It's the End of the World As We Know it (And I Feel Fine)

Finals Week

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 It would be great if I could end this post here. I have been in the lab for six or seven hours trying to get my Principles of Engineering project to work (due tomorrow). I have a solid four hours of sleep under my belt, and if I play my cards right I might get four more tonight.

Yep, definitely finals week. I can't tell you it's not brutal. But hey, finals is brutal everywhere. Today I want to talk about the particular brand of nightmarish, apocalyptic terror that is unique to Olin.

Did I mention Finals Week is kind of awesome? Seriously.

Only two of my finals are actually exams. The rest are team projects that are due by the end of the semester. Finals week has a totally different feel when the pain is shared with five friends. Also, turning in my 3-axis QuadRotor mounted gimbal with ground tracking will be way more fun than turning in a monster test or a paper.

When your finals are projects, finals week is less like a strange high-stakes game for college students and more like a simulation of the project crunch times you will deal with time and again as an engineer.  I never feel like I waste my time with Olin finals because the result is always extremely rewarding. Projects often consume daunting amounts of time, but nothing says team bonding like a meeting from one-thirty to done-thirty with a dominoes break in the middle. Seeing your personal baby work flawlessly after 16 straight hours of work is an amazing feeling. I can't quite describe what it's like to walk back to West Hall in the snow at 5 a.m. with your genius, unstoppable team who pushed through and rolled over every obstacle together.

2013-12-17 00.09.48.jpgA Software Design team on the home stretch. All I understood from their explanation is "the code works!".

Of course, we do have real tests. I still have to work through my take-home exam for Dynamics, my intensive mechanical modelling course. Un-timed take-homes ease the pressure a little, but the test will likely take a whole day and it won't be easy. Even with solo finals like this, however, fellow Oliners make it all bearable.

Aside from watching my projects come together, my favorite part of Olin finals week is how the whole student body comes together for each other. People who find themselves with free time bake cookies for people who can't afford a food break, and seniors stop by to offer advice on that pesky bug you just can't work out. Even staff ramp up their dedication; my professor stopped by the lab at 11 to offer some last-minute advice and encouragement, and the dining hall served midnight breakfast today. Everyone asks everyone else what they are working on and commiserates over the workload. It is a crazy, busy, impossible mess, and everyone drags each other through.

2013-12-17 00.15.29.jpgThis guy is still awake helping PoE teams. He should really be getting paid.

With a community as smart and awesome as this one, high-stress situations are just another challenge for us to work through together, like an uncooperative circuit or a broken chunk of code. Everyone does their part of the job and tries to help those who get stuck. We come through finals week with new friendships, forged in the fires of desperate 11 p.m. work sessions and equally important desperate 7-11 runs. The student body stumbles their way into winter break exhausted, hungry, and burnt out, but also a winner. And then they all get some well-deserved sleep.

Wow, I can't wait to sleep again.

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