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Friday, February 3, 2006

  • Intern leaves for Kenya village
  • UW prof joins in car seat study
  • Flakes in the daily flurry
Chris Redmond

Winter in Ottawa

[Van Geest]

Intern leaves for Kenya village -- by Barbara Elve

With the requirements for his co-op degree in land use and community planning just completed in December, Thomas van Geest (left) is wasting no time putting that knowledge to work.

He flies off today for a six-month stint in a remote Kenyan village, hoping to help improve the quality of life for its inhabitants. He'll be working with the village of Matangwe, say his sponsors, "to build its organizational capacity. His efforts will establish partnerships and engage the community to identify and develop its assets. Ultimately, Matangwe hopes to achieve self-sustainability and a significant reduction in poverty and disease."

The job description for his internship is deliberately vague, says van Geest, because instead of arriving on the scene with an agenda imposed from afar, he'll be participating in a "village-led" process. "I'm there to facilitate, to contribute ideas," he explains. That could include assisting the village of 5-7,000 in cooperating with other local villages to share knowledge and resources. It could lead to joint ventures among area agricultural committees, aid organizations, even between the village of Matangwe and the University of Nairobi.

As well, he will lay the groundwork for research opportunities and future partnerships with the UW School of Planning, and help further the university's "evolving partnership with Columbia University's Earth Institute."

School of Planning director Murray Haight, who has worked in Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and China, sees an opportunity for the school to expand its international work in Kenya. The school is providing some financial support for the internship, and helping van Geest expand his networks with links to contacts at the University of Nairobi. In addition, a CIDA proposal being submitted by the school, says Haight, could overlap with the work being conducted by van Geest.

Matangwe has been on the radar of the Waterloo community for several years, thanks to the efforts of Sylvia and Stephen Scott, two former residents of the village who now make their home in Waterloo. Through the efforts of schools, service clubs and churches, as well as Caring Partners International, a charitable organization founded by the Scotts, a community health clinic has been built to serve the village and surrounding area where residents struggle with HIV/AIDS, as well as malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis, dysentery and pneumonia. That organization, along with the Kitchener-Conestoga Rotary Club and UW are also funding van Geest's internship.

He has completed a rigorous round of immunizations, as well as a trial of malaria medication, and will be living in the staff quarters at the clinic. "I'm young -- I need to take this opportunity," says van Geest, who cancelled his plans to backpack through West Africa when he was chosen for the internship. He would like to make a difference in the lives of the villagers, and sees similarities between the work he did on co-op terms in Canada and the development work in Kenya. "Both deal with the integration of many aspects, the need to think strategically. Long-term planning is about people, incorporating a community-based approach."

He believes he can contribute to training, to providing a different perspective, and to the development of partnerships. "I hope to leave something behind."

[Three with plaque]

Aw! Anali Maneshi, Daniel Sutton and Lisa Lewkowicz, dons in Ron Eydt Village, took the top award at last weekend's national Residence Life Conference, held at Trent University. They presented a paper on awkward situations that typically come up in residences, under the title "Taking the 'Aw' out of Awkwardness and Turning It into Awesomeness". A total of 11 UW dons attended the conference, including another trio -- Liz Pokol, Brad Moyle and Celia Grant of Village I -- who also gave a presentation. Lewkowicz and Chantal Jackson won an award in the bulletin board competition for their anti-smoking display.

UW prof joins in car seat study -- from the UW media relations office

Drivers spend countless hours of their lives trying to stay alert in seats that also have to be built for a few crucial seconds' worth of devastating force in the event of a collision. These distinctly different goals meet in the Advanced Automotive Seat Design project, which is seeking the best trade-off between these conflicting priorities.

The project was featured in the winter edition of Auto Innovation, published by AUTO21 -- a Network of Centres of Excellence established by the federal government. The project's aim is to investigate the optimization of automobile seat design for both comfort and safety.

"A lot of the auto manufacturers will design a seat, have some employees sit in it for a couple of seconds, and then choose what they think is more comfortable," says UW professor Jennifer Durkin, of kinesiology, who is one of the project's two leaders. "We're really more concerned with prolonged driving and what the relationship is between the driver and the seat."

Toward that end, she and her colleagues simulate long drives in the laboratory with a real automobile seat and a dashboard made up of a Sony Playstation driving program. They monitor such details as posture and muscle activation in subjects who spend several hours at a time in this facility.

Durkin said car seat comfort is becoming a big factor in the long-term health of passengers, because individuals who spend a lot of time driving are more likely to develop low back pain. In the 2001 Census, Statistics Canada reports that about 13.4 per cent of Canadians commute to work more than 50 km a day and approximately 73 per cent of all commuters are drivers of a personal vehicle.

"While automobile seat comfort is of great importance for maintaining the long-term health of drivers, passenger safety in a collision is an essential consideration in the design of vehicle components," Durkin said.

Meanwhile, in the department of mechanical engineering at the University of British Columbia, researcher Douglas Romilly is simulating much more drastic conditions that could affect drivers. As the other project leader, he and his colleagues are creating computer models for different types of collisions. The models will be used to conduct analyses of the seat structure and its behaviour, which can then be compared with various compliance requirements associated with vehicle crashworthiness and the potential for occupant injury.

"If you start changing the design of the seat, whether it be adding components to the seat or changing the geometry and structure of the seat, then you have a variety of different issues to investigate," he said. For example, lumbar support systems may improve a driver's performance during an extended stint behind the wheel. But this additional hardware could prevent the driver's body from "pocketing" securely into the seat during a rear-end collision, perhaps leading instead to the undesirable prospect of "ramping" up toward the vehicle's roof.

[Two cheerleaders on bench]

Cheerleaders have troubles too. Kara Harun and Kristin Wallace figure in "Vanities", one of the six plays making up the drama department's "New Directions" festival of short plays this week and next. Two plays are staged tonight at 7:00, four tomorrow at 2:00, and two more (including "Vanities") tomorrow at 7:00, in Studio 180 in the Humanities building. Details are online.

"There's always been the question of whether you wanted to make seats stiff or yielding," said Romilly. "The reality is that you want a bit of both -- stiff and strong enough to resist failure yet compliant to reduce the dynamic loading on the occupant."

The team led by Durkin and Romilly also includes researchers from the University of Western Ontario, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University. The overall AUTO21 research centre brings together more than 230 Canadian researchers in 37 universities and more than 110 industry and government partners.

Flakes in the daily flurry

First of all . . . yes, there was a fire alarm in South Campus Hall this morning, about 8:00, and no, there doesn't seem to have been a fire. I'm unofficially told that there was a boiler leak that produced a lot of humidity and a lot of steam.

Here's looking forward to the first reviews of "A Midwinter Night's FASS", which had its first performance last night in Humanities and will be seen there again tonight at 7 and 10, tomorrow at 8:00. This year's script is all about students performing Shakespeare -- but for relative newcomers to campus, what's FASS all about anyway? I quote producer Lisa Rubini, of the Math Faculty Computing Facility: "FASS has been entertaining the Waterloo community with musical comedy since 1962, making it the University of Waterloo's longest-operating amateur theatre group. Every year Faculty, Alumni, Staff and Students write their own musical comedy from scratch. FASS rehearses through the month of January, and you can see the large cast act, dance and sing on stage when the play is performed the first week of February. In addition to being a theatre company, FASS is also a social group, bringing people from all parts of the university together throughout the year." Glad we got that cleared up.

Centre for International Governance Innovation presents John Holmes, Canadian ambassador to Iraq and Jordan, speaking 11:30, John Aird Building, WLU.

Federation of Students candidates forum 2:30, third floor, Math and Computer.

Warrior Weekend activities Friday and Saturday nights, Student Life Centre, movies, UW Superstar, Monte Carlo games, crafts, free refreshments, details online.

Bombshelter pub 70s theme party featuring Matinee Slim, prizes for costumes, all ages, $8 at the door.

St. Paul's College inaugural Harvey-Klassen Annual Lecture in Bible and Culture: Paula Fredriksen, "The Death of Jesus and the Making of the Passion", Tuesday 7 p.m., MacKirdy Hall, St. Paul's. Panel discussion of the scholarship of William Klassen on Jesus, 3 p.m.

There was a meeting last week of a new group called "Clearing a Path", an offshoot of the student-run UW Sustainability Project. The plan (says Darcy Higgins of UWSP) is to concentrate on "the drive for a sustainability coordinator/office on campus. . . . Several groups involved in the UW Environment Network on campus will be working on this. We need volunteers to help organize the planning aspects. UW has no Waste Management Coordinator at present!" That job has been empty since Patti Cook, the first and only, took a new job in the environmental studies faculty last summer.

Illustrating how words migrate from one language to another, posters in the Modern Languages building are offering students a chance to buy "un hoodie avec un logo d'Études françaises". . . . The Waterloo Institute for Health Informatics Research will be sponsoring a two-day "intensive workshop" March 16-17 about how to set up a privacy program in a health care organization. . . . Students and faculty of the history department will have Christine Sismondo, author of Mondo Cocktail, as their speaker at the 23rd annual MacKinnon Dinner tonight at a University Avenue restaurant. . . .

Sports this weekend: Women's hockey vs. Western Saturday at 2:00 at the Icefield (and webcast on CKMS), vs. Windsor Sunday at 2:00. Men's hockey vs. Guelph Saturday at 7:30, also on CKMS and also at the Icefield. Basketball at Lakehead tonight and tomorrow, women at 6:30, men at 8:30, webcast on Laurentian radio and also videocast. Volleyball, both men and women, at Guelph tomorrow afternoon. Squash in the OUA finals, being held at McGill. Track and field, some athletes at the York Classic tomorrow, some at the Notre Dame Invitational. Nordic skiing, all weekend in a qualifier at Nakkertok, near Ottawa. Curling in a bonspiel at Trent all weekend. Figure skating at the Ryerson Invitational in Toronto.


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