Thursday, March 25, 2010

  • High schoolers compete in robot soccer
  • Tidings borne on the spring breezes
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Pawliszyn in lab]
[McGill]New 'University Professors'

Two prominent researchers join the ranks of UW's "University Professors" this year, provost Feridun Hamdullahpur announced at Monday's senate meeting. Pictured above is Janusz Pawliszyn of the chemistry department, a specialist in solid-phase microextraction who is already the holder of a Canada Research Chair. At right is Stuart McGill of the kinesiology department, internationally known for his work in spine biomechanics. The position of University Professor — normally limited to 14 active faculty members — exists to recognize "exceptional scholarly achievement and international pre-eminence in a particular field or fields of knowledge". New recipients of the honour are chosen by the University Tenure and Promotion Committee, based on nominations, and are recognized at Convocation each year.

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High schoolers compete in robot soccer

High school students mad about robots arrive on campus today to compete in a Canadian qualifying round for an international robotics competition.

The FIRST Robotics Competition challenges teams of high school students and their mentors to build robots and qualify for the world finals next month. Under the rules of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), robots are built in six weeks from a common kit of parts and weigh up to 120 pounds, excluding battery and bumpers.

The Waterloo regional contest, open to the public, will be held today through Saturday in the Physical Activities Complex. Admission is free, and games are described as fast-paced and competitive, offering fun for the entire family.

"Through FIRST, kids realize that building a robot can be fun and cool," said Rob Gorbet, faculty member in UW’s Centre for Knowledge Integration and planning committee chair for FIRST Robotics Waterloo Regional. "It gives them very real role models, from outside the worlds of professional sports and entertainment. It's about opening their eyes to careers in math, engineering, science and technology — and it works."

The Waterloo regional will include a mini-competition of the elementary-school FIRST program, FIRST Lego League, for children in grades 4-8. Several area elementary schools will demonstrate their robots.

The high-tech sports competition involves brainstorming, teamwork and mentoring. Referees oversee the contest and judges give awards for design, technology, sportsmanship and commitment.

This year's game is played with regular soccer balls. In teams of three, each robot will try to herd and score the balls into their goals, guided by on-board cameras. At the end of the two-minute match, robots will get bonus points for hanging off the ground from a bar or another robot.

Twenty-six teams involving about 400 students will participate in the Waterloo event — 24 from Ontario, one from Québec and one from Indiana. Waterloo is one of two Canadian venues hosting a regional FIRST competition in 2010. The other Canadian regional takes place April 1-3 at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga.

The annual contest involves more than 45,225 students in Grades 9 to 12 on 1,809 teams in regional competitions in 12 countries, including Canada, the U.S., Israel, Germany, Australia and Brazil. The world finals will be held April 15 to 17 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Major sponsors for the Waterloo regional competition include Research In Motion, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, Rockwell Automation, TD Bank Financial Group and the University of Waterloo.

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Tidings borne on the spring breezes

Here’s a reminder that people across the institution have been invited to comment on what the university should look for in its next president — and the announced deadline for comments comes next week. Said a notice issued in January: “As prescribed by Policy 50, the Presidential Nominating Committee has begun to solicit the opinions of the members of the university with respect to the institution’s sixth president and vice-chancellor who is expected to take office July 1, 2011. One way in which the committee is seeking opinion is by inviting written comment. The committee is particularly interested in knowing your views on the issues and challenges the president will face, what the next president should accomplish in her/his first term (you may wish to refer to the Sixth Decade Plan) and the qualities a president should possess to achieve this. Written comments and opinions should be submitted to the committee through the Secretary of the University, Lois Claxton, Needles Hall, Room 3060 on or before March 31, 2010. If you prefer to make your comments orally, please feel free to contact any member of the committee. This invitation for comment is only one means by which the committee will solicit the views of the university community. Any information or comments provided to members of the committee will be held in confidence.”

Another reminder comes from the office of organizational and human development: "Space is still available in IST’s Spring 2010 workshops. In addition to SEW’s popular core programming for electronic workplace applications, highlights of this spring brochure include a new course on Computer Hardware Basics, as well as Advanced SharePoint Topics, which offers insights into setting up and accessing shared workspaces, information stores and documents, as well as host defined applications such as wikis, and two separate sessions of the popular Preparing your Website Content workshop, a must if you update or maintain web pages on campus. As well, BlackBerry Intro & Tips is once again being offered, which will feature various tips and tricks for using the productive devices." Full course descriptions are in the current online brochure.

At Monday's meeting of the university senate, Erin Sargeant Greenwood, associate vice-president (annual and planned giving), provided a brief report on the university's fund-raising. "We have seen declines in the average gift size," she said — no surprise in view of economic conditions over the past year. "To combat this trend, we are focusing on key donor groups and increasing our targeted communication." She said there's a new emphasis on a "middle" group of donors and potential donors who are traditionally somewhat neglected: those who can offer the university gifts of $10,000 and upward, more than the three-digit gifts that make up the base of the giving pyramid, though less than the million-dollar gifts that represent its peak. More than 10,000 people have made gifts to UW in the current year, Greenwood said.

Alternatives Journal, “Canada’s national environmental magazine” and a product of Waterloo’s faculty of environment, has been nominated for Environmental Coverage in the Utne Independent Press Awards for 2010. Utne Reader, which collects and publishes articles from 1300 independent newspapers and magazines from around the world, named the nominees for the 21st annual awards this week. Eighty publications are nominated across 10 categories, and Alternatives is one of only five Canadian magazines nominated this year. From the Utne website: “The nominees for the 21st annual Utne Independent Press Awards represent the very best of the best of what we read in 2009.” Winners will be announced in Washington during the Magazine Publishers of America’s Independent Magazine Group conference next month. Alternatives was previously nominated for Environmental Coverage in 2004 and 2005.

The Waterloo Masjid, or mosque — a Muslim place of worship on Erb Street a short walk from the main campus — suffered some vandalism last week. In response, the UW Muslim Students Association has issued a statement saying that it "strongly condemns the vandalism of our local Waterloo Masjid on Friday, March 20. While the UW Muslim student population is deeply upset and hurt at the defacement of the community mosque, we trust that our local security officials will carry out their investigation to the fullest extent possible and apprehend the criminals promptly. UW-MSA encourages its members to assist the Waterloo Mosque administration in their cleanup efforts to remove the offensive graffiti from the mosque walls and repair the broken windows in the women's prayer area. We also urge MSA-National and other regional MSAs to spread awareness of the Waterloo Masjid defacement in their communities so that the local authorities are made aware of these hate crimes and can take appropriate steps to monitor such places of worship."

And . . . five entrepreneurial Waterloo students could win crucial support for their business ideas with the $25,000 grand prize in the 2010 IBK Capital-Ivey Business Plan Competition this weekend at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. Twelve teams, including two from Waterloo, have been selected as finalists to compete in front of judges including successful entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, consultants and academics. Students present business plans to seasoned entrepreneurs and receive feedback, while investors get a sneak peak at up-and-coming entrepreneurs. One Waterloo team is Biofont, with Erfan Aleemullah, Asim Hussain and Sukhsagar Jolly, making up a company focused on a screening tool for contagious illnesses. The other is Enterprise Conference Pro, with Adam Levine and Alim Khamisa, who are developing a mobile application that combines social networking and back-end analytics to improve marketing and communication initiatives for event organizers. The grand prize winners go on to the Global Moot Corp. Business Plan Competition, the world's largest graduate student business plan competition held annually at the University of Texas at Austin.


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Link of the day

Ontario budget expected today

When and where

Disability Awareness Day sponsored by One Waterloo and office for persons with disabilities, simulations, panel discussion, 2:30 film, 11:00 to 4:30, Student Life Centre great hall.

Engineering alumni lecture: Andrew Paul Williams and Jennifer Nodwell, “Bridging the Gap Between University and the Work Force” 11:30, Physics room 150.

UW Recreation Committee presents Kathleen Barsoum, Region of Waterloo waste management division, “Trash Talk” 12:00, Dana Porter Library room 329.

Digital media lecture: Paul Walland, University of Southampton, “Media Makeover: Things, Services and Digital Rushes” 12:00, Carl Pollock Hall room 3602.

Dance Dance Canada recitals in Humanities Theatre: today, from 12:30; March 26, 1:00; March 27, 8:00; March 28, 8:00.

Surplus sale of UW furnishings and equipment, 12:30 to 2:00, central stores, East Campus Hall, off Phillip Street.

Chemistry seminar: Cameron Black, Merck Frosst Centre for Therapeutic Research, “The Search for the World’s Best Cathepsin K Inhibitor” 2:30, Chemistry II room 361.

Chemical engineering seminar: Brian Amsden, Queen’s University,”Cell Response to Biodegradable Elastomer Tissue Engineering Scaffolds” 3:30, Doug Wright Engineering room 2529.

Department of English presents David Bromwich, Yale University, “Edmund Burke and India” 4:00, Humanities room 373.

‘Relative Proximity’ exhibition of work by fourth-year fine arts students, opening event 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., show runs until April 11, East Campus Hall gallery.

Women in mathematics career panel 5:30, Tatham Centre room 2218.

Vancouver alumni reception 6 p.m., during GLOBE conference and trade fair. Details.

Movies at the Critical Media Lab: “They Live” (US 1988), 7:30 p.m., 191 King Street West, Kitchener.

Women’s Centre film, “What I Want My Words to Do to You” 8:00, Student Life Centre great hall.

Centre for Family Business, based at Conrad Grebel UC, breakfast seminar: “Leveraging Emergent Change, Chaos and Conflict” Friday 7 a.m., Bingemans Conference Centre.

Econometrics Conference (12th annual), “Volatility and Systemic Risk in Global Capital Markets”, hosted by WatRISQ, Friday from 8 a.m., Davis Centre rooms 1301 and 1302.

Information systems and technology professional development seminar: Will Lewis and Bob Hicks, “Exchange Calendar” Friday 9 a.m., IST seminar room.

Design symposiums Friday: software engineering student projects 9:30 to 7:00, nanotechnology engineering 9:30 to 8:00, Davis Centre.

School of planning speaker: Steven Jefferson, K. Smart Associates Ltd., “OPPI  Healthy Communities Handbook” Friday 12:30, Environment I room 243.

Aftab Patla Memorial Cup celebration and fund-raiser for department of kinesiology, Friday: tailgate barbecue 3 p.m.; undergrad vs. grad and faculty hockey, 5 p.m., Icefield; post-game wrap-up, Bombshelter pub, 7 p.m. Details.

‘From Mountains of Ice’ excusive print-on-demand title, author Lorina Stephens, Saturday 1 to 4 p.m., bookstore, South Campus Hall.

University Choir spring concert: “Voices of Light” Saturday 7:30 p.m., St. John’s Lutheran Church, 22 Willow Street, tickets $10 (students $8).

‘So You Think You Can Dance Waterloo’ final competition Saturday, Federation Hall.

Earth Hour Saturday: celebrations 7:30 p.m. to midnight, Student Life Centre; lights out 8:30 to 9:30.

UW Stage Band spring concert, “Time Flies” Sunday 2:00, Conrad Grebel UC great hall, admission $8 (students $5).

UW Chamber Choir concert, “Early English Baroque” Sunday 7:30 p.m., Waterloo North Mennonite Church, tickets $15 (students $10).

Jan Rohrbach, communications and public affairs, retirement reception Monday 3:30 to 5:00, University Club, all welcome, RSVP ext. 33580.

PhD oral defences

Physics and astronomy. Sattar Taheri-Araghi, “Membrane-Disrupting Activity of Antimicrobial Peptides and the Electrostatic Bending of Membranes.” Supervisor, Bae-Yeun Ha. On display in the faculty of science, ESC 254A. Oral defence Thursday, April 1, 11:00 a.m., Physics room 352.

Chemistry. Dajana Vuckovic, “Solid-Phase Microextraction as Sample Preparation Method for Metabolomics.” Supervisor, Janusz Pawliszyn. On display in the faculty of science, ESC 254A. Oral defence Thursday, April 8, 10:00 a.m., Chemistry II room 361.

Combinatorics and optimization. Nathan Krislock, “Efficient Algorithms for Large-Scale Euclidean Distance Matrix Problems with Applications to Wireless Sensor Network Localization and Molecular Conformation.” Supervisor, Henry Wolkowicz. On display in the faculty of mathematics, MC 5090. Oral defence Thursday, April 8, 2:00 p.m., Mathematics and Computer room 5158.

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