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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

  • K-W candidates speak to students
  • Funds for sight and touch studies
  • More about E&CE student projects
Chris Redmond

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

[View from behind candidates]

A crowd in the Student Life Centre yesterday listened to federal candidates in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding, including (left to right) Edwin Laryea, Julian Ichim and Andrew Telegdi. Photo by Michael Davenport.

K-W candidates speak to students -- by Andrew Dilts

Five federal candidates gathered in the Student Life Centre at noon yesterday, vying for votes in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding. An estimated 300 people, primarily students, were in attendance at the event, sponsored by the Federation of Students. Candidates presented opening remarks and answers to questions posed by a student moderator.

Edwin Laryea (NDP) spoke first, in both of Canada's official languages. He stressed his party's appeal to students, citing the NDP's emphasis on support for publicly-funded education. Stating that the image of the NDP as fiscally irresponsible was greatly incorrect, Laryea stressed his party's past accomplishments. "We are the party that brought you pensions. We are the party that brought you affordable healthcare."

Elections Canada: information on voting in the January 23 federal election
Following Laryea was Julian Ichim (Marxist-Leninist), a former UW student widely known for community activism. Ichim said that tuition "should be free: access should be based on level of intelligence, not on income." Citing his community work with those in lower socio-economic levels, as well as his own student debt, Ichim emphasized his belief that "education is a right, and should be available based on talent not on income."

Incumbent MP Andrew Telegdi (Liberal) opened by reminiscing about his his days as a Feds leader. He noted that the current Feds, along with other student unions from across the country, have been "a very effective lobby group," crediting them with being responsible for the Liberals' increase in funding for research in education. Telegdi later called education the "number one priority throughout his political career" and the "number one social program, everything else flows from [it]."

Pauline Richards (Green) opened in a darker mood, stating that "hopelessness reigns on the streets of Toronto, on the streets of the Waterloo Region." Citing increases in cancer rates, pollution levels and other foreboding statistics, Richards asked attendees "is this the society that you want?" Richards was clear: "The Green Party is not going to be elected," though she noted that any MPs elected from her party would help keep important issues on the minds of those in Parliament.

Ajmur Mandur (Conservative) stuck to his party's platform points regarding education. This included a proposed $500 tax credit for textbooks, a look at current problems with the OSAP system, and an agreement to "co-operate with the provinces." Mandur noted that it is not only universities that Conservatives wish to support, but also colleges and trades as well.

A sixth federal candidate was not present at the event: UW arts student Ciprian Mihalcea is running in the K-W riding as an independent, but has not been visible in the campaign.

Funds for sight and touch studies -- by Barbara Elve

Two Waterloo graduate students working in the field of robotics and intelligent systems have been awarded scholarships by Ottawa-based Precarn Incorporated.

Adel Fakih (PhD candidate) and Hao Xin (master's candidate) are among 19 Ontario grad students -- and 72 across the country -- each receiving $7,500 scholarships from the not-for-profit national consortium of corporations, research institute and government partners. Precarn's funding is designed to "help retain top students in this country and reverse Canada's 'brain drain'."

Selected through an application process, both students are supervised by systems design engineering professor John Zelek.

Hao Xin's scholarship will assist his research in "Tactile Feedback for Robotic Surgery," summarized below: "A surgeon relies on sight and feel during conventional surgery. In minimally invasive surgery (MIS), an instrument (i.e., can be robotic) is inserted through a small incision that does not permit the insertion of a hand. MIS reduces trauma to the patient and reduces recovery time. The only feedback a surgeon receives during MIS is visual via a small camera mounted at the end of the instrument. No sense of what the instrument feels inside the body is available. The long term objective is to replicate the forces and textures experienced by the surgical instrument in the body cavity and to replicate these on the surgeon's hand so that the operation can be performed with the added richness that tactile feel can provide."

Adel Fakih's research will focus on "Seeing Depth with a Single Camera," explained as follows: "Humans use two eyes (stereopsis) to figure out how far away things are, albeit we also make use of other cues such as perspective and occlusion. In a single camera image, no depth information is available. Birds cannot make use of stereopsis because the fields of view of each eye do not overlap, i.e., the beak gets in the way. Somehow, a bird can still figure out how far things are away, as anyone who has watched birds quickly navigate between trees in their backyard can attest. Cameras have become ubiquitous and inexpensive, found in cell phones and other inexpensive electronic gadgets.

"The intent of the project is to compute depth of the scene from the motion of the camera, similar to the way birds do it, bird vision. The intent is for this to be a component of an inexpensive 'seeing by touch' sensory substitution system for people who are blind: converting depth information obtained from the camera into corresponding touch sensations. If costs continues to decline, this technology can also find itself in the automobile industry, providing information on the distance of other vehicles, improving automobile safety."

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

  • Gift processing assistant, development and alumni affairs, USG 4/5
  • Information technology specialist, mechanical engineering, USG 9/10
  • Manager, Computing and Financial Management program, school of accountancy and school of computer science, USG 9

    Longer descriptions are available on the HR web site.

    Blood donor clinic continues today and tomorrow 10 to 4, Friday 9 to 3, Student Life Centre.

    T-shirts for sale in support of Red Cross International Disaster Relief Fund, by participants in the UW vs. WLU Apprentice competition, 11:30 to 3:30, Student Life Centre.

    UW Crew "model search" event 12 noon, Student Life Centre; general meeting Thursday 4 p.m., details online.

    Bass clarinet concert by Tilly Kooyman and Kathryn Ladano, 12:30, Conrad Grebel University College chapel.

    Career workshop: "Starting Your Own Business: the Basics", 4:30, Tatham Centre room 2218, registration online.

    Midnight Sun solar car volunteer recruitment meeting 6:00, Rod Coutts Hall room 301, information online.

    Open Classroom opportunity for faculty members to visit a class session in optometry, Thursday morning, information vkeller@admmail.

    Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology presents John Baker, Desire2Learn Inc., "The Early Challenges of Building a Global Technology Company from Just an Idea," Thursday 12 noon, Tatham Centre room 2218, preregister at ext. 7167 by Tuesday.

    Engineering staff update on faculty planning, Thursday 12:00, Davis Centre room 1302.

    Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology program information session Thursday 4 p.m., Needles Hall room 1101.

    Graduate studies in mathematics information session Thursday 4:30, Math and Computer room 5158.

    Montréal alumni networking reception Thursday 6 to 8 p.m., Salon des Voûtes, Nordheimer Building. James Hoblyn, engineering graduate and Bombardier vice-president, will speak on his experience in the aerospace industry. Details online.

    Centre for Family Business, Conrad Grebel University College, breakfast seminar: Doug Crowne, UW psychology, "What Good Leaders Can Do to Inspire Motivation," Friday 7 a.m., details online.

    Employee Assistance Program noon workshop: Marilyn Perdue, counselling services, "Eating Mindfully", Friday 12 noon, Davis Centre room 1302.

    International student orientation to Canada, Friday 5 p.m., and reception, 8 p.m., Columbia Lake Village community centre.

    More about E&CE student projects

    The web site for this year's electrical and computer engineering student projects is a treasure trove of interesting ideas -- from improvements in LED light bulbs to a telehaptic version of the classic game Jenga. Final-year E&CE students are showing off their work all day today in the Davis Centre.

    Yesterday I mentioned a number of the projects, and hardly scratched the surface. Here are several more, with the abstracts provided by the student groups.

    Tele-Stethoscope System (Adnan Terzimehic, Dan Li, Shihui Song, Vadym Babych): "Patients in remote regions who do not have access to medical resources have to rely on expensive equipment to conduct routine physical examinations. In particular heart rate, lung operation, body temperature checkups are some of the most common physical tests that need to be administered on a regular basis. This project presents the design of a prototype of a tele-stethoscope, which is an application of tele-haptics technology. This design will assist doctors and patients in conducting routine physical checkups over the internet. . . . The doctor controls the haptic device which has sensors on the patients end. The sensors collect body characteristics and transfer them over the internet to the doctor who analyzes them by listening to the resulting sounds and reading the interface created for displaying results.The user friendly, affordable system will collect results in a reliable way at about one fifth of the cost of a medical tool kit available today."

    Photonic Mobile Charger (Cliff Zhang, George Tai, Tom Tang, Vincent Lam): "Many mobile device users, notably cellular and notebook devices often experience the frequent problem pertaining to low battery life. Since most users often expect much from their traditional battery they often fall short of expectation when they suddenly realize their device is stranded with no AC outlet in sight. The aim of this project is to design and construct a device supplying an alternate power source utilizing photoelectric semiconductors. Light waves of various wavelengths will be absorbed, and converted into electrical energy. This constant availability of a continuous power source makes this product a very attractive power solution for a large mobile market."

    Autonomous (Self Navigating) Car (Justin Hamilton, Merzin Kapadia, Piragash Velummylum, Wen Lin): "Autopilot systems on modern transportation vehicles (such as planes and trains) are quite complex and possess the ability to safely navigate the vehicle autonomously. However, despite advances in technology, self-driving cars have yet to become a reality. Most accidents are caused due to driver negligence. An autonomous car that requires no user interaction when driving could minimize collisions while reducing driver fatigue and frustration due to rush-hour traffic. Our aim is to develop a scaled down self-driving car that can navigate on a mock road without human interaction. The goal of the system will be to safely drive from point A to point B while maneuvering around obstacles appropriately. Given a path, it will stay within its lane, change lanes if safe, maintain speed and distance from cars ahead and stop when necessary. The system will be equipped with various sensors to gather information on its surroundings, which will be used to control the vehicle's speed, direction and emergency response to pedestrians and road signs. The concept of an autonomous vehicle can be expanded to full-sized automobiles. This type of system could result in cars moving at higher speeds, while providing a safe and comfortable journey by minimizing fatalities caused due to driver negligence."

    Tennis Ball Collector Robot (Estella Chan, Jonathan Ho, Nhat Lam, Ritchie Lee): "During tennis practice, the players spend a significant amount of time picking up balls dispersed on the court. This project presents a rover prototype to accomplish that tedious task to promote the enjoyment of the sport. The smaller scale robot detects the target using video processing, picks them up and stores them using mechanical components. In addition, the project consolidates rover assembly, data transmission, micro controller programming, interfacing and control systems. Furthermore, video processing and motion control are accomplished on a laptop detached from the robot rather than onboard to reduce the physical size and the power consumption of the robot. While no other similar solution has been available on the consumer market yet, the resulting product will simplify save tennis players time and energy."

    Intelligent Parking System 3.0 (Henrick Han, Jason Nery, Keith Gowan, Tony Sheng: "IPS (Intelligent Parking Systems) were created as conceptual designs intended to demonstrate the feasibility of computer controlled parking solutions. The latest design utilizes a software controller with infrared sensors to allow a small vehicle to parallel park without human intervention. This project will leverage past knowledge to create a next generation prototype. Intended as a hardware-based solution, VHDL will be used extensively to implement the functionality of the existing software controller along with updated high resolution sensors and faster data processing capabilities. Ultimately, this research has the potential to pave the way for a new generation of intelligent vehicles."

    Human Transmission Purchasing (Herman Mo, Kig-Ying Lai, Leslie Ng, Stephen Chan): "At point of sale, credit cards and debits are very cumbersome and cause big hassles when PINs have to be entered and signatures have to be recorded. Our project, the TouchNBuy system, will facilitate transactions made at the point of sale. A PDA with a touch pad on the body will allow the required card information to be sent through the user's body to transfer the information which normally requires card swiping, PIN entering or signatures. The inputs, namely the card number and authorization information will be sent via the human body transactions are made at a touch of fingertip on the receiver end. It is possible to transmit data through the body as small magnitude of electrical signals. The simple, hassle-free system results in compact, secure, and easy-to-use money transactions at the touch of a fingertip."


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