Finals Week: an engineering perspective


Photo: Rebekka Brown/Iowa State Daily

Alex Moraniec, left, Andrew Morse, and Jame Albrecht, seniors in mechanical engineering, spend their Saturday in a computer lab in the Black Engineering Building.

Edward Leonard

‘Tis, once again, the season that all other engineers and I love so: finals season. I love everything about this week standing between me and my month of vacation. In fact, it could be that this is my favorite time of year.

Around this time every semester, I am struck with a peculiar spirit of finals cheer. I love watching students enjoy the snow after getting out of a particularly grueling philosphy final as I write my final code for thermodynamics. I enjoy the warm glow of joy spread across the face of my friend Eric, a poli-sci major, as he finishes his two-page paper, his final project for the semester as I sit deriving the flow rate of a rubber tube at its various stages of compression.

It brings to me a kind of vicarious joy watching all of these other students at Iowa State finish their classes, two or three hours of intense studying before getting to sleep before their last tests. Maybe they’ll write an essay or two in lieu of a traditional final exam, while I, and my fellow engineers, struggle with our toughest classwork to date.

It even instills in me a sense of fraternity. I feel a bond with other engineers around campus. I watch my friends studying the properties of various different types of concrete, while my Aero-E roommate reviews the differences in airflow around wing A and wing B, and I am here, sitting with them in an utterly focused silence, determining the mechanical advantages of different gear ratios.

Meanwhile, the world goes on outside our window as the theater students build a snowman while shouting movie quotes and pop-culture trivia at each other, and the business students begin their last parties of the semester. Snowball fights and stolen-tray sledding begin without us. Our world remains serene and sterile, aside from our room full of half-empty energy drinks and Doritos crumbs, memorials to the sleep that we didn’t get last night.

I sip my Monster and glance at my roommate hunched over his desk top, frozen in a moment of paralyzingly frightening uncertainty — should he derive or integrate? Is the curve exponential or logarithmic? What’s the limit? I smile to myself as I remember the familiar mental tracks his mind are now rushing through in a panic as his exhausted body sits in utter stillness. Then he smiles, punches a few keys on his calculator, and returns my glance, sighing and rolling his eyes, gently breaking the silence he was so carefully preserving a second prior.

We are both frantically cramming in pages of equations into our memories, knowing all the while just how quickly we are hurtling at that inevitable next test, and how little we will have to study before the one after that. Meanwhile, Eric has his last final on Tuesday. He’ll be home Wednesday, before I’m even halfway done with my schedule.

But as our other friends are all but done, we will sit here in this room, taking turns going on snack and caffeine runs, studying, and generally feeling the spirit of this magical season. These are the times it’s the best to be an engineer. It’s a time of celebration and goodwill toward men. A time of cheer and merriment. A time to try men’s souls.

Happy Finals Week, everybody.