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Friday, February 21, 2003

  • Employers positive about co-op
  • 'Visualization' centre gets rolling
  • And a little of this and that
Chris Redmond

International Mother Language Day

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Solar panels something like this one might appear on a campus building soon. The student-led Solar Technology Education Project has raised $18,000 towards its $25,000 budget for buying and installing an array of photovoltaic panels, says director Jeff DeLoyde. "This will be a 2-kilowatt array, will produce electricity equivalent to two-thirds of that used by an energy-efficient home, and will abate more than 1,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year," he says. STEP participants are meeting with the plant operations department to discuss where on campus to put the demonstration unit, DeLoyde added.

Employers positive about co-op

"Overall, employers are satisfied," says the report of a survey done last year by UW's co-operative education and career services department. The employer survey -- done by Metroline Research Group using a 46-item questionnaire and nine in-depth interviews -- complements a survey of co-op students done last year.

The 247 employer representatives who answered the survey in the spring of 2002 gave the department an average rating of 7.73 out of 10, with one-third of the total giving "excellent" (9 or 10) scores. "Companies that hire 4 or more students," says the survey report, "were the most likely to rate the services as Excellent."

The companies ranged from large (31 per cent of them had more than 500 employees) to very small (27 per cent had fewer than 25 employees). Roughly equal groups of them hire one co-op student a year, two or three students a year, and four or more.

"A significant percentage of employers hiring Waterloo students also hire from other institutions," says the report. "In companies of 100 or more employers, three-quarters hire from other institutions."

The biggest strength of the Waterloo co-op program? "Provides good students," 45 per cent of employers said. "Good customer service," said 30 per cent. "Professional and organized," said 29 per cent. "System works well, easy to use," said 28 per cent.

So what needs improvement? "Nothing, don't know," 27 per cent. "Speed up the ranking process," said 17 per cent. "Better interviewing facilities," 15 per cent -- that was when the co-op department was still crowded into Needles Hall. "More online services and communications," 14 per cent of employers said.

"There exists some issues when dealing with on-campus staff," the report's summary notes. "Many employers are confused about who to call for various questions, find it hard to reach a 'live' person', or find they need to call more than one person. There is some suggestion of a single point of contact for all issues/concerns/questions."

On other matters: "While the system scores at an acceptable level (73%), employers have some concerns about the amount of time available for job postings and organizing resumes and interviews.

"While they express understanding with the need to standardize everything in the department due to the complexities involved, employers cite difficulties in including the process in their corporate environment. . . .

"Just over half of the respondents consider the ideal length of a co-op term to be 4 months. Another 38% feel the ideal length would be 8 months."

'Visualization' centre gets rolling

An open house next month will introduce the campus to a new research centre that has already received millions of dollars in federal and provincial funding: the Integrated Centre for Visualization, Design and Manufacturing.

The ICVDM involves a diverse group of researchers -- architects, town planners, mechanical engineers, and computer scientists -- linked by a common interest in computer-aided design, and working on various aspects of it, from creating cities and buildings to controlling metalworking machinery.

Director of the centre is architecture professor Thomas Seebohm who is also a specialist in using computers for architectural design. Other members include Sanjeev Bedi, a milling specialist from mechanical engineering; Brent Hall, environmental studies, who specializes in map analysis and design; Michael McCool, computer science, whose area is real-time computer graphics; Steve Mann, also from computer science, who studies shape modeling; Michael Worswick, from mechanical engineering, who studies sheet metal forming; and Phillip Beesley of architecture. There's also participation from Toronto, Laval and other universities.

The Centre has received support to the tune of $5.9 million from the federal Canada Foundation for Innovation, from the provincial Ontario Innovation Trust, and from industry. Much of the money has gone to purchase equipment, which includes a parallel SGI computer and stereo displays from Fakespace in an Immersive Design Theatre, clusters of PCs in computer science, an identical cluster in architecture, remote computers, and manufacturing, rapid prototyping, and measurement systems.

ICVDM research can use the Immersive Design Theatre to simulate a three-dimensional world. At the moment it is used for large-scale immersive visualization, as required in urban planning and interior visualization, and for running simulations of illumination and manufacturing processes. An Onyx graphics computer, the stereo display, and 3D position and orientation trackers can simulate a three-dimensional world, entered by an individual wearing head-tracked stereo glasses.

Elsewhere under the umbrella of the new centre, Bedi in mechanical engineering wants to use computer graphics for research in computer-aided design and manufacturing, and this includes the use of three-dimensional digital photography and milling. His laboratories include a Minolta digital camera that can build up a true three-dimensional model of the objects it takes pictures of. The digital information can be used to "print" a three-dimensional duplicate of the object using the ICVDM's rapid prototyping systems, but can also be converted into operating instructions for a milling machine that can cut a bar of metal, three-dimensionally, to produce a real object such as a car part.

Bedi's lab includes a number of milling machines including a state of the art Ingersoll octahedral hexapod, one of the first such machines in the world.

As for McCool in computer science, his job is to figure out how to generate pictures that illustrate architectural or planning concepts -- or in the case of a manufacturing process, simulate and visualize them. He says he is already working with some "very powerful" graphics accelerators from ATI and NVIDIA, and the goal is to make them more powerful still. To attack this problem, McCool is exploring stream processor architectures.

Details of the open house for the new research centre, set for March 14, are likely to be announced shortly.

Contest aimed at predicting spring

It's still winter, despite the balmy sunshine of the past couple of days. The UW weather station has been reporting the cold and the heat for five years now, and has announced its annual guess-the-springtime contest just in time for its fifth birthday on February 28.

The idea again this year: predict the date and time the temperature will go above 20 degrees Celsius for the first time in the year. (Last year: April 11, 4:45 p.m.)

Says station coordinator Frank Seglenieks: "As we all know, it has been one cold, cold winter -- what does that mean for the spring? Snow until May perhaps? or maybe a quick turnaround and we will be wearing shorts by mid-March?"

There are three prizes: The Weather Wizard's Cloud Book, The Basic Essentials of Weather Forecasting, and a children's weather station kit. Contest deadline is Tuesday, February 25, at 4 p.m. Details of the contest are on the station's web site.

And a little of this and that

The senate long-range planning committee has been somewhat underemployed in recent years, an era in which short-range events move so fast that long-range planning has been near impossible. The committee will meet today, however, to discuss "how to proceed" as well as reviewing the latest progress report on the 1997 "Fifth Decade" plan, and also UW's developing "innovation strategy" document. The meeting starts at 1:30 p.m. in Needles Hall room 3004.

With the current squeeze on co-op jobs, there are bound to be some hundreds of students not yet employed for the spring term when the job match process takes place next week. So jobs are being posted again, for the "continuous phase" placement process. The first posting goes up today: "Co-op students who did not receive initial phase interviews, were not ranked, or believe they will not be matched should review this posting and begin applying once again."

The scheduled meeting of the pension and benefits committee this morning has been cancelled. . . . A Graduate Student Association group heads for Kitchener's Granite Club for curling tonight, then will head back to the Grad House, where the Pandemonium Blues Band plays starting at 9 p.m. . . . UW's Midnight Sun solar car is on display at the Canadian International Autoshow in Toronto this weekend (see it on the 600 level of the South building of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre). . . .

The staff association nominating committee sends a reminder that applications for staff positions on several committees are due by today: the dean of environmental studies nominating committee, the staff grievance committee, the advisory committee on traffic and parking, the staff training and development committee, the pension and benefits committee, the finance review committee. Last-minute information is available from the nominating committee chair, Anne Jenson, ext. 3893.

The faculty of arts has announced a series of program information sessions aimed at students who are applying to enter arts at UW this all (and their parents). Scheduled sessions start with one tomorrow (Saturday) at 10 a.m. in Arts Lecture Hall room 116. Future events: in Toronto on Tuesday night, back at UW on Wednesday night, in London on Thursday, back at UW on March 19, and in Ottawa on Saturday, March 22.

Utility shutdowns this weekend, and I'll try to get this right: No hot water in the Physical Activities Complex from 7;30 to 10:00 this morning (sympathies to anybody who's trying to shower). No heating in Environmental Studies I on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. No electrical power in Engineering II and III on Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. And a first-floor corridor in the Doug Wright Engineering building -- room 1527B, across from the Engineering II office wing -- will be closed for construction starting Monday for about two weeks.

The staff-and-friends Hagey Bonspiel is taking place tomorrow at the Ayr Curling Club. . . . Something called "Let's Dance" has rehearsals tomorrow, and a performance at 1:30 Sunday afternoon, in the Humanities Theatre. . . . Everyone is invited to see emergency response teams from across Canada deal with a simulated emergency on Sunday afternoon (3 to 6 p.m.) at Federation Hall. . . .

Quest, the online student information system, will be shut down for upgrades February 21-24, the registrar's office notes. "Please note: February 21 is the last day for 50% tuition refund. If you need to drop a class within the 50% tuition refund period, we encourage you to do so online using Quest by February 20. If you need to drop a class on February 21, you have one of two options, you can visit the Quest Support Desk in Needles Hall on February 21 or you can forward an email to quest@uwaterloo.ca on February 21. Winq and Appstat will be available during this shutdown period but they will not be updated." Faculty and staff members will find they can't run 'myQuest' and 'Peoplesoft SA' over the weekend.

Sports this weekend: The women's hockey team hosts Windsor tonight at 7:30 at the Columbia Icefield, then heads for Western for a game tomorrow afternoon. Tomorrow at 2 p.m., the men's basketball team hosts Western in the PAC main gym. Away from campus, Warrior swimmers are heading for the national championships at the University of Victoria.

And Monday, everybody's back to class as the "reading period" ends.


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