[University of Waterloo]


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Wednesday, February 8, 2006

  • Toboggan glides into third place
  • Board meets in the wellness centre
  • Valentine's is six days away
Chris Redmond

Inventor's 100th birthday

[Snowmobile suits and waves]

Concrete tobogganers with the vehicle they took to Montréal.

Toboggan glides into third place

Final-year civil engineering students carried the Waterloo banner to Montréal earlier this week to take part in the 32nd annual Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race. The team came home with third place overall, and an award for best braking system, one of the specialized honours given in the annual competition. Michael Kuebler, captain of the UW team, tells more:

"GNCTR is a student-organized event involving universities from across Canada. The objective of the race is to design and construct a fast and safe toboggan with a running surface only made out of concrete. The competition challenges its participants to be creative, to develop innovative designs and construction techniques, and to use learned skills in developing the toboggans.


Mike Lazaridis, chancellor of UW (and founder of Research In Motion), was named an Officer of the Order of Canada this week. The appointment is effective November 17, 2005, the office of the Governor General said. An installation ceremony will be held "at a later date".

A total of 56 people were named to the Order or promoted within it. Among the new Members of the Order: Jon Dellandrea, former vice-president (development) at UW, now at the University of Oxford; Lorna Marsden, former president of Wilfrid Laurier University, now at York University.

"Each team is evaluated on their report, technical presentation, concrete mix design, reinforcement and slab design, aesthetics, maximum speed, deceleration and braking, steering, and team spirit. This year a slalom course has been added to the competition to challenge the participants to develop steering systems.

"There are a total of three runs down the hill. The first two runs are straight down the hill and determine the speed and braking performance of the toboggan. The final run is a curved course testing the toboggan's steering system.

"The class of 2006 decided to produce a unique design for this year's competition. Using self-consolidating concrete and a mould pouring technique, the team developed a curved slab for the toboggan. The curve of the slab varies throughout the section and is roughly in a W shape. This ground-breaking slab design intended to allow the toboggan to be rolled for steering and assist with varying snow surfaces. The complexities of the slab required a 3D model of the design and resulted in the innovative construction method of casting the slab in a mould which at the thinnest is 20mm. The slab uses external carbon fibre reinforcement in replacement of typical steel reinforcement. The mould had to be constructed using a CNC machine and consists of three interlocking parts.

"This radical design and construction process have caught national media attention, as the Waterloo team and the race are being showcased by the 'Daily Planet'. The program will be aired Thursday at 7 p.m. on the Discovery Channel."

On this week's list from the human resources department:

  • Lab technician, earth sciences, USG 5
  • Office assistant, engineering machine shop, USG 4
  • International programs coordinator, office of research, USG 7
  • Production manager, graphics, USG 10
  • Project coordinator, graphics, USG 6
  • Project manager, International Tobacco Control, psychology, USG 10

    Longer descriptions are available on the HR web site.

  • Board meets in the wellness centre

    From residence heating costs to examples of academic departments that are the best of their kind in the world, the UW board of governors ranged over the affairs of the university for more than three hours yesterday, while half its members had the unusual experience of watching their reflections in a mirrored wall.

    The board held its quarterly meeting not in the usual Needles Hall "board and senate chamber", but in the Manulife Wellness Centre at the western tip of Matthews Hall, a health and fitness facility so new the rubbery smell of the flooring was still in the air. Board members joked about the exercise equipment that had been pushed to one side so conference tables and a big PowerPoint screen could be put in place for the day.

    The board is UW's top governing body, with 36 members drawn partly from inside the university (faculty, students and staff) and partly from outside (government appointees, local mayors, and "community-at-large" members representing business and other sectors). Among the outside members attending yesterday's meeting was John Manley, former deputy prime minister of Canada.

    This board meeting, like others, was largely taken up by a series of reports from president David Johnston (who's automatically a board member), provost Amit Chakma (who's not on the board but, by custom, has a seat at the table) and other administrators (who occupied guest seating at the edges of the room, along with two or three interested visitors, and me). Board members listen, ask questions, comment, and sometimes are asked to vote on a major decision.

    The matter of utility costs in the residences came up as the board gave approval to a 4 per cent increase (effective September 1) in fees in all the residences, which range from double rooms in Ron Eydt Village to the "apartment-style" townhouses in Columbia Lake Village North. Expressing some concern about the across-the-board increase, graduate student representative Simon Guthrie said residents in CLV aren't very happy with how things work there, in particular with some tenants who allegedly push the thermostat up to sub-tropical levels and thus raise the costs that have to be paid by other residents even if they're more moderate with the heat.

    There are also rumours, Guthrie said, that some townhouse tenants are renting out space in their basements, crowding the house with more people than it was meant to hold. Bud Walker, UW's director of business operations, said he is concerned about that kind of abuse and has been consulting lawyers about how UW might deal with it under the Tenant Protection Act.

    Earlier in the afternoon, Johnston, whose star turn at every board meeting is the "environmental scan" of things happening nationally and provincially that affect UW, gave a rundown on the cabinet, appointed Monday, of new prime minister Stephen Harper. "Federal-provincial cooperation will be a very significant theme of this government," he said, noting that both levels of government have influence over the kind of funding that eventually comes to universities.

    Just before the meeting went into closed session around 5:45 (to discuss the "annual review of the president", as well as confidential property dealings) there was a brief report announcing that UW has bought a $4.6 million piece of land -- the "Ontario Seed Co. Ltd. property" -- on Victoria Street in downtown Kitchener, adjacent to the land that's already designated for the "health sciences campus". The report indicated that the board had given approval for that purchase last fall, presumably in the confidential session at the October meeting.

    As for academic programs that are arguably the best of their kind in the world, the topic came up because Chakma gave a briefing about the draft Sixth Decade plan, which calls for at least a dozen of UW's programs to be the best of their kind in the world within the next ten years, while others will rank in the top ten. He said a small number of programs are in the top spot already, and cited combinatorics and optimization, a specialized field in mathematics, as one example. Johnston promptly added another instance: actuarial science.

    I'll say more over the next couple of days about the business of yesterday's board meeting.

    Valentine's is six days away

    The chocolate hits the campus today, as "treat-a-grams" sold as a Keystone Campaign fund-raiser in late January are about to be delivered. It was another successful year for the program, reports Shelley Rudd of UW's development office, who says 1,180 of the cookies-on-a-stick were sold and will be delivered today, just in time for Valentine's. She reports: "This year, senders were also asked to include a $20 donation to the Keystone Campaign, and 43 donations were made. Thirteen of those donations came from new donors who will count toward the campaign's goal of 2,007 donors by 2007. Proceeds from the treat-a-grams will be designated to undergraduate and graduate scholarships and will qualify for the University's matching gift opportunities. Treat-a-grams were originally the idea of the Keystone Campaign Communications Working Group, but members from all four Keystone Campaign Working Groups helped out with order taking, assembly, and delivery of the cookies."

    Federation of Students candidates' forum 11:30, Carl Pollock Hall foyer.

    'Critical Thinking' teaching workshop, today or February 16, 12 noon, details and registration online.

    Café-rencontre du départment d'études françaises: Jean-Michel Maulpoix, Université de Paris X, "Parlons de poésie," 14h30, Tatham Centre salle 2218.

    Career workshop: "Interview Skills: Selling Your Skills" 3:30, Tatham Centre room 2218, registration online.

    Careers in math and computer science: panel of math graduates speaking about their careers, 4:30, Davis Centre room 1302, sponsored by Women in Mathematics Committee.

    Mathematics exchange programs information session 4:30, Math and Computer room 5158. Destinations include Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Singapore and others.

    Warrior basketball vs. McMaster, women 6 p.m., men 8 p.m., Physical Activities Complex main gym, webcast on CKMS.

    New Directions festival of short plays performances tonight through Friday 7:00, Saturday 2:00 and 7:00, Studio 180, Humanities building, tickets 888-4908.

    Eating Disorders Awareness Week information booth in Student Life Centre today and tomorrow; video presentation on "Women, the Media, Body Esteem and Eating Disorders" Thursday 12:30, multipurpose room, SLC.

    Alumni in Seattle: "Meet the Deans" evening Thursday 6 to 8 p.m., Bellevue Arts Museum.

    The "PDEng" program, which manages a series of online courses in professional skills that engineering students take during their co-op work terms, was featured a few days ago in the engineering faculty's electronic newsletter, Eng-e-News. It notes that the PDEng staff has grown from nine last year to 23 this year, with the inevitable result: they're short of space. As of this week, PDEng has temporarily taken over the faculty and staff lounge on the fourth floor of Engineering II, while their office space in Carl Pollock Hall is renovated. "Space is at a premium," Sue Gooding of the dean's office says, apologizing for having to close the lounge temporarily. The newsletter also discusses the maturing of the PDEng program itself: "Students are helping to build a better program through positive recommendations for improvement," says the director, Carolyn MacGregor of systems design engineering.

    With the imminent end to mandatory retirement in Ontario (it isn't just a social upheaval, it's the law), UW can expect some staff and faculty members to work past age 65 -- and the implications are still being assessed. One place where the detail work is happening is in the pension and benefits committee, which will hold another special meeting today (noon, Needles Hall room 3004) to discuss how the pension fund and the benefits program will be affected and what provisions need to be put in place. Some issues are simple: since retired employees have the same "extended health" benefits as current faculty and staff, such as prescription drug coverage, no change will be needed. Others are complex: do employees over age 65 continue to pay pension premiums at the same rate? How does long-term disability work for people who are already past "normal" retirement? The discussions continue.

    A new exhibition opened yesterday in UW's original art gallery, the lobby surrounding the Theatre of the Arts in the Modern Languages building. Titled "Eve: The Marshlands of Iraq", the show consists of photographs of that environmentally and politically sensitive region, its landscape, wildlife and people. Barry Warner of UW's environment and resource studies department, who has been deeply involved in Canadian efforts to help rehabilitate the marshes, organized the exhibition, which can be seen by visitors from 10 to 2 on Tuesday and Thursday, 10 to 1 on Wednesdays, as well as whenever the theatre is open. Meanwhile, in what's now the main UW gallery, in East Campus Hall, the student-curated show "Two Degrees of Separation" will have its final day tomorrow.

    A pastoral care workshop on "working with couples and families" will be offered tomorrow by the Renison College Institute of Ministry. . . . Tuesday is the deadline for applications to take part in this year's Canadian Computing Competition for high school students, to be held February 28. . . . Radio station CKMS will have its booth in the Student Life Centre again today to record messages for broadcast on Valentine's Day. . . .

    The campus recreation program is offering "You @ Blue", a day trip to Blue Mountain ski area, this Friday (tickets $45 in the Physical Activities Complex). . . . The Waterloo Public Interest Research Group will sponsor a conference, "Working for Human Rights", on Friday night ("the Activist Café") and Saturday. . . . TVOntario is launching a second "Best Lecturer Competition" and invites nominations by February 20. . . .


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