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Monday, March 8, 2004

  • Engineering hires PDEng instructors
  • Kitchener weighs downtown plans
  • Winter's back, life goes on
Chris Redmond

A history of International Women's Day

[Twenty students with long rope]

Engineering students supported the community again through Saturday's 28th annual Bus Push. More than $1,400 was raised for the Super Cities Walk for Multiple Sclerosis, says Christine McCullough, one of the organizers. "Though the weather was a bit cool and damp," she reports, "spirits were high and chants of 'we work hard, we play hard, we are the engineers' kept participants smiling the whole way. Horns could be heard honking all along the route in support of the brave souls pulling the Grand River Transit Bus behind them. Thanks to the Waterloo Regional Police, who provided a police escort, local traffic didn't suffer any jams and money was even collected from onlookers amazed by the feat."

Engineering hires PDEng instructors

A new unit of "nine or ten people, full-time" will be set up to operate the courses that engineering students will soon be taking during their co-op work terms.

The courses, dealing with such topics as management, health and safety, and risk management, will make UW students "even better", says Adel Sedra, the dean of engineering. "We are about to hire our first one or two instructors," the dean said in an interview last week. He said he doesn't know the total cost of the program -- "we're just working out the business plan."

The first course will be ready in January 2005, in time for next fall's 1A engineering students to take it on their first work term. Eventually, five courses are planned.

Sedra, who arrived as engineering dean last summer, has played a major role in getting the program planned and approved. It got the final okay from UW's senate in February. Now, he doesn't hide his excitement at what's coming. "Waterloo, which pioneered co-operative education, is now taking this to a new level," he says. "We have been the best in technical education, and we will be the best now in the softer skills that engineers need to succeed."

[Sedra] The Professional Development for Engineering Students (PDEng) program is "the glue that will join the work experience to the academic program", says Sedra (right). He said employers' comments about young engineers always touch on the need for communications, teamwork, leadership, ethical responsibility. "Almost all engineering disciplines involve interacting with people -- your boss, your customers -- and ability to communicate, ability to lead.... Of course our graduates acquire that stuff on the job, but we'll now be able to accelerate it quite a bit."

The idea is for students to take one of the PDEng courses on each of five work terms. Background material will be delivered electronically in most cases -- he's looking at a format like the UWone system now used to deliver some credit courses through distance education and also on campus.

Sedra pointed to a traditional weakness in "soft skills" courses for engineers: "That stuff becomes very boring if you don't do it in context." But he thinks PDEng has solved the problem: "They'll be able to use the workplace experience as the lab component." For example, a student will read about leadership styles one evening during a work term, then go to the job next day and see real-life managers at work. Then the student can write an assignment about leadership using on-the-job observations. "They're seeing it in context," he emphasized.

Sedra said the new courses will take "not a great deal of effort" from the students. "We don't want them to spend a lot more time. We think it can be done with something like one evening a week" for about three months of a work term.

Kitchener weighs downtown plans

Kitchener city council will hear more tonight about the possibility of a downtown UW campus, and will also be briefed on a public "consultation session" held last week on what kinds of development projects the city should help to fund.

The agenda for tonight's meeting -- which starts at 7:00 at city hall -- includes a report from city staff on an "economic and community analysis" of the proposed UW health sciences campus, which would start with a school of pharmacy.

The city is considering a $30 million investment to get the campus started on an abandoned property at the corner of Victoria and King Streets at the west end of downtown. It's one of the options that have been proposed as a way of attracting jobs, money and activity to the city core, in what are being labelled "employment lands".

The UW project and other options were on the table when the city's Economic Development Advisory Committee and Downtown Advisory Committee held last week's consultation session "to help determine the direction Kitchener will take to realize its future economic growth and prosperity". More than 50 people attended the session, one of several being held as part of Kitchener's public process for preparing a 2004 budget.

Two economic development proposals were presented at the meeting: a traditional business park in Kitchener's west end on a currently undeveloped site, or redeveloping vacant, underutilized and brownfield sites in downtown Kitchener -- such as the former Epton factory where UW's campus is proposed. The city has already committed support for moving Wilfrid Laurier University's school of social work to a downtown historic building.

[Square towers and a church spire]

View of downtown Kitchener from a rooftop, taken by Eric Praetzel of UW's electrical and computer engineering department

Speakers at the open meeting suggested a "balance" between knowledge and manufacturing and asked whether it might not be possible to balance both kinds of activity. There was a "sense of urgency", says a meeting summary issued by the city.

Says the summary: "The west side employment lands would provide a 200-acre traditional business park that could provide a large track of land for industries and cluster manufacturing in one area with, usually, direct access to suppliers. It would be developable in three to five years.

"Developing the downtown as employment lands would focus on encouraging an education and knowledge creation cluster that builds on partnerships with Wilfrid Laurier and the University of Waterloo. Assessment growth would occur as underdeveloped or vacant sites -- many of them brownfields -- are reused by research companies, related professions and private sector investment."

Discussions will continue at tonight's council meeting and at another public forum set for Wednesday night. ''At the end of the day, Kitchener needs to consider moving forward with one, both or none of the options presented,'' says councillor Berry Vrbanovic, chair of Kitchener's finance and corporate services committee.  ''As a council, dealing with these kinds of decisions is not easy, but it is something we are elected to do.''

Tonight's council meeting will also be asked to make a decision about creating a student-run art gallery at 158 King Street West, a project proposed by the UW fine arts department and dean of arts office.

Ranking forms for co-op architecture students available after 10:00, Tatham Centre, due back 4 p.m.

Flora MacDonald, former cabinet minister, gives today's climate change lecture, 10:30, Arts Lecture Hall room 124.

Sandford Fleming Foundation debates today through Wednesday, 11:30 to 1:00, Engineering II room 3324.

Referendum open meetingin preparation for vote on Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, 12 noon, Student Life Centre.

Alternative Work Experience International presentations by three students who have worked overseas, 5:30, Student Life Centre room 2143.

Student loan repayment information sessions, Tuesday 10:00, 12 noon, 2:00, all students welcome, Rod Coutts Hall room 109.

Graduate Apartments at St. Paul's, preview open house, Tuesday 5:30 to 6:30, St. Paul's United College.

Conflict management for instructors, workshop sponsored by teaching resource office, Wednesday 12 noon (repeated March 16, noon), preregister ext. 3132.

Alternatives Rocks benefit concert for UW environmental magazine by local bands, Wednesday from 9 p.m., Starlight Club, King Street, tickets 888-4442.

Rainbow Reels "Queer Film Festival", sponsored by WPIRG, Thursday through Sunday, most showing in Davis Centre, details online.

[Synesthesia in ECH gallery]

Winter's back, life goes on

The Warriors took the provincial gold medal over the weekend in OUA women's indoor hockey competition. First-round score was Waterloo 2, Toronto 0, and in the championship game the Warriors disposed of the York Lions by the same 2-0 score. That's the first gold for a Waterloo team this season, and it should be no surprise. Late last week the OUA announced the year's all-stars in indoor hockey, and the roster includes two fourth-year players from the Warriors, Jessa Jennings and Janelle Witzel. (The rest of the all-star team consisted of two players from Toronto and two from York.)

Work to remove asbestos at the main entrance of the Dana Porter Library is scheduled to begin today. "This work will require the closure of the main entrance/exit for approximately one week," a memo warns. "Signage will be posted around both the interior and perimeter of the building to direct people to the temporary entrance/exit location on the west side of the building, opposite Needles Hall."

I didn't have a chance to mention one of the weekend's events beforehand, so I'll mention it afterwards. It's the fourth annual Hopespring Cancer Support Centre Curling Fundraiser, put together by the Earth Sciences Alumni Corporate Challenge group -- a small group of earth sciences alumni, largely from local environmental companies. This year's bonspiel was held yesterday at the Westmount Golf and Country Club. The event, which last year raised $9,600 for Hopespring, is run in memory of Gail Bendig of the earth sciences department, who died in 1997. Two teams from within the earth sciences department were among the 16 entries expected in yesterday's bonspiel.

The student life office is seeking "enthusiastic event coordinators" to help plan the annual Student Life 101 open house for this summer. "This is your opportunity," writes Heather FitzGerald, "to help first-year students have a positive transition from high school to university. Event coordinators will gain experience in event planning, volunteer management, marketing and much more." Applicants will need to be free on the day of SL 101 for this year -- Saturday, July 24 -- and must be returning to undergraduate study in September. "First and second year students are encouraged," says FitzGerald. She'd like to hear from interested students: e-mail studentlife@uwaterloo.ca or call ext. 6876.

And . . . plant operations sends word that there will be utilities shutoffs in Engineering III over the next couple of days, so connections can be made to the building's new wing, now just about complete. Tomorrow (7:30 to 4:00) the shutoff affects hot and cold water, as well as compressed air. Wednesday (same hours) its heating and low-pressure steam.


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