- Needles Hall Closure
- Professor's rocket cup design takes off
- The company co-op students built
- Brandon Sweet
- Communications and Public Affairs
Needles Hall Closure
Needles Hall on the main University of Waterloo campus is closed today due to a lack of building services following a water main break on Saturday. The rest of the campus remains open as usual. Watch for updates on the University of Waterloo homepage at uwaterloo.ca.
Professor's rocket cup design takes off
A professor’s design for a ceramic espresso cup that can be run off a printer has gone viral.
“The idea for the rocket cup arose naturally via the metaphor of coffee-as-rocket-fuel,” writes Craig Kaplan, who is an associate professor in the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science.
An image of the cup posted to Tumblr caught the eyes of influential blogs like Boing Boing and Gizmodo, and soon blasted its way through the rest of the geek and design blogosphere.
“I’ve been interested in experimenting with 3D printing for a while,” Kaplan writes. “One day, I accidentally snapped the handle off one of the cups in the Computer Graphics Lab (where we maintain a range of espresso-related paraphernalia). I took that as an opportunity to experiment with designs for new espresso cups.”
The space-age design of the finned vessel is fitting given the sci-fi nature of 3D printing, which has been gaining momentum as the cost of the high-tech printers has started to come back to Earth.
3D printing is “a miraculous technology that allows us to build physical prototypes of objects, or models that would have been difficult or impossible to build by hand,” Kaplan writes. “A ceramic artist could have created the same cup by hand. My skills lie with computers, not ceramics, but 3D printing allows me to turn computer skill into ceramic skill.”
The cup, seen above, is available for purchase from Shapeways, an on-demand 3D printing site in the vein of CafePress. "Anyone can upload whatever model they want and print it for themselves," notes Kaplan. The production costs are a little on the steep side, which is reflected in the cup's price tag.
Each one is created in ceramic by a specialized printer and then mailed to the buyer. The Shapeways website explains the process:
"A computer drawing (CAD file) of a part is sliced into layers of a desired thickness typically between 80µm and 200µm thick. A thin powder layer, in the desired thickness, is then spread over the surface of a powder bed. An inkjet printhead then jets a liquid binder on to the powder bed that selectively joins the powder together in the pattern for each layer of the part. A piston that supports the powder bed and the partially completed part then lowers so that the next powder layer can be spread and selectively joined. This process is then repeated until the part is completed."
Kaplan has created one other finished cup design, inspired by Lego bricks, but he hasn’t tried printing that one yet, due to the expense, and due to the fact that he doesn’t usually use a coaster.
To date, more than 150 espresso cups have been sold. Kaplan says he is looking into setting up a larger run of the cups with a ceramics manufacturer.
Kaplan has also posted objects on Shapeways that are derived directly from his research on ornamental design and computer graphics. “The ball comes from research I did for my PhD thesis on non-Euclidian Islamic star patterns,” he writes. “The bunnies come from a more recent paper on adapting decorative patterns to arbitrary 3D surfaces.”
Kaplan is eager to discuss the work being done by his students in the Computer Graphics Lab. PhD student Tiffany Inglis is developing algorithms to automate the process of creating pixel art drawings, a distinct style of digital imagery that celebrates and builds upon the retro look of old video games. Lesley Northam, another PhD student, is looking at how to create artistic interpretations of stereoscopic 3D images, in collaboration with Adobe.
3D printers are in use in the Faculty of Engineering, and the School of Architecture has one in its workshop.
Photograph by Craig S. Kaplan.
The company co-op students built
Before Desire2Learn became a multi-million dollar corporation with clients across the world, it was just a small start-up, working against the odds to revolutionize the way we learn. The company was a labour of love for founder John Baker, a UW Systems Design grad, and his small team of employees which included co-op students right from the very start.
“When we were only 5 people, we sometimes had more co-ops than full-timers,” recalls Jeremy Auger, Desire2Learn’s Chief Technology Officer and executive VP. “Some of our earliest co-ops helped us build the company. They were here with us when we were working 100 hour weeks – we’d have co-ops kind of afraid to leave because it was 3 o’clock in the morning and everyone was still working, co-ops right alongside us.”
Given the integral role they played in the early days, it’s no surprise that co-op students remain a big part of Desire2Learn. D2L now hires over 30 students per term, for a variety of jobs from software development to technical writing to human resources. A lot has changed since its beginnings in 1999, but what hasn’t is the fact that students are treated exactly like full-timers.
“We give co-ops as much responsibility as they’re willing to take on,” says Jeremy. “We have superstar co-ops that seem like they’ve been here for 10 years. They take on big projects from end to end.”
One of these ‘superstars’ is Bryan Gamble, a 3B software engineering student who has spent his past four work terms at D2L in a new role each time. It was the laid-back atmosphere, what Jeremy describes as “casual intense,” that first piqued Bryan’s interest in the company.
“No one cares if you wear a suit and a tie or flip-flops, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’re serious about what we do,” explains Jeremy. The office itself reflects this philosophy: it’s equipped with foosball and ping pong tables, a spacious patio for the warmer months, and a well-stocked kitchen where co-op students hang out over lunch.
Bryan soon realized that foosball tables were just the beginning of what made Desire2Learn a unique place to work. He jumped at the chance to spend his co-op term improving a tool that he and all of his peers use daily.
“On my first co-op term, I worked at the university as a course administrator for the speech communication department. I had to use ACE, and I saw a lot of the issues with it,” he explains. At D2L, he had a chance to make improvements to LEARN, which recently replaced ACE as UW’s learning management system.
Each term, he has been able to incorporate his student experiences with LEARN into his work on the LEARN software at D2L. “I try to pay attention when I’m at school, so if anyone says anything, I keep it in the back of my head until I return.”
Michelle Pugne (right, with Looper), 2B systems design engineering, is another D2L co-op whose experiences as a student give her a unique perspective in her role as product designer.
Her major projects involve the integration of third-party software (like Google apps) into the LEARN software.
“When I’m designing, I try to look at it from a user’s perspective, by thinking ‘how would a user want to approach this problem?’” she says. “Usually if you don’t know your user well, you have to do a lot of research. But as a student, I am the user!” Being able to view the software from both points of view is a definite asset to her design work.
Students are encouraged to give feedback in the collaborative atmosphere of D2L. “The added benefit of having Waterloo as a client is that our co-op students actually use our software. So they come with ideas about what could be better- then they actually go and fix it themselves,” says Jeremy. “People who’ve worked here for a long time might think the way we’ve thought for the past 10 years, so keeping those fresh ideas coming is always a good thing.”
Link of the day
When and where
Shad Valley program, July 1 to July 27.
Co-op employer interviews to July 31.
Systems Design Engineering presents "Real & Wicked Design Problems," Tuesday, July 24, 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., DC 1301.
UWRC presents Tameem Hesham, "History of Ancient Egypt: A Journey through Time and Place," Tuesday, July 24, 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m., NH1116.
Centre for Career Action workshop "Interview Skills: Preparing for Questions," Tuesday, July 24, 2:30 p.m., TC 1208.
Lectures end, Wednesday, July 25.
Centre for Career Action workshop "Interview Skills: Selling Your Skills," Wednesday, July 25, 2:30 p.m., TC 1208.
Chemistry Department Seminar Series featuring Prof. Youngku Sohn, Department of Chemistry, Yeungnam University, South Korea, "Interfacial Bonding, Reaction, Electronic Structures, and New Material Synthesis," Wednesday, July 25, 2:30 p.m., C2-361.
Centre for Career Action workshop, The "Who Am I?" Self-assessment Game, Thursday, July 26, 1:00 p.m., TC 1112.
WISE lecture series featuring Dr. Mark Knight, Executive Director, Centre for Advancement Technology, Waterloo, professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Waterloo, "Do We Pay Too Much for Tap and Bottled Drinking Water?" Thursday, July 26, 3:00 p.m., DC 1302. Details.
Examination period begins July 30, runs to August 10, 2012. Details.
Retirement celebration for David Mason, Tuesday, July 31, 3:30 p.m., Laurel Room, South Campus Hall.
Centre for Career Action workshop on law school applications, Thursday, August 9, 12:00 p.m., TC 1208.
UWRC Book Club, "The Sentimentalists" by Johanna Skibsrud, Wednesday, August 15, 12:00 p.m., LIB 407.
Mathematics Faculty Honeybun Reunion, Saturday, August 18. Details.
CTE656 Getting Started in LEARN, session 0039, Tuesday, August 21, 10:00 a.m., FLEX Lab, LIB 329. Register through myHRinfo.
Fall 2012 Promissory Notes and payments are due August 27.
CTE656 Getting Started in LEARN, session 0040, Wednesday, August 29, 1:00 p.m., FLEX Lab, LIB 329. Register through myHRinfo.
PhD Oral Defences
Psychology. Ester Moher, "Tempering optimistic bias in temporal predictions: The role of psychological distance in the unpacking effect." Supervisor, Derek Koehler. On deposit in the Arts Graduate Office, PAS 2434. Oral defence Thursday, July 26, 10:00 a.m., PAS 3026.
Electrical and Computer Engineering. Minoo Mirsaeedi, "EDA Solutions for Double Patterning Lithography." Supervisors, Mohab Anis, Karim S. Karim. On deposit in the Engineering Graduate Office, PHY 3004. Oral defence Thursday, July 26, 2:00 p.m., E2 1307G.
Electrical and Computer Engineering. Thiago Tonelli Bartolomei, "Migration of Applications Across Object-Oriented APIs." Supervisor, Krzysztof Czarnecki. On deposit in the Engineering Graduate Office, PHY 3004. Oral defence Friday, July 27, 10:00 a.m., EIT 3142.
Geography and Environmental Management. Geoffrey Shifflett, "Nature and Civilization: the Evolving Muskoka Vacation Experience." Supervisor, Geoffrey Wall. On display in the Faculty of Environment, EV1 335. Oral defence Friday, July 27, 1:30 p.m., EV1 221.