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Thursday, June 22, 2000

  • Students' helicopter flies again
  • New policy on benefits eligibility
  • Climate conference opens today
  • And the rest of today's news

[Helicopter above the goalposts]
Pilot-mechanic Steve Reuss flies the computer-controlled helicopter over the Columbia Street playing fields.

Students' helicopter flies again -- by Barbara Hallett

Whether it was simply a theft, or something more sinister, the Waterloo Aerial Robotics Group may never know for sure.

The police investigation into the May 21 break-in at the group's lab in the electrical and computer engineering department has stalled. None of the stolen equipment -- including items vital to the group's participation in the Millennial Aerial Robotics Competition this month -- has been recovered.

Lost in the heist was "equipment essential to the success of this project," said the group's advisor, E&CE professor David Wang. "Laptops, including ones which contained irreplaceable student projects and data, were stolen." At the time of the incident, Wang predicted that "three years of hard work could be flushed down the drain unless someone decides to return our stuff to us."

He may have underestimated his team. Despite the setback, which threatened to put the kibosh on the competition, the UW aerial robotics group has rallied. "We're not going to let anything stop us," says team leader Dave Kroetsch, who has dedicated the past four years of his life to the project, starting in his final year of high school. A core group of 10 to 15 students has been working "at least 40 hours per week" since the break in to salvage the project, he added.

Although three to four weeks of testing time was lost, the stolen equipment has been replaced. "We put in rush orders, borrowed parts, had some insurance money come through," says Kroetsch, and with help from their sponsors, the team managed to reassemble the computer-controlled autonomous helicopter. Inadequate test time may hurt the group's chances. But Kroetsch remains optimistic, "all things considered."

"The Waterloo Aerial Robotics Group is a team of engineers obsessed with winning the Millennial International Aerial Robotics Competition," says the team's Web site. "The mission involves having a team of autonomous air and ground vehicles navigate a disaster area while locating casualties and hazards. Having completed two of the three qualifiers for this event, WARG stands in third place and is gearing up to finish first in the 2000 competition."

As for Wang, "I'm tremendously proud of what the team has done. They've worked really hard to represent their school, and have demonstrated they can persevere." At the time of the theft, "they were obviously discouraged," he adds, "but they recovered very quickly and went right back to work. They've had a very upbeat attitude." Although he avoids speculating about the motive for the break-in, he admits that "security around the project has been increased tremendously."

The helicopter was shipped out earlier this week, and the team leaves Saturday for the competition, June 26 to 30, near Richland, Washington.

New policy on benefits eligibility

A new version of UW's Policy 23, "Eligibility for Pension and Insured Benefits", is now available on the web after approval by the board of governors earlier this month.

Here's how the new policy was explained to the board:

Climate conference opens today

More than 200 delegates from across Canada, the United States and Europe will explore communication and its role in responding to the challenge of climate change at a conference that runs today through Saturday.

Organized in partnership with the Adaptation and Impacts Research Group of Environment Canada, the International Climate Change Communication Conference will bring together leading academic researchers, government officials and representatives from non-governmental organizations. The Public Education and Outreach component of the federal government's Climate Change Action Fund has provided $103,000 in funding for the conference, says Brenda Jones in UW's geography department, who's helping to organize the event.

"Education and understanding are essential to ensuring Canadians are informed and can take action to be part of the solution on climate change," said environment minister David Anderson. "The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of encouraging public action through projects funded under the Climate Change Action Fund."

And natural resources minister Ralph Goodale says: "Increasing awareness of climate change is the first step towards taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet our environmental objectives. Greater awareness will enable individual Canadians to take action through energy efficiency measures at home, at work, and on the road."

[Andrey] Geography professor Jean Andrey (left) is chair of the event. "The conference," she says, "will look at ways to increase public awareness of the vulnerabilities and responsibilities that come with global climate change. Our goal is to raise awareness of this challenge, explore solutions and share success stories about communication as a foundation for action."

The conference will address these challenges and barriers through international representation from organizations such as the climate change research unit of the University of East Anglia of the U.K., the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the World Council of Churches, the Pembina Institute and the federal Environmental Protection Agency of Nigeria. It will feature approximately 100 speakers, several workshops, a poster display, and multimedia presentations. The conference program includes presenters from all over Canada, the United States, Russia, several African nations, Europe, Asia and Australia. "This representation is key to fostering the creation of an international climate change communication network," Jones says.

While much of the conference will be working sessions at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel in Kitchener, a "forum" tonight in the Theatre of the Arts, Modern Languages building, is open to everyone at no charge. It includes two speakers -- Paul Egginton of Natural Resources Canada, talking about the science and impacts of climate change, and Ralph Torrie, described as Canada's foremost energy efficiency expert, who will present a proposal for an economically attractive low-carbon future. Then there will be music by Sondaky, a native group from Québec, with 11 artists taking part in a show based on the belief that "it is time to care for Mother Earth and preserve those natural elements that give us life." There will also be displays: student posters, book signings, and the "Sustainable Living Bus" sponsored by the Sierra Club of Canada.

The three-year, $150-million CCAF, first introduced in the 1998 federal budget, supports projects that help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. It was renewed in the 2000 federal budget. The $30-million PEO component, says Jones, funds projects that increase public awareness and understanding of climate change and provide Canadians with the information they need to take action. Increasing awareness and understanding of this complex issue is critical for people to be able to take action to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

And the rest of today's news

LT3 -- the Centre for Learning and Teaching Through Technology -- today offers a presentation on "Data-driven Design" by Janet McCracken of Lancaster University (10 a.m., Library room 329). Tomorrow there's "Designs for Telelearning in the Workplace", a talk by Mike Dobson, also of Lancaster, and also at 10 a.m. in Library room 329.

The 20th anniversary conference of the Secretaries of Ontario Universities, Senates and Boards is scheduled for today through Saturday at the conference centre in Ron Eydt Village. Some 55 members are expected to attend the event, hosted by the UW secretariat.

For co-op students looking for fall term jobs, continuous phase job postings begin today, with the first batch of openings to be posted at noon. "Apply if you had no interviews or were not ranked," a memo from the co-op department says.

The career development seminar series continues, with "Interview Skills: The Basics" today at 10:30 and "Preparing for Questions" at 11:30, both in Needles Hall room 1020.

The department of statistics and actuarial science presents a talk today by Brajendra Sutradhar of the Memorial University of Newfoundland (3:30 p.m., Math and Computer room 5158). Topic: "Joint Quasi-likelihood Inference in Poisson Mixed Model with a Single Component of Dispersion".

Something called "Toes Across the Floor" performs at 7:30 tonight in the Humanities Theatre -- sounds to me like another in the spring series of recitals by local dance schools.

Tomorrow's big event will be the Strawberry Social at the UW bookstore in South Campus Hall, with guest star Pamela Wallin, television personality and recently-appointed member of the UW board of governors. It'll be Wallin's first visit to campus since her appointment to the board. Also appearing at the social will be Nancy-Lou Patterson, UW-based artist, to read from her new children's book, Quilted Grapevine; and the Primavera Quartet will play. The bookstore had asked for RSVPs by yesterday for the event tomorrow, which runs from 11:30 to 1:30.

Tomorrow brings a goodbye party for Jeff Weller, long-time assistant to UW's deans of engineering, who is retiring. "Best wishes only," says a note about the reception, which will run from 3:00 to 5:30 tomorrow in the POETS pub on the first floor of Carl Pollock Hall. Karen Dubois (ext. 2447) is taking RSVPs.

The Employee Assistance Program has announced that it will offer two brown bag lunch sessions this term. Next Wednesday, June 28, UW ombudsperson Marianne Miller will speak on "Renting to Students: What You Need to Know". On July 19, lawyer Barney Lawrence (who often and often has taught at UW) will speak on "Wills and Power of Attorney". RSVPs are invited, to be sent to Johan Reis in the health services department.

Finally . . . readers may have noticed a couple of new bylines in the Daily Bulletin (and Gazette) lately. Avvey Peters, whose name first appeared on May 29, is a new staff member here in the office of information and public affairs (alpeters@uwaterloo.ca); she was formerly on the professional staff of the Federation of Students. "Barbara Hallett", who has a byline today, is Barbara Elve, my colleague for the past several years, who has just returned from a honeymoon; we're trying to get used to her new name and new e-mail address (bhallett@uwaterloo.ca).

CAR


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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