Olivier studied Mechatronics at Edinburgh Napier. Read more about his student experience

Mechatronics

3rd year Mechatronics student, Olivier Chaligne, talks about his aspirations for his future and his interests in mechatronics

I am a dual nationality student and have previously studied in France and worked as a chefMechatronics student, Olivier Chaligne
I am a dual national. I’m part Scottish (My mother is from Turriff in Aberdeenshire) and part French, I was born and raised in a place called Le Mans in France.

About ten years ago I studied a Diploma in Technological Studies in Business Administration in La Rochelle, which is the equivalent to a HND, and then added an Erasmus year exchange in the Netherlands where I studied Procurement & Entrepreneurship. From there, I somehow ended up working as a chef for a few years in Aberdeen and other places in the UK. Although I enjoyed working with food, I felt it was the time for a change.    

I moved back to France and through a jobcentre scheme I was able to follow an apprenticeship in Industrial Maintenance. I worked in an energy systems company, cruising the west of France doing maintenance and repairs on electrical power generators. I then decided I need to know more about how installation and things were engineered. I was accepted on the Scottish Wider Access Programme in Engineering at Edinburgh college. The aim of the programme is to give access to mature students to university level studies, helping them bridge their knowledge gap. 

If you have an interest in how things work, mechatronics is your best pick
Edinburgh Napier was one of the only two places I could study mechatronics in Scotland. I got interested in mechatronics because of its wide range of applications. Plus, if you have got an interest in how things work, it’s your best pick. It is at the crossing point between mechanical, electronics, computing, and control engineering. It gives you a complete understanding of a system.
Learning about new topics and finding creative solutions to problems is what I enjoy the most
Learning about new topics and finding creative solutions to problems is probably what I enjoy the most. It is very daunting at times but when the solution finally appears, it gives me a great sense of work done, satisfaction and relief.
I enjoy knowing I participated in creating solutions for people
I think knowing that I participated in creating solutions which people find useful and enjoy using, is probably what gets me going the most. I suppose there is also the ego boost aspect of being recognised for having done something people know about. 
I have been involved in several extracurricular activities to engage my fellow students and the wider society
I have many ideas about how we could do things differently to build better futures.  

Following an entrepreneurship bootcamp in March, I put together a group of students at Napier which is working on building a digital citizen engagement platform. The aim is to unlock the problem-solving capability of citizens to allow local and national decision makers to provide more liveable and resilient urban environments whilst boosting transparency and saving resources.  

I am also part of the Enterprise & Technology Society committee. The aim of the society is to instil an entrepreneurial spirit within the student cohort at Edinburgh Napier University. The society helps students to find and explore business ideas jointly with the Bright Red Triangle (the university’s start-up incubator). We want students to treat their time at university and studies not only to find employment but also, alternatively, as a route to go on their own journey and dare to be creators and innovators.  

I have also been involved in organising the Mathematics Masterclasses from the Royal Institution Mathematics. Those are workshops for school pupils interested in Maths. Since these have been successful, we are now investigating organising Engineering Masterclasses to promote a wider range of STEM subjects and create interest for Engineering studies in pupils.
I was able to receive the Engineering Horizons Bursary
In my second year, I was selected by the Institution of Engineering and Technology to receive the Engineering Horizons Bursary. It is a great help for students as it provides networking opportunities, workshops, and links with industry and academia. 
Staying organised and speaking to lecturers kept me on track
Obviously going back to university as a mature student can be a little daunting but by staying organised and talking to lecturer has helped me keep on track.   
I have developed my personal and professional skills through my degree
I have developed an understanding of automation, electrical, electronic, and mechanical engineering principles as well as project management and design.   

Through the various activities I taken part in, I have been able to develop my problem-solving, organisational, communication and various other soft skills.  

Possibly the most important, I have learned how to organise my learning which will help me keep my skills up to date and fill knowledge gaps in my professional life.
The way we live and evolve within our environment is going to change at a rapid pace within the next 10 years. I want to work on solutions to integrate nature and technology to create more liveable and resilient places to live and work
The way we live and evolve within our environment is going to change at a rapid pace within the next 10 years. I want to work on solutions to integrate nature and technology to create more liveable and resilient places to live and work.   

It is a necessity for the societal system to be rethought and completely revamped. In that sense everything needs to be done in every sector: manufacturing, health, work, education, agriculture…  

I would like to be able to split my time between academia and working on industrial projects. I am considering an entrepreneurship or consultant route, rather than pursuing through the graduate scheme and job path. I enjoy working on various topics such as idea generation, prototyping, business development, and finance. For me, it is not an option focusing on one job and being trapped doing the same tasks over and over. 
Edinburgh is a very multicultural city, there is always something going on
Edinburgh is a very multicultural city. Just go for a walk in one the parks or the main streets, and you will quickly hear people from all over the world. There is always something going on whether you are after an exhibition and arts, a good meal, quiet pints in a pub or a wild night out.   

Despite all this, Edinburgh still has a town feel to it with a compact city centre where everything is within walking distance and the countryside very nearby.   
My advice to someone considering the course would be to expose yourself to different experiences and make mistakes
I think the advice I would like to pass on is more to do with the whole university experience.  

Although you will be studying an engineering degree, take time to explore the other activities within the university, like placements, societies, entrepreneurship workshops, volunteering and that kind of thing, because you never know what opportunities it may bring you.   
Expose yourself to different experiences and make mistakes.
It is ok not knowing how to do or not understanding something, that is why you will be at university studying, but you must take ownership of your studies and work, and ask lecturers questions when you are stuck.  

You must develop some form of resilience. At times, you may feel like everything you are working on is not working out as you planned. In those cases, you have to be persistent, try again and find a solution. 
As I also mentioned, I am pursuing a start-up idea in the domain of smart governance to involve citizens in the decision-making process for urban development and placemaking
I am currently in the process of finishing my BEng in mechatronics.  

As I also mentioned, I am pursuing a start-up idea in the domain of smart governance to involve citizens in the decision-making process for urban development and placemaking.

I am also considering which direction to pursue my studies: Automation & Robotics, Computing Science or Future Smart Cities Technologies. 

The destination is not so important because I know what I am doing now may well be different in 3, 5 and 10 years.

Disclaimer

The Mechatronics course is no longer running. Our Mechanical Engineering course offers similar modules and career routes. Visit the course page to find out more.