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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

  • Formula SAE car tops Canadian entries
  • Tenure and promotion of faculty members
  • Philosopher writes on critical thinking
Editor:
Chris Redmond
credmond@uwaterloo.ca

National Missing Children's Day


[22 people, car and flag]

There it is: members of the Formula SAE team show off their award-winning vehicle.

Formula SAE car tops Canadian entries

It's probably the best Formula SAE race car ever built in this country, says a jubilant announcement from UW's team after it topped all Canadian entries at the SAE competition in Michigan over the weekend. The Waterloo team placed fourth overall among the 140 teams who entered this year's event, bringing home a trophy and a $600 prize. "The 4th overall placement ties Waterloo's best-ever finish at the Competition and is the highest finish by a Canadian team in nine years," the team boasts.

More from its news release: "The Formula SAE Competition is an automotive engineering design competition where 140 collegiate teams from all continents are challenged to design, build, race, and market a brand-new open-wheel prototype racecar from scratch every year. This high level and comprehensive set of required skills make the Formula SAE Competition the toughest and most challenging collegiate competition of its kind.

"Considering that current competition rules are much more stringent and tougher than those in the past, then it could be said that Waterloo probably has engineered the best Formula SAE racecar ever in Canadian history.

"To put the competition into perspective, the Waterloo team competes with teams from many of the world's largest universities, such as the Universities of Texas and Wisconsin, that have dedicated testing facilities and significantly larger budgets. As a judge said during the competition, 'Waterloo is a small team that always shows up with big results.'"

Team members range from first-year undergrads to master's students. Although mostly from mechanical engineering (the faculty advisor is Steve Lambert of mech eng), they also come from other engineering departments and from the engineering and math faculties. "The team welcomes all UW students who share the passion of hands-on, extracurricular learning with a motorsports theme."

Upgrade didn't happen

"The upgrade to CallPilot did not succeed," writes Bruce Uttley of information systems and technology, after an attempt last night to move to a new version of UW's voicemail software. "A step was missed," he explains, "and it would have taken another three-plus hours to recover, so it was decided to abandon the upgrade and try again later."

Steam off in Village

They picked a relatively mild day for it: the steam will be shut off in Village I (meaning, no heat) from 1:00 to 4:00 today, the plant operations department warns.
Success this year builds on some 18 years of experience, the news release points out. "Most of the team's lead designers joined the team in 2001 while they were still first-year students. After four years of daily knowledge transfer, these students have become team veterans and are now in turn passing the valuable engineering and manufacturing knowledge that they have learned to newer members. Most of these knowledge and experience are neither taught in lectures nor available from other sources."

The project has included "12 months' worth of meticulous and relentless focus on designing for performance and building for quality. Testing and re-evaluation of previous cars and their designs started in May 2004. By September, the designs of major systems of the car, such as the chassis, were finalized in order to begin manufacturing by the students themselves at the Engineering Student Machine Shop. Due to limited resources, complex components that required CNC machining were done at the team's sponsors Hallink Molds and Bes Tool & Die. By November, funding from major financial sponsors including the team's title sponsor -- Research In Motion -- were secured. . . . Designs of the smaller but equally important systems were finalized and began to take physical form. In April, the majority of the car was built and assembled, with the exception of the engine, which was in the final phase of fine tuning at Cycle Improvements.

"The final tuning of the engine was well worth the time and effort, because the team was awarded second place in the Ricardo Powertrain Award. This is the third time Waterloo has won a Ricardo award." Waterloo also took the second place award for "innovative use of polymer-matrix composites", sponsored by the Society of Plastics Engineers -- a prize it also won last year.

But, says the news release, "The most important award that the team has won is the second place in Engineering Design. This award evaluates the design of the car as a whole. Since the Formula SAE Competition is an engineering design competition, this award has a lot of significance to the team. In addition, being acknowledged by world renowned automotive designers and racecar engineers as a world-class vehicle is not an easy feat." (Waterloo won first place in Engineering Design in 2001.)

This year's car was ranked 7th in endurance and fuel economy, 8th in acceleration, and 14th in cost and manufacturing analysis.

The season isn't over, as the team will now be preparing for the Formula Student Competition in the United Kingdom in early July. "With the confidence gained for the Michigan competition," the news release says, "the team expects to continue its success while competing against mostly European universities."

WHEN AND WHERE
Bookstore remainder sale today through Friday, South Campus Hall concourse ("an all new selection of general books at great discounted prices").

Ask a dietitian: Nutrition display booth 11:30 to 2:00, Student Life Centre; ask questions, fill in a ballot for a prize.

Employee safety orientation 10 a.m., repeated June 2 at 2 p.m., Davis Centre room 1304, information ext. 5613.

Smarter Health seminar: Michael Connolly and Brendan Seaton, Smart Systems for Health Agency, "Managing Risk in Health Information Systems", 3:00, Davis Centre room 1302.

Career development workshops: "Interview Skills, the Basics" 3:30, "Preparing for Questions" 4:30, Tatham Centre room 2218; "Starting Your Own Business: Next Steps" 4:30, Tatham room 1208.

Society of International Students trip to Stratford Festival tonight for "The Tempest" or "Fallen Angels".

Centre for International Governance Innovation presents Rahul Sen, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, "ASEAN: Challenges Towards Economic Integration", Thursday 11:45, 57 Erb Street West.

Art Gallery of Ontario: trip to see the "Massive Change" exhibition, organized by Engineers Without Borders, Thursday, leaving campus 2:30, tickets $10 on sale noontime today in Carl Pollock Hall foyer.

Arriscraft Lecture: Richard Kroeker, Dalhousie University, "Rock, Scissors, Paper", on green building technology and community development, Thursday 7:00, Architecture lecture hall.

Orchestra@UWaterloo spring rehearsals begin Thursday, details online; new oboe, brass, lower strings especially welcome.

Spiritual Heritage Education Network presents Steven Henson, "How Does God Become Conscious of Himself?" Thursday 7:30, CEIT room 1015.

Tenure and promotion of faculty members

The president reported to UW's senate, at its May meeting, that a number of faculty members have been given tenure: "The 2004/05 tenure and promotion cycle carried out under Policy 77 has resulted in the following individuals being awarded tenure and/or promoted, effective July 1, 2005." Here are the names:

Awarded Tenure with the rank of Associate Professor: Philip Beesley, Architecture; Douglas Brown, Psychology; Jack Callaghan, Kinesiology; Brian Cozzarin, Management Sciences; Dan Davison, Electrical and Computer Engineering; Joseph De Juan, Economics; Diana Denton, Drama and Speech Communication; James Diamond, Jewish Studies;

Ehab El Saadany, Electrical and Computer Engineering; Chris Eliasmith, Philosophy; Bertrand Guenin, Combinatorics and Optimization; Gerhard Hauck, Drama and Speech Communication; Michael Hudson, Physics; Tim Kenyon, Philosophy; Victoria Lamont, English Language and Literature; Grit Liebscher, Germanic and Slavic Studies;

Richard Mann, Computer Science; John McMinn, Architecture; Christine McWebb, French Studies; Jim Rush, Kinesiology; Anindya Sen, Economics; James Skidmore, Germanic and Slavic Studies; John Straub, Civil Engineering; Len Tsuji, Environment and Resource Studies; Changbao Wu, Statistics and Actuarial Science.

Awarded Tenure: Tadeusz Gorecki, Associate Professor, Chemistry; Sagar Naik, Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Promoted to Professor: Timothy Chan, Computer Science; Lyndon Jones, Optometry; Amir Khajepour, Mechanical Engineering; Harriet Lyons, Anthropology; Alexandru Nica, Pure Mathematics; Trefford Simpson, Optometry; Sivabal Sivaloganathan, Applied Mathematics; Mike Stone, Planning; John Wright, Mechanical Engineering.

Philosopher writes on critical thinking

The teaching of critical thinking skills is the topic of a book currently being written by philosophy professor Tim Kenyon, says a release from UW's media relations office. The book project is based on the critical thinking course that Kenyon teaches, along with colleague Chris Eliasmith (Philosophy 145). They have alternately been teaching the course in a way that "could reasonably be called the Waterloo Model", the release says.

POSITIONS AVAILABLE
On this week's list from the human resources department:

  • Second class stationary engineer, plant operations
  • Manager, engineering machine shop, USG 11
  • Switchboard operator, information systems and technology, USG 3
  • Information systems specialist, information systems and technology, USG 9-12
  • Secretary/administrative assistant, office of the president, USG 5
  • Research financial administrator, office of research, USG 5
  • Science undergraduate services, academic advisor/coordinator, science and business, dean of science, USG 7

    Longer descriptions are available on the HR web site.

  • "Chris and I don't teach formal logic or 'Aristotelian' logic or Venn diagrams," he said, "so in that sense, what we are teaching represents a fairly major break from the typical approach. Instead, we replace these topics with a focus on basic probability and statistics, the cognitive and social psychology of biases, and critical analysis of the media.

    "We try to explain why and under what circumstances people tend to reason badly. If students understand how our psychology disposes us to make a certain kind of error under certain kinds of conditions, they can self-monitor more effectively to detect their own biases on the fly."

    This approach to critical thinking places some emphasis on understanding statistics. "You can't be a well-rounded critical thinker if you are completely innumerate," Kenyon says. But the emphasis in the course and the book is on grasping the concepts rather than doing the math. He describes himself as a "big fan of formal logic" but insists that critical thinking is something different from learning formal logic. "When you learn classical formal logic, you have to get used to reasoning in highly idealized ways. You overlook blurry boundaries and incomplete states of information." Critical thinking, on the other hand, is more a matter of "focusing on nuances. It's a question of being able to think clearly in what is actually a fairly blurry world."

    Kenyon argues that critical thinking must encompass the critical analysis of news media (newspapers, magazines, radio, TV and the Internet), including an examination of the "needs" or "interests" of these media and of those who work for them. "It is important for anyone who wants to be a critical thinker to understand the kind of conditions under which the media operate," Kenyon said. "There are sometimes-subtle nuances that should be taken seriously."

    According to Kenyon, critical thinking is the habit of learning not to trust yourself. "Critical thinking must start with examining one's own thought processes . . . and with learning not to trust oneself completely because all of us are all inclined, from time to time, to exaggerate whenever one of our deeply-held commitments is challenged. We can all play fast and loose with the truth, at times," he cautioned.

    CAR


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