Wednesday, June 25, 2008

  • Map library puts air photos online
  • ‘Passion’ brings job, newsletter says
  • Three other topics, just briefly
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[The rural and the urban]

Aerial photo from 1940, in grey, is matched up with recent Google Earth data to show changes in the area along Columbia Street, which runs from upper right to lower left. A farmstead can be seen where the railway track crosses the road, at right centre, future site of the RIM complex. Laurel Creek is clearly visible, but there’s no hint of development on what are now UW’s north and south campuses. The newer view, in green, includes UW Place, Seagram Stadium and much of Wilfrid Laurier University.

Map library puts air photos online

by Eva Dodsworth, University Map Library

Since October, the University Map Library has been developing an online collection of digitized and georeferenced air photos of the Region of Waterloo dating from the 1930s and 1940s. Using GIS technology, the photos have been rendered in a number of image formats for viewing in Google Earth. The collection is freely available for viewing and downloading.

This project offers convenient access to local history, and offers users the added value of combining the photos with GIS technology. Georeferenced aerial photography accurately places the photograph on the earth’s surface, making the information richer, revealing hidden patterns and displaying informative results. Using mapping programs such as Google Earth, one can find their home today, and with a simple click, view the historical image to see how the land was used 70 years ago. Combining the old and the new places coffee shops in the middle of farmers’ fields, and highways on top of old stone schoolhouses.

The project has addressed a large number of issues that have been associated with the use of the archival air photo collection by library clients. The library was interested not just in archiving and preserving original material, but also in exposing the photos to a larger community and making access easier.

The aerial photography collection was already highly used by both academic scholars and the public. One of the most important objectives was to decrease the amount of handling the original photographs were being exposed to. Images were often handled, scanned by users and then filed in the cabinets by library staff. Occasionally photographs found their way into the wrong spot, and a great deal of effort was spent trying to locate them again. It was expected that the digitization of the historical photos would significantly decrease the photos’ physical usage, as well as eliminate the need for repeated scanning.

In-person users of paper photos are limited to the map library’s business hours, but offering pre-scanned imagery 24/7 was thought to likely increase the usage of the photos, not to mention convenience, and will expose the photos to many people who otherwise might not have known about them.

The recent project has made each photo available in GeoTiff format, which retains its geographical coordinates. Using a desktop GIS program, such as ArcGIS, users can display the photo in a geographically precise way on the earth’s surface. Other GIS files can be overlaid — such as information about streets and points of interest — to assist in the navigation of these older photos.

A street file, for example, may provide the user with street lines and corresponding names so that location and landscape objects in the photos can be better identified. Many areas of the Region look very different today than they did 80 years ago. Rural areas are unrecognizable, and users of paper air photos have been known to spend hours determining the exact location.

The georeferenced images can be used in ArcGIS to create maps and analyze information. With the ability to overlay other features, users can more accurately examine land use changes over time.

KMZ files have been created for Google Earth users who do not have access to GIS programs and don’t want to learn the skills they require. Using a third party resource, such as Google’s online mapping program, anybody can view the images, place them accurately on the earth’s surface and use Google’s street labels and points of interest to navigate around the photos. The KMZ files are simply zipped image files and are very easy to work with. They are approximately one-fifth the size of the original GeoTiff and they open in Google Earth as easily as other image formats. Instructions are available from the project’s website.

The project also provides a solution to the difficulty of finding the right photo, which until now required cumbersome paper “flight line” indexes. Not just many photos but sometimes several collections can be represented on a single index, adding more to the confusion. Map Library staff created a clickable online index that uses current streets and municipal boundaries as navigational aids in finding the user’s photo of interest. Clicking on the index leads the user to the actual photo.

The digitization project is not complete, however. The cities of Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and North Dumfries are currently available, and plans are to have the other townships available by September.

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‘Passion’ brings job, newsletter says

by Alison Leppard, from the Inside Scoop newsletter for co-op students

For many in the tech industry, working on the third generation iPod would be the opportunity of a lifetime. Every year, hundreds of starry-eyed first year co-op students come to Waterloo with plans of landing their dream job, but as reality sets in many are left disappointed when their first term is not exactly what they had in mind.

Sunit Mohindroo, a recent grad in systems design engineering, has a history of work terms at high profile companies in great locations. However, it wasn’t always this way: “When I started co-op I thought I was going to have a lot of choice and the chance to have interviews with a lot of companies, but I only got one interview!” His first job was okay, but as his second term unfolded, he soon realized he needed to make some drastic changes: “My second job I absolutely hated. It was software development and I sat at my desk all day coding. That is just not my thing. I like to interact with people, I like to do more user testing — more front line kind of stuff, instead of in the back office, coding away. It really started after that term. I kind of thought, you know what, this is not for me.”

It may have been his worst co-op experience — but it was also the term that he learned the most. Afterwards, Mohindroo became a lot more serious about the direction of his career. He began by changing his program from computer engineering to systems design engineering.

But starting over wasn’t easy: “When I went back to interviews it was hard. When you don’t have a good term, you don’t really have a lot to show for it.” Luckily, one of his professors took a chance on him and he ended up getting a job at a local start-up called SlipStream Data Inc., which is now a subsidiary of RIM. “At that point I really felt that to gain an advantage out of co-op and to take a step up every term I would need to stand out. That was the biggest thing for me: I had to take my own initiative and do something that I really like.”

At the new job, Mohindroo soon realized that the system for tracking bugs on the company’s website was very inefficient. He decided to ask his supervisor and the director of development if he could reorganize the system. “It turned out to be my pet project, something that motivated me to be in the office a lot and kept me really engaged in my work. In the next round [of interviews] I was able to not only talk about my job, but say ‘hey I started this project’. Everybody seemed to be more interested in that than anything I actually did at work!” The rest is history: Mohindroo ended up landing great jobs at companies like Telus in Vancouver, Microsoft in Seattle, and Apple in Cupertino, California. He even has a ‘real’ job lined up at Microsoft as a program manager for their Zune music device.

Whether your dream job is to work for an organization like Apple or an NGO, you can learn from Mohindroo’s story: when you find an area you are passionate about you will be motivated to take the initiative to make things better. “You would be surprised at the interest companies will take when you talk to them about something you are passionate about. Interviews become much more engaging and opportunities become much more exciting.” This enthusiasm is what impresses employers, eventually leading to great opportunities, both in co-op and the real world!

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Three other topics, just briefly

The university is a very diverse place to work, as you can sometimes tell by the Positions Available listings that appear here every Wednesday. In a class all by itself, though, is one of the jobs on today’s list, “director of technical theatre” in the department of drama and speech communication. To save you the trouble of following up, I’m happy to quote the qualifications that Human Resources is expecting of applicants: “BA plus extensive professional experience, or equivalent combination of education and professional experience in Technical Theatre. Proven supervisory skills in a theatre production environment. Computer skills including Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Advanced computer skills including CAD, digital audio processing and editing software, with knowledge of video editing, server, and network applications. Instruction of crew experience required. Teaching experience preferred. Proven ability to troubleshoot/problem solve under time pressure. Ability to handle multiple demands and priorities. Well developed interpersonal skills. Certificates/training in First Aid, Firearms, and Pyrotechnics are required.” (What, no swordplay?)

Two retired faculty members from UW are among four researchers who are being specially honoured this week at a conference in Seattle. The venue is the Institute for Nuclear Theory at the University of Washington, where a conference is under way on "Atomic, Chemical, and Nuclear Developments in Coupled Cluster Methods". Organizers write that one feature of the conference is special recognition for the founders of the field, who include UW's Josef Paldus and Jiri Cizek, both of whom had one foot in the department of applied mathematics and the other in the department of chemistry. (The other two "founders" are Fritz Coester of the University of Iowa and Hermann Kümmel of Ruhr University; all four will be attending the event.) Says the web site: "Today, Coupled Cluster theory is widely recognized as often offering the most accurate results available for a wealth of important problems in physics and chemistry, ranging from nuclear structure, to the relativistic Coupled Cluster theory of atoms, to the structure and spectra of molecules. The exponential ansatz for the Coupled Cluster wavefunction was proposed for nuclear many-body problems by Coester and Kümmel 50 years ago. Detailed equations for atomic and molecular electronic structure were presented by Cizek 40 years ago, with initial applications and further development by Paldus."

We’ve just lived through “a very average spring”, says Frank Seglenieks of the UW weather station, although I’m not sure that “very average” isn’t an oxymoron like, say, “baby grand” and “Internet security”, but here’s how Seglenieks explains things: “Although we had a good stretch of warm temperatures at the end of April and some more at the beginning of June, these were offset by generally cooler temperatures during the rest of the spring. In the end the daily high temperatures were about 0.5 degrees lower than average and the daily low temperatures were about 0.5 degrees higher than average; thus overall it was bang on the average.” As for rain and snow, “After the very wet winter, the spring was on the low side of average, coming in at 182.8 mm compared to an average of 220.9 mm. There was an 11 day stretch in April and a 7 day period in May without any precipitation, but apart from those the rest of the spring was pretty consistent.” There are statistics and graphs on the weather station’s web site.


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Link of the day

Comanche survives battle

When and where

Needles Hall elevator shut down for maintenance through July 17.

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.

Orphan Relief Barbecue sponsored by Muslim Students Association to support orphan sponsorship program, today and Thursday 10:30 to 4:00, Biology green, menu includes burgers, corn, mango milkshakes, free watermelon.

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

Smarter Health seminar: Daniel Sands, Harvard Medical School, "Illness in the Age of 'e': How Connected Technology Changes the Patient Experience" 3:00, Davis Centre room 1302, registration online, webcast available.

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

Lifestyle Learnings session at Columbia Lake Health Club, boardroom, 340 Hagey Boulevard: “How to increase your metabolism” 5:30 p.m.

UW Toastmasters meets Wednesdays 5:30, Math and Computer room 4042, e-mail

Bojangles dance recital: rehearsal today, performances Friday-Saturday, Humanities Theatre.

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

Information systems and technology professional development seminar: highlights from this year’s OUCC and Canheit conferences, Thursday 9:00 (note date change), IST seminar room.

ResiDance pizza party to celebrate the new online promotion for UW residences, Thursday 11:00 to 1:00, Student Life Centre.

International spouses group: Cristina de Castro speaks about Brazil and Sarah Gambetta about Australia, Thursday 12:45 p.m., different location: fifth-floor lounge of St. Paul’s College graduate apartment building, information e-mail

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

Gail Cuthbert Brandt, associate vice-president (international), “stepping down reception” Thursday 3:00 to 5:00, Needles Hall room 1101 (note location change), RSVP ext. 38350.

UW Alternative Fuels Team recruitment and information meeting to recruit for technical position Thursday 5:00, Doug Wright Engineering room 2536; information e-mail

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

Dropping courses: last day to receive a WD grade for spring term courses dropped, June 27.

Long weekend: UW holidays Monday, June 30, and Tuesday, July 1, for Canada Day; classes cancelled, offices and most services (including bookstore) closed. Davis Centre and Dana Porter libraries open 12:00 to 6:00 on Monday and Tuesday.

Canoeing the Grand River: outing organized by International Student Office and Federation of Students, Monday, $32 for UW students, tickets at Fed office, Student Life Centre.

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.

Montréal Jazz Festival bus trip organized by Federation of Students July 4-6, $119 to $179 including space at McGill residence hall, tickets at Feds office, Student Life Centre.

Conrad Grebel University College summer alumni reunion July 4-6.

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

Positions available

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

• Systems integration specialist, network services, information systems and technology, USG 10-12
• Computer support specialist, Institute for Quantum Computing, USG 8
• Project leader/application developer, health studies and gerontology, USG 8
• Program coordinator, Waterloo Unlimited, USG 8
• Program officer, Balsillie School, Centre for Global Governance Research, USG 9
• Senior environmental engineering technologist, civil and environmental engineering, USG 9
• Mentor, Professional Development for Engineering Students, USG 5/6
• Administrative assistant to director, Centre for Computational Mathematics in Industry and Commerce, USG 5
• Senior research associate, dean of mathematics, USG 9
• Manager, creative development, Graphics, USG 10
• Director of technical theatre, drama and speech communication, USG 9

Longer descriptions are available on the HR web site.

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