Student Clubs on Exchange
Student Clubs in your exchange university are likely to be superior to clubs in SUTD in the following ways:
- They are likely to be better funded
- They are likely to have better and more easily accessible facilities
- They are likely to have more members
- They are likely to have more faculty advisors
These perks apply to most schools simply by virtue of size, since SUTD is a small specialised institution, whilst most exchange institutions are generalist schools. This means that for SUTDents seeking technical skills on exchange, other than prioritising the right academic courses, student clubs should not be overlooked.
University of Maryland Student Clubs
Let’s use UMD as a case study, which is the institution I attended on GEXP. Some clubs I considered attending at UMD included:
- Terrapin Rocketry Club
- Students for Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS-UMD)
- Leatherbacks (Combat Robotics)
- Accessible Prosthetics Initiative
These clubs pursue niche technical interests at a level beyond what can be taught in a classroom, and you are guaranteed hands-on experience that is likely to be at least partially funded. For example, at the Combat Robotics club, you will be able to build your own robot from scratch, guided by seniors and a faculty advisor, with all parts for your robot fully funded by club funds.
First Look Fair
At UMD, the main way students find out about clubs is the First Look Fair. If you choose the Fall exchange for UMD, you will likely experience the First Look Fair some time during your first few weeks at the school. I highly recommend you go, as talking to club representatives at booths will give you a much better idea of what the clubs do than reading about them online – not to mention the free stuff. Also, feel free to join many clubs during the First Look Fair, as they are generally non-commital. You can try out several clubs and prioritise the ones you like best later on.
Terrapin Rocketry Club
The Club I settled on joining was the Terrapin Rocketry Club. I have always had an interest in rocketry and propulsion, since helping found SEDS-SUTD. Unfortunately, restrictions in Singapore make building and firing rockets quite difficult, which is why I took the opportunity in the US to build and launch my own rocket, and earn an L1 High Power Rocketry Certification.
Facilities available to the Rocketry Club
The main workspace for the rocketry club is called the Cypress Building, located about a 5 minute walk off of campus. The Cypress Building is an open area for competition club members to work in, and does not require any pre-booking, in stark contrast to FabLab. The area features many pieces of equipment which students can use, including bandsaws, sanding belts, drill presses, 3D Printers, and more. This may present safety concerns, since untrained students could easily hurt themselves on these machines, so always make sure to consult a senior or your faculty advisor before using any machines you are not trained on.
The nice thing about rocketry is that many of the above tools are not necessary, as you will be building pre-made kits. You could attempt to build your rocket from scratch, but that would likely take much more time than 1 semester allows. For pre-made kits, the only tools you will need are epoxy, and a hand drill for screws.
Building the L1 Rocket
Launching the Rocket
The Rocket launched successfully and overall it was a great experience, I highly recommend anyone who goes to UMD for exchange to consider joining the Terrapin Rocketry Club and attempting their own L1 Rocket.