Aoife Hegarty – BEng (Hons) in Mechanical Engineering

Name: Aoife Hegarty

School: Ursuline College Sligo

Current Job Title: PEM Research Centre

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to choosing your course: 

I studied Mechanical Engineering as a Mature Student.  I had been previously working as an Architectural Draftsperson and was laid off during the recession.  I had always been interested in Mechanics, particularly Marine, and had done a course previously to be an Inshore Lifeboat Mechanic with the RNLI. I liked helping my friends who were mechanics to work on cars, and was always curious about auto electrics/electronics. I love problem solving and inventing things, autonomous energy generation and radio transmission.  

What specifically about the course did you particularly enjoy? 

Third year team project.  We got to work as a team and design, build and test a wave energy converter from scratch.  I enjoyed the design and analytical aspects of the project, whereas my team members were stronger at fabrication and assembly.  Our strengths and weaknesses balanced each other out.  I enjoyed meeting people with similar interests and ideas as myself and have made some friends for life. 

What is the best thing about the course that you think new applicants should know? 

The chance to do the team project.  The personal support from the lecturers and technicians was invaluable.  

Any favourite modules during your time studying?  

Maths, Mechanics, Dynamics. 

What key skills did you learn while studying at ATU Sligo that have influenced your career? 

The knowledge and ability to build parts from scratch, from design to materials selection, manufacture, assembly and test.  

Can you share some detail of your career path or further studies to date 

I was fortunate enough to receive one of the Marine Institutes PhD Cullen Scholarships in collaboration with the Mobile and Marine Robotic Research Centre in UL.  I received a four year stipend and was based at the Marine Institute in Galway.  I got to build a subsea connector from the Spiddal cabled Observatory to a surface buoy as part of my research.  I got loads of practical experience in Marine mechanics, electrics and electronics and got to assist the Marine Offshore Services technicians during operations.   

What does your current role involve? 

(1)  Researching methods of Beyond Line Of Sight (BLOS) communications for Ocean buoys/platforms outside the range of terrestrial communications.  The project includes design, build, deployment and testing in collaboration with end users. 

(2)  The design, build and testing of a platform for Tide Gauge calibration. 

What advice would you share with our current students considering a career in your field? 

Help someone during the holidays/weekends that is doing the job that you are interested in.  If the time flies, and it doesn’t feel like work, it’s definitely worth considering. 

Engineers need to be able to do a bit of everything i.e. design, drawing, inventing, problem solving, coding, wiring, networking, welding, fixing, making, testing, breaking, re-designing, analyzing….. 

What did you like best about studying at ATU Sligo? 

Relatively small local college with an emphasis on the technical and practical aspect of the course.  The lecturers and technicians took a personal interest in everyone.  Larger universities in my experience tend to be more impersonal/mass produced. 

What advice would you give a first year student starting in ATU Sligo? 

Keep on top of your work from the start if you can.  There are a lot of new subjects and a busy timetable to get to grips with.  ASK FOR HELP if you need it with certain subjects/topics.  A lot of others probably have the same questions, but are reluctant to speak up. Enjoy the course, and all the new people you will meet and make friends with. 

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