Iron Ring

In Canada it is a tradition that engineers (who graduated from a Canadian school or had their foreign degrees evaluated as equivalent to Canadian standards) wear an iron ring on the pinky (little finger) of their working hand.

Picture of my iron ring

My Iron Ring

The ceremony known as the Ritual Calling of an Engineer (or more popularly as the Iron Ring Ceremony) takes places at all Canadian engineering schools when final year students are welcomed to the brotherhood/sisterhood of engineers and given the iron ring. The ceremony is only open to engineering students who are getting their iron ring and anybody else who has an iron ring. I am not going to disclose what happens in the ceremony as I think it’s only fair to keep the inquisitiveness alive for future bearers of the ring.

At McMaster University the ceremony is known as “Kipling” and is named after Rudyard Kipling who designed the ceremony in 1922. The excitement of getting the ring is tremendous and words cannot describe how it feels to get the ring after years of hard work and numerous ups and downs. And the best way to vent out some of this excitement is the Kipling prank.  Students from all engineering departments take part in these pranks (which are not acts of vandalism 😉 ) to show their engineering prowess and creativity. To give an example, Software Engineering students would create a giant 8-bit Mario from cardboards on the glass walls of the tallest building on campus, or Mechanical Engineers would dismantle a car and make a character from the movie Transformers. These kinds of displays are all over the campus and are made on the night before the Iron Ring ceremony (or Kipling as they call it at McMaster).

I was up all night before Kipling working on the pranks and it was one of the most memorable times of my life. Most of the class came out to help and amidst all pressure from project deadlines, midterm exam woes and stress of final exams we enjoyed that cold March night (yes it’s cold in Canada in March) together with a deep-rooted sense of accomplishment and joy.

On the morning of the ceremony, I had to attend an optional but crucial lecture in hopes of getting tips for the upcoming final exam. Well, the tips never came, and due to the excitement of the day, staying in that class for 50 minutes was brutal. Finally, I got out, ran to my apartment to get dressed and headed to the main gym where the ceremony was about to take place. It was a long ceremony (about 2 and half hours) but for an aspiring engineer nothing could possibly be more important than his Iron Ring ceremony.

I wear the ring at all times and shall always do, but contrary to what I thought initially, the ring is definitely not just a token of accomplishment or an ornament to show pride. It’s a constant reminder of the responsibilities of an engineer to the society. The last line may sound very bookish or fake, so let me tell you how wearing the ring impacts my performance at work. I work as a software developer and there are times when you develop a tendency to be lazy and skip testing. It has happened more than many times now, that I have put myself through a painful testing process just because at some point in the day I stared at my ring and heard the calling from the engineer within.

To learn about the history of Iron Ring, please visit http://www.ironring.ca/.

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