Engineering is a profession long steeped in tradition, with the symbolism of hard hats and Iron Rings held in high esteem.

This September, the Faculty of Engineering is introducing a new tradition – the Waterloo Engineering pin - to symbolize students’ commitment to their studies and to each other.

First-year students will receive pins designed by fourth-year mechatronics student Gordon Fountain during their first few weeks of classes in exchange for their pledge to uphold the highest ethical standards of learning, conduct and professionalism.

The commitment pledge features four fundamental principles – community, responsibility, innovation and excellence. With their signature, each student will commit to reflect these values in everyday campus interactions and to make a positive difference.  

Waterloo Engineering pin

The Waterloo Engineering pin design

Key to its development were student leaders Duke Gand (fourth-year electrical engineering), Dylan Ellingson (third-year mechatronics engineering), and Dean Mary Wells.

In the following Q&A, Gand, Ellingson and Dean Wells discuss the importance of this new tradition.

Why is introducing this pin essential to first-year students?

Dean Wells: Receiving this pin as students embark on their studies helps set the stage for them to meaningfully reflect on the values fundamental to our community and their profession. Crucially, it unites them as a group and gives them an early sense of belonging within the Waterloo Engineering community. This is especially significant after the horrific attack at Hagey Hall this summer; universities are mosaics of people and ideas, and their strength lies in accepting, embracing, and celebrating our differences. We must be a place where ideas can be explored and discussed in an unbiased and tolerant manner and where individual identity and choice are respected.  

Gand: We want our incoming students to know we are one – as a wider Waterloo Engineering family, we will stumble together and succeed together, too.

Ellingson: Engineering can be hard, but that struggle reminds us to look out for one another. We all agree that’s what we want this pin to represent, alongside the accountability we must have for the greater good as aspiring engineers.

How integral has having senior leadership and student voices at the table been?

Ellingson: As students, I know we can’t capture all the needs and desires of a pin meant to represent an entire Faculty. Working together, I feel confident we’ve been able to incorporate values that speak to everyone, far beyond just the engineering undergraduate students Duke and I represent.

Gand: “I agree – from the start, this pin has been created in harmony [with Faculty leadership]. Because of this, we’ve landed on a pin representing not only engineering undergraduate students but also faculty, staff, undergraduate students, graduate students and Architecture students.”

Dean Wells: It’s been energizing to see how our visions for this pin and the values we want our community to reflect have aligned so seamlessly throughout this process.

How did you choose the commitment pledge’s four principles of community responsibility, innovation and excellence?

Gand: We identified them as the right balance of realistic, achievable and aspirational values to encourage students to achieve the best version of themselves.

Ellingson: And, as most of our first-year students are coming directly from high school and have worked extremely hard to get here, we want them to know life as a Waterloo Engineering should encompass more than just doing well in the classroom.

Dean Wells: And the order [of our principles] matters! We wanted community first - instead of comparing yourself to others, consider how you’re growing together as a community.

What do you hope will be the impact of this pin on the Waterloo Engineering community?

Ellingson: I hope it inspires our community members to strive for the best right off the bat. Your university experience is about becoming better than you were yesterday. That’s the impact I hope for.

Gand: I hope this is a defining moment for many. As students, we talk a lot about ethics and what it means to be a good engineer and, by extension, a good person. I hope this pin truly captures that and sets the tone that while your journey is starting now, by no means does your commitment to growth end.

Dean Wells: I hope this pin emphasizes to our students that while they’re beginning a personal journey, our community remains dedicated to helping you grow into who you’re meant to be, personally and professionally. We want our students to meet their fullest human potential.