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Thursday, May 25, 2000

  • 'To bring classrooms closer together'
  • Bike centre holds auction today
  • Student's been shooting for perfection
  • And a little of this and that

[Car among pylons]
Threading its way through a portion of the challenging course at Michigan's Silverdome, the UW-built Formula SAE race car moves a little closer to its seventh-place standing among 104 teams. Waterloo placed top among Canadian entries in the contest and took the award for best drivetrain. The team is taking special pride in being one of just 18 teams that finished the endurance part of the competition. The annual event is sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers and three automobile manufacturers, and UW's team is now looking forward to next year's competition.

'To bring classrooms closer together'

The federal government has announced a grant to support a $1.2 million UW-based project to develop teaching and learning techniques that use "broadband" connections, such as video, among students and teachers in different locations.

The project, dubbed PLIANT -- Partnerships for Learning, Innovation and Technology -- will be led by UW's Centre for Learning and Teaching Through Technology. Much of the research is to be based on experiences with the "link" classrooms that have been connecting graduate students and researchers in chemistry and physics at UW and the University of Guelph for several years now.

Currently, the graduate programs in chemistry and physics use a microwave link for video-based classes. The PLIANT project will be using the CANARIE broadband computer network (CANet*2) instead. "This allows for scalability," says Liwana Bringelson of LT3, "and means that it would be less expensive to add classrooms because the microwave set up is very expensive and requires line-of-sight. In the second phase of the project, we will also be doing collaborative graduate classes with Carleton and (maybe) TechBC in Vancouver."

Ontario government will spend $57 million on 'optical network' linked to CANARIE
The grant for PLIANT is one of ten under "the CANARIE Learning Program" that were announced by federal industry minister John Manley. Says a news release: "The CANARIE Learning Program aims to stimulate Canadian businesses and learning institutions to undertake development projects that are highly collaborative, national in scope, use advanced Internet technologies, create widespread adoption of broadband in the learning environment and address structural barriers to on-line learning."

The UW-based PLIANT project has two goals: "to demonstrate the viability of broadband-enabled collaborative learning to overcome barriers; and to develop and test innovations in broadband-enhanced learning activities to take full advantage of the capability of broadband networking".

Said Tom Carey, director of LT3: "We are constantly examining the limitations to technology and education and researching ways to overcome those limitations. Right now the limitation is bandwidth, and because of this grant we are able to use broadband-technology to bring classrooms closer together. Imagine enrolling for a class at Carleton University and having classmates and instruction from the Universities of Waterloo and Guelph."

Besides graduate students in science at UW and Guelph, the PLIANT project will involve students in human-computer interaction at Carleton, UW and the Technical University of British Columbia. There are two innovative aspects to PLIANT, the announcement said: "using broadband-enabled activities to overcome barriers and proposed broadband-enhanced innovations to learning. The latter focuses on instructional features such as integrating individual desktop and distributed classroom learning activities; supporting small group activities across sites; and capturing distributed design collaborations as a re-usable learning resource." Carey said the project will include creation of a Learning Technology Faculty Institute, "in which instructors from campuses across the country can participate in sharing knowledge with their disciplinary colleagues".

LT3, which was established last year, has finally been able to move into its renovated space in the Dana Porter Library. There are two areas, the LT3 offices and a "Flexible Learning Experience" (FLEX) laboratory, which will be used for training by library staff as well as learning experiments by professors and students. LT3 will be holding an open house early in June, Bringelson said yesterday.

Bike centre holds auction today

The UW Bike Centre will be hosting an auction starting at 12:30 today in the Student Life Centre courtyard.

"This is your chance to buy a quality bike for a reasonable price," organizers say. "A variety of bikes will be available: from road to mountain, 1 speed to 21, and they're all in good working order. The bikes will be out for preview beginning at 11:30 a.m. and Joe Zehr from Zehr Auctions will start the bidding an hour later. Sales are by cash or cheque only and please bring some UW id." If the weather's bad, the auction will take place in the SLC Atrium, outside the Used Bookstore.

The bikes to be auctioned today come from the UW police -- largely abandoned bikes, or bikes that have been stolen and recovered but not claimed. "If the attempt to match the bike with its owner fails, it's turned over to the Bike Centre. Volunteers then fix them up and get them back into a rideable condition."

Ted Harms of the UW library staff is a long-time volunteer at the Bike Centre. He tells more about the organization: "The Bike Centre is where you can do your own repairs for a reasonable price. We charge $1 an hour to use the tools and $1 if you use the lube, oil, or grease. Inner tubes, brake and shift cables, patch kits, and leg reflectors are for sale and there's a huge selection of used parts available.

"To help people learn how to fix bikes, we are also responsible for instructing the Campus Rec bicycle maintenance courses. The Bike Centre is volunteer based and this term we are open Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Tuesday 8:30 to 7. There's always a volunteer on hand that can help you get started and answer your questions.

"We are in the north west corner of the SLC, beside the shipping and receiving doors -- just look for the black bike on the side of the building. Feel free to call us at ext. 5174 if you have any questions."

Student's been shooting for perfection -- from the UW Recruiter newsletter for co-op employers

David Vu holds a catapult that is used as part of the quality training Six Sigma "Black Belts" receive. The objective is to find the correct settings that allow the catapult to fire a ball into a cup with near perfect accuracy.
Quality and service: these two words can often mean the difference between success and failure for just about any business in today's economy. For organizations around the world, providing customers with ever better quality and service has become essential as the global markets become increasingly competitive. What this means to executives and business owners everywhere, is that the battle for consumer satisfaction has become far too important to risk losing as a result of inferior products or "hunch" based customer service tactics.

It is these hunches that 3B co-op student David Vu has learned to avoid through his experiences at GE Power Management on his past two work terms. David, a Science and Business student, has instead been trained in the science of designing and improving company processes to increase commercial quality and customer satisfaction -- and to be sure, there is no room for guessing here!

While it sounds complicated, David explained that the projects he received were initially determined by customer feedback. With each project, his ultimate goal was to reduce the number of defects/errors consumers might experience to 3.4 for each one million products or services provided by GE. To accomplish this astounding feat, David employed "Six Sigma", a GE initiative that uses data-gathering and statistical analysis to pinpoint sources of errors and ways of eliminating them. David, as a Six Sigma "Black Belt," was successfully involved in a variety of projects (even travelling to Puerto Rico to meet with team members) throughout his terms at GE. His experiences not only allowed him to use his well-developed analytical skills, but taught him how to effectively execute crucial changes, through training and coaching, within the corporate environment.

In the end, it was David's independent thinking and work habits, high personal standards, and enthusiasm for learning and teaching that really impressed Bill Malus, the company's Operations Manager For his dedication and hard work, and by demonstrating the same quality and service that he strove to help GE achieve, David was honoured with a GE contribution award (given annually to 65 co-op students and interns out of 2000).

So what is David s advice for success? "Courage and an obsession with learning. Ask lots of questions, get out there, and make some trouble (the good kind) -- and don't be afraid to make big contributions!" He also encourages other co-op students to find mentors within the corporate structure, adding "there are some great teachers out there find them, learn from them, and take advantage of their networks."

And a little of this and that

The senate undergraduate council will meet at 10:00 this morning (Needles Hall 3004) to continue its work on undergraduate curriculum, admissions regulations and similar issues.

The department of statistics and actuarial science presents a seminar this afternoon by Shelley Bull of Mount Sinai Hospital and the University of Toronto, who will speak on "Regression Models for Allele Sharing" (3:30, Math and Computer room 5158).

Also at 3:30, the physics department presents Fred Cooperstock of the University of Victoria, speaking on "Energy in General Relativity and Gravitational Waves: A New Approach" (Physics room 145).

Electrical and computer engineering students will vie for awards this afternoon in a technical speaking competition sponsored by the Sandford Fleming Foundation. Three speakers will be heard in Davis Centre room 1302: Bandad Afra ("Diabetes Internet Appliance") at 4:30, Borzoo Shadpour ("The ATM Backbone Solution") at 4:50, and Avery Pennarum ("Netselect: A Parallel Network Performance Measurement Tool") at 5:10. The E&CE winner will go on to the faculty-wide competition against speakers from other departments in engineering.

Take note: the registrar's office will be closed tomorrow (Friday) from 11:30 to 1:30 because of a staff meeting.

Pat Cunningham, who manages UW's "planned giving" program for the development office, sends word that there will be a "Leave a Legacy Luncheon" on Tuesday, May 30, in the Laurel Room of South Campus Hall. "Topics to be discussed include What happens if you die without a will? What steps should you take in planning your will to be sure your last wishes come true? What difference can your legacy make in the community? The Waterloo-Wellington Leave a Legacy program is a region-wide initiative to increase public awareness about the importance of having a will and leaving a legacy for the charities which are important to you and your family." Anyone interested in attending Tuesday's luncheon is asked to call Cunningham at ext. 5413 by this Friday.

And here's a note from Chris Farley, president of the Federation of Students: "The Federation, in conjunction with some outstanding student volunteers, are again arranging computer workshops for members of the Kitchener-Waterloo community who want to learn how to use computers. The Federation is looking for volunteers who can use Word, compose e-mail and surf the web. If you can do either one of these we need your help. We will run four weekly 1.5-hour tutorials every Wednesday night beginning June 1. If you would like to help, please contact Tony Tam at ttam@uwaterloo.ca."

And here's a reminder that this year's Matthews Golf Classic, for faculty, staff and retirees, will be held Monday, June 19, at the Grand Valley Golf Course. The event starts at 12:00 noon for the team photographs and winds up at 6:00 for dinner. Cost is $46 for golf and dinner, $26 for golf only and $20 for dinner only. More information is available from Jan Willwerth in information systems and technology, or on the Matthews Golf Classic web site.


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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