and the fountains in front of the Bellagio hotel, experiences similar to those Wonnacott hopes to have in his future career.
Wonnacott has worked his way up to becoming the assistant to the General Manager of the Cougareat since he started school at the Y. He is also an active member of the mars rover team. He said the sheer amount of clubs and opportunities for participation is one of his favorite parts about the mechanical engineering program at BYU.
“It's so big, there's 30 or 40 people working together to build this one machine and it's so complex,” Wonnacott said. “My one little part contributes a little bit but the whole big picture is such a great product.”
Not every project always goes according to plan, but according to Wonnacott, every project is an opportunity to learn something new.
“Last semester I was in a manufacturing engineering class and we had to build a little pipsqueak engine,” Wonnacott shared. “The day before the project was due it didn't work...we went in at 7:30 a.m. [the morning it was due] and showed the TA our project. He told us we were going to need to remake every single part if we wanted it to actually work...so we did, we stayed in there for six hours straight and remade every single part…it was a struggle but it was a good learning experience.”
The pandemic also brought unique struggles and learning experiences for Wonnacott, but these have helped him become a more independent learner.
“The thing that has definitely helped me has been not relying upon class but just relying upon learning by myself from the textbooks and from the slides,” Wonnacott shared. “It’s helped my study habits a lot.”
A highschool interest in math and physics led Wonnacott to his pursuit of mechanical engineering, but he said that even without that love there is something for everyone in the field.
“I was never really passionate about math and science, but when I started taking mechanical engineering classes I realized that when I took mechatronics I really loved robotics…. just stick with it until you find something that you love and then just focus on that,” Wonnacott shared with the Mechanical Engineering Instagram page.
“There are so many things to do in mechanical engineering and not all of them have to do with math. There's CAD, there's software design, there's electronic design, there's so many different resources, so even if you're not that good at math you can still find something that's for you in mechanical engineering.”
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