Monday July 26, 2004
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On July 16 the Daily Bulletin reported that the Waterloo Aerial Robotics Group (WARG) was off to Fort Benning, Georgia to compete in the International Aerial Robotics Competition. Their goal: “to achieve a milestone in the competition and win some awards,” wrote Brent Tweddle, the group’s spokesman. Over the last year or so they developed a fully autonomous fixed-wing airplane as their transport vehicle.
Today’s news is that WARG has passed that milestone. On July 20, following a presentation about their system to the judges, they were presented with the award for Best Technical Paper (available for download on the WARG website). On July 22, the team flew a three-kilometre course around a number of GPS waypoints, accomplishing level 1 of the competition. Final scores had not been announced as of July 23, but team members believe they have done exceptionally well.
"WARG's success in this year's International Aerial Robotics Competition was due to an excellent and dedicated group of people that has worked hard over the past year,” Tweddle writes. “We were the only team to accomplish any levels of the mission this year. It is worthwhile to note that our autopilot was custom developed by Waterloo students, as opposed to the majority of teams who purchase their autopilot systems. However, many of the judges and organizers expressed their amazement at how smoothly and stably our autopilot flew, which was apparently better than anything they had ever seen before.”
According to an article in the Friday, July 23 issue of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “The $40,000 prize awaiting any robotics team that could complete all levels of competition went unclaimed as a day without winners—but no real losers, either—assured that the prize, like an unclaimed lottery jackpot, will increase at next year's event.” But as one coordinator commented: “Unless they're technical geeks, most people probably don't understand what we're doing here.This is not like a sporting event. It's not about winning. It's about technological progress."
|Student life coordinator Heather Fitzgerald behind the scenes at Saturday's Student Life 101 event.|
First-year students planning to come to Waterloo this fall are getting extra personal attention, to make sure they don’t change their minds before September.
Like many universities in Ontario, Waterloo faces an unusual situation this year. For fall 2003, the year of the double cohort, UW’s target for first-year admissions was 5,350, about 12 per cent more than the year before. This year, the system has received approximately 32 per cent fewer OSS applications than in 2003. But many universities, Waterloo included, have not significantly lowered their targets for first-year students. Result: more places on offer for fewer students.
Waterloo’s first-year target for fall 2004 is 5,253. The situation looks good, says Peter Burroughs, UW’s director of admissions. On July 19, UW had 5,116 confirmations: 97 per cent of target. The frosh class will also be enlarged by about 300 returning students who are staying in first year.
Unlike some other universities, such as Wilfrid Laurier, “we are using the same admissions criteria this year as last,” Burroughs says. Waterloo has not lowered its admissions standards, and is not offering “transition awards” to cover the loss of deposit money when students accept a late offer from one university after having been accepted by another. The number of scholarships available to qualifying students has increased from 3,190 last year to 4,634 this year, but UW is not planning to offer extra scholarships to keep top students.
So, how is Waterloo retaining prospective students in the face of intensifying competition? “We’re building relationships with them even before they arrive,” says Tina Roberts, UW’s director of marketing and undergraduate recruitment. Staff in Roberts’s office and in the faculties and colleges have been busy sending out welcoming letters, handwritten notes, and email messages, holding meet-the-dean (or the president) sessions, and phoning prospective students, to mention only a few of dozens of projects under way this summer.
A massive telephone campaign organized by Heather Fitzgerald, UW’s student life coordinator, took place on five days in late June and early July, when some 50 student volunteers made 3,500 phone calls to newly confirmed students. The callers asked about the newcomers’ concerns and pointed them to the appropriate resources. “We wanted to make sure they knew where to get answers to their questions, and we wanted them to know that we want them to come here,” Fitzgerald says.
Student-to-student connection also proved to be a key feature of an online discussion forum set up by the recruitment office in early June. Its initial purpose was to connect with students who had received offers and encourage them to confirm; later, it was re-opened to strengthen the connection with confirmed students.
The forum was moderated by staff who answered questions about programs, how to use QUEST, and so on. But by far the most popular feature, says Julie Hummel, associate director of marketing and recruitment, was a general chat board that was open round the clock, where students could discuss whatever they pleased. Things like: going to Student Life 101, buying a computer, getting involved in athletics, living in residence, finding the best food and the best profs. Over its short life—it closed on Friday—1,480 registered users posted 14,000 messages. Once, 86 people were online at the same time—at 11 p.m.
A sense of belonging is extremely important to this generation of students, Hummel notes. Many made plans to meet in the fall, and a few arranged to be roommates. “The most interesting thing is that we set up the forum to create a sense of community with us, and they used it to create a sense of community with each other.”
Chris Gilbert of Athletics sends word that the Warriors Women’s Hockey Team has announced five new recruits for 2004. “This year’s recruiting has paid off as we have been able to add to our offence, which is where we were lacking,” says Bill Antler, head coach. The new recruits, he says, “give us added offensive strength up front and strengthen our blueline, giving us a very balanced attack.”
Here’s a reminder that tomorrow is the last day to reserve tickets by email (UWRC@admmail.uwaterloo.ca) from the UW Recreation Committee for next Saturday evening’s performance of Nunsense at Theatre Cambridge.