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STEM SIGHTS: La la la! The students who sing thermodynamics

Their strategy for a tricky concept? Put a tune behind it
January 24, 2017
By Clea Desjardins

Reuben Warnongbri: “We wanted to produce a song that sounded as professional as possible.” Reuben Warnongbri: “I used several charts [see above] to write down when I wanted a certain sound to be more prominent, how loud one instrument needed to be and where to build up energy in the song.”

When second-year engineering student Reuben Warnongbri signed up for “ENGR 251 – Thermodynamics I,” he didn’t expect his music skills to earn him school credit. But after engineering professor Lyes Kadem assigned the class a peer-based learning project, Warnongbri got an idea.

“Our team decided to write and record a song using my home studio.”

Kadem, who teaches in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, asked each group to produce a five-minute video explaining a specific thermodynamics concept. Once submitted, the projects will be housed in a database accessible to other Concordia students in the field.

Warnongbri tells us more about how he and his teammates — Emily Minor, Jean-Gabriel Lacombe and Julia McDonald — used music to illustrate their engineering know-how.

‘It was challenging to craft a song that included all the scientific concepts’

What was the objective of your project?

Reuben Warnongbri: We were asked to make a video that explains a specific concept or process. It was a fun, light-hearted endeavour to engage the students in the topics of the thermodynamics course.

What were some of the key challenges you faced?

RW: It was challenging to craft a song that lyrically included all the scientific concepts we learned, but was also easy and catchy enough for anyone to listen to. This took a lot of grammatical manipulation and wordplay, but we made it happen in the end!

What person, experience or moment in time inspired you to try this?

RW: Well, I am a singer-songwriter outside of school. My friends and I would listen to music together during our group study sessions. When we got this assignment, we really wanted to go all out and produce a song that sounded as professional as possible.

How does the image at the top relate to your project?

RW: I used several charts to write down when I wanted a certain sound to be more prominent, how loud one instrument needed to be and where to build up energy in the song.

There is a lot of planning that needs to happen when you take on an engineering project. And in the case of this song, I took a very similar approach to its production.

What advice would you give to students interested in joining this field?

RW: Engineering is highly valued, dynamic and interesting. It really helps to build your technical skills but also those of business and project management. Engineering projects never go far if there is no funding or if the end product is too expensive to manufacture.

It is a field that requires hard work, but it is also extremely rewarding.

What do you like best about being at Concordia?

RW: There is a great sense of “togetherness” at the university. Everyone is on the same journey as they go through each assignment, each exam, en route to their degree.

People are extremely nice here and it seems to be less of a competitive, dog-eat-dog environment. It’s more like, “let’s get through this together because learning is the most important.”  

Concordia is also very well-connected with the engineering industry. It emphasizes the importance of crafting a set of specialized skills in a way that will be attractive to future employers.

Find out more about Concordia’s Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science.



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