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Friday, February 25, 2011

  • Back to JobMine as co-op project killed
  • Robots, hockey, brains and noise
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Back to JobMine as co-op project killed

Officials have pulled the plug on WaterlooWorks, a custom-built software project that was intended to replace the JobMine system for matching co-op students with employers.

“I regret that we have had to make this decision,” says a memo from provost Geoff McBoyle, “but a number of factors have made it necessary, including concerns about system sustainability, scalability, and usability. Co-op education is a vitally important and high-profile function for the University of Waterloo, and it has become clear that proceeding under the circumstances was an unacceptable risk. JobMine will continue to serve CECS for the immediate future while various options for a new service are explored.”

Staff in CECS (the co-operative education and career services department) and information systems and technology got the word on Tuesday. By yesterday, CECS officials were urgently notifying architecture students and their potential employers, who were scheduled to use WaterlooWorks for a job match process that starts next week. Student and employer files already in WaterlooWorks will be moved to the JobMine system automatically.

It was supposed to be the third term of a pilot project, using architecture jobs — a small subset of the co-op universe — to test a prototype of WaterlooWorks. Instead, starting on Monday architecture jobs will posted on JobMine just like all the others. (The system is also used to match graduating students with jobs, and for part-time job applications through the Career Action Centre.)

Peggy Jarvie, director of CECS, said in a memo that she’s “disappointed” by the project cancellation, but “I fully support this decision.” She said she had been “very excited about the design of WaterlooWorks since its inception, looking forward to the new capabilities that would improve service to students and employers, and data capture that would ultimately inform our strategies and other decision-making. However, the need for sustainability and scalability are critical.”

She added: “Now that the decision has been made, our first priority is supporting the Architecture students and employers who are participating in the WaterlooWorks pilot this term.

“Once the dust has settled a bit, we’ll be determining next steps for the short term and our longer term strategy. While WaterlooWorks won’t be our technology platform, we will continue to work toward implementing the directions set out in the 2006 review.” That review, which covered far more than just the online system, called for a “more client-driven and self-serve” co-op process.

JobMine was designed starting in 1999 and was introduced in 2004. By 2007 a project to replace it was under way. At that time, people involved in the project told the Iron Warrior engineering newspaper: “When you think about co-op, it’s more like a dating or matching game. It’s not just about transactions and updating records. It’s about information and the value of the information, and its impact. We aim to improve the information-sharing and enrich the type of information students can provide employers and give the employers the ability to put up sites and market their jobs and opportunities. The idea is to go towards e-portfolios and web-spaces, so students can supply additional information about themselves to employers.”

JobMine, for example, notoriously won’t accept resumés in PDF format. WaterlooWorks was expected to fix that failing and introduce such benefits as improved search capability, an easier application process (including the ability to apply to multiple jobs at once), and the ability to upload cover letters and resumés separately.

But the target date for the new system has kept slipping, and it became clear in recent weeks that a full implementation was “not close”, says Bruce Mitchell, the associate provost (resources) and one of the top officials who made the shutdown decision.

With the cancellation of WaterlooWorks, three staff members who were seconded to the project will move on to other projects in information systems and technology, said the other top official involved in the decision, associate provost (IST) Alan George. “There are more than enough important things that need to be done!” he said by e-mail. “I would like to say in the strongest possible way that cancelling the project is no reflection whatsoever on their professional competence. I believe they did everything that was expected of them.”

Said McBoyle, the provost: “I want to express appreciation — on behalf of myself, Alan George, Bruce Mitchell and the others involved in this decision — to all the staff who have worked so hard on the WaterlooWorks initiative. We have learned a great deal through your efforts.”

The provost also wrote: “We are promising our employers and students, and I assure you, that the university will continue with other initiatives intended to enhance service and support to everyone connected with co-op education. The goal is to make our exceptional pool of student talent and employment opportunities as accessible as possible, and ensure the university continues to be a leader in co-operative education.” 

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Robots, hockey, brains and noise

[View from above; Midnight Sun visible in the corner]The FIRST Robotics Competition will hold a regional contest on campus again this year, March 24-26. As in the past, the competition challenges teams of high school students and their mentors to build robots and qualify for the world finals. Under the rules of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), robots are built in six weeks from a common kit of parts and weigh up to 120 pounds, excluding battery and bumpers. Several high schools sent teams to Waterloo over the Family Day long weekend to try out their robots and get some expert advice in the Student Design Centre in Engineering 5. The photo, taken by Daniel Dellatre of engineering computing, focuses on the Tronic Titans, a team from Holy Trinity Catholic Secondary School in Oakville.

The hockey Warriors, men's version, played in the first game of their OUA semifinal last night in London, and lost 4-2 to the University of Western Ontario Mustangs. Both Warrior goals, by Jarrett Schnurr and Josh Schappert, came in the third period. Game two is set for Saturday night at 7:30 at the Columbia Icefield, and assuming that the Warriors even the series then, the deciding game will be Sunday night in London. Meanwhile, the OUA has released its end-of-season list of awards for the league, featuring Waterloo defenceman Kyle Sonnenburg as defenceman of the year (for the second year in a row) and Warrior captain Chris Ray as "most sportsmanlike player" in the league's west division.

Waterloo’s kinesiology department will host its third annual Brain Bee on Saturday.The contest for high school students is one of 13 Brain Bees scheduled across Canada this winter and spring, and raises awareness about neuroscience by challenging students to answer questions about the brain. "The Brain Bee gives high school students an exciting opportunity to learn about the brain and about the importance of brain research," said kinesiology professor Aimee Nelson, who is co-ordinating the local contest with help from graduate students and psychology professor Jonathan Fugelsang. "It also brings the students to campus to meet researchers who are doing brain research and will hopefully attract young minds to the field of neuroscience." Tomorrow’s contest begins at 10 a.m. in Optometry building room 347. Students registered in the contest will answer multiple-choice questions anonymously using clicker technology. They will compete for first- and second-place prizes of $400 and $100. The first place winner will qualify for the national Canadian Institutes of Health Research Brain Bee to be held in the spring at McMaster University. The Canadian champion will go on to an international bee later this year. To prepare for the test, students use Brain Facts, a primer on the brain and nervous system published by the Society for Neuroscience. The primer covers such topics as memory, sleep, intelligence, emotion, perception, stress, aging, brain-imaging, neurology, neurotransmitters, genetics and brain disease.

A survey is under way on the library’s home page: “Do you ever visit or study at the Dana Porter Library? Take five minutes to complete our anonymous noise survey. The information you provide will help us to better meet your needs.” Communications librarian Nancy Collins says the survey is the first of several “assessment tools” from a committee that’s been set up: “In the past year some concerns about the Porter public environment have been raised, specifically in regard to noise levels, seat saving, and food. In order to determine [Home page with black banner at top]whether there is a problem, a group has been formed to assess the Porter environment during the remainder of February and into March. The group has been working for about two weeks already. The survey is now available online and in print at Porter.”

And . . . take a good look at the university's web home page today or over the weekend, for it's likely to be the last time you see it that way (left). As of Monday, a new design will be put in place as part of the continuing web redesign project. What's coming is not the final design — lots of its features aren't ready yet — but the web project team is describing it as a "static" version of what will, in a few months, be dynamic in several ways. Watch for the new look as the campus stirs back to life after reading week.


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Link of the day

The Academy Awards

When and where

Reading week February 21-25, classes not held.

Pension and benefits committee 8:30 a.m., Needles Hall room 3004.

Information systems and technology professional development seminar: Liz Koblyk, “Advancing Your Career at uWaterloo” 9:00, IST seminar room.

Warrior track and field team at OUA championships, York University, Friday-Saturday.

Institute for Computer Research and Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology present Mario  Tokoro,  Sony Computer Science Libraries, “Open Systems Dependability” 3:00, Davis Centre room 1302.

Pre-enrolment for fall 2011 undergraduate courses begins February 28. Details.

Graduate Student Research Conference (April 25-28) deadline for abstracts is February 28. Details.

Imprint Publications annual general meeting Monday 12:30, Student Life Centre multipurpose room.

Library workshop: “Patent Searching” Monday 1:30, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

German Research Today: Heidi Schlipphacke, Old Dominion University, “Masculinity Without a Home: Robert Menasse’s Don Juan de la Mancha” Monday 1:30, Modern Languages room 245.

Career workshop: “Interview Skills, Preparing for Questions” Monday 2:30, Tatham Centre room 2218. Details.

Spanish and Latin American studies lecture: Alicia Partnoy, “Concealing God and Poetry: The Experience of Women Political Prisoners in Argentina” Monday 3:00, Hagey Hall room 373.

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

Application deadline for spring term admission to the university: March 1. Details.

Employment information meetings for co-op students matched with spring term jobs, March 1-2.

‘Digital Cameras for Beginners’ session sponsored by UW Recreation Committee, Tuesday 12:00, Needles Hall room 1116, registration full.

Demonstration for staff of new myCareer@ UWaterloo system, Tuesday 2:00, Davis Centre room 1302. Register.

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