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Thursday, May 18, 2006

  • Accelerator centre opens today
  • Engineering dean summarizes the plan
  • Literacy research with community links
Chris Redmond

Canada Road Safety Week

[Splattered with mud]

In the mud near the Accelerator Centre building, Jeff Moulton tests the new Waterloo Off-road Mini-Baja Team vehicle that will be unveiled this evening. Moulton, a mechanical engineering student, is captain of the team, which leaves later this week for the SAE Midwest Mini Baja Competition in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Today's demonstration is scheduled for 6:00 in the Sybase parking lot, off Hagey Boulevard on the north campus.

Accelerator centre opens today

Signs will be unveiled to celebrate four important names on UW's north campus, as part of today's opening celebrations for the Accelerator Centre in the Research and Technology Park.

Government and business officials will be among the guests for the opening ceremonies, which start at 11:00 at the newly opened building at 295 Hagey Boulevard.

Family members of former UW president Gerry Hagey, for whom the main street of the north campus is named, will be on hand for the celebration. Also to be noted are Wes Graham Way, with relatives of Graham, the founder of computer research at UW, attending; Frank Tompa Drive, with Tompa himself, an emeritus CS professor, taking part in the event; and a newly-opened park honouring the first chair of the UW board of governors, Ira G. Needles, for whom family members will also be on hand.

The new centre, established by UW and incorporated as a non-profit organization, is designed to encourage the growth of high-tech firms and to act as a catalyst for the creation of new products and services. A news release promises "a fertile environment in which to commercialize the innovative work of universities and colleges, hospitals and laboratories, and private sector research facilities. It will focus on early-stage technology enterprise issues and promising technology companies.

"The centre will offer a broad range of services, including intellectual property management consultation, mentoring, access to professional service providers, community networking events and investor matchmaking. Common supports, including administrative services as well as office and meeting space, will be available to clients as they commercialize their ideas."

Chief executive officer Gerry Sullivan explains that "The Accelerator Centre exists to provide new ventures with two supports crucial to their viability. The first is a physical space in which to operate, complete with the standard office amenities. More important to the success of new ventures, however, is the access to industry experts who can help direct budding entrepreneurs through the process for launching a technology enterprise."

Clients of the centre will also benefit from the expertise of business and technology leaders, as each will be paired with a member of the centre's entrepreneurship council, who will provide active mentorship. The council consists of successful entrepreneurs with experience in various roles critical to growing an enterprise.

Clients will normally occupy one of 20 plug-and-play office suites in a 22,700-square foot building. Suites range in size from 250 to 800 square feet and include furniture, Internet access and telephones. Suite fees include access to meeting rooms, reception, photocopying, light administrative support and a networking kitchen. Typical clients will remain at the centre for one to three years, then move on -- either into longer-term space in the R&T park, or somewhere else in Waterloo Region, where they will maintain a connection to the centre, acting as a resource or mentor for the next generation of entrepreneurs.

The Accelerator Centre is the result of a multi-stakeholder partnership, with land and a portion of the initial operating funds provided by UW. The Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario, Waterloo Region and the City of Waterloo provided the primary capital funding.

The news release notes that "The building has multiple environmental treatments and is covered by Canada's second-largest extensive green roof."

Engineering dean summarizes the plan

The extensive "Vision 2010" planning exercise in UW's faculty of engineering is just about finished, dean Adel Sedra told the UW senate on Monday, and has led to a simple but ambitious goal: "We aspire to be widely recognized as Canada's premier engineering school and counted among the leading engineering schools in North America."

Sedra immediately assured the senate that "we are there already on some things that we do," but observed that UW is best known for its undergraduate programs and needs to be just as distinguished in graduate studies and research.

The most ambitious change over the next few years, he said, will be "a major expansion" from about 1,100 graduate students now to almost 1,500 by 2010. (Engineering already has the largest share of UW's grad students, and the highest ratio of grads to undergrads, with about 20 per cent of its students currently at the graduate level.)

Not much growth is foreseen at the undergraduate level, he said, although about 100 students will be added thanks to a management engineering program that will open, if final approvals are given, in the fall of 2007. That will be the fourth new undergrad program in engineering since 2001, Sedra said, pointing to software, mechatronics and nanotechnology that are already in operation.

"Our blueprint to improve quality includes 31 specific strategies," the dean said at Monday's meeting, sparing the senators a full list of them. "At the core of our plan is a commitment to investing in high quality people: faculty, staff, undergraduate students, graduate students; the great people who are already here and those we will attract."

  • Updates on Bombshelter pub renovations
  • Student group building 'Grand House' residence in Cambridge
  • No decision yet on 'review' of Federation of Students services
  • 'The benefits of volunteering' for UW students
  • Web site offers services for Cambridge-based students
  • Architecture student is biking across Canada
  • Discussion of reduced Tim's hours for spring term
  • Defined benefit pension plans 'falling out of favour'
  • How Norway sees Waterloo Region
  • How Waterloo Region businesses try to attract employees
  • Innovation talent concentrated in US and Canadian cities (StatsCan)
  • 'The concept of schools' at U of Saskatchewan
  • WUSC group at UW seeks to sponsor refugees
  • Canadians lag in 'lifelong learning index'
  • 'Why a BA won't cut it anymore'
  • Chair named for Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario
  • The 'packaging' that led to the Harvard plagiarism story
  • Controversial Colorado prof found guilty of plagiarism
  • New book: what colleges need to do about suicide
  • Engineering has 224 faculty members right now and is aiming to grow to 300, he said. With only modest growth in undergraduate numbers, that means the new faculty will be able to concentrate on supervising grad students and conducting research, while still lowering the student-faculty ratio. (Sedra added that almost 40 new staff positions are also to be created, apart from those provided by research funds.)

    A goal of the plan -- which feeds into the university-wide "Sixth Decade" process -- is to double the current amount of sponsored research, to about $55 million a year. Sedra said he hopes to see not just more "activity" in research but more "impact", such as an increase in the frequency with which work by UW researchers is cited in the work of engineers elsewhere.

    With all this extra activity, there will be a need for more physical space, the dean said, noting that an external consultant is at work now and a report will be published this summer indicating what improvements to existing space are possible as well as what new buildings could be erected.

    The full "Vision 2010" plan will be published shortly, he said. The last piece of the program was a visit by external assessors just last week, and their report will be included when the plan appears online.

    Employee safety orientation 10 a.m., Davis Centre room 1304. Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System training, 2 p.m., Davis 1304. Information ext. 5613.

    Credit union seminar: "Estate Planning 101", 12:15, Davis Centre room 1302, RSVP ext. 3574.

    International student information sessions about applying for off-campus work permits: today 3 p.m., May 31 10 a.m., Davis Centre room 1302. Students, staff and faculty welcome. Background online.

    Infusion Angels venture capital firm, based in UW Accelerator Centre, launch party 4 to 6 p.m., University Club, RSVP (416) 593-6595.

    Hong Kong alumni reception 6 p.m., details online.

    'Death of a Salesman' presented by Poor Tom Productions and hosted by UW drama department continues tonight through Saturday 8 p.m., Theatre of the Arts, tickets 888-4908 or $12 at the door.

    Information systems and technology professional development seminar: "IST's Second Machine Room Facilities", Friday 8:45, IST seminar room, followed by tour of Sharcnet facilities, Physics building.

    Ontario Nano Symposium organized by graduate students in electrical and computer engineering, Friday, Arts Lecture Hall and Davis Centre, details online.

    Centre for International Governance Innovation presents Eric Helleiner, UW political science, "Making Poverty History and Debt Cancellation", Friday 11:45, 57 Erb Street West, reservations rsvp@cigionline.ca.

    Literacy research with community links -- shortened from the Arts Research Update newsletter

    Bolstered by a 5-year, $1-million SSHRC Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) grant in 2004, UW psychology professor Kathleen Bloom and her team of university and community partners launched a major child literacy research initiative called Research Works! Now into its third year, Research Works! is going strong, with its initial literacy projects already bearing fruit and several new ones in the works.

    "I work with multi-disciplinary teams to bring research evidence to bear on child literacy programs of practice," explains Bloom, who in addition to engaging in her own literacy research is also director of RW. At the annual general meeting on May 3-5, RW partners gathered just north of Toronto to share successes and develop ideas and strategies for emerging projects. Reflecting the multi-disciplinary character of this type of research, the meeting was attended by academics, government policy makers, school board administrators, student research assistants, community literacy program organizers, and front-line literacy practitioners from across Canada.

    RW currently has numerous projects on the go. Among them is a research partnership with Read to Me! that provides free literacy resources to every newly born infant in Nova Scotia, an evaluation of the effectiveness of a reading intervention for reducing anxiety in children awaiting day surgery, and the creation of several easily-navigated web databases of literacy research for parents, teachers and literacy workers. RW has also developed a research methods course for UW undergraduates in which community leaders (TVO, Butterfly Learning Centre, Frontier College, Read to Me!) serve as resources for student research projects.

    [Bloom] RW is also on the move with new projects: a collaboration with TVOKids to study children's literacy programming, a research partnership with child care specialists in the Waterloo region, and the mobilization to Southern Ontario of a research-based early-intervention reading program for at-risk school children developed in North Vancouver by Linda Siegel,

    Community-collaborative research is a new concept for many academics, as it is for community groups. According to Bloom (right), however, the idea is catching on: "I see a huge shift in recent years. Community groups are much more convinced about the need for quality research as they develop programs. Five years ago people weren't thinking like this. Now they're saying, 'We need a research component! We need to be doing research as we develop programming'." University researchers are also increasingly recognizing the social benefits of this type of bridge-building research.

    In its recent transformation from "granting agency" to "knowledge council," SSHRC also endorsed (and with new and very substantial grants like CURA, also placed support behind) research programs seeking to mobilize university expertise in ways that "create new knowledge in areas of importance for the social, cultural or economic development of Canadian communities".


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