Wednesday, June 18, 2008

  • Sculpture marks the sun's triumph
  • Convocation notes for engineering
  • More news from the top of the stairs
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Lights in a curving row]
Sculpture marks the sun's triumph

“The gregarious and friendly Gorbets”, an artistic family with links to UW, will launch a remarkable new work this weekend as a celebration of the summer solstice, a news release announces. “In a collaboration between the community and the sun,” it says, “Solar Collector gathers human expression and solar energy during the day, then brings them together each night in a performance of flowing light.”

The release describes the work, which is set in front of a municipal building in Cambridge — the Regional Operations Centre on Maple Grove Road. “Twelve shimmering metal shafts,” it says, “rise at surprising angles from a grassy hill. They hang over the landscape, creating a graceful curve that appears to unfold for passing motorists.”

The sculpture was commissioned in 2005 from artists Matt Gorbet, Rob Gorbet (of UW’s department of electrical and computer engineering), and Susan L. K. Gorbet. It is solar-powered and interactive, the release explains, “inviting the community to choreograph its nightly performance via the web.

“Each shaft has three sets of lights, along with three solar panels. Their angles reflect the angles of the sun through the year. The tallest shaft is perpendicular to the sun at winter solstice, when the sun is low in the sky. The flattest shaft faces the high sun at summer solstice.

“During the day, the solar panels collect the sun’s energy in a battery within each shaft. At the same time, the Solar Collector website collects light compositions — patterns in light that are created by the community through a simple web interface.”

“Since it’s public art, it was important to us that the piece be accessible to the public,” says Susan Gorbet. “Because it’s set in an industrial area, we used the internet to create a collaboration with the community. People can compose in light on the web with a set of simple sliders.”

Each night at dusk, a performance begins of all the compositions collected that day. “The light patterns are based on sine waves – the mathematics behind sunlight and the seasons,” explains Rob Gorbet. “As we explored the geometry of solar energy, we were struck by how beautiful it was, and we wanted to make it visible. The angles and lengths of the shafts, the light patterns – the entire sculpture is based on the sun’s movement.” After the patterns collected each day are displayed, the performance moves on to a series composed from all the patterns ever created. The length of the performance is a reflection of the weather and the seasons, as the shafts use up their energy and fade out one by one.

The first performance of Solar Collector will be this Saturday, the day summer begins. The public is invited to bring a picnic out to the lawn under the apple trees (beginning at 8:30 p.m.) and enjoy the live music that will accompany the sculpture’s performance.

More from the news release: “A few months ago, Rae Crossman, the program director of Waterloo Unlimited, heard a talk on Solar Collector at the University of Waterloo, and was so inspired by the piece that he proposed to organize a series of musical performances for the sculpture’s launch.”

Says Crossman: “I was drawn to the piece because it is both contemporary and ancient. It uses current technology in the midst of an urban industrial landscape to remind us of the cycles of nature. With its astronomical alignment, the sculpture evokes a deep, ancient impulse that can be traced back to Neolithic man — it’s a modern Stonehenge. And, as a work of art, it calls out for a celebratory response: music, dancing, poetry.”

Crossman is a collaborator of the noted Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer, whose music is often performed in wilderness settings. “Murray has given his permission for his music to be used at the launch because Solar Collector connects us to the natural world so fundamentally,” he says. French horn player J. C. Morrison, clarinetist Tilly Kooyman and soprano Marion Samuel-Stevens will perform works by Schafer to accompany the sculpture’s first performance on Saturday. Carousel Dance Company (until recently associated with UW) and percussion group Organic Groove will also perform.

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Convocation notes for engineering

As promised, here are a few more notes on Saturday's convocation ceremonies, morning and afternoon, which focused on graduates from the faculty of engineering (including architecture and, this year, software engineering, though the "softies" will be grouped with mathematics next year).

[Ng with chancellor Mike Lazaridis]Highlights of the day included installation of Flora Ng, of the chemical engineering department, as as University Professor (pictured); two honorary degrees; and a presentation to Adel Sedra, dean of engineering, marking the 1,000,000th published copy of the venerable "Sedra and Smith" textbook Microelectronic Circuits. Valedictorians on behalf of the graduating class were Gregory Fitzgerald, mechatronics engineering, at the morning ceremony, and Michael Spendlove, systems design, in the afternoon. In addition:

• The Alumni Gold Medal, for the top-ranking bachelor's degree graduate from engineering this year, went to Michael Allison of systems design engineering.

• The Albert Sherwood Barber Award, "for best overall work term and academic performance", went to Kenneth King Ho Lee, mechanical engineering. The George Dufault Medal "for excellence in communication" went to Pallavi Ray, chemical.

• The John Fisher Award for Leadership was presented to Maria Arshad, mechanical, and Bahman Hadji, computer engineering. The Ontario Professional Engineers Foundation for Education gold medal for academic achievement was given to George Gao, software engineering.

• The Exceptional Teaching by a Student Award was presented to Spencer Rand. And "Outstanding Achievement in Graduate Studies" went to Xiang Yu, along with a degree in electrical and computer engineering.

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More news from the top of the stairs

A month’s worth of work on “modernizing” the Needles Hall elevator started yesterday, which means a bit more use of the stairs for some of us, but more serious complications for others. Hence a note from Rose Padacz, who heads the office for persons with disabilities, reminding readers that the accessible entrance to NH is located on the first floor at the southeast corner of the building facing Modern Languages and connected to a path that leads to the Arts Quad and the Dana Porter Library. “Also,” she writes, “if students, faculty, staff or campus visitors need to access services or personnel on the upper floors of NH, the OPD is available to help co-ordinate alternative arrangements such as access to a meeting space on the first floor. The OPD is located in NH1132 and can be reached by phone at ext. 35082 or e-mail at”

Coincidentally, the Graduate Studies Office, normally on the second floor of Needles Hall, will be in temporary quarters for the next few weeks while major renovations are done to its regular space. “All GSO staff will be relocated,” says Lynn Judge, director of graduate studies academic services. The temporary exile was to begin next week, but because of the elevator shutdown, things were advanced a bit, and staff actually went to work in the new locations as of yesterday. “The tentative timing for reopening on the 2nd floor is mid-August,” says Judge. Until then, the GSO’s main office is NH room 1123, across the corridor from the popular Pastry Plus outlet. A request from Judge: “Please contact GSO staff by e-mail rather than telephone during the relocation.”

At the summer meeting of UW’s board of governors, held earlier this month, registrar Ken Lavigne reported on the prospects for September’s first-year class. “It’s a good-news story,” he said, repeating some numbers that had just been issued by the associate registrar (admissions) and predicting that by the November count date the university will be at 104 or 105 per cent of its target first-year enrolment. Arrivals by visa (international) students, seen as important as an aspect of UW”s internationalization, are currently at 136 per cent of target, he said. He added that some 62 per cent of incoming students will get scholarships recognizing high school averages of 85 or better. Not only the students who have been admitted to UW are showing high marks, he added: he’s been having “interesting conversations” with some parents of students who did not get admitted to their programs of choice in spite of marks in the 90s.

The spring issue of Grebel Now, alumni newsletter of Conrad Grebel University College, includes news of faculty, students and alumni, and this modest note: “The Conflict Resolution Network, a Grebel affiliate, closed operations this spring. We celebrate the good work of the Network over the past 23 years, and note its successful legacy in the widespread adoption of the ideals it stood for.” Elsewhere, the newsletter introduces Jeremy Bergen, arriving this fall as an assistant professor of religious studies and theology (though he had a preview engagement teaching an RS course in 2005). And there’s a report on the college’s convocation ceremony in April and the speech by valedictorian Kathryn Deckert. Also: “After 4 years as Senior Residents, Josh and Rebecca Gibbins were honoured at the Spring Banquet as they leave. The position, now called Campus Hosts, will be filled by Elizabeth Ling and Ben Willard.”

Adel Sedra, UW’s dean of engineering, has been named to the board of directors of spinoff high-tech firm Dalsa Inc. • Nominations will open June 27 (and continue for a month) for the Sandford Fleming Foundation’s “Outstanding Teaching Assistant” awards in the engineering faculty. • Wendy Macpherson, a librarian in the Davis Centre library (and before that the old “EMS” library) since 1971, but on disability leave in recent years, officially retired from the university June 1.

A number of UW people are taking part in the annual conference of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, taking place this week in Windsor, including instructional developer Nicola Simmons, who’s speaking today on “Global Views, Personal Perspectives: Connecting to Our Inner Strengths”. • A bus organized by the Federation of Students and GLOW will carry participants to Toronto’s Pride parade on Sunday, June 29. • UW and Canada’s Technology Triangle, as well as local economic development offices, are represented at BIO, “North America’s largest biotechnology conference and exhibition”, being held in San Diego this week.


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Link of the day

The Battle of you-know-where

When and where

Co-op employer interviews for fall term jobs continue through June 20.

Early Childhood Education Centre closing ceremonies for 2007-08 school year continue June 18, 19, 20; last day of school June 19 or 20.

Farm market 9:00 to 1:00, lower level, Student Life Centre.

myPENSIONinfo information session about self-service pension projection system, today 12:30 and Monday 11:00, Davis Centre room 1302.

Career workshops: Work Search Strategies 2:30, Tatham Centre room 1208; Exploring Your Personality Type 2:30, TC 1112; Are You Thinking of an MBA 5:30, TC 1208; information and registration online.

Lifestyle Learnings session at Columbia Lake Health Club, boardroom, 340 Hagey Boulevard: “Common exercise mistakes” 5:30 p.m.

Applied health informatics bootcamp on-site workshop introducing key concepts in informatics, June 18-20, Davis Centre room 1302, details online.

Zonta Club June dinner meeting, guest speaker Louise Fréchette, former deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, now at Centre for International Governance Innovation, 6:00, South Campus Hall, tickets $20, e-mail

Spiritual Heritage Education Network presents the video “Changing from Inside”, about Vipassana meditation program as used at a minimum security prison near Seattle, 7:30 p.m., CEIT room 1015.

Pension and benefits committee Thursday 8:30 to 12:00, meeting cancelled.

R&T Park charity barbecue in support of the K-W Community Foundation, Thursday 11:30 to 1:30, TechTown, 340 Hagey Boulevard, burger and salad $6, rain date June 24.

Lectures in quantum information: Anthony Leggett, Institute for Quantum Computing, “Prospects for Topological Quantum Computing” continuing June 19, 24, 26, July 3, 8, 10, all at 2:00 p.m., Research Advancement Centre, 475 Wes Graham Way, room 2009.

Career workshop: “Success on the Job” Thursday 2:30, Tatham Centre room 1208, information and registration online.

UW Alternative Fuels Team recruitment and information meetings: business position Thursday 5:00, Student Life Centre multipurpose room; technical position June 26, 5:00, Doug Wright Engineering room 2536; information e-mail

Dropping courses: last day for 50 per cent fee refund, June 20. Last day to receive a WD grade for spring term courses dropped, June 27.

Vancouver alumni event: Southern Ontario Alumni Reunion barbecue at Jericho Beach Pond, Sunday 12:00 to 4:00, details online.

Pre-enrolment for winter 2009 undergraduate courses, June 23-29 on Quest: choose courses now so preferences can be used in preparing the timetable, information online.

Orientation for new staff (existing staff also welcome) Monday 8:30 a.m., includes campus walking tour, refreshments; information and registration e-mail

Centre for Environment and Business announcement and reception Monday 11:00 a.m., Environmental Studies I courtyard, by invitation, information ext. 38480.

Joint Health and Safety Committee Tuesday, June 24, 1:30, Commissary building room 112D.

‘The Body Means Well: Empowered Healing’ brown-bag lunch with author Nancy Schaeffer, sponsored by UW Recreation Committee, Wednesday, June 25, 12:00, Math and Computer room 5158.

Bill Pudifin, faculty of engineering, retirement reception Wednesday, June 25, 3:00 to 5:00, Festival Room, South Campus Hall.

Gail Cuthbert Brandt, associate vice-president (international), “stepping down reception” Thursday, June 26, 3:00 to 5:00, Needles Hall third-floor patio, RSVP ext. 38350.

California alumni: Networking reception for alumni at Stanford University Faculty Club, Thursday, June 26, 6:30 p.m. UW Day at Padres baseball game, June 27. UW Day at Dodgers baseball game, June 28. Digital Moose Lounge Canada Day Picnic, June 29, Huddard Park East, Woodside, details online.

Long weekend: UW holidays Monday, June 30, and Tuesday, July 1, for Canada Day; classes cancelled, offices and most services closed.

Canada Day celebrations Tuesday, July 1, on the north campus: children’s fun-fest, arts and crafts fair, food, stage performances and other activities, 2 p.m. until evening; fireworks 10 p.m.; details and volunteer information online.

Teaching and Learning ePortfolio conference, July 7-8, St. Jerome’s University, details online.

Charity golf tournament: Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology presents Swing2Cure in support of Grand River Regional Cancer Centre, Wednesday, July 9, Rebel Creek Golf Club, registration ext. 37106 before April 1, details online.

Student Life 101 open house for September’s new students, Saturday, July 19, information online.

Positions available

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

• Custodian I, plant operations
• Custodian II, plant operations
• Faculty receptionist/ secretary, dean of mathematics, USG 4

Longer descriptions are available on the HR web site.

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