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Wednesday, April 7, 2004

  • Engineering, art students collaborate
  • Co-op fees up; budget approved
  • Tell me what's a-happening
Chris Redmond

IBM mainframe turns 40

[Flanking a plastic creation]

An interactive sculpture created by two students -- Jason Yeh (fine arts) and Tristan Doherty (computer engineering) -- is one example of the work produced in the new Technology Art Studio course taught by fine arts professor Bruce Taylor, left, and electrical and computer engineering professor Rob Gorbet, right.

Engineering, art students collaborate -- by Barbara Elve, condensed from today's Gazette

Parking lots, railroad tracks and a cultural chasm separate students in engineering from those in fine arts programs at Waterloo. But this term, engineering students crossed over that divide to collaborate with fine arts students in a groundbreaking course: Fine Arts 392, "Technology Art Studio".

The results -- 11 sculptural works, each created by fine arts and engineering students working in interdisciplinary pairs -- will go on display today in an end-of-term technology art exhibit dubbed "t'art." An opening reception will be held from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in Davis Centre room 1301, with the exhibit continuing through Friday both in Davis and in East Campus Hall room 1207.

Co-taught by electrical and computer engineering professor Rob Gorbet, an award-winning artist, and fine arts professor Bruce Taylor, a sculptor and self-described "neo-Luddite who creates machine-based forms," the course was designed "to combine art and engineering principles through hands-on experience, develop intuitive thinking and aesthetics skills, and foster cross-disciplinary dialogue through cooperative team projects."

Topics ranged from basic electronics, sensors and circuit prototyping methods to materials and meaning, creativity and design, and sculpture basics. In addition to studio work, the course included practical demonstrations, slide lectures, field trips, critical discussions and guest lecturers.

Gorbet and Taylor admit they found the issue of merging the two cultures a challenge. "There wasn't a lot of conflict over what we would teach and how," offered Gorbet, "But Rob's always on time and I never was," Taylor laughed.

Cultural differences were apparent before the course even began. To select students for the class they wanted to keep small, Taylor simply approached students he happened to meet between classes in East Campus Hall. Gorbet, on the other hand, chose engineering students on the basis of the letters of intent they were required to submit.

Even seemingly simple things -- like choosing a partner to work with -- became a challenge with two groups of students who "don't share the same vocabulary," said Gorbet. When the class was unable to form working pairs of engineering and fine arts students, the profs first assigned them; after a second attempt, "we finally took them out for drinks," Taylor said. That helped break the ice.

Despite the differences, said Gorbet, "I think everyone can work creatively." That was proven when, after the first individual assignments were completed, the profs had a hard time distinguishing between pieces done by engineers and those by fine arts students.

"I was worried we would see garbage from the engineers," said Gorbet. "In the end, one of the highest marks went to an engineer."

For some engineering students, he said, it was their first experience "doing design work in an open-ended way. . . . And the course has given artists a perspective on what's possible and the language of how to get it done."

Ultimately, says Gorbet, "technology is just another medium. As you get more familiar with the medium, the content gets better."

Although they would make some changes next time, both Gorbet and Taylor look forward to offering the course again. "There's not a university course like this we know of in Canada," said Taylor. "The interesting thing about what we're doing," added Gorbet, "is that at the university, there's so much more collaborative potential. We could go so far beyond the single course."

Co-op fees up; budget approved

Tuition fees are frozen for this year, but co-op fees and some other charges are still going up, following action by UW's board of governors yesterday.

The board gave its okay to a boost in the co-op fee to $420 a term, starting next month. That's up from this year's $400 level. "The $25 capital fee previously approved by the Board of Governors for the Tatham Centre continues," a note in the board agenda added, "so that the fee appearing on the student fee statement is $445."

The student services fee will also increase as of May, going to $110 a term for full-time undergraduates, up from the current rate of $106. (Part-time undergrads will pay $33; full-time graduate students, $85; part-time grads, $25.50.) That fee covers costs that include athletics, career services, the international student office, counseling, the turnkey desk and other services.

Taking a lesser bite out of student wallets is the fee for copyright clearances, which goes up to $1.65 a term for full-time undergrads and $1.10 for graduate students.

The board of governors also approved new tuition fees in three "cost recovery" programs, which aren't covered by the government's fee freeze. Fees in the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology program will go up to $7,333 a term, or $22,000 for the full one-year program, for students who start this fall. That's a 10 per cent boost from current levels. The fee in the Master of Taxation program will go up 3.7 per cent in September, to $2,250 per half-course. And for the Master of Accounting program, the increase is 15 per cent, to $6,210 per term, effective in January 2005.

The board approved "notional" increases in regular tuition fees, to be used as a standard for calculating how much UW is losing as a result of the government-imposed freeze. And, as expected, it approved the 2004-05 operating budget, which includes a 2 per cent reduction in most departments' spending, countered by "strategic" allocations in many parts of the university.

In response to a question, provost Amit Chakma said there are no plans to increase tuition fees for international students this year, "because they're at a very high level."

  • 'Make sure that UW continues to grow in reputation' (Imprint)
  • 'Athletics dumps men's volleyball coach' (Imprint)
  • Grades changed for money at big US university
  • 'Care packages' booming on campuses (Star)
  • Parents in students' lives at U of Calgary
  • New software to detect plagiarism
  • 'Our Fractured Future' at U of Calgary
  • Anglophones in Québec's French universities (Univ Affairs)
    Germanic and Slavic studies lecture, Hanna Mezenka, Vitebsk State University, "Belarusian Onomasticon: Interactions of Slavic Linguistic Cultures", 11 a.m., Modern Languages room 212.

    Service of remembrance and reflection on 10th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, 12 noon, Conrad Grebel University College chapel.

    Tips for a Healthy Back, presented by Employee Assistance Program, 12 noon, Davis Centre room 1302.

    Street-Level Epistemology lectures by Russell Hardin, New York University, wind up today and tomorrow, 1:30, Humanities room 373.

    'The Art of Mathematics', lecture by Robert and Ellen Kaplan for the Perimeter Institute, 7 p.m., Waterloo Collegiate Institute, Hazel Street, all welcome.

    Instrumentation and control user group meets Thursday 10:30, Carl Pollock Hall room 1346.

    Wireless systems brown-bag seminar, Amir Khandani, electrical and computer engineering, Thursday 12 noon, CEIT room 3142.

    Mature students end-of-term lunch, University Club, Thursday noon, reservations ext. 2429.

    Survey research lecture, Mary Thompson, statistics and actuarial science, "Design and Analysis of Longitudinal Surveys", Thursday 3:30, Math and Computer room 5158.

    Tell me what's a-happening

    Several leaders of the Canadian Space Agency -- including president Marc Garneau, Canada's first astronaut -- are on campus today meeting with researchers and administrators about UW's role in the space program. They'll hold an open session at 4 p.m. (CEIT room 1015) aimed mostly at faculty members and graduate students in science: "This is an informal opportunity to discuss how Canadian space science can be strengthened by stronger interaction between university researchers and the CSA."

    "We've had some recent incidents of UW students sending unsolicited mail through campus e-mail," writes Pat Lafranier from the information systems and technology department. She's talking about mass mailings -- "for example, one student was trying to sublet an apartment." The result: a reminder that there's such a thing as UW's Statement on Use of UW Computing and Network Resources. She also points out that UWdir is meant for UW-related purposes only, as mentioned in the UWdir documentation web page: "The information in UWdir is provided for use by those who need to reach specific members of the UW community for UW-related purposes. Use of UWdir for the purposes of solicitation of business, information, contributions, or other response from individuals listed in UWdir by mail, telephone, or other means is forbidden."

    Half a dozen graduate students in the Certificate in University Teaching program are making presentations this morning about their research studies. (The presentations started at 9 a.m. in Math and Computer room 5158.) Speakers and topics: Gordon Adomdza, management sciences, "Adaptive Instructional Design to Accommodate All Learning Types"; Zaileen Alibhai, chemical engineering, "Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in Undergraduate Classrooms"; Alina Cipcigan, French, "Motivating Students in Learning a Second Language"; Daniela Friedman, health studies and gerontology, "The Case of Toxic Prose Syndrome: Teaching Scientific Jargon to University Students"; Kathrine Schaecke, combinatorics and optimization, "Group Work Assignments in Undergraduate Mathematics Courses"; Freia Sebon, Germanic and Slavic, "Task-Based Learning in the Foreign Language Classroom".

    A secret longing lurks in the hearts of Waterloo engineers: the urge to be astride a motorcycle. So, the Waterloo Area Chapter of engineering alumni has announced "Born to Be Mild: A Sensible Introduction to Motorcycling", to be held in the Davis Centre lounge (uh-huh) on the evening of Thursday next week, April 15. "Who should attend?" the WAC web page asks, and it answers: "Midlife newbies, young, old men, women (the fastest growing motorcycle demographic), couples, and anyone who wants to learn more about the sizes, shapes, sound, smells, and tastes of the open road." Experts on training, safety, equipment, law, insurance and "the riding lifestyle" will speak, and "then on to the bikes themselves for the touchy-feely stuff." Reservations are due by tomorrow; the fee is $15, or $20 at the door if there's room -- students free.

    And . . . the registrar's office notes that with winter term exams ending on April 22, the first "unofficial grades" will hit Quest on April 23. Grades become official on May 24, and academic standings will be posted then.


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