Many engineering students choose the University of Waterloo for co-operative education and academic rigor. But as first-year students arrive on campus, they soon discover that it’s not all work and no play.   

Although academic success is important, a meaningful and memorable student experience is also built through friendship and fun. Over the years, many Faculty of Engineering traditions have bolstered camaraderie and built a valuable sense of community.  

One of the traditions that always brings a smile to the faces of students and alumni is Engineering Day.   

Students at Waterloo Engineering Day

Launched in 2016, Engineering Day’s mission is simple: to give students a few hours off from classes to have some fun in the sun. Working with the Waterloo Engineering Society (EngSoc), the official student council representing the student body, the Faculty organizes the event in July each year. Hundreds of students flock to line up for burgers, paint themselves purple and drop professors in the ‘dunk tank.’   

Dylan Ellingson (BASc in progress), a second-year mechatronics engineering student and EngSoc’s B-term president, described the day with enthusiasm.    

“We’re outside, all together, the music is loud, there’s purple everywhere — in the air and all over our skin, clothes and hair — there’s free food and swag, and the dean is cheering us on. The atmosphere is electric.”  

Aarchit Gupta (MMSc ’19) works as a project lead at Yelp and remembers Engineering Day with a big grin.    

“It was so different to the academically focused Engineering Day at my university in India,” Gupta said. “Waterloo Engineering Day encourages fun, fun and more fun. It's such a simple yet effective way to help students let off steam and unite as a group. I made new friends that day who are still my friends. I also felt enormously proud to be an Engineering student.”  

Waterloo Engineering Day encourages fun, fun and more fun.

— Aarchit Gupta (MMSc ’19)

As a member of the Recent Engineering Alumni Council (REAC), which helps keep alumni who graduated over the past 10 years connected to the University’s community, Gupta highlights the importance of student traditions to build lifelong connections.   

“When you’re happy and having a good time, it’s easy to bond with people in that shared experience. You don’t realize it at the time, but those relationships and memories give you a sense of belonging, which helps soften the transition from student to alum.”  

As EngSoc president, Ellingson has paid close attention to student needs, particularly in a post-COVID-19 environment that prioritizes health and well-being.   

“When it comes to building community, nothing beats sharing a fun experience in-person,” Ellingson said. “Our student experience is happier and healthier when we feel that collective Waterloo Engineering spirit.”  

EngSoc is busy reinvigorating other important traditions that went dormant during the pandemic. The Bus Push, for example, is back on the calendar. This popular annual event, first held in 1977, has a group of Engineering students pull a school bus from the University to Kitchener Market Square to raise money for the Grand River Hospital's children wing.   

New traditions are also being introduced. The Engineering Pin Day launched in 2023 to inspire students’ commitment to community, responsibility, innovation and excellence in their studies and future work, while The Chall-ENG-e pits different Engineering departments against each other for some friendly sporting competition.   

Both add to the Faculty’s impressive body of traditions that span decades and encourage students to be their best — and have fun too.   

In the early days of the Bus Push, about 10 participating Engineering students pushed the bus. As the tradition gained popularity, more students wanted to join in and there wasn’t enough room for everyone at the back of the bus. Being engineers, the students quickly realized that tying ropes to the front of the bus meant more room for more people. The mechanics have changed but the name stays the same.