Wednesday, May 12, 2010

  • 'Entirely new' program to replace PDEng
  • The new sales tax, and other notes
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

'Entirely new' program to replace PDEng

The controversial PDEng program of professional skills courses that engineering students must take during their work terms is being completely replaced, the dean of engineering announced in a memo to faculty and students on Monday.

He released the report of a task force on PDEng “renewal”, chaired by associate dean Wayne Parker and including faculty members, the head of the co-op and career services department and a representative of the student Engineering Society.

“The Task Force has recommended sweeping changes,” dean Adel Sedra writes, “including the phasing out of the current PDEng program and the development of an entirely new program. Everything from course content, method of delivery, and workload to instructors and organizational structure will undergo significant transformation. The new program will be called WatPD-Engineering, and will feature a renewed engineering curriculum and academic oversight. The program will be delivered by the central WatPD organization with academic oversight provided by the Faculty of Engineering.

“I fully endorse the recommendations and will more forward on implementation and transition plans immediately. . . . We will begin developing the new program immediately and hope to introduce it by Winter 2011.”

[Stubley]He announced that Gord Stubley (left), “an eminent Professor and holder of the Teaching Chair in the department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering”, has been named to the new position of academic director for WatPD-Engineering.

The existing PDEng program was started in 2005. “It is no secret at the University of Waterloo,” says the task force report, “that the PDEng program has encountered significant resistance from the student population.” It cites some of the “urgent” issues: “marking scheme, workload, workshops, and online course critique”.

But students still need a sequence of courses that “will enrich the technical education by providing ‘soft skills’,” the task force says. It lists “outcomes” of an engineering education that are expected by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board: individual and team work, communication skills, professionalism, the impact of engineering on society and the environment, ethics and equity, project management, lifelong learning.

In place of PDEng, it calls for a new program “that will convey to students an awareness of concepts and practical skills that are required in today’s workplace. In addition, through integration of course instruction and work-term experience, students will be provided with options to further develop their professional skills in a range of thematic areas. 

“The renewed program will have strong linkages to the home Departments of the students in Engineering through the oversight that is provided by a Curriculum Committee which will have representation from all Engineering departments and programs.  This committee will ensure that the selection of relevant courses and engineering-specific content of the program is maintained within the Faculty of Engineering. 

“It is further recommended that there should be one organization offering work-term based PD programs at the University and hence the renewed program should be developed and delivered by the WatPD organization.”

The task force says the new courses should be “instruction-based” and should not assume that every student’s work terms “provide skill development opportunities and appropriate examples” as the present PDEng courses tend to do. “Assignments in upper-year courses can, and should, be designed to draw upon the cumulative experience of the student.”

There will be two “core” WatPD-Engineering courses, providing “a broad base of practical skills and professional instruction”. After those courses, engineering students could choose among existing WatPD courses that are also available to students in other faculties (such as project management and conflict resolution) and new engineering-specific courses that will be developed (such as contract negotiation, “skills for working in a global community”, and preparation for the professional practice exams).

“Through the use of examples, resources and assigned work,” says the task force, “there are a number of common threads woven through the various WatPD courses. These threads include Critical Reflection, Professionalism, Technology, Continuous Learning, Diversity, Ethics and Collaboration.  These objectives and themes are deemed to be highly complementary to the WatPD-Engineering Mission and Vision.”

The report includes provisions for current engineering students who have started the PDEng sequence but will be able to finish their requirements using a combination of PDEng courses, WatPD electives and new WatPD-Engineering courses as they’re developed. In the meantime, a new grading system for PDEng courses will be introduced immediately.

The task force recommends that “the first two WatPD-Engineering courses contain appropriate communication content so that the required number of work-term reports can be reduced from four to three,” with no work report called for after the first work term.

The full report is available on the engineering web site. A “town hall” meeting to brief engineering students about the coming changes will be held at 5:00 Thursday afternoon in Math and Computer room 2066, and will be webcast.

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The new sales tax, and other notes

The Harmonized Sales Tax that’s coming to Ontario as of July 1 is a factor in many of the university’s business transactions already, says a memo from the finance office. The HST will replace the present Provincial Sales Tax of 8 per cent and the federal Goods and Services Tax of 5 per cent with a single 13-per-cent levy on both products and services, with specified exceptions. “Please be aware of the HST rules & transitional dates,” the finance web site is advising. “For any events occurring July 1st or after in which payment is received May 1st or after, the 13% HST rate will need to be charged. This will apply to all registration fees collected for golf tournaments, conferences, seminars, workshops, symposiums, etc. Please review your business activities to ensure you are applying the HST transitional rules correctly.” The web site also provides the text of a couple of memos that were sent to departments this winter, leading up to the advent of the HST. Word from the finance office is that more information will be coming along, so people should keep checking the web site.

A Waterloo architecture student, Matthew A. Schmid, is the winner of this year’s CaGBC Scholarship from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Foundation. “Mr. Schmid is ranked amongst the top students at the School of Architecture,” an RAIC news release says. “Standards for Architectural students are generally high, and ranking at Matthew's level is achieved only by a handful of individuals. He is studying evolutionary design methods measured by ecological impact, continuing the traditions exemplified by the early 20th century innovation of Antonio Gaudi. The CaGBC provides the RAIC Foundation with this generous endowment — an annual $5000 — to nurture the next generation of ‘green’ designers by promoting and encouraging sustainable research and design in Canadian schools of architecture. To be eligible, students must submit a master’s thesis proposal. A jury then selects the one that has the most promising environmental benefits. The jury in selecting Mr. Schmid stated: ‘The proposal describes a clearly articulated research project linking architectural design with ecology and suggesting architectural solutions bridging the natural and built environments. The candidate’s reference to historical precedent, the role and rigour of a respected research mentor and the application to a community based building type is an encouraging indication of where sustainable building is heading in the future.’”

The library’s e-newsletter reports that two librarians in the Dana Porter Library, Helena Calogeridis and Jane Forgay, “recently completed the German Canadiana in Ontario Bibliography (GCO), a new open access resource to help researchers identify sources relating to the experiences of German speakers and their descendants in Ontario”. It quotes Calogeridis: “The GCO is of potential interest to researchers in a range of disciplines, as well as those with an interest in local history or the local community.” The work “contains records of historical, literary, cultural, linguistic, and biographical interest”, many of them related specifically to the German-speaking community in Waterloo region. Records are derived from a wide range of sources, including Elizabeth Bloomfield’s Waterloo Regional History Bibliography System, catalogues from around the world, and other research databases. Creating the GCO “has been a labour of love” for the duo, says the newsletter. They began the project in 2007 after conceiving of the idea while part of the Research Advisory Group for the Waterloo Centre for German Studies. “We wanted to build on our print bibliography of the same topic to create something larger and more interactive,” says Forgay.

Paul Critchley of the co-op education and career services department, who started working at UW in 2000, officially retired as of May 1. • The Formula SAE race car team, which unveiled its new vehicle last week, is in competition starting today at the Michigan International Speedway west of Detroit. • The Gauss Mathematics Competition for grade 7-8 students, organized by Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing, is taking place today.


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[Night view]

'Many of my friends,' says Ken Ip of the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology program, "thought the photo was taken somewhere downtown, Toronto, or even Montréal. In fact, this is our new nano building, taken at nighttime from the Bomber patio."

Link of the day


When and where

Retirees Association bus tour, “Wineries of the Beamsville Bench” Wednesday, details 519-885-6719.

Chemistry seminar: Christopher Barrett, McGill University, “The Photo-Mechanical Effect in Azo Polymers” 10:30, Chemistry II room 361.

Book launch: Polish Orphans of Tengeru by Lynne Taylor, department of history, 5:00 to 7:00, University Club, RSVP k4king@

K-W Musical Productions presents the romantic comedy “I Love You Because” Wednesday-Saturday 8 p.m., Theatre of the Arts, tickets $30 (students $20) 519-578-1570. Details.

Matlab seminars: “Technical Computing with Matlab and Simulink”, “Speeding Up Matlab Applications” Thursday 9:30 to 3:30, Davis Centre room 1302. Details.

Clubs, Services and Societies Days with opportunities for students to get involved, Thursday-Friday 10:00 to 3:00, Student Life Centre.

Library workshop: “Exploring the World of Online Maps” Thursday 10:00, Flex lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Centre for Teaching Excellence workshop for international teaching assistants: “Effective Lesson Planning” Thursday 2:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Department of English presents  Terry Eagleton, University of Lancaster, England, “The Nature of Evil” Thursday 4:00, Arts Lecture Hall room 113.

Alumni event in New York: Math alumni reception at Louis Vuitton Maison Fifth Avenue, Thursday 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Details.

Ontario Olympic Youth Academy for students in grades 10-12, co-sponsored by department of recreation and leisure studies, May 14-16. Details.

Department of psychology Ziva Kunda Memorial Lecture: John Dovidio, Yale University, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind? Suppression of Stereotypes but the Perpetuation of Bias” Friday 3:00, MacKirdy Hall, St. Paul’s University College.

Co-op job postings for fall work term open Saturday (main group and pharmacy students). Employer interviews begin May 26 (pharmacy), May 27 (main group).

Waterloo Unlimited “Vision” program for grade 10 students, May 17-22. Details.

University senate monthly meeting Monday 4:00, Needles Hall room 3001.

Arthur J. Carty Lecture by Richard Schrock, Nobel laureate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on research results in olefin metathesis chemistry, Tuesday 3:00, Davis Centre room 1350, reception follows.

Positions available

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

• Senior electronics technician, Information Systems and Technology (ITMS group), USG 8/9
• Faculty alumni officer, dean of mathematics, USG 10

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