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Plastics, snow and creative engineering

Julian Kollataj

“A degree in engineering is one of the best starting degrees you could possibly have,” says South African-born student Julian Kollataj. Two years ago he found his way to Helsinki and Arcada in search of new challenges and an outlet for his creativity.

When Julian Kollataj packed his bags in Pretoria for departure to his mother’s country of birth, Finland, he did so with some very specific goals in mind. He wanted a degree that guarantees him a job in his field as well as access to free snow and northern lights shows.
“An engineering degree from the Materials Processing Technology programme opens up the doors to a wide range of career choices,” he says. “But for me it’s all about learning the fundamentals of engineering for a future in industrial design. I first want to understand the functional materials I’m working with, so I can contribute with something unique and creative to the industry later.”
When he first set foot on campus he found what he describes as an international and easy-going atmosphere.
“It’s mind-opening to be surrounded by so many nationalities, both on a personal and professional level. I also appreciate how open and accessible the teachers at Arcada are. They are approachable, and you can even call them by their first names – something I never did at high school in South Africa.”

Functional materials

At Arcada the Materials Processing Technology programme has a clear focus –functional materials and design. In layman’s terms, this means that students become well versed in plastics and polymer technology while learning how to develop and design smart and sustainable products.
“Understanding the properties of plastics is an ideal point of departure into understanding any other material,” Julian explains. “It is light, strong and flexible, and new technologies like 3D printing show just how important it is for future production and design.”
You would be sorely mistaken to dismiss plastics as a material of the past. It is an essential ingredient of everything from the wings of a plane and surgical equipment to components in high-tech electronics.
“Over the last decade or two, the processing of plastics has changed to become more environmentally-friendly. In fact, the material in itself has never been the problem, but rather people’s way of handling it.”

Work and play

Working as a tennis coach alongside his studies, Julian’s passion for sport blurs the line between work and play. If all goes according to plan it will continue to do so, but in a new and maybe even more exciting sense.
“I’d love to go into sports equipment prototyping and design. It would be amazing to be able to combine my career with my love for tennis, so I’m aiming at spending my next work practice period at a racket manufacturer, such as Head in Austria or Wilson in the USA.”
Having recently spent a 3-month work practice period at the 3D printing and production company Shapeways in the Netherlands, Julian can vouch for the importance of getting proper work experience while studying.
“Practical training is invaluable for your own development as well as your CV,” Julian says. “Especially if you take the opportunity Arcada offers to go abroad, it shows a future employer exactly what he wants to see – that you are the kind of person who is willing to go the extra mile and go out of your comfort zone to gain new experiences.”