Tuesday, November 17, 2009

  • Vote is tied on September schedule change
  • Lost Faculties rock again for a good cause
  • New steering design offers better stability
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs
  • bulletin@uwaterloo.ca

Vote is tied on September schedule change

Twenty-three votes for the change, 23 against it, and the UW senate failed to make a decision last night on starting fall term classes earlier each September and thus shortening the orientation period.

A vote on the proposal, brought forward by the registrar and backed strongly by provost Feridun Hamdullahpur, had already been postponed from senate's October meeting, when student representatives on the academic governing body said they needed more time to gather opinions from across campus.

Yesterday they showed up with a united stance — they were against it — and they also showed up with a crowd of supporters, in the form of several dozen students who filled the few empty spectators' seats in the Needles Hall senate chamber and lined the walls, standing, to listen to the debate. Many wore engineering hard hats, math pink ties, or faculty T-shirts to symbolize their attachment to the orientation experience. It was the biggest crowd at a senate meeting in living memory, and it listened attentively as the proposal was lifted from "the table", presented for discussion (in a slightly amended form), explained, criticized, defended, and finally put to a vote.

The motion wasn't officially about orientation at all. It was a proposal to change the "guidelines" for academic calendar scheduling so that classes in UW's fall term will start on the Thursday after Labour Day — not the Monday after Labour Day, four days later, as has been the case in years past.

The constraints on UW's calendar are tight, registrar Ken Lavigne reminded the senate. At one end there's Labour Day, at the other end Christmas; a certain number of days are needed for exams, students need study days between the end of classes and the beginning of exams, and there's the Thanksgiving Day holiday in October. And with it all, UW must provide an absolute minimum of 60 days of classes — required not only for academic quality but for the accreditation of professional programs such as engineering. The problem is worst when Labour Day comes late, on September 6 (as in 2010) or 7 (as it did this year). The proposal noted that when the date is early (it can be as early as September 1), "students will be consulted on how best to use the extra days".

As the debate began, the student senators presented their case systematically. There are issues for upper-year students, they said — particularly the rush to finish a spring term co-op job on the Friday before Labour Day and get back to Waterloo for the beginning of term — but the primary issue clearly was the effect on orientation, which is, said science student representative Sam Andrey, "a fundamental part of the University of Waterloo".

The plan would be to begin orientation a day earlier than it starts now, on Sunday rather than the Labour Day Monday, and have it run through Wednesday. (University housing officer Chris Read told senate there would be no problem having students move into residence on Saturday and Sunday, rather than the present Sunday and Labour Day Monday.) Then classes would be held Thursday and Friday, and orientation social events could take place Friday night and Saturday.

Student speakers described the importance of orientation, saying that it supports the quality of life for students, the likelihood of academic success and even the probability that a student will stay in school. "Allowing students the time they need to prepare for a life at a new institution is critical," one speaker said. Shortening orientation would "severely affect the number of networking opportunities", said another.

But it became clear that not everyone thinks orientation needs to take a week. What matters is "participation" in orientation, not its length, said dean of arts Ken Coates. He commented — and Read, who heads the UW residences, agreed — that there's evidence of students staying home from orientation events more and more as the week goes on, because they're exhausted or just have met their quota of new people for right now.

A couple of speakers pressed for insight into students' priorities: is it more important to have days for orientation, or additional days for study at the end of term? "Students preferred a one-week orientation," insisted arts student senator Reemah Khalid. "They want the full orientation week," Andrey added. "They want the full summer."

Lavigne, the registrar, was among the speakers who noted that the concept of "orientation" shouldn't be limited to a few days in early September. He said orienting new students to the university starts with activities such as Student Life 101 in the summer, and extends past the beginning of classes into programming provided to first-year students by the student life office and other agencies.

Finally the vote was called, and senators raised their hand amid such a hush that you could have heard a cough drop. The count, said university secretary Lois Claxton, was 23 to 23, with one abstention. UW president David Johnston, who is the chair of senate, said he wouldn't use his privilege of casting the deciding vote one way or the other: instead, "we'll come back to this issue next month, after further reflection." Senate meets December 21.

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Lost Faculties rock again for a good cause

So here’s the pitch: “Have a great night out dancing to a live band and raising funds for brain tumour research.”

The event is this Saturday night at Federation Hall. But the story starts some seven years ago, when Rachel Anne Cecilia Higgins (“RACH”) was in her first year of UW’s optometry program. A variety of health issues began to plague her, and by August 2005, as friends put it now, “a brain tumour had robbed the world of a wonderful human being.” In June 2006 Higgins was posthumously awarded her Doctor of Optometry degree, “recognizing her dedication and determination to finish her studies despite her illness”.

She had always been keen on public service, and during her illness she and her family started Rallying Against Cancer Hardcore — RACH, to match her own initials. This agency, allied to the Princess Margaret Hospital, raises money to support brain cancer research and to date has raised more than $300,000.

The total will be higher after Saturday night’s event, thanks to revenue from the $10 admission tickets and from a silent auction that will be held during the evening.

[In full voice, behind microphone]Saturday night’s music — classic rock — will be provided by The Lost Faculties, a band made up of Optometry profs and staff. “They play at optometry and charity events around the world,” a publicity release notes. “This band was recently featured in the Grand Magazine and has played gigs in Canada, US, England and Holland. A night out with the Losts pretty much guarantees a good time for one and all.” The picture at left perhaps tells the story, even without audio: that’s optometry professor Lyndon Jones at the height of a Lost Faculties performance.

“Rachel's family is coming for the event,” says Marie Amodeo of the optometry school, “and we're hoping to have a great turnout. The more tickets we can sell the better.”

The event is co-sponsored by the UW Optometry Students Society and the Canadian Association of Optometry Students, and is being billed as Inter-Professional Relations Night, with a focus on students in professional fields. “We have sent out information to many health care schools in the area — medical, paramed, nursing, social work, pharmacy — and have received great feedback and potential interest,” says Andrea Carthew, also of optometry.

“Fed Hall needs 800 people to fill it,” Jones writes. “That's a lot of people!”

Saturday’s event starts at 7 p.m. It shouldn’t be hard to buy an advance ticket this week in the Optometry building, and they’re also for sale by e-mail, danceforrach@ gmail.com. There’s still room for more prizes to be included in the silent auction: “Ideally we are looking for unusual prizes to bid on, such as sports tickets to events, holidays or time at your cottage, lessons with a golf pro (if you know one who can donate their time!), someone to cook dinner at a donor's home or anything else you can think of.” Amodeo can be reached at mamodeo@ uwaterloo.ca.

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New steering design offers better stability

from the annual report of the AUTO21 Network of Centres of Excellence, used by permission

Rollover crashes can be a serious safety issue for drivers. Some vehicles include rollover control strategies to help vehicle stability, such as active steering systems which intervene when certain situations occur. While helpful, the active steering technologies work best on smooth pavement and can be less stable on other terrains. As well, many of these systems are limited to higher-end vehicle models.

[Diagram of steering mechanism]Amir Khajepour and John McPhee — both of UW, in mechanical and mechatronics and systems design engineering respectively — have developed a patented technology that can help keep vehicles upright: a pulsed-active steering method which provides affordable active steering control, regardless of vehicle make or model. The method uses a pulsed signal to adjust the steering angle of the vehicle in accordance with the driver’s steering input. When the driver sharply turns the steering wheel, a high-frequency pulsed signal is sent to the wheels, decreasing the chance of a rollover. This technology provides a viable means to significantly reduce rollovers and improve vehicle safety at a cost much lower than current active steering systems on the market.

“Engines of vehicles are controlled, the brakes are controlled; it seems logical to control steering for optimal stability and vehicle safety,” says McPhee. The two researchers contribute to the AUTO21 project Dynamic Collaborative Driving. Their research has also provided hands-on training for a graduate student.

Khajepour describes the pulsed steering system as similar to Anti-Lock Braking Systems currently found in vehicles. “When you slam on the brakes in your car, that direct signal is not sent to the brake pads,” he explains. “Rather, a pulsed signal is sent which delivers a more stable response for braking than a human can provide.”

Just as ABS brakes take over during extreme conditions and sudden stops, pulsed-active steering is designed to maintain vehicle stability by controlling the steering wheel angle during sharp turns and abrupt driving manoeuvres. Simulations have proven that pulsed-active steering systems are more reliable than conventional active steering systems as they are built to compensate for loss of control, preventing mishandling of cars. Humans react based on impulse and anxiety. This technology is able to assist in controlling the vehicle and fluidly completing the manoeuvre, ensuring a safer outcome for the passengers inside.

Computer simulations revealed that the pulsed-active steering technology is robust enough to handle all speeds, road conditions, and real-world driving situations, withstanding even the toughest terrains and weather conditions.

Khajepour and McPhee now plan to transform the computer simulations into active hardware to verify the potential implications and applications of pulsed-active steering in real-life settings.

Since receiving a patent for the technology, Khajepour and McPhee have been developing a hardware test model to prove their pulsed-active steering system to be a feasible method of vehicle stability control. The two researchers expect to have their test model ready for demonstration this fall. With the technology proving its efficiency for vehicle stability control in computer simulations, the researchers are confident that similar results will be achieved with the test model, creating an affordable way to optimize vehicle safety and stability.


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Link of the day

Homemade bread

When and where

Entrepreneur Week sponsored by Communitech continues, events include multiple presentations and Waterloo Region Entrepreneur Hall of Fame Gala. Details.

Employee Assistance Program brown-bag seminar: Linda Mackay and Jeanette Gascho, counselling services, “Mindsets”, 12:00, Davis Centre room 1302. Details.

‘Go Away!’ Information session on international exchange opportunities, 12:00, Renison UC cafeteria. Language Scramble Game 12:15, Renison.

‘International Students’ Perspectives on Their Co-op Experiences’ session 1:30, Dana Porter Library room 329.

‘Exploring Your Personality Type’ workshop, first of two sessions 2:30, Tatham Centre room 1112. Details.

Leadership workshop for students on ‘global intelligence’ Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, 2:30 to 4:30; advance registration required.

Career workshop: “Success on the Job” 3:30, Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.

Arts international exchanges information session 4:30, Humanities room 373.

Communication, Leadership and Social Innovation lecture: James Meddings, Canada School of Public Service, “Leadership Development in the Federal Public Service” 5:00, Laurel Room, South Campus Hall, RSVP ext. 35058.

Chef’s Series: “Crockpot Magic” today 5 p.m. at Mudie’s cafeteria, Village I; 5 p.m. Wednesday at REVelation, Ron Eydt Village.

‘Tell No One’ film screening sponsored by co-op and career services international team, 6:30, Princess Cinema, $5 (UW people $2 with food donation).

Live and Learn Lecture presented by UW faculty of arts: Sheila Ager, classical studies, “The Ancient Olympics in the Modern World”, 7:00, Waterloo Public Library main branch.

‘OnContact withanEntrepreneur’ networking 7 to 9 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302, sponsored by Cg6 Inc. Registration.

Star-Gazing Party to mark International Year of Astronomy,7:30 p.m., north campus soccer pitch (rescheduled from October 21).

Canadian Federation of University Women monthly meeting: Rosemary Smith, K-W Community Foundation, “Checking the Pulse of Our Community” 7:30 p.m., First United Church, Waterloo.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission panel discussion including Mardi Tindal (United Church) and Bob Watts (Assembly of First Nations), 7:30 p.m., senate and board chamber, Wilfrid Laurier University.

‘Where in the world?’ photos by co-op students who worked outside Canada, on display in Tatham Centre lobby Wednesday 10:00 to 2:30, open for voting, prizes awarded 4:30 p.m.

UWRC Book Club discusses So Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Engler, Wednesday 12:00, Dana Porter Library room 407. Details.

‘Hot Latin Music’ to mark International Education Week, Wednesday 12:30, Conrad Grebel UC chapel.

Library workshop: “Keep Current in Your Field” with alerting services from research databases, Wednesday 1:30, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Geographic Information Systems Day sponsored by Faculty of Environment and University Map Library, displays and demonstrations Wednesday 1:30 to 3:30, Environment I courtyard. Details.

World University Service of Canada annual stakeholders’ meeting, with update on Student Refugee Program, Wednesday 3:00, Conrad Grebel UC room 1111.

Development Experiences Overseas: five students report on their experiences as interns, Wednesday 3:30, Needles Hall room 1101.

‘Business Etiquette and Professionalism’ workshop Wednesday 3:30, Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.

Mathematics international exchange information session Wednesday 4:00, Math and Computer room 5158.

‘The Grace Lee Project’ film screening sponsored by Waterloo Public Interest Research Group, Wednesday 5:30, Rod Coutts Hall room 302.

UW Retirees Association fall luncheon (speaker: Roger Watt, retired from IST, “The Future of the Internet”) Thursday 11:30 a.m., Luther Village, 139 Father David Bauer Drive. Details 519-888-0334.

‘What Engineering Researchers Need to Know but Were Afraid to Ask’ workshop presented by finance office, Thursday 1:30, Davis Centre room 1304.

My Waterloo Idea launch event for idea contest, speaker Cheryl Rose of Social Innovation Generation, Thursday 6 p.m., Student Life Centre great hall.

Poetry recital by retired professor Barney Lawrence, live piano by Mario Commisso, hosted by engineering alumni affairs, Thursday 7:30, Humanities Theatre, tickets $5 at box office 519-888-4908. Details.

Render (UW art gallery) reception, discussion and video screenings for “Home/land & Security” exhibition, curated by Jeff Thomas and focusing on Grand River land disputes, Saturday 1 to 4 p.m. at East Campus Hall, 6 to 9 p.m. at Architecture building, Cambridge. Details.

‘The Science Behind H1N1’ lecture by Christine Dupont, UW department of biology, and panel discussion November 24, 7:00, Theatre of the Arts, register by e-mail scienceevents@ uwaterloo.ca.

Staff association craft show and sale (16th annual), ornaments, candles, fabric, ceramics; 10 per cent of proceeds to student aid funds, November 26 (10:00 to 4:00) and 27 (9:00 to 3:00), Davis Centre lounge.

Catharine Scott, associate provost, retirement reception December 2, 3:30 to 6:00, Festival Room, South Campus Hall, RSVP ext. 38425.

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