by: mathurah

4a term in review

who knew this would be my last fall in waterloo?

After a co-op term in SF in the fall, to exchange in Singapore, back to New York and SF in the summer, it was weird coming back to Waterloo after an entire year away, now as one of the oldest students on campus. Being back here was oddly serene, and I really appreciated finally feeling like a student again, and putting my roots down (and finally adding lights to my walls!) - as I'll be in the same place for 8 months straight, for the first time in my university career.

My mindset for this term was not to let my senioritis get in the way of my curiosity. Waterloo was still my oyster, and there were still a lot of things I haven't explored or tried yet. I even befriended a few first/second year students, and realized I have a lot I could learn from them too.

Newer students tend to have a lot more curiosity, spunk, and excitement for trying new things, and aren't as jaded or burnt out as those of us who've been through the wringer a few times.

I forgot how special it was to be in an environment where I can keep putting on my beginner hat, and I'm very lucky to be in an environment with talented friends I can collab and grow together with.

the term started really busy

The end of internship also overlapped with my first week of school (although I didn't attend any of the classes during the day) - it definitely was a bit hectic. On top of that, I was doing a bit of contract work, and hosted an event on the first Friday to kick-off the term with my friends and mentees, so it was a busy time overall.

It was a stark learning experience for me - I can do it all if I really put my mind to it, but that doesn't mean I have to. Breaks are fun! And very much needed. Sometimes you really need to turn your brain off for a few days before jumping into the next adventure head first.

Writing this right now, I'm taking my own advice very seriously. This winter break, I've re-read the first three Percy Jackson books, spent copious amounts of time playing with our dog, and playing the new Hogwarts Legacy game. And because I've taken this rest, I'm very much itching to get back into creative work in that time in between.

courses I took

  • SYDE 461: Capstone Design Project
  • SYDE 572: Introduction to Pattern Recognition
  • SYDE 543: Cognitive Ergonomics
  • SYDE 411: Optimization
  • ECE 457A: Adaptive Algorithms
  • BET 300: Foundations of Venture Creation

The mindset I had in terms of the courses I took was to take courses I was genuinely interested in and wanted to learn more about. I was originally optimizing for taking easier courses, but this is the last time I'll get a chance to be a student - in an environment where I can struggle - and have access to so many resources to actually help me learn. For most of my SYDE degree, I've had all my classes with the same exact people, and this was the first time when a lot of our paths diverged with electives.

ECE 457A: Adaptive and Co-operative Algorithms

None of my friends ended up taking the adaptive algorithms course with me, but I stayed in it anyways - it was nice to cosplay as an ECE student for the term and take a coding course, and I actually learned a lot from it! My group published a report on adapting the Particle Swarm Optimization Algorithm to some of the strategies in the Clash of Clans troops.

The professor was really nice and the lectures were quite organized - everything was uploaded to YouTube right after, and I really liked a lot of the game theory content coming back in this course.

SYDE 543: Cognitive Ergonomics

It was pretty interesting to dive into all the causes and puzzle pieces that caused a particular accident like a plane crash to happen in cognitive ergonomics. After reading over 30 case studies on automated driving malfunctions, I can't believe I rode in all those Waymo and Cruise cars without a second thought.

BET 300: Foundations of Venture Creation

For BET 300, I was able to work on my capstone project as part of the course, so that was pretty convenient! I really loved how interactive the course was and how we were able to use our peers as resources to provide feedback on the projects we were working on. It helped me kill two birds with one stone, as the pitch competitions I was applying for to get funding for capstone, also counted towards credit in BET 300.

SYDE 461: Capstone

If I could summarize capstone in any way it's your engineering degree finally screaming at your face "this is the culmination of everything you've learned!!". Our projects were required to be multi-disciplinary, pulling aspects from all the different courses we've learned throughout our degree - with a focus on engineering sciences. I don't think there is a single web-app focused project focused in our class and this is one of the times where I actually feel like a real engineer. I have the rest of my life to build web-based software, and this is a fun challenge to finally try something new!

Our team did a ton of iteration before finally landing on the idea we're working on. We were doing some research in the assistive technology and education space through talking to Kidsability, and landed on an idea to help support Braille alphabetic fluency allowing students to receive audio feedback as they move their hands across the page.

There's a lot of moving parts but it's pushed all of us in applying our engineering skills and going through the entire design process!

We also got some funding through Greenhouse and Engineer of the Future Fund to support development of our project :)

I sometimes wish we didn't have to take so many courses a term as engineering students. There's only so many things you can balance at once and give your all to, and a few classes I wish I attended more!

doing a ura with the social and intelligents robotics research laboratory

Naturally as I was reaching out to professors as potential capstone advisors, I started to learn more about all the research being explored on campus. I've never been a URA (undergraduate research assistant) before as I'm not interested in research/post-grad at the moment, but since this was my last year, I thought, why the heck not!

I did my URA with the Social and Intelligent Robotics Research Laboratory (SIRRL) working on the software program that interacts with the robot. Our experiment was focused on seeing how social robots could help children learn emotions.

My main takeaway is that I've only scratched the surface and there's so much more to explore here. The user experience to build and prototype software in this area is miles behind software I typically see in start-up/SaaS applications, so it was cool to get exposed to this.

I also tried to get involved in other parts of the lab - there were weekly reading groups and meetings where we discussed papers presented at conferences. I analyzed a paper that talked about the learnings of deploying assistive robots in real-life scenarios - specifically to support aging needs.

i finally got my driver's licence!

This deserves a paragraph of its own, because I finally got one after delaying it for almost 5 years 😅. This was honestly one of my primary focuses of the term - I had lessons almost every week, and really pushed myself to make sure I ended this term passing my g2. As someone who's always been really afraid of driving and just thinking I could never do it, this was a huge accomplishment for me!

So crazy that in September, I was so afraid of driving on main roads or speeds past 50km/hr, in October I was so afraid of turning on intersections, to now driving my mom on the highway! I still have more to practice, but it's nice to see growth from how it started, and where I am now.

And I got it :)!

finally got my driving licence at 22 🥺🙈💀


nyc steakhouse

The NYC steakhouse is one of those things I will not stop talking about. It seemed very random at the time to go to New York for the weekend just for this, but it was so much fun! It was so cool to see some of my twitter friends IRL, and incredibly special to see almost ~60 friends come together to pull this fun scheme off for shits and giggles. Thank you so much to Mehran, Danielle and Riley for having me be a part of it.

Our early 20s needs to be filled with more pranks and more fun stories I'll have to tell!


I feel like I was constantly trying not to be in Waterloo as much as possible - and the last year was truly a reflection of that - going on exchange and co-op anywhere but here. But as a friend said it best here, the best place to be is where you currently are.

The state of Waterloo is actually quite similar to how San Francisco is perceived. It's not a perfect place by all means and you have your stereotypes here and there, but it's as fun as you make it.

What's special about both places is that outside of all the noise, there's a core group of people that care deeply about making it a better place because they don't accept anything less.

Being the underdog is fun because there’s a lot of fuel to the fire to change the narrative and make the place you’re in, the place you want to stay.

It was also heartwarming to see Socratica grow into something more than we ever could have imagined it to be - a stark contrast from gathering in unlocked lecture rooms, to now an organization that has sparked over 14+ nodes to start in other cities. It's amazing to see a sparkle of creations uproar from waterloo from original song writing, to neural interfaces.

Socratica in Summer 2022

Socratica Symposium in Fall 2023

Of course, it’s not complete with any other shenanigans. We attempted to prompose to the Rizz club president at Waterloo (didn’t even know that was a thing!), I’ve checked off dancing in the math building off my bucket list, and witnessed a pizza being ordered by an AI agent.

girl's trip to vermont

At the end of reading week Arielle organized a lil girls trip to Vermont which was so much fun! I took a train to Montreal first and then we drove to Vermont listening to Noah Kahan on repeat. The weekend was very cozy including the cutest year in review updates and homemade food.

syde coffee house

After strumming olivia rodrigo songs alone in my room for too long, I decided to finally bring it to an audience! I adopted a friend, Fiona, to be a fake syde student for the evening to perform with me and it was a lot of fun.

A few hours before the coffee house, we even edited the lyrics to one of the songs to match theme of graduating Waterloo, and many were very nostalgic listening to it 🥺.

what's next

Well, this is the first time I’m staying put exactly where I am - I have another semester of school, and hopefully I’ll be done! 🤞 I can’t believe it has gone by so fast, and I really want to make the most of next semester, with more memories and learnings to come!

Thanks so much for reading and sticking to the end - this was very fun to write, and if anything resonates, feel free to reach out.

~ Mathurah

some thought-gifts for you 💖

Unrelated, but I've been doing some more reading this winter break - here are some things I've read recently that really struck a chord.

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