Ontario Professional Engineers Foundation for Education honours top undergraduate students

Alumna Marisa Sterling (far right), faculty and members of the Ontario Professional Engineers Foundation for Education pose with undergraduate scholarship recipients in the Bahen Centre for Information Technology. (Photo: Jamie Hunter)
Alumna Marisa Sterling (far right), faculty and members of the Ontario Professional Engineers Foundation for Education pose with undergraduate scholarship recipients in the Bahen Centre for Information Technology. (Photo: Jamie Hunter)

Alumna Marisa Sterling (far right), faculty and members of the Ontario Professional Engineers Foundation for Education pose with undergraduate scholarship recipients in the Bahen Centre for Information Technology. (Photo: Jamie Hunter)

Ten of U of T Engineering’s top undergraduate students were recognized by the Ontario Professional Engineers Foundation for Education (OPEFE) for high academic achievement and co-curricular contributions.

Two entrance scholarships and eight in-course scholarships totalling $15,000 were presented to students at a reception held in the Bahen Centre for Information Technology on March 23.

“It’s an honour for me to present these scholarships to such a remarkable group of students,” said Marisa Sterling, P.Eng. (ChemE 9T1), president of the OPEFE. “It’s important that we give back to the next generation so we can keep evolving the profession — we’re only as strong as those whom we surround ourselves with.”

Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) established OPEFE in 1959 and it remains one of U of T Engineering’s longest-running partnerships. OPEFE’s scholarships are funded by contributions from professional engineers across the province from organizations such as PEO and the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers.

OPEFE 2017 scholarship recipients

Marina Reny portraitMarina Reny (Year 4 MinE + PEY)

This past year, Marina Reny captained the University of Toronto Mining Games team, leading the team to a second-place overall finish at the 27th Annual Canadian Mining Games. She is also currently serving as the president of the Mineral Engineering Club. During her Professional Experience Year (PEY) internship, Reny worked in the Mine Operations Department at the Kearl Oil Sands Project in Northern Alberta. After graduation, she will be pursuing a career in mining, where she will work towards building a more sustainable industry.

Arnav Goel portraitArnav Goel (Year 2 CompE)

Arnav Goel is interested in the field of machine learning and data science. He is involved in a number of student clubs, including the University of Toronto Robotics Association (UTRA) and Blue Sky Solar Racing, where he works with the software team to optimize algorithms. Goel is also a web developer for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ U of T student branch.

Richard Yuze Li portraitRichard Yuze Li (Year 3 IndE)

Richard Yuze Li is passionate about data science and operation research. Last summer, he worked as a software engineer intern for the Royal Bank of Canada. Li has been actively involved in sports and creating job opportunities for the student community. He is currently part of the You’re Next Career Network, the largest student-run career organization in Canada. This summer, he will be conducting research in data science at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

 

Calvin Rieder portraitCalvin Rieder (Year 2 MechE)

Calvin Rieder is interested in the areas of energy and water systems. Over the past several years, he has worked on designing solutions that combine environmental engineering with social justice to increase access to clean water where it is most acutely needed. He has been heavily involved in the U of T Human Powered Vehicle Design Team, contributing to the design and construction of two speedbikes. Rieder is also passionate about music and is a tenor in the Skule™ Choir.

Tobias Rozario portraitTobias Rozario (Year 1 ElecE)

Tobias Rozario is interested in energy and electronics specializations within the field of electrical and computer engineering. He recently obtained a summer internship for a startup company named Basilisk. He will help them develop a quiz-building app for students. Outside of class, Rozario trains in the art of tae kwon do, and is aiming to obtain his first-degree black belt this summer.

Enakshi Shah portraitEnakshi Shah (Year 4 ChemE + PEY)

Enakshi Shah is working towards completing a BASc in chemical engineering with a minor in sustainability and a certificate in business. She is passionate about programming, and is currently completing a software development internship at Nascent Digital, a digital consulting firm. She also enjoys learning about the intersection of policy and sustainable urban development, and how technology is shaping that landscape. Shah is active in helping Canada achieve its emissions reduction goals. In particular, she wants to engage young minds and develop opportunities for collaboration between students and environmental non-governmental organizations.

Marguerite Tuer-Sipos portraitMarguerite Tuer-Sipos (Year 3 MSE +PEY)

This past summer, Marguerite Tuer-Sipos participated in an international research exchange at Lund University in Sweden, where she investigated the biomaterial properties of titanium oxide for immobilizing enzymes. She will begin a PEY internship at Peel Plastics in May. Outside of academics, Tuer-Sipos enjoyed working in a TA-mentor role for first-year Materials Engineering students.

Jeremy Wang portraitJeremy Wang (Year 4 EngSci + PEY)

Jeremy Wang’s mission is to leverage aerospace and leadership development to empower society. Through the PEY internship program, he presently serves as the chief technology officer of The Sky Guys, Canada’s leader in unmanned aerial services, training and technology for industry and defense. Wang is also a part-time leadership facilitator with the U of T Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering, and was selected as one of The Next 36 in 2016. Read more about Wang’s PEY experience at U of T Engineering News.

Lingxiao Zeng portraitLingxiao Zeng (Year 3 CompE + PEY)

Lingxiao Zeng’s primary interest is software programming but she is also minoring in engineering business. This summer, she will be travelling to San Jose for a 12-month PEY internship at Intel. Zeng is involved in several student clubs, serving as vice-president of the Association of Chinese Engineers and is the co-founder of Freer, which provides volunteer opportunities in South America.

First-year engineering student Madelaine Elizabeth Shiell received an entrance scholarship but was not in attendance at the event.


This story originally appeared on U of T Engineering News.

Professional Experience Year: Four U of T Engineering students bring technical, professional competencies to industry challenges

Paige Clarke competes at the Canadian Mining Games. (Photo: Keenan Dixon)
Paige Clarke competes at the Canadian Mining Games. (Photo: Keenan Dixon)

Paige Clarke competes at the Canadian Mining Games. (Photo: Keenan Dixon)

For her PEY internship, Paige Clarke (Year 3 MinE) chose to take a position in Thompson, Man., home to the nickel extraction and refining operations of Vale Canada Ltd. In her role as a Mines Engineering Co-op Student, she designs and plans drilling, blasting, loading and filling operations.

“I have worked in operations before, and I really enjoy the dynamic, quick pace,” she says. “My U of T Engineering education helped me understand how to manipulate data, continuously check to make sure my ideas make practical sense and address the errors when there is a problem.”

Clarke says that the community where she works is just as memorable as the job itself. “I volunteered for the local Terry Fox Run and have been taking advantage of the recreational opportunities that are not so accessible in Toronto,” she says. That includes hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, not to mention helping her neighbours dig their cars out after a recent mammoth snowfall.

After graduation, Clarke plans to continue working in mineral extraction. Her PEY internship will be an invaluable addition to her resume. “Working for a full year rather than a four-month summer term allowed me to make an important and meaningful contribution,” she says.

This story is just one example of the transformative learning experiences made possible by U of T Engineering’s Professional Experience Year (PEY) internship program. For nearly 40 years, the initiative has connected talented students with innovative companies looking to benefit from an influx of energy and new ideas.

The paid internships — with an average salary of more than $47,000 per year — take place after second or third year and last 12 to 16 months. In 2016-2017, more than 730 U of T Engineering students were hired on PEY internships, including 65 placements outside of Canada. Employers range from local startups to major global corporations such as Apple, General Motors and Shell, as well as hospitals, universities and governments.

Read more about U of T Engineering’s PEY internships


Other students currently on PEY internships include:

Jeremy Wang (Year 3 EngSci) — The Sky Guys

For his Professional Experience Year (PEY) internship, Jeremy Wang (Year 3 EngSci) is developing new drone technologies for The Sky Guys. (Photo: Kirk Eksyma)

For his Professional Experience Year (PEY) internship, Jeremy Wang (Year 3 EngSci) is developing new drone technologies for The Sky Guys. (Photo: Kirk Eksyma)

Wang clearly remembers the day that a colleague walked into his lab and said “Jeremy! We need a LIDAR drone in three weeks!”

“My eyes widened,” says Wang. As the Chief Technical Officer for The Sky Guys, a company that specializes in drone services, pilot training and R&D, Wang is responsible for developing new technical capabilities whenever a client needs them.

Wang knew that building a drone capable of Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) — a system that uses lasers to create 3D maps for surveying, construction and other applications — would be critical to the young company’s success. But the timing was tight. “Three weeks could be the lead time for the parts alone,” he says.

With winter weather that could complicate the test flight fast approaching, Wang realized his only chance was to design a drone that could be built using ready-made, off-the-shelf parts. Twenty-one days and countless cups of coffee later, Wang’s team completed the project, finishing a mere eight hours before the scheduled launch.

Wang credits U of T Engineering with preparing him to succeed. He cites the opportunities he has had to launch his own company through The Entrepreneurship Hatchery and develop leadership abilities as the executive director of the University of Toronto Aerospace Team. His PEY internship is, he says, the ideal next step on his journey.

“The small company environment is sufficiently challenging, meaningful, innovative, and impactful for what I need out of a career,” says Wang. “I’ll be a ‘Sky Guy’ well after PEY ends.”

Sarah Lim (Year 3 MechE) — teaBOT

Sarah Lim (Year 3 MechE) inspects a teaBOT. (Photo: Tyler Irving)

Sarah Lim (Year 3 MechE) inspects a teaBOT. (Photo: Tyler Irving)

More than 330 employers sought PEY interns this year, but for Lim, one really stood out. “I wanted to work at teaBOT because I wanted to be part of something that had a consumer-facing, everyday application,” she says.

TeaBOT makes vending-machine-sized robots that deliver custom cups of loose-leaf tea via a mobile app. The company was co-founded by Rehman Merali, a PhD student at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies, and is rapidly expanding across North America.

Working for a startup makes for a varied experience, something Lim really enjoys. “If we are getting ready to build teaBOTs then I will be building some subassemblies and putting them into the machine,” she says. “On other days, I use computer-aided design software to model or test new ideas that we may want to pursue.”

While her courses provided a good foundation in the technical aspects of her work, Lim says the internship has given her a better sense of how customers will interact with a product.

“Working here has made me a lot more interested in designing things that are not just functional but also look good,” she says. “We went to a trade show, and it was amazing to see how many people wanted to use and try out our robot.”

Peter Wen (Year 3 MechE) — Verity Studios

Peter Wen overlooking the city of Zurich (Photo: Peter Wen)

Peter Wen overlooking the city of Zurich (Photo: Peter Wen)

Wen is spending a year in Zurich working for Verity Studios. Founded by alumnus Raffaello D’Andrea (EngSci 9T1), Verity Studios uses autonomous flying robots to create memorable performances for live events and stage productions. “I wanted to work in a startup environment, although the fact that it’s in beautiful Switzerland doesn’t hurt,” says Wen.

On his second day, a coworker asked Wen if he was scared of heights. “I boldly answered no,” says Wen. “I spent the afternoon 14 metres in the air, fighting my trembling fingers to tie knots along the rafters, installing the radio units that help our drones navigate.”

For Wen, the experience embodies the trust that the company put in him. His other duties have included fabricating parts for new prototypes and solving mechanical problems for the team, half of whom are software engineers. “One of the key lessons I learned was to value my time properly,” he says. “I used to spend hours smoothing out my CAD models to make them beautiful. Now I stop once it’s good enough to accomplish the task at hand.”

After his PEY internship is complete, Wen plants to return to TeleHex, a company he founded with support from The Hatchery at U of T Engineering. “This experience has made me realize that I love working in small companies where I can do a little bit of everything,” he says.

Learn more about TeleHex


This story originally appeared on U of T Engineering News.

Infrastructure’s impact: How public transit investments affect our environment

Professor Shoshanna Saxe (CivE) analyses the environmental and social impact of large public transit infrastructure projects, informing policymakers as they decide which investments to make. (Photo: Tyler Irving)
Professor Shoshanna Saxe (CivE) analyses the environmental and social impact of large public transit infrastructure projects, informing policymakers as they decide which investments to make. (Photo: Tyler Irving)

Professor Shoshanna Saxe (CivE) analyses the environmental and social impact of large public transit infrastructure projects, equipping policymakers with data as they decide which investments to make. (Photo: Tyler Irving)

 

This story originally appeared at U of T Engineering News

The benefits of building public transit include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, relieving traffic congestion and expanding a growing city. Yet each transit project is unique, and predicting its future effectiveness is difficult. Professor Shoshanna Saxe (CivE) crunches the numbers on existing infrastructure to provide key decision-makers with a ‘reality check’ on the environmental and social impacts of today’s transit investments.

“Engineers usually aren’t involved in policymaking, and policymakers usually aren’t involved in engineering,” says Saxe. “I’m trying to bridge that gap.”

Saxe joined U of T Engineering in August 2016. Before completing her PhD at the University of Cambridge, she spent three years at a major consulting engineering firm in Toronto, working on projects such as the Eglinton Crosstown transit line and the Toronto-York Spadina subway extension.

“I love design, it’s amazing,” she says. “However, when you’re building things that people are going to use, you have to stay well within the limits of what you know for sure. I was curious about questions that we didn’t already know the answers to.”

During her PhD, Saxe conducted a detailed analysis of the London Underground’s extension of the Jubilee Line, completed in 1999. She gathered data on the greenhouse gases produced during construction and operation of the line, then used transit and land-use surveys to estimate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions attributable to people using the line and living near it. By combining the two, she could calculate the net environmental benefit of that transit project.

“It turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag,” she says. “If you make some optimistic assumptions, you could say that it broke even in terms of greenhouse gas emissions around 2012 or 2013. If you are more pessimistic, you’re looking at a greenhouse gas payback of twice as long.”

Saxe says that the Jubilee Line extension sees approximately 175 million trips per year. On projects where ridership is low, the environmental payback period can be much longer. Saxe also studied the Sheppard subway line in Toronto, and found that with a much lower ridership it initially struggled to provide greenhouse gas savings. Over time, the Sheppard Subway Line has benefited from the decreasing emissions associated with electricity in Ontario. The results of the Sheppard Subway study were recently published in the journal Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment.

“If you’re at Don Mills station, and you want to go north, east, or even southeast, the network doesn’t serve you yet,” she says. “We still see people from that area driving 70 per cent of the time, so unfortunately there’s just a lot less opportunity for savings.”

Saxe says that her dream project would be to follow a major piece of infrastructure, such as a new transit line, from its conception through construction and use for 20 or 30 years — essentially throughout her career.

“I want to answer questions like: why did we originally build it, how did we originally build it, how did it perform over its lifetime, how did we maintain it and what did it need?” she says. “If we know how our present decision-making affects things decades from now, we can make better decisions.”

Concrete check-up: Fae Azhari develops diagnostics for critical infrastructure

Professor Fae Azhari (MIE, CivE) holds a sample of the self-sensing concrete she designed. Her work helps monitor the structural health of crucial infrastructure such as bridges, roads and hydroelectric dams. (Credit: Roberta Baker)

This story originally appeared on U of T Engineering News.

Canada will spend $125 billion on infrastructure maintenance and expansion in the next 10 years. Professor Fae Azhari (MIE, CivE) is helping stretch those dollars farther by keeping our buildings, bridges, roads and reservoirs safe and structurally sound for longer.

Azhari’s research focuses on structural health monitoring. Just as you visit the doctor for periodic check-ups, structures need their health checked too — but instead of blood tests and heart rate measurements, engineers usually perform visual inspections and spot-checks with sensors and instruments.

“The problem with visual inspections is that they’re pretty subjective, and with periodic monitoring, you can miss certain events or failures,” says Azhari. “Now we’re moving toward continuous monitoring by incorporating permanent sensors on important structures to get real-time data.”

Degradation or damage suffered between inspections can have catastrophic consequences. In June 2013, a rail bridge just outside of downtown Calgary partially collapsed as a train was passing over it. The train, carrying flammable and toxic liquids, derailed. Emergency measures were taken to prevent the railcars from falling into the Bow River, which was running high with summer floodwater. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada determined that floodwaters had eroded the soil around the bridge’s foundations, causing the collapse. This loss of sediment from around foundational supports is called scour.

“Believe it or not, this happens very often, especially in North America and some Asian countries,” says Azhari. “Scour is a huge problem.”

For her PhD research at the University of California, Davis, Azhari tackled scour from a new angle: she took commercially available sensors that measure dissolved oxygen, typically used for agriculture or biological applications, and used them for sensing scour. Azhari’s design was to attach a number of oxygen sensors at increasing depths along the buried length of the bridge pier. If the pier is properly buried, the dissolved oxygen levels detected by the sensors should be very low — but as scour erodes the sediments and exposes the sensors to flowing water, the dissolved oxygen levels rise. As scour progresses, more and more sensors become exposed, indicating how badly scour is threatening the bridge’s structural integrity.

She has also worked on concrete sensors, including a design that integrates conductive carbon fibers and nanotubes into concrete, making it a self-sensing material. Measuring the resistance across the material reveals the stresses and strains on it. “This technology is well-proven in the laboratory, but moving it to the field is a big challenge,” says Azhari.

As she builds her research enterprise, Azhari plans to collaborate across disciplines and with key partners who could benefit from her sensors, as well her analysis and insight into the data that comes from them. “Transportation infrastructure, utilities, dams, power plants, wind turbines — basically any engineering system — needs maintenance and monitoring,” she says.

“It’s very important to get these sensors from prototype to implementation, and I want to work on that.”

Heat, housing and health: Marianne Touchie and the complexity of multi-unit residential buildings

Professor Marianne Touchie (CivE, MIE) is working with Toronto Community Housing and The Atmospheric Fund to better understand how changes to energy use affect indoor environmental quality in multi-unit residential buildings. Toronto Public Health is collaborating to use their data to inform policy. (Photo: Kevin Soobrian)

Professor Marianne Touchie (CivE, MIE) is working with Toronto Community Housing and The Atmospheric Fund to better understand how changes to energy use affect indoor environmental quality in multi-unit residential buildings. Toronto Public Health is collaborating to use their data to inform policy. (Photo: Kevin Soobrian)

Professor Marianne Touchie (CivE, MIE) is working with Toronto Community Housing and The Atmospheric Fund to better understand how changes to energy use affect indoor environmental quality in multi-unit residential buildings. Toronto Public Health is collaborating to use their data to inform policy. (Photo: Kevin Soobrian)


This story originally appeared at U of T Engineering News

This story is a part of a  five-part #RisingStars series, highlighting the work of our early-career professors.

In cities from coast to coast, condominium towers are being constructed at an unprecedented rate, with 30,000 new units added in 2015 to the Toronto market alone. This is driven both by recent advances in the design, engineering and construction of tall buildings, and a stark increase in demand for these multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs). “More people are moving downtown,” says Professor Marianne Touchie (CivE, MIE). “There’s very limited space, so we need high-density housing options and MURBs provide that.”

With a background in building science, Touchie studies the relationships between energy efficiency and indoor environment quality parameters, such as thermal comfort, in these high-density buildings. In Toronto, one of the largest suppliers of MURBs is Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC), which owns 50 million square feet of residential space and houses 110,000 residents. Many of these are older buildings without air conditioning.

“A lot of these buildings rely on ventilation through the building envelope, which is not terribly effective. At the same time, we need to reduce our energy consumption and energy use,” she says. “But reducing energy usage has implications for occupants, and that’s what I’m interested in studying.”

Touchie is currently collaborating with The Atmospheric Fund (formerly the Toronto Atmospheric Fund) on a large research project—one that she has been involved with since her role as their Building Research Manager from 2014 to 2015. She and her colleagues are collecting data on energy consumption, temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide concentration in more than 70 apartments spanning seven different TCHC buildings.

“It’s probably the most comprehensive MURB monitoring project in North America, if not the world,” says Touchie.

They are also working with Professor Jeffrey Siegel (CivE), who is examining concentrations of formaldehyde, particulate matter and, through a partnership with Health Canada, radon concentrations. Touchie says that collaborations, such as those with TCHC, The Atmospheric Fund and Siegel, are critical to creating a comprehensive picture of the MURBs she studies. “Buildings are so complex,” says Touchie. “I have training in one particular area, but I’m not an indoor air quality expert. When we make changes from an energy perspective to the ventilation system, or the heating and cooling system, it has an influence on the air quality. Working with other experts, like Professor Siegel, we can gather data on all sides.”

Touchie’s findings with The Atmospheric Fund and TCHC have drawn the interest of Toronto Public Health. The agency is interested in the health impact of extreme heat, and the study has found that these TCHC buildings are often overheated, especially in the summer.

“Extreme heat is a health problem, especially for the most vulnerable populations,” says Sarah Gingrich, a Health Policy Specialist at Toronto Public Health. Very young children, the elderly and people with illnesses or taking certain medications are most at risk. “This work is providing evidence that excessive heat is a problem in older apartment buildings in Toronto. The research is showing that although the temperature cools down at night outside, in these buildings it rises during the day and they stay hot all night long.”

Touchie and her collaborators are finding that a major culprit for the inefficient heating and cooling performance is uncontrolled air leakage. These leaks often occur around windows, doors, exhaust fans and elevator shafts. But inefficiencies aren’t just a building issue: she adds that “because people can do whatever they want in their own homes, like open and close their windows, MURBs combine the complexity of high-rise buildings with the occupant wild card,” which makes managing the indoor environment even trickier.

“The study provides valuable information on Toronto apartment buildings that will help to inform policy development,” says Toronto Public Health’s Gingrich. “It fills a very important gap by providing up-to-date data that highlights some of the challenges in this type of building, and points to potential solutions.”

Next, Touchie hopes to expand her research to newer condos, where data is even scarcer. “They’re going up so quickly, and we really have no information about the quality of the indoor environment or their energy performance,” she says. “I am very curious whether their energy consumption matches the performance level promised at the design stage.”