U of T Engineering student team competes at Green Energy Challenge finals

The University of Toronto student chapter of the Canadian/National Electrical Contractors Association (CECA/NECA) is one of three finalists to compete at the 2016 Green Energy Challenge in Boston this weekend.

The students from U of T Engineering are the only Canadian team, and will compete against teams from Iowa State and the University of Washington. The final three were selected from 14 proposals.

“We selected UTS because it is an aging building that uses older lighting systems and could benefit greatly from an upgrade,” said Dmitri Naoumov (CivE 1T5+PEY), the team’s project manager. “The school is also planning a major renovation, so our proposal could help to inform the energy needs and improvements.”The U of T team partnered with University of Toronto Schools (UTS), a Grade 7 to 12 university preparatory school in downtown Toronto, to design an energy efficiency upgrade, including a small-scale photovoltaic system that would serve as a teaching and learning tool for students.

Competing alongside Naoumov are Matheos Tsiaras (CivE 1T5+PEY), Ernesto Diaz Lozano Patiño (CivE 1T5+PEY, MASc Candidate), Greg Peniuk (CivE Year 4 + PEY), Arthur Leung(ChemE Year 4), Claire Gao (ChemE Year 4 + PEY), Mackenzie De Carle (CivE Year 4) and Nataliya Pekar (CivE Year 4).

“The lighting in the rooms was below the recommended levels for classroom learning,” said Naoumov. “By increasing the light in classrooms, we are helping to create an environment more conducive for students and teachers.”Their design includes detailed technical solutions for classroom lighting retrofit, integrated window treatments and the design of a rooftop 4kW photovoltaic solar array, which all meet the unique needs of the building and the climate in Toronto. By upgrading the lighting system to use lower wattage bulbs, using occupancy sensors and installing light shelves that regulate daylight, the team determined that UTS could reduce its annual energy consumption by up to 125 MWh, or enough to light 10 typical homes.

UTS is eager to incorporate the students’ energy efficient and technologically savvy infrastructure into its daily operations. Because many Toronto public school buildings are showing their age, this could serve as a model for future upgrades across the city.

“UTS is an Eco School and we aim to reduce our environmental footprint and energy costs,” said Philip Marsh, vice-principal of UTS. “The team’s analysis and understanding of how to improve the efficiency of our building was impressive. We see the proposed roof solar array as a viable design option for the future.”

Competing for the first time at the Green Energy Challenge in 2015, the U of T team placed fourth with its lighting and back-up power retrofit proposal for the Good Sheppard Ministries shelter in downtown Toronto. Although the project did not win them a spot at the convention, Good Sheppard Ministries is currently implementing their design throughout its facility.

CECA/NECA brings together electrical contractors across the country to share experience and advice. Established in 2014, the U of T chapter extension is the first of its kind in Canada. Its goal is to bridge the gap between contracting and engineering and engage students with first-hand, applied experience. In addition to pitting their design savvy against groups at other North American universities, the group hosts networking and social events and connects students with scholarship and job opportunities.

U of T Engineering receives $31.6M investment for lab infrastructure

The Sandford Fleming Building is just one of the U of T Engineering facilities that received funding through a major investment from the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund. (Image: Neil Ta)

The Sandford Fleming Building is just one of the U of T Engineering facilities that received funding through a major investment from the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund. (Image: Neil Ta)

This story originally appeared on Engineering News.

A major investment through the Lab Innovation for Toronto (LIFT) project will accelerate infrastructure improvements across U of T Engineering, catalyzing world-class research and enhancing the student experience.

The funding was announced today U of T President Meric Gertler with Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan and Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains. It includes contributions from the university, the provincial government and the federal government through its Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund. The Faculty will receive $31.6 million to support renovations to 89 laboratory facilities. The work will benefit more than 330 U of T Engineering researchers, including professors, graduate students and undergraduate students.

Plans for spaces slated to receive significant infrastructure investment include:

  • Lab space in the Galbraith, Sandford Fleming and the Engineering Annex buildings will be opened up to further enhance collaboration between researchers, both within and across disciplines. Environmental controls will also be upgraded to protect sensitive research equipment.
  • New laboratory equipment, including more fumehoods to increase the number of experiments that can be run simultaneously, will be added to labs at the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering, the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry and the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering.
  • The Sustainable Aviation Design Lab at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) will be expanded, enhancing the work of researchers who are reducing emissions and cutting fuel costs in the global aviation industry.

This investment coincides with the ongoing construction of the Centre for Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CEIE), the Faculty’s newest building, set to open in 2017. A vibrant hub that will set a new standard for engineering education and research, the CEIE will provide a new home for world-leading institutes such as the Centre for Global Engineering and the Institute for Robotics and Mechatronics. Its design/meet rooms and light fabrication facilities will enable students, professors and industry collaborators to work together across disciplines on complex global challenges and launch new companies to bring their solutions to market.

Learn more about the CEIE.

“This important infrastructure investment will further empower our researchers with world-class facilities as we address pressing global challenges,” said Dean Cristina Amon. “We are grateful to receive this federal infrastructure funding, which will also provide our students with enhanced experiential learning opportunities as we continue to nurture the next generations of engineering leaders.”

In total, the University of Toronto received nearly $190 million for renovations to 546 labs, supporting approximately 1,100 researchers and 5,500 students.

Learn more about the Lab Innovation for Toronto (LIFT) announcement.

Six engineering innovations get a boost from NSERC Strategic Partnership Grants

This story originally posted on Engineering News.

New funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) will advance U of T Engineering research in sustainable energy, telecommunications and more.

On March 1, NSERC announced six Strategic Partnership Grants to help U of T engineers address some of the greatest challenges facing Canada and the world. The projects include new technologies to extract valuable minerals from hazardous mine tailings and systems to enable cities to repurpose stormwater more effectively. In total, the program invested more than $3.2 million in U of T Engineering and more than $5.3 million across the entire University.

The six funded projects are:

Elodie Passeport

Elodie Passeport (ChemE, CivE) — Smarter stormwater management

Heavy rainstorms like those that hit Toronto in July 2013 do more than damage basements — they also wash street-level pollution into local rivers and lakes. Nature deals with this problem through wetlands, which swell or shrink with the rains and which contain microorganisms that break down harmful substances. Bioretention cells are artificial structures designed to mimic this process in urban areas, yet for unknown reasons, some work better than others. Passeport and her team aim to pin down the hydrological, chemical, and physical processes that determine the performance of bioretention cells in order to optimize their design. Better stormwater management could prevent pollution from reaching the environment.



Mansoor Barati (MSE) — Reclaiming hazardous waste

The area around Sudbury, Ont. is surrounded by 50- to 100-million tonnes of liquid tailings left over from mining operations. This waste material poses environmental risks if left untreated. Yet it still contains useful elements such as nickel, iron and sulfur which continue to be in demand in manufacturing and other sectors. Barati and his team are developing a process that recovers these elements from the tailings and generates electricity at the same time. The process would provide a permanent solution for the waste as well as economic benefits to the mine and surrounding community.



Aimy Bazylak (MIE) — Hydrogen for clean, on-demand power

Environmentally friendly fuel cell vehicles run on hydrogen instead of gasoline, producing no emissions other than water and heat. Unfortunately, most hydrogen currently comes from natural gas, but it can also be extracted from water using electricity produced from renewable energy, such as the wind and sun. Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electolyzers are a technology that essentially operate like reverse fuel cells, extracting hydrogen and oxygen from water. Moreover, they can enable us to efficiently deal with the huge peaks and troughs of intermittent electricity generated from variable renewable sources, such as wind, solar and tidal power. This project aims to use the team’s existing expertise in PEM-based fuel cells to advance PEM electrolyzers for clean hydrogen generation.



Sean Hum (ECE) — Advanced Electromagnetic Surfaces for Next-Generation Communications Systems

The number of smartphones and connected tablets in the world is well into the billions and growing fast. Yet the wireless communications systems on which these devices depend use radio signals, and there are only so many frequencies to go around. Hum and his team develop advanced electromagnetic surfaces that can be used to redesign antennas, enabling more sophisticated control over radio signals. Used in satellites, these surfaces could dramatically improve communication capacity while reducing the size and weight of antennas. These surfaces can also be used in buildings, where they could improve reception and eliminate “dead zones.” By enabling more data to be transmitted wirelessly using the same bandwidth, the inventions will usher in the next generation of electronic communication.



Ted Sargent (ECE) — Better lasers for transmitting digital information

Every time you upload a document, photo or video to the cloud your file is sent to a large collection of servers known as a datacentre. Within these datacentres, information is transmitted both electronically and optically. However, the devices that translate data between these two modes are inefficient, generating large amounts of waste heat and making datacentres enormous energy hogs. Using nano-sized particles called quantum dots, Sargent and his team are developing entirely new type of laser that is capable of being deposited directly on a silicon chip. The device will turn electrical impulses into light bursts in a much more efficient way, drastically reducing the amount of energy required to transmit data and the cost of cloud computing.



Costas Sarris (ECE) — Redesigning train signalling for improved safety

Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) is aimed at replacing conventional rail signalling with train control enabled by wireless communication between the train and a network of access points. In a cellular communication system, a network outage may cause a dropped call, but in a CBTC network it directly compromises the safety of train passengers. Therefore, these safety-critical systems must meet high standards of reliability, beyond those of typical communication networks. Sarris and his team, along withThales Canada, are developing a new paradigm for the design of CBTC systems with enhanced robustness and reliability. These systems can effectively serve the increasing need for rail transportation safety and efficiency shared by a growing number of Canadians, especially urban commuters in large metropolitan areas.

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.”