Monday, May 26, 2008

  • Canada Day's coming, and more
  • Focus on high-speed computing
  • Phones can monitor carbon footprint
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Canada Day's coming, and more

Volunteers are wanted, scores of them, as planning moves ahead for the 24th annual Canada Day celebrations on UW's north campus. The national holiday is a Tuesday this year (that means a four-day weekend for the university), and organizers are planning the usual range of activities on July 1, from live performances and many kids' games to the evening fireworks. UW and the Federation of Students jointly sponsor the Canada Day party each year, typically drawing more than 60,000 people to the north campus by fireworks time at the end of the day. The party starts at 2:00 p.m. and finishes after the spectacular fireworks display, which begins at dark (about 10 p.m.). As for volunteers, hundreds are needed to help out with every aspect of the day: security, stage crew, children's activities, the information tent, operations, food sale sand so on. Those who volunteer will receive “a free meal for every four-hour shift they work, a nifty UW T-shirt, a free dessert treat as well as a great learning experience”, coordinator Sarah Sales is promising. There's more information online, or those interested (anyone over 16 is welcome) can e-mail

[Orange shirt and carefree wave]Youngsters from UW's Early Childhood Education Centre went on a field trip the other day, visiting the Centre for Pavement and Transportation Technology lab in the department of civil engineering. "The students and future civil engineers learned how to construct environmentally friendly roads and runways," says pavement specialist and Canada Research Chair Susan Tighe, pictured showing young Hannah what it's like to start sinking in quicksand. ("I am making sure she doesn't get wet," Tighe writes, also noting that the civil eng department donated T-shirts for the visitors.)

“Compass Consulting”, a team of four graduate students from UW’s department of health studies and gerontology, won the Canadian Evaluation Society national case competition held in Québec City on May 12 as part of the Society’s annual conference. The UW team was one of three finalists selected from universities and colleges across Canada for this annual event. Coached by faculty members Anita Myers and Mark Seasons, team members were Robin Blanchard, Colleen Dwyer, Michelle Vibert, and Sarah Viehbeck. Their opponents were from the University of Ottawa and Georgian College. The case competition helps senior university students build skills in evaluating public policies and programs. In the preliminary round this year, teams had to propose an approach for evaluating the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Initiative — a multi-million dollar partnership of the three levels of government. The finalists were judged based on their written submissions in the preliminary round involving 15 teams from across Canada. The final round called for a live presentation to the judging panel (playing the roles of Ministers and Deputy Ministers) and an audience of evaluation leaders. It’s the fourth time a Waterloo team has won the national trophy since 2000.

Bill Poole, director of UW's Centre for Cultural Management, has ended his term as chair of the Ontario Municipal Cultural Planning Partnership and will now serve as its executive director, with the MCPP secretariat being housed at Waterloo. • Provost Amit Chakma reported at last week's meeting of the UW senate that Waterloo will be hearing less about expansion of "professional master's programs" and more about "career-focused graduate expansion", a phrase that's thought to describe UW's plans more comprehensively. • The experts who manage the wireless portion of the campus network say they'll be blocking "outbound SMTP (25/tcp)" effectively tomorrow, a spam-fighting change that's described as minor.

Janos Áczel, Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the department of pure mathematics, has been named an Honorary Member of the Hamburg Mathematical Society, on the basis of his distinguished lifetime of work. "The Society was founded in 1690," a colleague explains, "and is the oldest still active mathematical society in the world. Among its former honorary members are the great mathematicians C.F. Gauss, L. Kronecker, K. Weierstrass, and D. Hilbert."

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Focus on high-speed computing

A one-day “Symposium on GPU and CELL Computing”, organized by Sharcnet — the Shared Hierarchical Academic Research Computing Network — takes place at UW tomorrow, with more than 150 people are registered to attend. It’s clearly “a hot topic”, says Hans De Sterck, Sharcnet side leader at Waterloo and a faculty member in applied mathematics.

The network’s web site gives an explanation of the event: “Hardware accelerators have the potential to elevate scientific computing to new levels of performance. This one-day symposium will explore the use of GPUs, CELL processors, FPGAs and multi-core CPUs for large-scale scientific computing. Sharcnet will soon deploy high-performance clusters containing both CELL and GPU accelerators, and this symposium will give Sharcnet researchers the chance to learn about these new technologies from keynote speakers who are at the forefront of research in this field. Sharcnet researchers who have first experiences in this new area are invited to contribute presentations and posters.”

Sharcnet researchers use technology in massive amounts — to the point that UW added a wing to the Physics building last year chiefly to house Sharcnet computer hardware — but the individual units aren’t all that obscure, De Sterck indicates. “CELL processors are used in Sony's Playstation 3, and fast GPUs are used in high-end PCs for gaming.”

Tomorrow’s event will take place in Davis Centre room 1350, a lecture hall that holds some 250 people, so there’s room for individuals who aren’t preregistered to sit in on the presentations anyway. The day starts with a 9 a.m. keynote presentation by Ben Bergen of Los Alamos National Laboratory, talking about Roadrunner, “which is a computer currently being assembled at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and which is expected to be the first computer in the world to reach a speed of 1 Petaflop (10^15 operations per second) when it will be fired up in a few months. This will be the fastest computer in the world); it is a large cluster that uses a new generation of IBM's CELL processors to accelerate computations.”

A second keynote presentation at 1:00 will come from Michael McCool, of UW’s school of computer science and spinoff company RapidMind Inc., “who will talk about the RapidMind platform for multi-core CPUs and many-core accelerators. This framework provides an easy, uniform programming interface for multi-core processors, and CELL and GPU accelerators.”
The symposium will also include vendor presentations by IBM, NVIDIA, and AMD/ATI, and contributed talks and posters.

Sharcnet is described as “a consortium of 17 Ontario academic institutions in a ‘cluster of clusters’ of high performance computers linked by advanced fiber optics. Sharcnet provides leading-edge HPC infrastructure to accelerate research for its academic and industry partners. The University of Waterloo is a major participant in Sharcnet. Any researcher at UW can obtain a Sharcnet account for free.”

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Phones can monitor carbon footprint

a news release from '5 guys from Ontario who think that this environmental thing might be for real'

A team of five Canadian engineering students have won a Top 50 spot in the Google Android Development Challenge, a competition to develop innovative mobile phone applications. Jeff Kao, Robert Lam, Taneem Talukdar, Gary Pong and Jason Wong beat out more than 1,700 entries from individuals, teams and companies from around the world by creating an application entitled Eco2go that helps users reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact. The team has been awarded $25,000 to continue to develop their application.

“This competition was the perfect sandbox for us to explore our ideas about promoting sustainable living through creative use of technology,” says Robert Lam, who’s graduating from the UW systems design engineering program this spring. “To have made it to the Top 50, out of 1,700 entries, is unbelievable.”

Announced in November 2007, the Google Android Developers Challenge invited developers to submit innovative and useful mobile applications. Ten million dollars in total prize money has been allocated by Google for the competition.

“We developed the idea for our application after we realized that many car owners are concerned about climate change, but they don’t know how to connect their daily actions with their impact on the planet,” explains Gary Pong, a master’s candidate at the University of Toronto. “Our application is designed to inspire people to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle by enabling them to accurately measure their carbon footprint and empowering them to make educated lifestyle choices.”

Eco2go addresses the user’s carbon footprint and environmental impact in three ways. First, the application automatically tracks the user’s daily movements and calculates their personal carbon footprint. Once evaluated, the application will show the user how they can reduce their personal carbon emissions by using public transit instead of driving. The application also tracks the user’s results over time. For privacy reasons the user’s travel information is stored on their phone only.

Second, Eco2go encourages the user to stay motivated by enabling them to connect with the larger Eco2go Community. This is a vibrant network of users who swap stories and ideas, organize local initiatives and share information. “We recognize how important a community is to encouraging users in their commitment to reduce their carbon footprint, and the Eco2go network is available right on your phone” explains Jeff Kao, a recent graduate of SDE at Waterloo. “Most people aren’t going to go home and blog about a great deal at the local coffee shop if you bring in a reusable mug, for example, but you can tell your friends from your phone while you’re waiting in line.”.

Finally, Eco2go also allows the user to track carbon offsets that they can use to counter their carbon footprint. Eco2go users can get carbon offsets by investing in carbon reduction initiatives around the world such as alternative energy projects.

“We’ve got lots of ideas, but we are always looking for more. We invite anyone who is interested in our application to visit our website at and share their thoughts with us”, says teammate Taneem Talukdar, another SDE graduate. “Our vision is to change the world by giving people a sense of self awareness about their carbon footprint and by giving people a way to gradually change their lifestyle with the help of an enthusiastic and involved community.”


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[Hawk atop catering truck]

The red-tailed hawk is a well-known figure on campus by now, but nobody ever identified it as a potential customer for Food Services until Larry Lamb of environmental studies spotted it on top of the catering service's van Friday.

Link of the day

Special day in the US, Australia, Britain

When and where

Career workshops today: Basics of Starting a Business 4:30, Accelerator Centre second floor; Networking 101, 4:30, Tatham Centre room 1208; registration online.

Genius Bowl, Engineering Society trivia competition, 6:00, Davis Centre room 1350.

Alumni reception in Hong Kong 6:00 p.m., Excelsior Hotel, details online.

Feng Shui sponsored by UW Recreation Committee, last Tuesday of every month, 12:00, Math and Computer room 5136.

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

Mathematics alumni reception at Statistical Society of Canada annual meeting, Tuesday, Ottawa, details online.

Career workshop: “Are You Thinking about an International Experience?” Tuesday 3:00, Tatham Centre room 1208, registration online.

Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology program information session Tuesday 4:00, Tatham Centre room 2218.

Education Credit Union presents “Estate Planning 102”, Wednesday 12:15 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302.

[Breen]Steve Breen, IST, retirement party honouring 37 years at UW, Wednesday 3 to 5 p.m., University Club. RSVP to pjpenk@ist or ext. 38018.

“It’s the World, Stupid!” free lecture by Paul Heinbecker of the Centre for International Governance Innovation, Wednesday 7:30 p.m., Maureen Forrester Recital Hall, Wilfrid Laurier. Refreshments follow lecture; details online.

UW Safety Awareness Day, sessions on safety at work, details online. Thursday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302.

Centre for Teaching Excellence workshop: “Do Students Learn from Laboratory Work?” Thursday 10:00 to 11:20 a.m., Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library, details online.

Wayne Shortt, UW Police, retirement reception Thursday 4 to 6 p.m., University Club. RSVP to Cathy Mitchell, ext. 33630, by May 26.

UW Board of Governors quarterly meeting Tuesday, June 3, 2:30 p.m., Architecture building, Cambridge.

Conrad Grebel University College Lebold fund-raising banquet, speaker April Yamisaki, Tuesday, June 3, 6:30 p.m., Grebel dining room, information e-mail

Centre for Teaching Excellence workshop: “Using UW-ACE to Help Students Prepare for Your Class” Wednesday, June 4, 1:00 to 2:30 p.m., Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library, details online.

Anne Harris, faculty of arts, retirement celebration Wednesday, June 4, 3:30 p.m., Festival Room, South Campus Hall, RSVP; donations invited for a bursary in her honour.

Wilfrid Laurier University convocation ceremonies June 4-6 in Waterloo, June 11 in Brantford, details online, honorary degrees now announced.

Keystone Campaign annual event, “Viva Las Vegas”, Thursday, June 5, 11:30 to 1:30, Matthews Hall green; evening event 10:00 to 11:00 p.m., South Campus Hall, details online.

Class enrolment appointments for fall term undergraduate courses: continuing students, June 9-14; new students, July 14-27; open enrolment begins July 28.

Spring Convocation: applied health sciences and environmental studies, Wednesday, June 11, 10:00; science, June 11, 2:30, arts (some programs), Thursday, June 12, 10:00; arts (some programs), June 12, 2:30; mathematics, Friday, June 13, 10:00; computer science, June 13, 2:30; engineering (some programs), Saturday, June 14, 10:00; engineering (some programs), June 14, 2:30, details online.

‘Magic: Frontiers and Boundaries’ international conference hosted by department of classical studies, June 11-15, details online.

Matthews Golf Classic for students, staff, faculty, retirees and friends, Monday, June 16, Grand Valley Golf Course, details online.

25-Year Club annual reception Tuesday, June 17, 6:00 p.m., Physical Activities Complex, by invitation, information ext. 32078.

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

Friday's Daily Bulletin