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Friday, June 30, 2000

  • Birthday party on the north campus
  • Helicopter team faces forest fire
  • UW prepares to fill research chairs
  • A few other notes today

[Maple leaf flag]

The true north gets a holiday

The Canada Day holiday will be observed at UW on Monday, July 3. Classes are cancelled for the day, and university offices and most services will be closed. The UW libraries will be closed Monday; on Saturday and Sunday, the Dana Porter and Davis Centre libraries are open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the University Map and Design Library 1 to 5 p.m.

Of course some key services continue as always:

  • UW police: on duty 24 hours, 888-4911.
  • Student Life Centre: open 24 hours, turnkey desk 888-4434.
  • Maintenance emergencies: phone ext. 3793, 24 hours a day.
And thanks to direct in-dialing, it's possible to reach anybody who happens to be at work, at any hour. The switchboard number is 888-4567.

Birthday party on the north campus

Tomorrow is Canada's 133rd birthday, which will be marked by the 16th annual Canada Day festivities on UW's north campus, sponsored by UW and the Federation of Students.

As the premier Canada Day celebration for the Waterloo Region, this event is expected to attract over 50,000 people to the area just north of Columbia Street, above Columbia Lake.

"The day's popularity," says a UW news release, "stems from its exciting selection of free activities, ranging from an Arts and Crafts fair through to a children's waterslide. Games, crafts, music, museums and fun make this the perfect Canada Day destination for family entertainment. While working to make this year's event the best UW Canada Day Celebration yet, the committee has not forgotten the elements that draw the crowds in each year. Favourites such as the dunk tank, face-painting, Laser Quest, giant twister, children's performers and, of course, the musically enhanced fireworks will all return again this year."

Most of UW's parking lots will be open and free. It would be smart to enter campus from University Avenue, as Columbia Street between Westmount Road and North Campus Road (the main campus entrance) will be closed from 1 p.m. until after the fireworks. And yes, there will be food concessions on the north campus, not to mention toilet facilities.

"It is amazing to see what students working together can accomplish," says student event manager Heather Larsen, referring to the more than 300 UW volunteers who help make the UW Canada Day Celebrations a success. "It's wonderful to work with such a dedicated team, who are so committed to improving the celebrations each year."

A new addition this year is the "Our Millennium Community Corner Challenge." The focus of the Community Corner is to give the public an opportunity to become involved in the community in a number of different ways. The Community Corner is described as a gift by UW students to the "Our Millennium" project, a national initiative to encourage people to make a difference in their community in the year 2000.

The daytime activities on Columbia Field begin at 2 p.m. with games, children's activities as well as live entertainment on the main stage. Laser Quest, a children's sing-along and more live performances will entertain families through the twilight hours until 10 p.m. when the crowds gather to watch the much anticipated musically enhanced fireworks show.

This year's presenting sponsors are Domino's Pizza, City of Waterloo, Bick's Pickles, Kiwanis Clubs of Waterloo Region, Waterloo Printing, The Record, J.M. Schneider Inc., Canadian Waste Services, Canadian Heritage, CHYM-FM and Sherwood Audio.

Helicopter team faces forest fire

[Ten students pose] A forest fire that's roaring through a nuclear reservation in Washington state has made a simulated disaster real for UW's aerial robotics team (pictured at right, in happier days).

The student team recovered from one huge setback, the theft of much of its equipment two months ago, and got to the Richland area of Washington for the Millennial Aerial Robotics Competition just in time to be downwind of a fire started by a road accident on Tuesday. The fire has now burned almost 200,000 acres, destroyed more than two dozen homes and done extensive damage on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, where plutonium is processed for weapons and where radioactive waste is stored. As of this morning the fire is largely under control.

The disaster has been frighteningly similar to the scenario that the robotics competition is supposed to be simulating. Teams from UW and other universities from around the world have designed helicopters that can work by remote control in disaster areas too dangerous for human beings to enter.

By yesterday morning the competition had stopped and team members were poised to evacuate to Seattle. The UW team had to abandon its actual helicopter, but carried smaller pieces of equipment with them as they got back to their motel in West Richland. At one point, writes Dave Kroetsch from his laptop, "we were stopped by a police officer who said we could pass but we were asked which we valued more, our lives or our equipment! So we were able to salvage the laptops, the pods and other small things. We had to leave the helicopters and anything we couldn't carry."

Earlier in the week, things were going well for the UW team. Computer engineering student Chris McKillop reported on Tuesday night that the first stage of the competition, static judging, "went really well -- as normal we wowed the judges," though official results weren't available yet. He added: "We are having some major issues with our Yaw sensor. There seems to be some pretty heavy magnetic interference here since the German team is finding the exact same problems."

UW prepares to fill research chairs

The first holders of federally funded "Canada Research Chairs" at UW could be arriving in January, according to provost Jim Kalbfleisch, who said this week that Waterloo will send in details on the first few appointments in time for Ottawa's September 1 deadline.

[Red chair] The "chairs" are faculty positions that the federal government will pay for: $100,000 a year for junior posts and $200,000 for senior ones, including both the professor's salary and some related costs. The program was announced in October 1999 and expanded in this winter's federal budget.

UW is expecting something like 47 of the chairs, out of the 2,000 that will be established across Canada by 2004-05, Kalbfleisch says. (The University of Toronto is anticipating 251 chairs, McMaster 96, Wilfrid Laurier University six.) The allocation of chairs to the various universities is largely based on their shares of grants from the three major federal research councils.

"What we know we have this year is eight NSERC chairs, four junior and four senior," Kalbfleisch said. By the end of five years, he expects UW will have 41 chairs based on Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council grants, five based on SSHRC (the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council), and one based on MRC (the Medical Research Council, now superseded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research). "Roughly on that basis, I have indicated to the faculties how many chairs they should be planning for," the provost said, noting that institutions are supposed to create the positions in research fields related to the work of NSERC, SSHRC or MRC, with "some degree of flexibility".

The initial eight chairs have been allotted as three to the engineering faculty, two to mathematics and three to science, he said, "subject to some adjustment if some other arrangement makes more sense".

Ottawa has set quarterly deadlines for positions to be submitted, and is promising to give approval quickly, he said. UW should be able to send in its first two or three proposals by September 1, and the money could start flowing January 1.

"These will all have to be regular, tenure-track and tenured appointments," the provost noted, and "our normal hiring practices" will be followed. The chairholders will have some teaching and administrative work as well as doing research, he said.

For the most part, the provost said, UW will be appointing researchers from outside the university, although it's also possible to name existing faculty members to hold Canada Research Chairs. "We're going to try to keep the salaries of chairholders consistent with the salaries we pay to our very best people who don't have chairs," he added.

A few other notes today

There was a brief item in this Bulletin the other day about Anil Sabharwal and John Baker, recent graduates who have gone into business under the name of Desire2Learn.com Inc. Sabharwal is, indeed, a computer science graduate, and I implied that Baker is too. In fact, his degree this year was in systems design engineering. And someone in the SDE department has taken the trouble to point out that the fledgling company "has in fact worked with a few SDE professors (Burns and Ponnambalam) to put their courses on the Web".

Winter term co-op work reports that were marked by coordinators in the co-op department can be picked up today at the reception desk on the first floor of Needles Hall.

The Grad House offers a "Surf's Up Mixer" tonight starting at 8:00. "All graduate students and affiliate members are welcome to attend," writes Graduate Student Association president Bill Bishop. "We will be playing a combination of surf tunes and dance tunes. Feel free to bring your best (or worst) Hawaiian shirt."

An hour-long training session about the Workplace Hazardous Information Materials System will be offered Tuesday, July 4, at 2 p.m., and again Friday, July 7, at 10 a.m. The session includes a video and brief quiz, and is meant to be compulsory for UW "employees, volunteers, part-time employees and graduate students who have not previously attended a University of Waterloo WHMIS session", according to a memo from the safety office. The training sessions will take place in Davis Centre room 1304.


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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