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Short circuit over schedule

nait electical

Electrical Engineering Technology students are raising their concerns about what they call inconvenient and potentially dangerous scheduling from NAIT.

The students heard rumours last semester that a change from their 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule to a 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. was coming, and started a petition back in April to keep class times as they were. Over 60 students of the almost 200 in the program signed the petition then and 40 more this fall but their schedule still changed.

One of the biggest challenges with starting at 7 a.m. is transportation. Muhammad Fayyaz, student senator for Engineering Technologies, Academic Upgrading and Open Studies, said using transit from the south side for a 7 a.m. class is problematic.

“If we [students] miss the first bus we are done,” said Fayyaz. “For sure, half an hour late, because the next bus from my house is at 6:09 a.m. And the first bus is at 5:40 a.m. There’s a half hour delay. Then I have to take the LRT from Century Park. So either we [students] are going to show up really early or are going to be late.”

Ten similar examples were sent to administration as part of the students bid for a return to the previous schedule. With students arriving short on sleep before their 7 a.m. labs, they worry that starting earlier isn’t just inconvenient – it’s dangerous. Patrick Wong said he’s worried about “near misses” with his fellow classmates.

“[A near miss is] when you see an accident about to happen but it didn’t. Whether a student caught it and stopped it, or just by luck it did not happen,” said Wong.

Wong said being alert is essential when handling high voltages.

“There is a potential for arcing and shocking,” continued Wong. “Basically, the heart stops when more than 24 milliamps of current goes through your body. So at 5,000 volts, that’s way above. There are potential hazards for serious injury.”

Smaller lab classes have created earlier start times and three hour breaks. NAIT Scheduling and the NAIT Students’ Association have been working on the issue since April. Gail Wall from NAIT Scheduling said that an increase in
students was the reason for the schedule change.

“We are very aware there are challenges in those schedules,” Wall explains.

“What’s happened is, this year in particular, they’ve [electrical engineering] got four extra groups of students, so they’re using a lot more time in the lab. And they also re-did their curriculum and added extra lab hours for some courses to give students more practical, hands-on experience.”

Even without an increase of some 30 students, and four to six hours a week of additional lab time to account for,Wall said building the electrical engineering schedule is difficult.

“When we compare them to last year there are some differences and there are some larger gaps,” said Wall. “But even last year, when we had four less groups and 12 less hours of lab time, there were challenges in the second-year schedules. They just weren’t as pronounced as this year.”

Wall said the 7 a.m. class is a reality of life at NAIT and the workforce.

“Starting any class, lab or lecture at 7 a.m. is a standard practice all across the industry and it’s not new to NAIT. It might be new to these particular students since we’ve taken in more – and the program has expanded – but it’s definitely not new across the board.”

NAITSA President Doris Car understands how the students are feeling and is working to find a solution.

“Across the board everyone has a challenge with the current state – how things are. Everyone is working together to find the solution. Unfortunately that’s the truth, because I know we won’t find a solution within the next half-year.”

Small improvements have been made regarding instructor times for the winter semester but nothing that tackles the major concerns.

“The point is we haven’t been given any notice,” said Wong, who’s been at the front of the issue for half the year.

“It’s just a sudden change, no communication. That’s one of the issues that we are also dealing with,” he said.

“If you’re given proper awareness before you even register…to give the potential students proper time to plan, you give them the control to decide whether this program is right for them.”

– Michael Menzies, Senior Editor

Image by Tim Potter

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