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Thursday, March 24, 2005

  • Robotics teams unload today
  • Funds for cancer, public health research
  • Of engineers and other things
  • Good Friday and a long weekend
Chris Redmond


[Black graph extends below green band]

Winter's over? "Even with a few warm days, it was a much colder than average winter," writes Frank Seglenieks, reviewing a season's data from the UW weather station. Yes, it reached 14.9 Celsius on January 13, but it also fell to minus-32.3 a few days later, and the average overnight low was minus-12.8, a full 3 degrees lower than the average in previous years. The winter's precipitation was "on the high end of the average range".

Robotics teams unload today

Teams from two local secondary schools will be among the 24 competitors in the First Robotics international regional qualifying contest to be held at UW this weekend. UW is Canada's second site for the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition, an international event that pits 900 rivalling teams in regional contests leading up to the championship finals April 21-23 in Atlanta.

The regional contest, which is open to the public with free admission, involves short games played by remote-controlled robots designed and built in a six-week period out of a common set of basic parts by teams of students and engineers-mentors. The students pilot the robots on the field.

Teams representing Waterloo Collegiate Institute and Jacob Hespeler Secondary School will be the local entries in the contest, taking place in the Physical Activities Complex. They'll be competing against teams from 22 other schools from Ontario, New Brunswick, New Hampshire and Michigan.

Today teams will uncrate and prepare their robots for inspection, with practice rounds from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The contest begins Friday at 1 p.m., complete with opening ceremonies, and ends Saturday with an awards ceremony at 3:00. Spectators are welcome any time during the weekend, and will find the most to see during "seeding matches" on Friday afternoon (1:20 to 4:00) and Saturday morning (9:20 to 11:45), as well as the final rounds from 1 to 3 on Saturday afternoon.

The competition aims to show students that technological fields hold many opportunities and that the basic concepts of science, math, engineering and invention are both exciting and interesting. "FIRST redefines winning as scoring the most points is a secondary goal," said electrical and computer engineering professor Rob Gorbet, who chairs the FIRST Waterloo Regional planning committee. "Winning means building partnerships that last." Gorbet said that teams are rewarded for excellence in design, demonstrated team spirit, gracious professionalism and maturity, along with the ability to overcome obstacles.

The key sponsors of the regional event are Research In Motion, ATS Automation Tooling Systems and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada. Many other companies have also contributed sponsorship and in-kind support for the competition.

Mark Breadner, a teacher at Woburn Collegiate Institute in Toronto, helped prepare the first Canadian team for the 2001 championship at Disney World. He felt that Canada should have its own regional event, in addition to the 16 regionals south of the border. In 2002, as a result of his efforts, the number of Canadian teams had grown to 22 and the first Canadian regional was held at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga. The number of teams has since grown, with the Hershey Centre hosting a double-field regional with 78 teams from six provinces this year.

Last fall, Breadner approached Gorbet to discuss the possibility of the university becoming a second Canadian regional location. The idea received strong support and FIRST organizers named Waterloo an expansion site.

  • Warrior report on men's basketball national championship
  • UW student advances in 'entrepreneur of the year' competition
  • Waterloo Region museum is under study
  • UW Chinese Engineering Students Association is formed
  • Protests continue over Québec student aid
  • Small universities make a big impact on local communities (University Affairs)
  • 'Attack of the BlackBerry killers?' (The Economist)
  • 'The pursuit of happiness' as US academics move north
  • Killam Fellowships for 14 scientists and scholars
  • Final report on the 'transformation' of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
  • New president for Canada's 'open university'
  • New book: I'm the Teacher, You're the Student
  • University's e-mail to students being blocked as spam
  • Lawyer critical of professors' stance on Middle East issues
  • Australia looks at overhaul of research funding
  • Funds for cancer, public health research -- from the UW media relations office

    Two Waterloo faculty members with interests in medical and cancer work are sharing almost three-quarters of a million dollars in funding from a federal agency, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

    Richard Cook, Canada Research Chair in Statistical Methods for Health Research, received funding for a study on population and public health, while Bernard Duncker, biology professor, was awarded funding for work on cancer research. The money comes from an investment of more than $91 million in CIHR funding across Ontario.

    In a recent announcement, Carolyn Bennett, minister of state (public health), said the research projects cover a wide range of health research and "will translate into better health for all Canadians and a stronger health care system." Projects across the country will be conducted at universities and research institutions, covering periods of one to five years.

    "CIHR grants support essential medical research that otherwise would not occur," said MP Andrew Telegdi, Kitchener-Waterloo. "These studies contribute to the health of Canadians directly by providing more effective treatments and better efficiencies for our health system."

    Cook, a faculty member in the statistics and actuarial science department, is among the leading statisticians working in medical research in the country. In collaborating with researchers in areas as diverse as oncology, hematology, rheumatology and ophthalmology, he aims to ensure that medical studies are efficiently designed in order to derive valid conclusions about disease and treatments.

    In his CIHR project, "Methods for the Analysis of Complex Life History Data," Cook will develop innovative statistical methodology so that important outstanding problems in medical research are addressed, including chronic diseases processes in patients and changes in their health status. Over a five-year period, he will use a total of $495,355 from CIHR.

    Duncker is a molecular biologist seeking to develop powerful new diagnostic and therapeutic tools to combat cancer. He has made innovative discoveries concerning proteins that regulate cell division and is continuing the cancer-focused research. His CIHR project, "Functional Characterization of ORC (origin recognition complex) subunits," investigates the role played by the proteins in cell cycle progression, leading to cancer detection in a broad range of tissues at early stages. The three-year study will receive $253,935 in CIHR funding.

    The CIHR, launched in 2000 to replace the former Medical Research Council, is the major federal agency responsible for funding health research in the country. It seeks to develop new health knowledge, resulting in improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened health care system.

    Of engineers and other things

    I haven't heard who won the engineers' Genius Bowl competition last night, but I do know that I made an error in writing about it yesterday morning. Matt Strickland, one of the student organizers, is in electrical engineering, not systems design.

    Speaking of systems design, however, the SDE fourth-year project symposium will be held today (10:00 to 3:30) in the Davis Centre "fishbowl" lounge. Demonstrations will include everything from autonomous robots and automated piano tuners to landmine detection and money management systems. Says fourth-year student Andrea Olsen: "The challenges that face today's scientific and engineering community require the ability to cross disciplines easily in order to use technology and research results to empower both individuals and entire societies. To allow systems design engineering students to experience the creative process of design and synthesis, they are offered an exciting sequence of workshop courses, culminating in their fourth year project, in which they integrate the analytical tools learned in other courses to iteratively improve their design solutions to demanding interdisciplinary engineering problems." Visitors are welcome to see the results during today's exhibition.

    And from yet another branch of the engineering faculty, this week's issue of the electronic "Eng-e-News" reports that a chemical engineering student team has been selected as a winning team in the 2005 Canadian Energy Ambassador Competition sponsored by Natural Resources Canada. Colin Dooley, Suzanne Fines, Wojtek Trebacz, and Ryan Walker were selected as winners based on their submission for "Pilot Plant Improvements for a Catalytic Distillation Reactor". The proposal was produced during CHE 046 Engineering Design Workshop course, as part of their fourth-year group design project supervised by Flora Ng. The prize is $1,000 and national recognition -- the winners are promoted as Energy Ambassadors across the country. The competition is managed by Natural Resources Canada's Office of Energy Efficiency, which is fostering improved energy efficiency across the economy as part of Canada's strategy for meeting its climate change commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

    You'd have to hurry, but there's still time to get in on a five-week "study abroad in east Asia" opportunity this May and June. It's officially East Asian Studies 250, a trip and course led by Yan Li of UW's Renison College. "This course," Li writes, "explores Chinese language, culture and society, utilizing a 'living textbook' to achieve an insightful understanding of the history and civilization of the world's most populous nation." The course includes "intensive" language classes, visits to Beijing, Xian, Hangzhou and Shanghai, a look at the Great Wall and other classic attractions, and "immersion in the history, political system, economic development, educational system, family life, philosophy and literature of China". Interested? Li (e-mail yanli@renison.uwaterloo.ca) needs to hear from you by Monday.

    The UW bookstore's "spring book sale" continues today in the South Campus Hall concourse. . . . The Society of International Students is organizing a trip to the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival on Saturday, April 2. . . . Voting starts online at 8:00 Monday morning in the undergraduate student referendum about the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group fee. . . .

    'From Intrapreneurship to Entrepreneurship', talk by Ray Simonson of Software Innovation, 12 noon, Needles Hall room 1101, information ext. 7167.

    Graduating fine arts students exhibition in UW art gallery, East Campus Hall, opening reception 5 to 8 p.m.

    Youth for Christ "2000 Hail Marys" and night of prayer, Friday 9:30 p.m. through Saturday morning, multifaith prayer room, Student Life Centre, all welcome.

    Bojangles Art of Dance competition showcase, Saturday, Humanities Theatre.

    Blood donor clinic Monday through Friday, Student Life Centre, appointment sign-up at turnkey desk.

    Good Friday and a long weekend

    Tomorrow, March 25, is Good Friday and a holiday, bringing UW a long weekend. University offices and most services will be closed tomorrow, and classes will not be held. Of course some key services continue as always: The libraries will be open limited hours tomorrow, just from 12 noon to 6 p.m. They'll be open the usual hours on Saturday -- from 11 a.m. to midnight in the Davis Centre, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. in Dana Porter -- and then on Sunday morning, extended hours for exam season begin: round the clock in Davis (except Sundays closed 2 to 8 a.m.), 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily in Dana Porter.

    Easter Monday is a normal working day for the university.

    Quite apart from being a holiday weekend, this season is a solemn and exciting time for practising Christians, commemorating as it does the crucifixion (on Good Friday) and resurrection (on Easter Sunday) of Jesus of Nazareth. Special services will be taking place UW's Renison College (Anglican) and St. Jerome's College (Roman Catholic) as they are at places of worship around the world:

    And the congregations will hear such texts as the words of Luke (chapter 24, verse 5): "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen."


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