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Wednesday, August 6, 2003

  • First, deal with the enrolment bulge
  • Extra funds for 'quality assurance'
  • Robotics team places fourth
  • And a few other notes
Chris Redmond

Hiroshima Day

  • UW bloggers' ring has 32 participants
  • Barbara Smucker, author and former Renison librarian, is mourned
  • Formatting a work report with LaTeX
  • Letting go as kids hit college (Star)
  • Ontario productivity: education investment could help (Star)
  • British government 'stands by' its white paper | Documents
  • White papers on the Ohio university system
  • Joint programs offered among Québec universities
  • New US rules for foreign students go into effect
  • College-lists.com
  • Majority opinion in US Supreme Court ruling on Michigan law school
  • Majority opinion in Michigan undergraduate case
  • First, deal with the enrolment bulge

    It will take more than a million dollars in special, temporary allocations for UW to deal with unexpected bulges in first-year enrolment this fall, says provost Amit Chakma. The biggest need will be in the faculty of science, where the latest figure is 1,014 preregistered first-year students in September, compared to a "target" of 775.

    Some of the funding will also be directed to applied health sciences, which is over its target almost as dramatically (521 preregistered students, compared to a target of 432), and to mathematics, which does a lot of teaching for science students, Chakma said.

    University-wide, the first-year class is within 1 per cent of what it should be, with 5,193 preregistered students against a target of 5,142 first-year students. But wide faculty-to-faculty variations have officials concerned.

    A memo from Peter Burroughs, the director of admissions, says the figures are changing daily, especially as 276 students have "confirmed" that they're coming to UW but haven't yet preregistered. The admissions office is getting in touch with them day by day, he says.

    He reports that as of July 31 three of the six faculties are over target -- science, AHS, and environmental studies (with 432 preregistrations against a target of 402). The other three faculties are below target: arts (1,149 with a target of 1,307); engineering (914, with a target of 979); and math (1,054, with a target of 1,140). Software engineering is just above its target of 102, with 105 preregistrations, and independent studies has 4 preregistrations and a target of 5.

    Chakma said yesterday that he's had estimates from the deans, especially the dean of science, about what it will cost to hire sessional lecturers, equip new labs and otherwise look after those extra students. He said those needs will be the first claim on the $4.7 million in "Quality Assurance" funding that the Ontario government is offering UW in the current year.

    The provost noted that faculties such as arts, which were "asked to hold the line" on enrolment this year, won't lose any of their funding as a result of falling short of the target. The result will be slightly lower student-faculty ratios in arts, which is a possible measure of improved quality in undergraduate teaching there.

    Extra funds for 'quality assurance'

    It won't be hard to spend the $4.7 million that the province has allocated to Waterloo from its "quality assurance fund", Chakma said yesterday. For that matter, he said, if $100 million suddenly landed on his desk, it wouldn't be hard to find good ways of spending it. "We have a whole spectrum of needs," the provost said.

    So the current grant is welcome, even though -- as costs keep rising -- it may do no more than help UW keep pace with what's needed.

    The funding that's currently on the table was announced last spring but has only now been divided up among the province's universities. The total is $75 million, and UW's share could rise to as much as $5.5 million depending on final enrolment counts. The government has promised to increase the grant each year through 2006-07, when most of this year's "double cohort" students will finish their university education.

    Universities have been told to submit an "institutional quality plan" this month, showing how the funding will be used for hiring new faculty, staff and teaching assistants, buying library materials and equipment, improving student services, developing new programs, and so on.

    Chakma said there are many such needs that weren't included in this year's UW budget, because operating funds were limited and because officials knew that the "quality assurance" money would be coming along.

    He said he wants to avoid committing the new funds to ongoing expenses, such as permanent faculty and staff, since there's no guarantee that the money will be available forever. But it's perfect to cover short-term and one-time costs -- buying extra materials for the library, for instance, and hiring lecturers to help deal with the enrolment bulge.

    Robotics team places fourth

    Final results are in: the Waterloo Aerial Robotics Group came fourth in this year's International Aerial Robotics Competition, held at Fort Benning, Georgia.

    A six-member team from WARG went to Georgia to compete -- "demonstrating partial autonomous flight with its fixed wing aircraft", says Brent Tweddle, head of public relations for the team. He writes: "WARG is extremely proud of the achieved results, since the technology was developed in an extremely short time frame and with more than their fair share of technical problems.

    "The team only began development three months prior to the competition, when we received our new aircraft from the manufacturer. Two weeks before the competition, one of our custom hardware boards needed to be shipped to California for repair. The onboard computer system was finished only 24 hours before WARG was scheduled to leave for Georgia; as a result, some of the testing was done in the van on the way down as the plane was driven around corners and up hills.

    [Red, white and blue aircraft]

    WARG crew members in front of the Urban Operations Facility at Fort Benning: Nimalan Mahendran, Adam Philip, Jason Gillham, Brent Tweddle, Steve Buchanan

    "Almost miraculously, sometime around 5 a.m. on the morning of the competition, the autopilot system was finalized and showed promising results during tests done in the parking lot. At the competition, WARG switched on its autopilot system for the first time. WARG used its first attempts to tune the control system. This process thrilled the judges, crowds and media, as WARG's aircraft banked hard and descended rapidly right in front of the audience. With only one attempt left to complete the mission of flying the 3 km around a course of GPS waypoints, WARG made an executive decision to ground the aircraft due to safety concerns. Since the airplane travels at a cruising airspeed of 100 kph, a crash would be exceptionally dangerous."

    Tweddle notes that WARG caught the attention of a network television crew several months ago: "The Discovery Channel sent a crew to Waterloo in early July to film preparations. During the competition, WARG's charisma caught even more media attention. During all of WARG's official attempts, five different television crews stationed themselves outside of WARG's tent. WARG will be featured in numerous print and television media including two Discovery Channel shows and a US Army news program."

    He goes on: "WARG is looking to recruit a large group of new members this September. We encourage students from all faculties to come out to our meetings and get involved.

    "WARG also plans to focus on public relations and sponsorship. As a volunteer group funded only through donations, WARG is feeling the effects of the poor economy and must compete on a much lower budget than its American competitors." Anybody interested in sponsorship or other involvement can get in touch with Tweddle at pr@warg.uwaterloo.ca.

    And a few other notes

    Spring term exams continue, with only minor drama (a fire alarm in the Math and Computer building while the first round of exams was being written on Friday). And over the weekend I had a note to tell me that -- contrary to what I'd said on Friday -- students in one course did have an exam, or at least the option of taking an exam, on Monday, which was the Civic Holiday. In a fit of flying fingers, I seem to have deleted that e-mail without a trace, so I'm not able to provide any details.

    A note from Needles Hall announces that "to meet critical deadlines", the student awards office will be closed today, reopening at the usual hour (10 a.m.) tomorrow. "We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause."

    And from the teaching resource office: "It's that time of term again -- time to advertise the Distinguished Teacher Awards and the Distinguished Teaching by a Registered Student Award." Nominations are due each February, but the end of the term is a good time for students to make note of outstanding teachers they've just experienced, and perhaps set the paperwork in motion.

    And from the user services department in the library: "Library books that were signed out by faculty, graduate students, and staff before the beginning of August are due on September 10. Starting August 5, these can be renewed for another term, to January 7, 2004." So it's now time to return the books or renew them, which can be done on-line -- the tab in the Trellis library system to go to is "your library account". On-line help for renewing is available. And a reminder: "Patrons should not try to renew more than 50 books at a time."

    Ron Eydt Village will provide a home, over the next ten days, for some 500 athletes and other participants in the Legion national track and field championships. A web site explains: "The Royal Canadian Legion runs Canada's only National Track and Field Championships and training camp for 12-17 year olds in Canada. This nationally sanctioned (Athletics Canada) event will be held in Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario, in 2003 between August 7 and 14. Approximately 350 athletes from all provinces will participate and compete in the training clinics and the competition. Many Canadian track and field stars who have participated have gone on to world and Olympic glory. Approximately 80% of Canada's national track and field team have participated in this Legion program. Additionally, one third of Canada's track and field athletes who went to the Los Angeles Olympic Games took part in Legion camps and competitions and all the medal winners had been through the experience." So it's top-rank competition all this week, at Kitchener's Centennial Stadium.

    And at a higher level, the Pan-American Games are under way in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. It's an Olympic-level event, which adds lustre to the presence on the Canadian team of a Warrior swimmer, Matt Mains. Swimming events will start next Monday.


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