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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

  • Engineers take their obligation
  • UW gets Ontario chair in energy
  • Women in engineering; other notes
Chris Redmond

International Mother Language Day

Engineers take their obligation

Pictured below is an Iron Ring, the proud symbol that will be on the hands of 700 more Canadian engineers before today is over. Graduating students from UW's faculty of engineering will "take their obligation" and put on the Iron Ring for the first time.

[Iron Ring] The ring, worn on "the little finger of the working hand", is a uniquely Canadian symbol, a token by which to recognize an engineer who has deliberately taken an "obligation" to his or her new profession. The first Iron Ring ceremony at UW was held in the spring of 1963.

As in the past, there will be three Iron Ring ceremonies in the Theatre of the Arts in late afternoon today, says John Westlake of the co-op and career services department -- himself an engineer, and one of the "Wardens of Camp 15" responsible for Iron Ring matters at Waterloo.

By tradition, today's solemnities will be preceded by a day of not-so-solemn celebration. In an article in the Iron Warrior a few years ago, Dave Clegg compared the annual Iron Ring hijinks to a rowdy wedding party: "The school visitation can involve interrupting engineering classes and tutorials in session . . . analogous to the way that newlyweds, their wedding party and their guests stream from the church to the location of the photos, honking horns and stopping traffic as they go."

After the ceremonies tonight comes the Iron Ring Stag, the engineering party to end all parties. Amid the merriment, there will come the Tool, mascot of UW engineers -- and the newly ringed ones will be permitted to touch its metal for the first time ever.

The February issue of WEAL, the engineering alumni newsletter, has a full-page article about engineering graduates who have had to get their Iron Rings replaced, either because they've been lost or because finger sizes have changed. It quotes 14 graduates about such experiences, telling of rings that have gone down drains, fallen into lakes, and flown into oblivion while being polished.

"The ring was taken off due to a potential mutilation on automobiles here at General Motors of Canada," one 2004 graduate wrote. "Now the ring is missing." Another grad reported having to cut the ring off when his hand started to swell from an allergic reaction. The Wardens of Camp 15 will provide replacement rings for a $25 fee.

The newsletter also notes that Camp 15 was two years early in reaching its goal of raising a $50,000 endowment for the UW engineering faculty by the time of the university's 50th birthday next year. "The Fund's principal and earnings will accumulate until 2007, when the first expenditure will take place," the newsletter reports.

UW gets Ontario chair in energy

UW will be home to one of eight Ontario Research Chairs that were announced last week by the provincial government, which said it was "strengthening Ontario's economic advantage and creating a culture of innovation" by introducing such positions.

[Green Energy brochure cover] "Ontario needs to continue to be a world leader in research," said Chris Bentley, the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. "That's why we are establishing eight new research chairs to not only increase the number of leading-edge researchers at our universities, but also ensure the next generation of graduate students have the skills to help find innovative solutions to problems that affect all of us."

The funds come from $25 million that was provided to the Council of Ontario Universities for that purpose in last year's provincial budget. A COU selection panel developed criteria and decided which universities would receive an endowment to create the new research chairs. The University of Toronto gets three chairs (including one in postsecondary education policy and measurement), with one each going to McMaster, Queen's, Windsor, York and UW.

The government said the money will be invested by each university and the interest will be used to provide annual support for the research. "The universities may also enhance the endowments through other institutional resources, fundraising or arrangements with other institutions." COU said the universities "have already begun their searches for distinguished candidates for the new chairs" -- but added that the eight new chairs were selected from among 19 proposals that would have been good enough to be approved if funds had been available.

The position at UW is an Ontario Research Chair in Environmental Policy and Renewable Energy. Says a COU backgrounder: "Like many jurisdictions, Ontario is at an energy-emergency crossroads. The solution lies in an integrated energy plan that provides a secure, reliable and high quality supply of energy in a manner that promotes economic growth, competitiveness and environmental performance. . . . The development of sustainable energy systems in Ontario will require an integrated understanding of energy technologies, policy options, risk and reliability, consumer and business interests, and environmental studies."

So the chair will seek to "integrate and strengthen interdisciplinary research on the development of renewable energy technology and sustainable energy management strategies (policies) . . . train a new generation of professionals to facilitate the rapid integration of renewable energy technology within a diverse mix of energy options . . . engage in partnerships with communities and the private sector to facilitate knowledge transfer and integrated energy solutions."

UW is already a North American leader in the development of photovoltaic (solar) and wind energy technology with extensive laboratory facilities and one of North America's largest power systems research groups, as well as the recently created Green Energy Research Institute, a focal point for interdisciplinary renewable and clean energy research activities by more than 25 researchers and four research groups.

In addition, COU said, "Waterloo has a well-established foundation of graduate programs in eight academic units across three faculties‹ Engineering, Environmental Studies and Science and more than 19 graduate courses on planning aspects of energy systems . . . state-of-the-art research initiatives in power quality & distributions systems, risk and reliability of energy infrastructure, energy economics and policies, energy markets, CO2 capture and sequestration, and power management planning and policy."

Furthermore, "new research partnerships with the Municipality of Kincardine and various energy sectors in Kincardine provide opportunities for graduate student training, data sharing, knowledge transfer, establishment of 'store front' green energy learning centre. Innovative community-based outreach (Residential Energy Efficiency Project) and demonstration projects (Solar Technology Education Project) promote awareness of energy efficiency and renewable energy."

Engineering faculty council 3:00, CEIT room 3142.

Engineers Without Borders movie night: "Life and Debt" 5:30, Davis Centre room 1302.

Alumni Networking Workshop 6:00, Tatham Centre room 2118, fee $10, details online.

Canadian Mathematics Competitions: Pascal (grade 9), Cayley (grade 10) and Fermat (grade 11), organized by Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing, tomorrow.

Co-op rankings for spring term jobs close Wednesday 10 a.m. (revised date); match posted Wednesday 11 a.m. on JobMine.

Stress relaxation session, third in the weekly series, Wednesday 12:00, Math and Computer room 5158, sponsored by Employee Assistance Program.

Smarter health seminar: Dominic Covvey, Waterloo Institute for Health Informatics Research, "In Pursuit of the EHR Holy Grail: A Critical Situational Review", Wednesday 3:00, Davis Centre room 1302.

Women in engineering; other notes

Some words from Adel Sedra, UW's dean of engineering, in the new issue of the alumni newsletter WEAL: "Despite our many successes, the engineering profession as a whole is not yet fully tapping into the talent of half of our society: women. The Faculty of Engineering is dedicated to increasing the participation of women in all of our engineering programs. We have made gains in the last 10 to 15 years -- the participation of female undergraduate students at Waterloo had reached a high of 22 per cent. However, across Canada these achievements have begun to erode over the last two to three years. At Waterloo, our female undergraduate count declined to 13 per cent last year. Waterloo is not alone in this trend and we, together with other Ontario and Canadian engineering schools, have recognized this as a challenge and we're actively tackling this issue. Our efforts to increase female participation in engineering are slowly paying off and we've seen an increase of three per cent to 16 per cent this year."

And this event is on the horizon: "To celebrate International Women's Day, all female faculty and staff are invited to a dinner taking place at the University Club on Wednesday, March 8, at 5:30 p.m. Hosted by a newly formed group, the International Women's Day Committee, the event celebrates university women -- how they build relationships, inspire change and make a difference not only here in Waterloo but around the globe. Two guest speakers from faculty and staff have been invited to speak on their work, passions and pastimes: Patricia Cunningham, Alumni Officer from the Faculty of Math, and Harriet Lyons, Faculty of Arts, Department of Anthropology. Elaine Brown from Residence Office, Village I, will be providing entertainment. Committee coordinator Christine Tauer Martin says that the event is starting small this year so tickets are limited and must be purchased by March 1. The cost is $25. For a reservation form, menu description and more information visit the web site or email infoinwd@admmail. The International Women's Day Dinner Committee gratefully acknowledges support from Human Resources & Student Services, & the Faculty Association of University of Waterloo."

UW's vice-president (external relations), Laura Talbot-Allan, is based in a new place as of this week. Her office has moved from South Campus Hall, adjacent to the Development and Alumni Affairs office, to Needles Hall, beside the other department that reports to her, Communications and Public Affairs. The VP's office is now in NH room 3024. Phone numbers are unchanged.

Here's a note of interest from a recent newsletter of the Canadian Association of Optometrists: "CAO was pleased to learn that Dr. Ralph Chou, Associate Professor, School of Optometry, University of Waterloo, was named as Canada's representative to the ISO technical committee on eye protection. He was nominated by the Standards Council of Canada. Dr. Chou has also been nominated to serve as Chair of the Technical Committee, Canadian Standards Association. This appointment will be confirmed shortly. Dr. Chou has a long history of service in the area of eye protection (occupational, sports and radiation)."

Again this year the UW Shop is holding a "spring break photo contest" inviting pictures of people "wearing UW wear" during their days of leisure. . . . The March-April brochure for the Skills for the Electronic Workplace program includes courses ranging from "Electronic Spreadsheets" to "Photo Banner/Collage for a Web Site". . . . With the Warrior women's basketball season at an end (with an 8-22 won-lost record), guard Alyssa Prevett has been named to the OUA West division "all-rookie" team. . . .


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