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Friday, May 20, 2005

  • Students head for training in India
  • Car hits the track; other notes
  • A long weekend and it's summer
Chris Redmond

Cottaging | Safe boating

[Pink jacket and big smile]

The minister of training, colleges and universities, Mary Anne Chambers, will be on campus today, meeting at noontime with an invited group of student, faculty and staff leaders, as well as administrators and guests from Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College. They'll be talking about the recent Ontario budget and the provincial paper on the future of post-secondary education, Reaching Higher. Chambers is seen during her last visit to UW, for a "best overall university" celebration in November.

Students head for training in India -- by Barbara Elve

"Nine weeks of incredible adventures" is how one engineering student sums up a winter term in India. Andrew Dodds was one of 28 first-year mechanical engineering students selected to take part in the first International Industrial Training Program at the Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology in Punjab.

In a series of dispatches in the Iron Warrior, Dodds described the students' experiences of food, festivals, cold showers -- as well as adapting to the 40-hour weeks spend in lectures, tutorial and labs, learning welding, machining, mechanical drawing, CAD, metrology, and electrical and motor control through hands-on experience. He and his classmates returned with "machine shop experience of immeasurable value," as well as what he termed "a lot of personal development. We've come a long way since first snapping bit after bit on the shaper," he quips.

Why send 28 engineering students all the way to India? For mechanical engineering professor Sanjeev Bedi, it was a way to address a number of difficulties facing his first-year students, including inadequate engineering skills, difficulty in finding co-op employment, and lack of international experience.

The mechanical engineering program offers "a strong theoretical grounding in solid mechanics, fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, materials and automation," relying on co-op work terms to provide practical, on-the-job experience. But "Over the years," he explains, "co-op jobs have shifted from hands-on engineering, such as jobs on the shop floor, to softer jobs such as quality control, software writing and analysis." The result is reduced exposure to certain skills for students.

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  • On campus it's difficult to provide such skills because of shortage of equipment, space and trained supervisors, he adds. As well, most students today come from urban centres and lack the experience with tools and machines that students from rural areas often brought with them.

    With co-op jobs sometimes hard to find, some first-year students end up with non-engineering co-op employment, and "the goal of providing engineering training within these jobs is often not met. If engineering skills are provided to students at an early stage in their education, their prospects of finding better co-op jobs in future work terms improve a great deal," Bedi says.

    With these issues in mind, he went back to his roots in Patiala, India, where his father, Raghbir Bedi, now retired, was formerly a dean at TIET. There, an eight-week industrial training program was designed collaboratively by UW and TIET to provide hands-on skill development. "I decided to take a radical approach," says Bedi. "The students don't get paid, but it advances their careers phenomenally."

    Mechanical and mechatronics engineering students in 1B and 2A will be eligible for the program in future terms -- up to 28 of them at a time. "Students with limited exposure to manufacturing practices will be given preference," says Bedi, who is in the process of selecting a group of students to depart for India in June.

    For the winter group, TIET hosts arranged group excursions to Chandigarh, the capital of the state of Punjab, as well as to Jaipur, Agra, and Delhi. Students visited the Taj Mahal and had close encounters with elephants, camels and monkeys. In addition to the technical skills the students gained, Bedi believes they returned home better prepared to take part in the global economy. They gained an "awareness about different cultures, ways of living, ways to do business, business etiquette," along with an increased self-confidence from living away from home and managing on their own.

    And there has been some unexpected fallout. When a nearby Ontario company heard about the program, they offered to provide the same training on their premises. As well, representatives from Warsaw Technical University have expressed interest in establishing a similar program in Poland.

    Car hits the track; other notes

    The student Formula SAE Team is racing its car this weekend, reports mechanical engineering student Peter Yang: "The team is currently competing in the 25th annual Formula SAE Competition (May 18-22) in Pontiac, Michigan. After the second day of competition, Waterloo qualified for the Semi-Finals of the Engineering Design Event, thus placing the Waterloo car among the world's top 13 in terms of engineering design. Dynamic events begins today (Friday) and the team is confident that the car will perform well and hope to finish in the top 10."

    We're two weeks into the spring work term, and here's an update from the co-op department: "As of May 3, 83.98% (3,443) of the 4,100 co-op students who are scheduled to be on a Spring 2005 work term have employment, leaving 657 still needing jobs. Last year at the same time, 87.8% (3,084) of the 3,512 co-op students who were scheduled for a Spring 2004 work term had employment, leaving 428 still needing jobs. In individual faculties/programs, the following numbers represent students with employment or not participating in the employment process (e.g., taking an 'on own' term) for the spring term: Accounting 131 (97.8%); AHS 147 (96.1%); Arts 253 (70.5%); Architecture 102 (85.7%); Engineering 1,467 (85.1%); Environmental Studies 188 (88.3%); Mathematics 947 (82.2%); Science 204 (84%); Teaching 4 (100%)."

    Waterloo County and Area Quilt Festival continues, with exhibition daily in UW art gallery, East Campus Hall.

    Quartetfest at Wilfrid Laurier University, May 24 to June 12, details online.

    Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System training session Tuesday 10 a.m., repeated May 31 at 2 p.m., Davis Centre room 1304.

    Bill Pearson, retired professor of chemistry and physics and former dean of science, memorial event Tuesday 3 to 5 p.m., University Club.

    Teaching workshop: "Implementing Active Learning Activities", Thursday 12 noon, Math and Computer room 5158, information and registration online.

    UW Day welcomes future students and parents, particularly those deciding whether to accept offers of admission, Saturday, June 4, 12:30 to 4:00, Student Life Centre.

    'Getting More Life Out of Your Time', one-day continuing education course, June 9, information online.

    At Monday's meeting of the UW senate, there were a few words about the February reading period, which -- in one of UW's favourite anomalies -- lasts two days for students in engineering and mathematics, but a full week for everybody else. (But engineering and math students get three extra days between the end of classes and the beginning of exams in the winter term.) Every so often there's a proposal to adjust the schedule so all faculties have the same reading period, and earlier this year the senate asked to have the subject aired in math and engineering. Student senator Jonathan Fishbein said he had polled some 340 engineering students and was getting a two-to-one vote against changing the existing arrangement. Math students seem to be in favour of a change, another voice added, but consultation is continuing. The subject is due to come up again at the June meeting.

    Announcements this week herald an "Applied Health Informatics Bootcamp" to be held at UW July 17 through 22, aimed at "IT professionals in health organizations", "healthcare providers", teachers and others. "This is an intense course," says a memo, "intended to introduce those with little or no knowledge of Health Informatics to the nature, key concepts, and applications of this discipline to addressing challenges in the health field." It's sponsored by the Waterloo Institute for Health Informatics Research, and more information is available on the WIHIR web site.

    And . . . apologies to anybody who was confused by reading in yesterday's Daily Bulletin, before I got the typographical error corrected, that the summer Keystone Campaign "Masquerade" celebration was going to be held on June 14. That's the wrong date. The Keystone event (actually two parties, one at noontime and a follow-up at 10 p.m.) will be held June 9, which is a Thursday. Watch for more information over the coming days. (June 14, as I noted correctly, is the date for a quite separate afternoon event, noting Campaign Waterloo in general.)

    [Queen Victoria]

    A long weekend and it's summer

    Monday, May 23, is Victoria Day and a holiday, bringing UW a long weekend. University offices and most services will be closed on Monday, and classes will not be held. Of course some key services continue as always: In case anybody was wondering: no, there will be no fireworks at UW on Monday -- gotta wait for Canada Day, July 1, for those.

    The libraries will be open regular hours on Saturday and Sunday, but just from noon to 6 p.m. on Monday. Some 80 participants in the Ontario Folk Dance Camp will be spending the weekend in the Ron Eydt Village conference centre. And of course some students will be in residence rather than departing for faraway homes; for them, Mudie's cafeteria in Village I continues in operation (there's roasted red pepper and garlic chicken on the menu for Monday night).

    And here's a reminder that parking lot D under Needles Hall, and the access road to it, will be closed to visitors as of Tuesday. Service vehicles and drivers with medical or disabled permits will still be able to squeeze through.


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