Engineering Society presidents reflect on Skule™ culture

Passing of the torch: Former University of Toronto Engineering Society (EngSoc) president Teresa Nguyen and current EngSoc president Ernesto Diaz Lozano Patiño. (Photos: EngSoc)
Passing of the torch: Former University of Toronto Engineering Society (EngSoc) president Teresa Nguyen and current EngSoc president Ernesto Diaz Lozano Patiño. (Photos: EngSoc)

Passing of the torch: Former University of Toronto Engineering Society (EngSoc) president Teresa Nguyen and current EngSoc president Ernesto Diaz Lozano Patiño. (Photos: EngSoc)

This story originally appeared on Engineering Alumni& Friends.

Since 1885, the University of Toronto Engineering Society (EngSoc) has brought students together and fostered a unique sense of camaraderie that has become a hallmark of U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. On March 24, all past and present EngSoc officers are invited to attend the EngSoc Heritage Event to reconnect with their peers, share stories and meet the latest generation of U of T Engineering leaders.

In anticipation of this event, last year’s EngSoc president Teresa Nguyen (CivE 1T4 + PEY) and current president Ernesto Diaz Lozano Patiño (Year 4 CivE + PEY) shared their perspectives on U of T Engineering’s unique spirit and the benefits of staying involved long after graduation.


Why did you want to become EngSoc president and what are/were your goals?

Teresa Nguyen (TN): I had been involved with EngSoc over my entire five years of undergrad thanks to some great upper-year mentors. From meeting so many incredible people, I grew very fond of the Skule™ community and the unique brand of services EngSoc provides to Skule™.

I firmly believe that before you complain about a problem, you should try doing something about it first. I put my name down to run in the 2014 EngSoc officer election with the hope of being able to “do something about it.”

In hindsight, my main goals were to preserve and advance the caliber of U of T Engineering’s renowned tight-knit culture, improve legacy operations and pursue new ideas in line with the evolving engineering identity.

Ernesto Diaz Lozano Patiño (EDLP): I wanted to give back to the U of T Engineering community. I saw the opportunity of running for president as a chance to improve the services and representation EngSoc offered — to build a better community.

I have five goals: engage more members to get involved while retaining current volunteers; increase the transparency of our operations and make sure everyone is accountable for their actions; advocate engineering students’ needs more effectively and get more students interested in academic advocacy; foster a sense of unity and collaboration among our community; make sure EngSoc properly represents its constituents and is recognized as the official voice for undergraduate engineering students.

What do you think makes U of T Engineering such a close-knit community?

TN: I think it’s a mix of a few things. One of them is simply precedence (set by the people who created EngSoc). The reinforcement of the close-knit community comes in the form of traditions and annual events, such as the firing of Ye Olde Mighty Skule™ Cannon at various events, annual dinner dances, F!rosh Week, Godiva Week and Iron Ring, just to name a few. Professors also play a role in supporting the community by staying engaged with their students and student leaders. In addition, the community is quite privileged to have an academic and professional identity all members can relate to.

EDLP: I think U of T Engineering’s history and traditions constitute the foundations of the united community. As I mentioned, one of our goals is unity and we’ve worked with affiliated organizations to identify strategies to foster more collaboration.

Alumni can find many ways to get involved on EngSoc’s Skule™ Alumni Outreach (Skule AO) website, including mentoring, speaking, judging competitions and just attending events and networking with students. Can you share an example that stands out in your mind of a great alumni volunteer experience?

TN: One of my personal favourite volunteer opportunities is judging the High School Design Competition run by Hi-Skule, EngSoc’s outreach committee. It’s fun to see what high school students are being taught in their math and science classes, what they know about engineering and to inform attending high school teachers all about Skule™.

EDLP: Many of our design teams have great engagement with alumni who mentor junior design leads. Another great event is Skule™ Nite, which is always directed by alumni. This year’s director is alumnus Michael Manning (EngSci 1T3 + PEY).

How do you plan to stay involved with Skule™ after graduation?

TN: I’m an Engineer-in-Training (EIT) in the building science industry right now, but in the future I’d like to guest speak or provide a lecture for one of the building science courses at the Department of Civil Engineering offers. I’m sure I’ll find ways to support EngSoc’s future students leaders, too.

EDLP: I’ll stay involved with some of the clubs I participated in while I was an undergrad, such as the U of T student chapter of the Canadian Electrical Contractors Association. I’ll also make sure I don’t miss Alumni SUDS at Spring Reunion if I’m in Toronto.

What’s the most useful advice you’ve received from Skule™ alumni so far?

TN: If you want to achieve something and you need a team to do it, surround yourself with your supporters, let them do the things they do best, and take only the constructive criticism coming from those who say “you can’t do it.”

EDLP: Being president is very stressful and there’s a lot of work. But don’t forget to have fun — it’s a once in a lifetime experience!

— Emily Meyertholen

Parking app takes home top prize at Hatchery Accelerator competition

Recipe for success: coffee, and advice from Joseph Orozco, entrepreneur and executive director of The Entrepreneurship Hatchery (right). Twenty-three student teams worked to turn ideas into viable business plans at Hatchery Accelerator Weekend, Jan. 22 and 23 at the University of Toronto. (credit: Cherry Fan).
Recipe for success: coffee, and advice from Joseph Orozco, entrepreneur and executive director of The Entrepreneurship Hatchery (right). Twenty-three student teams worked to turn ideas into viable business plans at Hatchery Accelerator Weekend, Jan. 22 and 23 at the University of Toronto. (credit: Cherry Fan).

Recipe for success: coffee, and advice from Joseph Orozco, entrepreneur and executive director of The Entrepreneurship Hatchery (right). Twenty-three student teams worked to turn ideas into viable business plans at Hatchery Accelerator Weekend, Jan. 22 and 23 at the University of Toronto. (credit: Cherry Fan).

This story originally appeared on U of T Engineering News.

There is only one rule at Hatchery Accelerator weekend: there are no rules.

Fuelled by coffee, snacks and sage advice, on January 22 and 23, students worked furiously to transform their wildest entrepreneurial ideas into viable business models in just 28 hours. The competition, hosted by The Entrepreneurship Hatchery, was kicked off by a special panel presentation from Silicon Valley seed accelerator Y Combinator, the incubator that has launched companies such as Dropbox, Reddit, and Thalmic.

Students worked in teams of four to create viable business models, judged by a panel of industry experts and entrepreneurs, including Isi Caulder (EngSci 8T9), Richard Helbig (GeoE 7T3), Michael Augustanavicous (ElecE 7T6), Dag Enhorning and Richard Louttet. The top team took home a grand cash prize of $2,000, and the runner up won $1,000.

“Accelerator Weekend 2016 was a huge success. One hundred students, 23 teams, six finalists, and two prizes. The 28-hour journey that participants went through is a true representation of the journey of an entrepreneur that normally takes years,” said Joseph Orozco, executive director of The Entrepreneurship Hatchery. “We are excited to see the student’s entrepreneurial spirit growing year after year. “

U of T Engineering News caught up with the two teams that came out on top:

First prize—$2,000: TouchDown

Team TouchDown with their Hatchery mentor, Naresh Bangia, at centre.

Team TouchDown with their Hatchery mentor, Naresh Bangia, at centre. (courtesy: Sam Fang).

Members: Kyle Bimm (Year 2 MechE), Bryan De Bourbon, Sam Fang (Year 3 IndE), Bowen Wu(Year 3 Civil)

Elevator pitch: TouchDown is a parking management system to streamline parking for customers commuting into large cities. The system uses physical modules with Google Maps integration to help commuters find a registered parking spot before they start driving. After a quick selection, their parking space is booked and paid for, via in-app purchase, so commuters no longer have to worry about their parking situation once they start driving. This eliminates time wasted and money spent looking for parking for commuters as well as eliminates unnecessary parking enforcement for municipalities.

What problem does TouchDown solve?

Bryan: As a student that has to regularly commute between the Misssissauga (UTM) and the St.George Campus (UTSG), I became frustrated in my ability to make it on time to UTSG while still in my car, but still arrive 10 to 20 minutes late to my planned events because of the inability to find parking quickly and easily while driving around campus at saturated times. I thought “what if there was a system to allow me to see readily available parking spots before I even planned my route?” With a few more iterations we arrived at TouchDown!

What challenges did your team overcome during the competition?

Kyle: The team faced several challenges over the course of the competition that required a substantial amount of pivoting. The first obstacle we faced was the discovery of existing competition rather late on the first day. Hours spent scouring the internet for existing solutions to the problem proved little was being done in North America, and almost nothing in Canada in the way of smart parking. Upon research into parking related ideas for the company, after many other teams had already called it a night, we stumbled upon several different services that had flown under the radar up until that point. This forced us to rethink our business model and re-establish ourselves as an innovator in the parking world. We decided to create an all-in-one parking system that could not only link parking spot owners and commuters, but enhance security in commercial facilities and eliminate the need for regular, manned parking enforcement. The second challenge the team encountered was the strict regulations involving parking in private facilities like condos that require key access. This, coupled with the lack of previous information available on partnerships between parking services and commercial organizations, motivated the team to design the product launch with mainly the typical “house and driveway” consumer in mind, as a beta launch of sorts. Once a desire for the service was proven in the market, we would have the necessary backup to approach larger scale operations about joint business ventures with confidence.

What’s next for Touchdown—will you all continue to work on the business?

Team: All of us are considering the practicality of the project in industry given the availability of necessary technology and regulations currently in place. As of now time constraints among the group seem to be the biggest issue to get TouchDown to market, but we all are super excited about trying to do so.

Runner up—$1,000: Aurum

Members: Bonny Khanna (MechE 1T5), Min Lee, Rod Parsa, Lucas Huang

Elevator pitchAurum is a noise-cancelling product that dampens the constant background buzz we all hear while living and working in a city like Toronto.

What problem does Aurum solve?

RodStudies have shown that noise pollution has adverse health effects including higher stress levels, sleep disturbance, hypertension and tinnitus. Most of us go about our days without giving it a second thought, only to wonder why we aren’t working as hard as we’re capable of doing, or wake up groggy in the mornings. Furthermore, noise pollution has been linked to a 10-per cent decrease in housing prices in dense cities. Aurum solves this problem by bringing active noise cancellation to your living room, bedroom or office, creating an aura of tranquility conducive to studying, sleeping or just relaxing. This technology has already been put to use on a large scale in certain commercial aircrafts (where engine noise is a concern), as well as on a small scale in popular noise-cancelling headphones like the Bose QC series. Aurum bridges the size gap and creates a solution that doesn’t necessitate the use of bulky headphones or expensive installations. We came up with the idea when my teammate Bonny mentioned that ever since he had moved closer to a subway line, he’d had trouble sleeping. We did a bit of brainstorming and realized that short of expensive, thick, sound-proof glass windows, there was no real solution out there – we’d all have to suck it up if we wanted to live in the city.

What challenges did your team overcome during the competition?

RodI don’t think there were any major hiccups, maybe just a few minor ones. Our greatest concern was that we couldn’t show the judges any sort of proof of concept. Unlike many other app-based ideas, a product like ours may require millions in R&D before its viability can be ascertained. Nonetheless, we were confident in the value that it offered, should it come to fruition; nearly everyone who heard about our idea wanted one and was willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a working solution. In the short context of the 28-hour marathon, we figured we’d make promises first and apologize later.

What’s next for Aurum—will you all continue to work on the business?

With regard to the future, we’re considering applying for the Hatchery summer incubator program. Our mentor Rob Klein is very supportive of us, and it would allow us to get started on a functional proof of concept in the form of a primitive prototype.

Students from across the University of Toronto can apply to participate in the Hatchery Incubator summer internship program. Deadline to apply to the 2016 cohort is Jan. 31, 2016.

Read more about the Hatchery summer internship program

Sasha Gollish teaches alumni a lesson in persevering on and off the track

Running veteran Sasha Gollish is pursuing a PhD aimed at advancing engineering education with lessons from the track. (Photo: Leigh Tynan)
Running veteran Sasha Gollish is pursuing a PhD aimed at advancing engineering education with lessons from the track. (Photo: Leigh Tynan)

Running veteran Sasha Gollish is pursuing a PhD aimed at advancing engineering education with lessons from the track. (Photo: Leigh Tynan)

This story originally appeared on Engineering Alumni & Friends.

Middle-distance runner Sasha Gollish (CivE MEng 1T0, EngEd PhD Candidate) made Canada proud last summer when she captured a bronze medal at the Pan Am Games.

“It was magical,” Gollish said to a roomful of alumni at a Skule™ Lunch & Learn event on Jan. 13. “But the magic almost didn’t happen.”

Roughly 120 metres into her 1,500-metre race, her shoe nearly fell off, a situation she has found herself in before. In a split second, her inner-engineer took over as she analyzed the problem and its two possible outcomes.

“I thought, one, I can drop out of this race and everybody here will understand my disappointment,” Gollish said. “Or two, I can forget that my shoe came off and do what I do best and focus on the jersey in front — and that’s what I did. Up until about 1,200 metres I didn’t really know that my shoe wasn’t on properly. I was resilient —something I learned from engineering. I knew that I could survive the situation I was faced with.”

Gollish is the first to admit that it was far from the perfect race. But her passion for sport and perseverance led to one of the happiest moments of her life.

The experience also made her ask: Can the same appetite for success — through preparation, training and motivation — be fostered in an engineering teaching environment? She believes it can.

“Performance isn’t just found on the field,” she said.

Off the track, Gollish is studying with Professor Bryan Karney (CivE) in the Collaborative Program in Engineering Education (EngEd), where she is researching how to teach engineering students to use mathematics. Her PhD explores how coaching principles can transform the face of engineering education and prepare students to take on a marathon career of complex challenges. Much like athletic training, learning relies heavily on motivation, perseverance and engagement.

“Our conviction is that the internal processes that are essential to an athlete matter just as much when doing math, but historically we have not thought that way,” Karney said. “Sasha is remarkable in that she inhabits two worlds — the world of athletics and the world of engineering — making her ideally situated to help us educators create better courses and programs and, thus, better decision makers, and better engineers.”

Gollish said that if you talk to Olympic athletes about why they eventually quit training, they would likely say it was because they stopped having fun — a word Gollish believes has an equally important place in a teaching environment.

“My personal hashtag — I am of that generation, after all — is #alwaysplay,” she said. “I think it’s important to step back and be passionate about what you do in life and always have fun, and I think it’s really important to have fun in the classroom.”

Read about Sasha’s experiences on and off the track on her blog.

Three industry professionals leading U of T Engineering courses

Randy Sinukoff, a Senior Associate at Stantec Consulting Ltd., teaching his graduate level course, CHE1431H Environmental Auditing. (Photo by Tyler Irving)
Randy Sinukoff, a Senior Associate at Stantec Consulting Ltd., teaching his graduate level course, CHE1431H Environmental Auditing. (Photo by Tyler Irving)

Randy Sinukoff, a Senior Associate at Stantec Consulting Ltd., teaching his graduate level course, CHE1431H Environmental Auditing. (Photo by Tyler Irving)

 

 

 

This story originally appeared on U of T Engineering News Friends.

For Randy Sinukoff, the best part of being a course instructor is watching new understanding take root. “I love it when the light goes on in someone’s head,” he says. “I love it when they discover something they never thought of before, or realize something that they can apply to their own life and work.”

Sinukoff (ChemE 8T2, MASc 8T4) is a Senior Associate at Stantec Consulting Ltd. and is also the instructor for CHE1431H Environmental Auditing, a Master of Engineering course for full-time and part-time graduate students. He is one of a number of sessional lecturers who work full-time in industry and make time to offer their expertise to students at U of T Engineering.

In addition to his own course, which he has instructed since 2012, Sinukoff delivers guest lectures for students in fourth-year classes and volunteers for an on-campus mentorship program. He offers students first-hand knowledge of what it’s really like to work in industry.

Sinukoff clearly enjoys interacting with students, but he says that there are other benefits to himself and his company. “In my business, we don’t run ads; it’s all about the quality of the people we hire,” he says. “When you’re engaging with 20-plus students in a classroom, you can see who the future employees might be.”

Another advantage is reputational. “To teach, you have to be on top of your game and make sure that you’re current with everything in the field,” he says. “When people find out that I teach a course, they can see I know what I’m doing. That speaks to the credibility and professionalism of me and my company.”

Two more industry professionals who are involved with courses at U of T Engineering are profiled below:

Glen Ehasoo, P.Eng

Glen EhasooAs a new instructor, Ehasoo is eager to share his knowledge with fourth-year Mineral Engineering students and to help introduce them to the industry. “I recently relocated to Toronto and when the opportunity came up to help, it felt like a good way to become engaged in the local mining community,” he says, adding that building links with like-minded individuals is an important part of professional engineering.

Ehasoo is involved with MIN467H Mineral Project Design, a two-part course that focuses on the design of a mining project.  He is sharing his knowledge of the technical details of mine design and the applications of mine design software. “Computer models are only as good as the data you put into them — garbage in, garbage out,” he says. “You need to understand what is going on so that you can verify and understand the output.”

As a Principal Mining Engineer at RPA Inc., Ehasoo has more than 15 years of experience in the industry. He has consulted on project evaluations, due diligence reviews, open pit mine design, resource modelling, and mine scheduling. Ehasoo has worked on gold, silver, base metals, iron ore, coal, diamond, and rare earth projects in North and South America, Europe, and Asia.

Kim Iwasa-Madge, P.Eng (IndE 8T1)

Kim Iwasa-MadgeIwasa-Madge sees teaching as a natural extension of her own practice. “In my job, I was often involved in supervising and mentoring young engineers,” she says. “I found that very fulfilling.”

Iwasa-Madge teaches MIE542H Human Factors Integration. She is an expert in human factors engineering, which applies knowledge of human capabilities and limitations to the analysis, design and operation of products, services and systems. Through her own company, iMadgen Human Factors Inc., she provides consulting services, primarily for the nuclear power industry. For example, she might be involved with designing an operator interface in a control room to be more intuitive, minimizing the potential for human error.

Running the course in addition to a full-time job takes a lot of work, but for Iwasa-Madge it is worth the effort. “As a practitioner, we often work with interns or recent graduates, and there are capabilities we want our new hires to have,” she says, adding that through the course, she can help impart that knowledge.

Teaching also helps with other aspects of her job. “The course also makes me think about how to communicate human factors concepts — something that I have to do all the time, and not just with students,” she says. Still, like most lecturers, her favourite part of the job is meeting new people. “U of T has amazingly diverse students because the university is so multi-cultural,” she says. “Learning more about them and their goals is a lot of fun.”

Kinetica: engineering safer buildings in Toronto, China and worldwide

Alumnus Michael Montgomery (pictured) and Professor Constantin Christopoulos are behind Kinetica, a startup making buildings earthquake resistant.

This story originally appeared on U of T Engineering News.

U of T Engineering startup Kinetica is reaching new heights at home and abroad. The company, which designs technology that makes buildings more resistant to earthquakes and high winds, just announced that its products will be incorporated into the YC Condos at the corner of Yonge and College in Toronto.

Co-founded by alumnus Michael Montgomery (CivE PhD 1T1) and Professor Constantin Christopoulos (CivE), Kinetica also signed a deal earlier this month to distribute its products in China, as part of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s trade mission to that region.

Alumnus Michael Montgomery (pictured) and Professor Constantin Christopoulos are behind Kinetica, a startup making buildings earthquake resistant. (Photo: Katherine Carney)

The startup uses a technology called viscoelastic dampers, which are  large sheets of a rubber-like material — known as a viscoelastic polymer — sandwiched between steel plates. When incorporated into tall buildings, these dampers absorb vibrational energy and transform it into heat, reducing forces in adjacent components. Essentially, they dissipate and divert the energy that’s created within a building’s structure during high winds or earthquakes.

“Viscoelastic dampers were actually the first damping systems used in tall buildings like the World Trade Centre in New York City, which was built in 1969,” says Montgomery. “They used about 10,000 in each building.” Their main purpose was to reduce the swaying caused when such buildings endure high winds. Buildings higher than 50 stories can sway as much as several feet on either side, which can make penthouse-dwellers motion sick.”

Recently, it has become increasingly economical and efficient to make tall buildings out of concrete rather than steel. Unfortunately, the design of these new concrete buildings makes it harder to incorporate distributed dampers into the structure.

In steel buildings, dampers could be used either in a brace (diagonal) or wall (vertical) configurations within the steel skeleton. By contrast, concrete buildings contain thick, long walls that stretch from the bottom all the way to the top; there is no available space within the skeleton to integrate the dampers.

Instead, builders of concrete structures usually rely on huge masses at the top, generally very large steel blocks or very large tanks of water, to provide damping. When the building shifts one way in the wind, these giant masses shift the other, providing a counterweight that reduces the motion. Such masses take up lots of space; they also have to be very carefully designed and instrumented to match the properties of the specific building they are used in and they don’t provide protection against earthquakes.

Montgomery and Christopoulos’ key insight was to realize …

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