Tuesday, September 9, 2008

  • High-tech residence plans open house
  • Slice of life: coffee in the CEIT
  • Bits in the daily data stream
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs
  • bulletin@uwaterloo.ca

High-tech residence plans open house

[Three-storey red brick residence]Seventy students have moved into “the world's first student residence designed to enable budding entrepreneurs to work with like-minded colleagues on mobile communications and digital media” — UW’s VeloCity.

The new venture has meant dramatic changes to the 40-year-old Minota Hagey Residence building (right), at the southwest corner of the main campus. “Plant Ops is working with the contractor to put the finishing touches on the renovations,” says Sean Van Koughnett, who is director of VeloCity as well as head of UW Graphics.

Last-minute efforts, he said, include “millwork, LCD displays installed, furniture moved in, some glass installation — so for the first couple days of class the common areas won't be completely accessible. And as with all construction projects, there will most likely be a few issues to deal with, but hopefully they will be solved by Friday at noon when our open house starts!”

Individual residence rooms haven’t been renovated, but the heart of VeloCity will be three main rooms at the building’s centre that have been rebuilt and refurnished. They include a third-floor conference room with a 52-inch display screen for presentations and the Microsoft Roundtable videoconferencing suite; the second-floor Rogers Wireless Device Lab with two dozen smartphones “from all the major manufacturers, used to test and present mobile applications”; and the main floor Great Hall with a 65-inch LCD screen, gaming, laptop bar, programmable lighting, and “upscale furniture and interior design”.

The building has also gained wi-fi, increased bandwidth and server space, Van Koughnett said, adding: “Although the facility itself is important, providing space to collaborate, meet and present, it's the students and the activity that goes on there that makes VeloCity different.”

The new residence was pitched last winter to top students who want to turn their bright ideas in Web, mobile and digital media applications into successful businesses. The idea was inspired by such successes as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and the BlackBerry, which also started with students. It's been dubbed a "dormcubator", from "dormitory" (the American equivalent of "residence") and "incubator".

Says a UW news release this week: “The students, who are mainly in the co-op program, come from the faculties of arts, engineering, mathematics and science. They will form project teams, each paired with an industry mentor to help them create effective technical and business strategies.

“At the end of the term, students will present the results of their collaborative work at a symposium to be attended by industry partners and potential investors. Under UW's ground-breaking intellectual property policy, the students would own the rights to their inventions.”

It quotes Van Koughnett: "VeloCity allows some of our most enterprising students to collaborate with each other and form vital relationships with industry mentors and investors. We're optimistic that this mix of talent, ideas, technology and expert guidance focused in an intense round-the-clock residence environment will yield some exciting results."

A public open house at VeloCity will be held Friday from noon to 4:30 p.m. A reception and dinner, by invitation, will follow the public event, with a keynote address by Mike Lee, chief strategy officer for Rogers Communications. On Saturday, experienced entrepreneurs will deliver a series of talks designed to inspire and motivate the students.

As the weeks go on, students will have the opportunity to attend conferences, workshops and events presenting industry speakers with experience in business, entrepreneurship and technology.

"Velocity grabbed my attention as a most stimulating environment for creativity and entrepreneurship," says Bo Hong Deng, a third-year student studying pure math and computer science, and a member of UW's ACM Programming Contest “Gold” team in 2007. "I'm very excited about the possibility of making new friends and industry connections while beginning my journey to become a true entrepreneur."

To be accepted into VeloCity, students were interviewed and asked in-depth questions about their technical and entrepreneurial savvy.

Along with Rogers, supporters include Apple Canada, Microsoft Canada, Research In Motion, Google, Communitech, the Infusion Angels Innovation Centre, and the Accelerator Centre in the north campus research and technology park.

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Slice of life: coffee in the CEIT

On the first day of fall term classes — yesterday — I walked over to the CEIT Café for some coffee. The café is on the second floor of the Centre for Environmental and Information Technology, that improbable building that towers over the centre of campus and houses two pretty much unrelated departments, electrical and computer engineering on some floors, earth and environmental sciences on others.

So I had my morning pick-me-up (“white chocolate chip” coffee, a flavour that my usual vendor in Needles Hall doesn’t stock) among dinosaur skulls and rock samples. Well, not quite; neither is actually visible from the little tables in the café, but they’re generously scattered through the lobby that I had walked through to get to the refreshments, officially the March Networks Exhibit Atrium. I could, if I’d chosen to do so, have sat on a bench made from a cross-section of a giant tree-trunk. It doesn’t seem to have specific identification, and I was trying to remember whether wood was saved for such a purpose from one of the big trees that had to be felled on campus several years ago.

Business at the café was intermittent, mostly consisting of people who looked like graduate students picking up coffee in paper cups and taking it away, presumably back to their labs. A couple of them lingered for a moment and got into conversation with the staff member behind the counter about the appropriate age for moving out of one’s parents’ home and starting independent life. It depends on whether you live near a university, one voice said, but somebody else seemed to be arguing that you should get out of the house at age 19 and don’t plan to come back.

There didn’t seem to be much traffic at the Campus Copy graphics outlet just across the atrium, and I saw nobody who looked like a bewildered first-year student. There might have been some on the lower floor of the building, which does open onto some lecture halls. Earlier in the morning, across campus, I’d encountered a very young newcomer who asked the way to the Arts Lecture Hall. Since we were standing outside it at the time, I had no difficulty giving her the directions she needed. As we went on our respective paths, we both narrowly avoided getting creamed by a high-speed bicycle.

Back at the café, I realized that from my little table I had a good view of a square window across the lobby and one floor up. I could see a spider plant on somebody’s windowsill, and the back of somebody’s head as he hunched over, I guess, a keyboard. Then a moment of action! He leaned back, stretched, then returned to his work, now bending so close that he was invisible for a couple of minutes.

The coffee business was picking up —there was actually a short lineup. Four men sat at a table near me with cardboard cups and muffins, chatting about the impending federal election and about the newest Tim Hortons outlet in Kitchener. A faculty member (he must have been a faculty member, since he was wearing a blue blazer) paid for a cup of soup-of-the-day and took it away.

I finished my coffee and got up, discovering, as I looked down toward the first floor, that plant operations had an area marked off with yellow caution tape and was about to send a staff member skyward in a cherry-picker. Within moments he was ascending right across from where I had been sitting, heading for a bank of overhead lamps that had some bulbs burned out. Tools clanked and the machine whined as it moved up and down.

The sun was shining as I walked back to Needles Hall, and there was a steady procession of students heading to their 10:30 classes. One was wearing a suit (an early job interview?), one was on crutches (a sprained ankle during orientation exuberance?), and one was clutching a yellow campus map, consulting it anxiously every few steps. Definitely the first day of classes, I mused. Better get back to the office.

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Bits in the daily data stream

Friday's Daily Bulletin drew attention to the UW Opinion web site, which welcomes comments on university-related issues from faculty, students and staff members, though the volume of discussion has been, let's say, exiguous since it was launched last year. As I had hoped, Friday's article produced a torrent of new material, if three brief comments can be called a torrent. More, many more, would be welcome, and perhaps some of what was written in the wake of the Daily Bulletin article — touching on drop-and-add dates, the death of the Gazette newspaper, and the opinion site itself — will stimulate other writers.

Harvest season is at hand, and "the UW Farm Market will be bringing the bounty of Waterloo County's harvest to campus," writes Heather Kelly of food services, which has operated the markets with volunteer help over the past couple of years. "Look for us in the Student Life Centre, lower level," she writes, "from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Thursday, September 11, September 18, September 25 and Wednesday, October 1 and October 8. We look forward to having a wide variety of locally grown produce: corn, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, beans, pears, apples, pumpkins, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, beautiful flowers, fresh baked goodies and local preserves." She adds: "As always, we rely on our volunteers to keep this market up and running." An information meeting for potential volunteers will be held today at 2:00 in Brubakers cafeteria in the SLC.

The Waterloo-based Centre for International Governance Innovation will host a wine and cheese reception tonight to launch a new book. Global Governance and Diplomacy: Worlds Apart? is said to be the first collection of studies to explore in depth the relationships between the practice of diplomacy and the emerging field of global governance. CIGI associate director Andrew F. Cooper, also a faculty member in UW's political science department, edited it along with Brian Hocking of Loughborough University, UK, and William Maley of the Australian National University. “This book argues," says Cooper, "that the agendas of diplomacy and global governance do not — and should not — operate in separate spheres, but rather serve to inform one another. The traditionally closed forms of diplomacy are being challenged by the logic of global governance with its emphasis on flexibility and the use of policy networks." The book reflects the academic perspectives of contributors from Canada, the United States and Europe, and is published by Palgrave Macmillan in collaboration with CIGI. Today's reception starts at 4:00 at 57 Erb Street West.

Ladislav Landa, a former member of UW's staff, died September 1, the human resources department reports. Landa was a custodial foreman in plant operations, who worked for UW from December 1970 to his retirement in September 1982.


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Link of the day

Chrysanthemum Day

When and where

Class enrolment appointments for winter 2009 undergraduate courses will be listed in Quest as of today.

Imaginus poster sale through Thursday 9:00 to 8:00, Friday 9:00 to 5:00, Student Life Centre.

Scholarship information sessions open to students, faculty and staff: arts, today 9:30, Rod Coutts Hall room 103; mathematics, today 12:00, Davis Centre room 1302; engineering, today 2:30, RCH 211; environment, Wednesday 12:00, ENV courtyard; AHS, Thursday 3:00, Lyle Hallman Institute room 1621.

Athletics open house, with club and team demonstrations and prizes, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Physical Activities Complex large gym. Campus recreation intramurals registration continues through Friday, instructional registration September 15-18. Details.

Warrior women’s volleyball team meeting and tryouts 5:00, Physical Activities Complex room 2021.

Warrior badminton (men and women) team meeting and tryouts 6:00, Physical Activities Complex room 2021.

Warrior baseball vs. McMaster, 7 p.m., Jack Couch Park, Kitchener.

Library books borrowed on term loan before August 18 are due Wednesday — return or renew.

United Way 2008 kickoff Wednesday: Lunch, 11:45 a.m.; program, 12:30 to 1:00 p.m., Accelerator Centre, 295 Hagey Boulevard, RSVP by September 3 to events@uwaykw.org or 519-888-6100, ext. 247. Details.

Academic integrity sessions for international students about academic expectations at UW: September 10 at 12:30, September 17 at 10:30, or September 24 at 3:30, Needles Hall room 1101.

World Suicide Prevention Day events co-sponsored by UW and Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council, Wednesday: Tom Ruttan, counselling services, briefing on QPR intervention technique, 2:30 p.m., Modern Languages room 246; annual general meeting of WRSPC, 4:00, “service to remember and butterfly release” 5:30, outside ML building; Richard Ennis, psychology, “Esteem as a Protection Against Suicide” 7:00, Theatre of the Arts.

Canadian Institutes of Health Research information session on graduate scholarships Wednesday 2:30 to 5:00, Doug Wright Engineering room 3516.

Warrior sports on Wednesday: men’s tennis vs. UOIT, 2:00, Waterloo Tennis Club; women’s rugby vs. Guelph, 5:00, Columbia Field; women’s tennis vs. UOIT, 5:00, Tennis Club.

Dinner at Angel's Diner open to UW employees and retirees organized by the UW Recreation Committee, 370 Highland Road, Kitchener, Wednesday 5 p.m.

Laughter Yoga open to all UW employees through the UW Recreation Committee, Wednesday 6 to 6:45 p.m., Waterloo Park at Albert Street. Cancelled in the event of rain or lightning. To register, email uwrc@admmail.

War Resisters Support Campaign and Waterloo Public Interest Research Group present “Breaking Ranks”, documentary about American soldiers who oppose the war in Iraq, Wednesday 7 p.m., Math and Computer room 4059.

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council information session on scholarships and fellowships Thursday 9:30 to 11:30, Davis Centre room 1302.

Bruce Uttley, information systems and technology, retirement party marking 38 years at UW, Thursday 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., South Campus Hall Laurel Room. RSVP to pjpenk@uwaterloo.ca.

Warriors Band (student-run pep band) practises Thursdays 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Physical Activities Complex room 2012. All welcome, no auditions, instruments provided.

Waterloo Public Interest Research Group “introduction to WPIRG: what WPIRG is and how you can get involved,” Thursday 5:30 p.m., lower atrium, Student Life Centre.

International student orientation session for graduate students, Friday, September 12, 12:30 p.m., DC 1350. Details.

Trash 2 Treasure goods recycling sale sponsored by Waterloo Public Interest Research Group, September 13-14, Student Life Centre. Details.

Thomas Seebohm, UW school of architecture, died August 12, memorial gathering Saturday 3:00 p.m., Architecture building, Cambridge, information ext. 27661.

Renison College installs Rt. Rev. Ralph Spence as its chancellor, Sunday 3:00 p.m., St. George’s Forest Hill Anglican Church; reception follows at Renison.

Centre for Teaching Excellence faculty workshop: “Using UW-ACE to Create a Sense of Community in Your Large Class” Friday, September 19, 1:30 p.m., Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Career Fair, Wednesday, September 24, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., RIM Park, Waterloo. Details.

Ontario Universities Fair for future students, September 26 (9 to 6), 27 (10 to 5) and 28 (10 to 5), Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Details.

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