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Friday, June 10, 2011

  • Energy summit ends with big ideas
  • Student-built vehicle finds its own way
  • Copyright, and the route out of town
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Applauding from the podium at day's end]
Energy summit ends with big ideas

by Karen Kawawada, Communications and Public Affairs

Villagers in remote locations around the world gaining access to electricity through cheap, flexible solar cells mounted on their roofs. Drilling deep into the ground to tap into the inexhaustible thermal energy of the earth’s core. Nuclear reactors that use their own nuclear waste as fuel. A new generation of powerful batteries that store the intermittent power generated by the sun, wind and waves.

These are some of the visions outlined in the Equinox Communiqué, issued yesterday to sum up a new vision for the world’s energy in 2030. It’s the product of a week of discussions among some of the most eminent scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, policy experts, and future leaders from around the world.

The elite group of 36 was meeting at the Equinox Summit, hosted by the Waterloo Global Science Initiative, a partnership between the University of Waterloo and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. The communiqué is the starting point for a more detailed Equinox Blueprint, to be released in the fall, and a year-long campaign to internationally promote the ideas generated at the summit.

In an interview after the presentation of the communiqué, University of Waterloo president Feridun Hamdullahpur emphasized “the importance of fundamental university-based research in very close collaboration with industry” in making the recommendations a reality.

Hamdullahpur said he saw Waterloo playing a key role in the research and development to come, especially regarding batteries, solar cells, smart grids, sustainable energy, and biomass gasification — the last being one of his own areas of expertise.

“There is no silver bullet; there’s no single solution. It will be a combination of many, many solutions,” Hamdullahpur said.

Perimeter Institute director Neil Turok said holding the event at the Perimeter Institute may have influenced the outcome. “We (physicists) have very clear ideas of objective knowledge, and we don’t say things we can’t justify. This lent a spirit to the meeting that is quite unusual. People came, they listened to reason, they didn’t try to impose their pre-existing views, and so there was a spirit of openness in the discussions.”

The communiqué’s recommendations centre on four key ideas: changing the baseload of the current energy system, smart urbanization, electrified transport, and rural electrification.

Today’s global energy consumption is 16.5 terawatts — that is, 16.5 trillion watts being consumed all the time. Only 2.5 terawatts of that is from renewable sources, said Waterloo professor Jatin Nathwani, who served as scientific advisor to the facilitation team.

By 2050, the world’s energy demands are predicted to rise to at least 30 terawatts, “most likely higher,” said Nathwani, who is executive director of the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy.

“If 50 per cent of the global energy demand in 2050 were to be met by non-carbon sources, that is a requirement of 15 terawatts of new, renewable, non-carbon sources of energy … a six-fold increase from today’s renewable energy capacity, actually equivalent to today’s total energy consumption. In simple terms, then, all new growth must be met by non-carbon forms of energy.”

There’s more about the recommendations on a special Equinox Summit web page. The full communiqué can be downloaded from the WGSI website.

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[Posing in sunshine outside E5]Student-built vehicle finds its own way

A team of undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Waterloo Robotics Team and the Waterloo Autonomous Vehicles Lab are back from the recent Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition with the best showing of any Canadian entry.

Seen in the photo, left to right, are faculty advisor Steven Waslander (mechanical and mechatronics engineering), PJ Mukhurjee, Sid Ahuja, Arun Das, Michael Tribou. Key team members not pictured include Peiyi Chen and Ryan Turner.

The 19th annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition was held at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. It's described as one of the largest and most prestigious competitions for custom autonomous vehicles in North America. The competition is run annually by the Associate for Unmanned Vehicle's International, with sponsors including the US Department of Defense, Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics.

The Waterloo entry — named Indrik — placed second out of 56 teams from the United States, Canada, India, Japan and the United Arab Emirates in the vehicle design competition, winding up just 4 points (out of a possible 300) behind the grand prize winner. Waterloo also finished 4th in the JAUS challenge, which requires successful implementation of an industrial calibre communications framework for autonomous vehicles.

According to Craig MacKenzie, a member of the team's executive, the competitors are also looking forward to a top-ten finish in the autonomous navigation challenge, which requires vehicles to autonomously navigate between four GPS waypoints while dynamically avoiding obstacles including construction barrels and staggered fencing without human intervention. Full results will be released at the end of the month.

The competition also features a “fully autonomous” challenge (without GPS) requiring navigation of a simulated roadway strewn with barricades. A last-minute failure of the vision computer left Indrik unable to participate properly in that event.

However, the team's solid mechanical design and software strategies were widely recognized by competitors. “Our custom suspension design and unique approach to mapping and path planning generated a lot of interest with the other teams and industry representatives,” says a report from Rochester. “We are eagerly looking forward to continued development and even more success in the future!”

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Copyright, and the route out of town

Data, charts and details answering 122 questions about photocopying, library services and use, the course management system, budgets and other matters have been sent off from Waterloo to Access Copyright, the agency that represents Canadian publishers and “creators”, such as authors. For years now, this university has paid fees to Access Copyright (including $1.65 per term added to each student’s fee statement) for a licence to copy course handouts and other items. Negotiations are under way for a new licence, for which Access Copyright hopes to charge a much higher rate. In December the Copyright Board of Canada approved a set of “interrogatories” that Canada’s universities have had to answer. “Basically, they are seeking ammunition to use against us,” provost Geoff McBoyle told the university senate last month in a briefing about the project. Staff in the library, led by university librarian Mark Haslett and associate librarian Susan Routliffe, have been coordinating efforts by people in many departments — IST, retail services, institutional analysis, the secretariat, CEL, CTE, finance and so on — to assemble all the required information. As part of the effort, questions about scanning machines and copy centres were also forwarded to faculty and many staff across campus.

[Fuchsia thing on the traffic island]What you're seeing in the photo at left is "Pink Ghost", a "sculptural transformation" of a Paris intersection that is now part of an exhibition, "Installations by Architects", in the Design at Riverside gallery in Waterloo's Architecture building. The show opened last night and runs until early August. It features "a collection of the most significant projects from the last twenty-five years by today’s most exciting architects. Projects are grouped under the themes of tectonics, body, nature, memory, and public space. Architectural installations that invite the public to touch, enter, and experience the work, whether it is in a gallery, on city streets, or in the landscape. These temporary artworks aspire to alter viewers’ experiences of the environment, and engage them around issues in the built environment and expands the ways that architecture can participate in and impact people’s everyday lives. The exhibition presents printed banners and film projection rather than photographs, drawings, or architectural models."

[Cowan]Don Cowan (right), who retired more than a decade ago from the school of computer science but hasn't really stopped working, will be honoured Monday with an honorary degree from the University of Guelph. "Donald Cowan’s research on software engineering and in improving system development and use has benefited the software industry worldwide," says a citation from U of G. "He is a distinguished professor emeritus of computer science at the University of Waterloo, founding chair of the university’s computer science department and an active researcher. He helped found several software companies in Waterloo’s tech community." Cowan's degree will be presented during a ceremony for graduates from Guelph's College of Physical and Engineering Science, starting at 7 p.m. Monday in the historic  War Memorial Hall.

And . . . if you’re heading from somewhere in the Research and Technology Park to, say, highway 401, it might seem natural to go south, or maybe east down University Avenue. But the best route (Google Maps confirms it) is actually to take Wes Graham Way and Parkside Drive up to Northfield Drive and get onto highway 85. Locals might not think of it, and out-of-towners might not have a clue — which presumably explains the cardboard sign that’s lately been erected at the traffic circle just north of TechTown, pointing the counterintuitive way to highways 7, 8 and 401.


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Mail's not moving

The Canada Post rotating strike has hit Waterloo Region today, along with Québec City. The walkout is expected to last 24 hours starting from midnight. As a result, the university will have no mail pickup or delivery today from Canada Post, says Central Stores this morning. Stores staff "will still be picking up the mail on campus, but it will sit here in Central Stores over the weekend."

Link of the day


When and where

Co-op employer interviews for fall work term (main group) continue through June 16. Rankings open June 17 at 1:00, close June 20 at 2:00; match results available 4:00.

Class enrolment appointments for fall term undergraduate courses: continuing students, June 6-11; for first-time students, July 11-24; open class enrolment, July 25.

Information systems and technology professional development seminar: Heather Wey and Chris Carignan, Demo of Waterloo CMS (Drupal 7), 9:00, Math and Computer room 5158.

[Neglia]Vic Neglia, Arts Computing, retirement party recognizing 39 years at Waterloo, 3 to 5 p.m., Laurel Room, South Campus Hall, information ext. 35206.

Keystone Campaign annual event for evening staff, 6 p.m., Environment 1 room 250.

Bike ride on the Kissing Bridge and Trans-Canada Trail, sponsored by UW Recreation Committee , Sunday 2:00, information schatten@

Grand Porch Party sponsored by Alternatives Journal, music on front porches of houses in Uptown Waterloo, Sunday 3 to 5 p.m.

Senate graduate and research council Monday 10:30, Needles Hall room 3004.

Matthews Golf Classic (21st annual), Monday, Grand Valley Golf Club. Details.

Career workshop: Exploring Your Personality Type, Part 1, Monday 2:30 p.m., Tatham Centre room 1112. Details.

Chemistry seminar: Anne Dell, Imperial College London, “Mass Spectrometric Strategies for Glycomics and  Glycoproteomics” Monday 2:30, Davis Centre room 1302.

World’s Largest Swimming Lesson local site at Physical Activities Complex pool, Tuesday 11 a.m., reception follows; register at ext. 35869.

Board of governors meeting Tuesday 3:30 p.m., Needles Hall room 3001.

Spring Convocation: Wednesday 10 a.m. (AHS and environment) and 2:30 p.m. (science). Thursday 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. (arts). Friday 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. (mathematics); Saturday 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. (engineering), all ceremonies in Physical Activities Complex. Details.

UWRC Book Club: My Life in France by Julia Child, Wednesday 12:00, Dana Porter Library room 407.

Convocation Mass at St. Jerome’s University, Thursday 10:00 a.m., Siegfried Hall.

Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology presents Cyril Hilsum, University College London, “Flat-Panel Electronic Displays” Thursday, June 16, 3:30, CEIT room 1015.

Deadline for 50 per cent tuition fee refund for spring term courses, June 17.

Heritage Resources Centre workshop on “Cultural Heritage Landscapes” June 18-19, Picton, Ontario. Details.

Conrad Grebel University  College Mennonite Heritage Dinner, fund-raiser for Mennonite Archives of Ontario, Saturday 6:30 p.m., Grebel dining room, tickets $100, information clichti@

25-Year Club annual reception June 21, 6:00, Physical Activities Complex, information ext. 32078.

Young alumni get-together at Boiler House pub, Toronto, June 21, from 8 p.m. Details.

Canada’s Wonderland trip organized by Federation of Students, June 25, $54 in advance at Feds office, Student Life Centre.

PhD oral defences

Psychology. Jillian Banfield, “Helping in a Random World: Evidence that Prosocial Intentions and Behavior Can Satiate Compensatory Control Needs.” Supervisor, Michael Ross. On display in the faculty of arts, PAS 2434. Oral defence Friday, June 17, 2:30 p.m., PAS (Psychology) building room 3026.

Earth and environmental sciences. David M. Snider, “A Characterization of the Controls of the Nitrogen and Oxygen Isotope Ratios of Biologically-Produced Nitrous Oxide and Nitrate in Soils.” Supervisor, Sherry L. Schiff. On display in the faculty of science, ESC 254A. Oral defence Monday, June 20, 9:30 a.m., Biology II room 350.

Psychology. Karen Neary, “Children’s and Adults’ Reasoning in Property Entitlement Disputes.” Supervisor, Ori Friedman. On display in the faculty of arts, PAS 2434. Oral defence Monday, June 20, 10:30 a.m., PAS (Psychology) building room 3026.

Germanic and Slavic studies. Mareike Müller, "The Influence of Study-Abroad Periods on Learners' Identity Negotiations and Beliefs about Pronunciation." Supervisor, Barbara Schmenk. On display in the faculty of arts, PAS 2434. Oral defence Thursday, June 23, 3:00 p.m., PAS (Psychology) room 2438.

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