PS First Draft - Rebuilding an Engine - Please help revise!

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Mr. Frodo
Posts: 196
Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2012 1:59 pm

PS First Draft - Rebuilding an Engine - Please help revise!

Postby Mr. Frodo » Sat Jul 21, 2012 6:45 pm

This is my first attempt at a PS relating the rebuilding of my engine last summer to my qualities as a person and student (and prospective law school student). I know its rough, needs upgraded vocabulary usage and much better transitioning, but I wanted to put this base first so I can get some comments to incorporate while I'm revising for a second draft. All help is very, very much appreciated. This is especially the case because I literally have no college friends IRL that know anything about law school. :shock:

Thanks! :D

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Psshhh, crrrr, silence. This was the sequence of sounds signaling that my car’s engine had finally had enough of my daily commute to Philadelphia and back in the 100-degree heat. As I glided silently into the shoulder lane and grappled with the e-brake lever to bring the now smoking and powerless vehicle to a stop, I was overcome with grief. “How much was this going to cost me?,” and “Was this the end of my car, the single largest item I had ever worked for and paid for?” were just a couple of the questions whizzing through my mind as I emerged from my 1996 Saab 900 to look under the hood at what just minutes ago was a working engine. I knew very little about cars up until this point, and little did I know what I was getting myself into when I decided, “I’m going to fix this myself.”

For four hours I waited on a grassy hill by the highway, until the towing service I had called decided to arrive. In the meantime, I took the shrink-wrap off of the Haynes manual I had purchased in case something like this ever happened. Being by nature a very detail-oriented and precise individual, I was able to successfully diagnose the failure sequence of my car’s engine, with the help of the manual. Sparing the details, heat was the culprit, and the easiest fix I learned that I could possibly attempt was to remove and replace the head gasket. I had just started to assemble a list of items I would need for the repair, when I happened to catch a reflection of something 30 or so feet behind my car. I held the pieces in my hand, a yin and yang of aluminum that had been punched out of the side of my cars engine when the heat and pressure in the engine combined to force a piston rod through the side of engine. Concerned that I may not be able to save my engine at this point, I called a member of an enthusiast forum I was a part of and informed him of my situation only to find out he had a surprise for me. “Doug, I’m actually trying to get rid of my 1997 900. My wife says I have too many cars. Its engine doesn’t run right now, but you could swap it into your car and get it working. I could bring it over tomorrow.” Of course I was excited by such a prospect, and enthusiastically agreed to his proposition.

The man arrived the next morning, a Saturday, to drop off the car. It was 5AM, and he simply let the car off his trailer, gave me the key and headed home. I popped open the hood as he left, only to start running after his car as soon I realized what I had sitting in my driveway. His car was turbocharged, and mine was not. In my haste, I only made it about 200 feet before it hit me; I couldn’t go back now and try to return what someone went out of their way to give to me, and I had to find a way to make this work. I called the senior engineer at Pennoni Associates that supervised my six-month co-op internship there to ask if I could take my allotted 5 days of vacation to attempt to fix my car over the next week. “Sure, just don’t hurt yourself,” he said.

From then on, it was as if I was back in school. The whiteboard in my room became my idea canvas. My garage became my storage and parts facility. My every waking moment was spent in equal parts researching, equal parts asking questions, and equal parts laboring in, on, and under my car. I had assembled a pushpin wall of helpful forum posts, scans of pages from library books on turbocharged engines, and photos that I had labeled of how everything fit together. By using the networking I had created while completing my engineering education, I was able to borrow an engine hoist, jack stands, countless tools, and even a Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welder from two Drexel University professors. I had never used most of these tools, but was able to sort through tutorials, manuals, and all sorts of literature to find what was pertinent to what I needed to be able to do.
To increase my efficiency, I disassembled my car’s existing components methodically, simultaneously learning about how it all went together. In consecutive days, the two engines were removed; old then new. Just as I’ve always done, I put a heavy emphasis on preparation before execution. I took the time to replace seals, gaskets, and bearings on this “new” engine, because if I was taking the time to do this, I wanted to ensure it was right the first time. It was Wednesday of my week off when I started to feel very comfortable with what I was doing. This project was a puzzle and I had always been good at those. Not only that, but this project was my first meaningful, independent chance to apply my engineering mindset to a serious engineering problem, where there were no definitive solutions to be found.

By Friday, I had the new engine mounted in my car and had begun wiring. I studied wiring diagrams and revisited my college physics notes for reference on how to combine circuits and wires safely in the engine harness, as I had to adapt the turbocharged engine to function with my car’s existing circuitry and power distribution. After wiring until Saturday afternoon, everything had been cleaned, installed, adjusted, tightened, torqued, and insulated, and it was time for the final component. On my trip to the parts store to get spark plugs, joy overcame me.

Whether the car started or not, I was extremely proud of my week of research, planning, and execution in an unfamiliar field. I had proven to myself that after a cumulative year solving civil engineering design problems at a firm, and accruing the skills to use a combination of research, experience and intuition to solve such problems, I could tackle major problems well outside my major field of study. I had always known I wanted this engineering mindset, but that I wanted it to use on a global level, outside of the confines of my major or field. I had always known that research, coordination, and problem solving were major strengths of mine, but it was now more apparent than ever to me that I had strengthened these skills to a level where I could confidently say, “I’m ready for law school.” 15,000 miles later, I can look back and say I’m proud of what I accomplished, and excited by the challenges that inevitably lie ahead.

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MrSparkle
Posts: 154
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Re: PS First Draft - Rebuilding an Engine - Please help revise!

Postby MrSparkle » Sat Jul 21, 2012 9:25 pm

Mr. Frodo wrote:This is my first attempt at a PS relating the rebuilding of my engine last summer to my qualities as a person and student (and prospective law school student). I know its rough, needs upgraded vocabulary usage and much better transitioning, but I wanted to put this base first so I can get some comments to incorporate while I'm revising for a second draft. All help is very, very much appreciated. This is especially the case because I literally have no college friends IRL that know anything about law school. :shock:

Thanks! :D

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Psshhh, crrrr, silence. This was the sequence of sounds signaling that my car’s engine had finally had enough of my daily commute to Philadelphia and back in the 100-degree heat. As I glided silently into the shoulder lane and grappled with the e-brake lever to bring the now smoking and powerless vehicle to a stop, I was overcome with grief. “How much was this going to cost me?,” and “Was this the end of my car, the single largest item I had ever worked for and paid for?” were just a couple of the questions whizzing through my mind as I emerged from my 1996 Saab 900 to look under the hood at what just minutes ago was a working engine. I knew very little about cars up until this point, and little did I know what I was getting myself into when I decided, “I’m going to fix this myself.”

For four hours I waited on a grassy hill by the highway, until the towing service I had called decided to arrive. In the meantime, I took the shrink-wrap off of the Haynes manual I had purchased in case something like this ever happened. Being by nature a very detail-oriented and precise individual, I was able to successfully diagnose the failure sequence of my car’s engine, with the help of the manual. Sparing the details <-- Don't do this, telling me that you'll do something before doing it. Just do it. Spare me the details and save me from reading that you will., heat was the culprit, and the easiest fix I learned that I could possibly attempt was to remove and replace the head gasket. I had just started to assemble a list of items I would need for the repair, when I happened to catch a reflection of something 30 or so feet behind my car. I held the pieces in my hand, a yin and yang of aluminum that had been punched out of the side of my cars engine when the heat and pressure in the engine combined to force a piston rod through the side of engine. Concerned that I may not be able to save my engine at this point, I called a member of an enthusiast forum I was a part of and informed him of my situation only to find out he had a surprise for me. “Doug, I’m actually trying to get rid of my 1997 900. My wife says I have too many cars. Its engine doesn’t run right now, but you could swap it into your car and get it working. I could bring it over tomorrow.” Of course I was excited by such a prospect, and enthusiastically agreed to his proposition.

The man arrived the next morning, a Saturday, to drop off the car. It was 5AM, and he simply let the car off his trailer, gave me the key and headed home. I popped open the hood as he left, only to start running after his car as soon I realized what I had sitting in my driveway. His car was turbocharged, and mine was not. In my haste, I only made it about 200 feet before it hit me; I couldn’t go back now and try to return what someone went out of their way to give to me, and I had to find a way to make this work. I called the senior engineer at Pennoni Associates that supervised my six-month co-op internship there to ask if I could take my allotted 5 days of vacation to attempt to fix my car over the next week. “Sure, just don’t hurt yourself,” he said.

From then on, it was as if I was back in school. The whiteboard in my room became my idea canvas. My garage became my storage and parts facility. My every waking moment was spent in equal parts researching, equal parts asking questions, and equal parts laboring in, on, and under my car. I had assembled a pushpin wall of helpful forum posts, scans of pages from library books on turbocharged engines, and photos that I had labeled of how everything fit together. By using the networking I had created while completing my engineering education, I was able to borrow an engine hoist, jack stands, countless tools, and even a Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welder from two Drexel University professors. I had never used most of these tools, but was able to sort through tutorials, manuals, and all sorts of literature to find what was pertinent to what I needed to be able to do.
To increase my efficiency, I disassembled my car’s existing components methodically, simultaneously learning about how it all went together. In consecutive days, the two engines were removed; old then new. Just as I’ve always done, I put a heavy emphasis on preparation before execution. I took the time to replace seals, gaskets, and bearings on this “new” engine, because if I was taking the time to do this, I wanted to ensure it was right the first time. It was Wednesday of my week off when I started to feel very comfortable with what I was doing. This project was a puzzle and I had always been good at those. Not only that, but this project was my first meaningful, independent chance to apply my engineering mindset to a serious engineering problem, where there were no definitive solutions to be found.

By Friday, I had the new engine mounted in my car and had begun wiring. I studied wiring diagrams and revisited my college physics notes for reference on how to combine circuits and wires safely in the engine harness, as I had to adapt the turbocharged engine to function with my car’s existing circuitry and power distribution. After wiring until Saturday afternoon, everything had been cleaned, installed, adjusted, tightened, torqued, and insulated, and it was time for the final component. On my trip to the parts store to get spark plugs, joy overcame me.

Whether the car started or not, I was extremely proud of my week of research, planning, and execution in an unfamiliar field. I had proven to myself that after a cumulative year solving civil engineering design problems at a firm, and accruing the skills to use a combination of research, experience and intuition to solve such problems, I could tackle major problems well outside my major field of study. I had always known I wanted this engineering mindset, but that I wanted it to use on a global level, outside of the confines of my major or field. I had always known that research, coordination, and problem solving were major strengths of mine, but it was now more apparent than ever to me that I had strengthened these skills to a level where I could confidently say, “I’m ready for law school.” Whoa, law school came out of no where. I thought you were about to say, "I'm ready to become a mechanic."15,000 miles later, I can look back and say I’m proud of what I accomplished, and excited by the challenges that inevitably lie ahead.




Overall, I can see what you're trying to do. Show your engine re-building accomplishment is a reflection of your personality and your character. It's a good start.

There's a missing emotional element and connection here. I don't care about your car or your effort. You get a little bogged down into the details of the car, and since I know nothing about cars (and adcomms might not, either) every time you mention parts or the difficulty of connecting stuff I zone out and it's like you told me nothing at all, because I don't know the difficulty in it or even have a general picture in my head of what you're doing.

"It was a turbocharged whatever with whatever attached to it blah blah" --> "It was the wrong type, the equivalent of a lion where my car needed only a kitten inside." That's lame, but I didn't have to say turbocharger.

Maybe if you explained a little the background of how you got your car and what it took to get it, I'd care about it more. Perhaps analogy: "Other people might say their car is their baby, but my bucket of rust is like an old friend on his deathbed. You want him to be a part of the rest of your life, and talk about all the good times you had growing up together forever." Make me feel the weight of the situation.

Stylistically, you don't have to mention specific names and stuff where it's not important. It also detracts. "My old profs" instead of "Drexel Univ. profs" is better. The focus is on the fact they're old profs, not that they're from Drexel. Ditto to internship names, etc. b/c that's all in your resume/LOR, presumably.

Good effort, I think it's def a good start.




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