Students who are ready to dive into engineering projects are encouraged to meet the members of Divergent Engineering at their Spring Quarter Pitch Day on Wednesday, April 8. All students and faculty are invited to attend and hear divE’s team members pitch both their new and current projects at the CMRR Wolf Auditorium from 1pm to 4pm.
“For our very first workshop, we bought the [microcontroller] parts, got together at Geisel in study room 2 and we programmed and worked,” said Phuong Truong, one of the three Divergent Engineering presidents. After the first Arduino workshop, the six students were then able to teach other students from a local community college about microcontroller programming. In a single month, they produced a working data logger, persistence of a vision wand, a Skittle sorter and a wall-avoiding robot. Divergent Engineering founders and organization presidents Karcher Morris, Alex Phan and Phuong Truong explain that it was the success of the first workshop and the passion of this first group of students that served as their proof of concept– that an interdisciplinary group of students interested in engineering projects would not only be special, but very powerful. “Our projects are a mixture of a variety of fields, they allow students to be creative, appreciate the other majors and have a real opportunity to be a real engineer,” said Phan. “When you’re in your Structural Engineering classes, you forget that in real life, you’re going not just going to be working with other Structural engineers. You’re going to be working with a Bioengineer, Computer Engineer...” explained Truong. “[Divergent Engineering]’s about being exposed to a bigger picture, earlier on."
All students interested in Divergent Engineering are asked to participate in a quarter-long microcontroller workshop where they will have the opportunity to gain a variety of new skills, to be challenged as individuals and to connect with students of similar interests, but in other majors. After completing the workshop, students have the flexibility to either join a divE team or pursue other projects, such as joining a lab or starting their own business. “We’re constantly trying to expose our members to new challenges, new projects and new people,” said Truong. “We’re an open community and we try to expose students to resources by encouraging them to talk to their professors and finding those hidden gems on campus.” The organization that began with six students, now has had over 60 interested applicants and over 30 members that represent every department of the Jacobs School of Engineering. Divergent Engineering has approximately 20 interdisciplinary engineering projects that vary from a glove-remote controlled car to 3D printer made of recycled parts. The organization has grown tremendously in last few months, to which the founders credit their dedicated team members as well as the Electrical and Computer Engineering department, the Gordon Engineering Leadership Center and the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center for guidance and support. “As a self-funded team, we know that it’s the passion of the students that continue to make this work. We have an extremely strong group of members,” said Truong. “They know that their membership fees go toward buying supplies for the workshop and the workshops fund projects. They value their education and want to contribute.” In the beginning of Winter Quarter, Divergent Engineering had 12 students participate in the workshop and new members who joined different projects. Morris, Phan and Truong knew they wanted to continue offering the workshop to more students and looked for resources on campus. “The donation from the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center could not have come at a better time,” Phan explained. “von Liebig allowed us to be ambitious and to pick up new members."
Divergent Engineering highly encourages student involvement from all disciplines and emphasizes that it’s never too early or too late to join. As UC San Diego Mechanical Engineering graduate students, Morris and Phan reflected on their undergraduate experience at UC San Diego and explained that in most major curricula, hands-on work comes in the form of a senior design project in the later years of an undergraduate student’s studies. Morris, Truong and Phan believe that Divergent Engineering is able to provide more hands-on experience as an undergraduate and can help spread out ideas for a senior design project. “If you’re an incoming Engineering student and you’re curious about what other kinds of engineering there is out there, then it’s perfect. The workshop is for figuring out: what do I want to do?” Morris said. “You’ll have milestones, but also an open-ended project. You’ll be able to connect with older students further along in their majors and gain exposure to different disciplines.” For graduating seniors, Divergent Engineering can help knock out a long-time item in their bucket list. “Last quarter, two new seniors in Chemical Engineering approached me about wanting to do an environmental project. They had their pitch ready a week before [last quarter’s] Pitch Day,” explained Truong. “We were happy to see that they reached out to campus resources like TGIF: The Green Initiative Fund and Rodger’s Garden. They asked TGIF for $300 to fund their pitch. They ended up receiving $7600.”
Find more information on Divergent Engineering on their website: divergentengineering.weebly.com