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Monday, March 12, 2012

  • From unpacking to hacking
  • Congress 2012 volunteers needed
  • Monday's memos
  • Editor:
  • Brandon Sweet
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Geese in Lot A.Geese in Lot A

Free(bird) parking: Priya Ramesh Mehta and Barbara Zister Daly snapped these photos of a pair of geese parking on someone else's dime (not to mention their Toyota) in Lot A last Thursday. I'm sure this vehicle's next destination was a car wash.

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Aamir Mansoor and Cameron McKinnon.
From unpacking to hacking

by Andrea Banerjee, reprinted from the Fall issue of the Inside sCo-op newsletter

Aamir Mansoor and Cameron McKinnon recently finished up an incredible term at Sugar CRM, a young California-based company. Highlights from their work term include hanging out with comedian Dave Chappelle, taking first place at the World Series of Hack Competition, and winning an all-expenses-paid trip to the conference of their choice. Needless to say, these two make a fantastic team; they’re motivated, energetic and work incredibly effectively together. If it weren’t for co-op however, they might not even know each other’s name.

A Sunny Start-Up

As they boarded a plane for the Golden State, Aamir and Cameron were strangers. Each was embarking on an international work term at a company called Sugar CRM in Cupertino, California. As the only two Software Engineering co-ops in a company of about 150 employees, Aamir and Cam quickly became good friends, colleagues and temporary roommates. In the close-knit Engineering department at Sugar CRM, Cam says, “We were a unit.” They worked to improve CRM software by adding gamification elements-a project that was fun and rewarding.

Cam and Aamir agree that the company “still has a start-up environment,” which allowed them to feel integral to the team. “I wanted to work at Sugar because it was small,” says Aamir. “I liked the fact that when we were working on something, everybody knew it. The work we were doing was being recognized.” Indeed there were many perks to working at a young company. The CEO and CTO would regularly stop by Aamir and Cam’s workstations. Ping pong tournaments and late night take-out were regular events. In fact, the team was so close that one evening the VP of Engineering took Aamir and Cam to a Dave Chappelle show in San Francisco, where they were introduced to the comedian. “It was really cool,” recalls Cam. “He was a high school friend of the VP’s.”

Challenge Accepted

Perhaps the most exciting opportunity for Aamir and Cam began when their supervisor asked them if they’d be interested in participating in an upcoming hack-a-thon. While the term “hack” may bring to mind malicious computer break-ins, Cam explains that it has taken on a new meaning. He describes hacking as “a culture in Silicon Valley,” in which the word has been re-appropriated. “Now it just means working really hard on a competing project,” says Cam.

A hackathon in progress.“Hack-a-thons” are 8-hour, 12-hour, or sometimes even 48-hour events, where teams work tirelessly to complete a project. In the course of the hack-a-thon, competitors will take their work right from its idea stage to a finished product to be presented to a panel.

Aamir and Cam competed in the Mozilla-hosted World Series of Hack competition (seen at right) in San Francisco, an intern-based event with competing teams from Facebook, Google and Yahoo!, among others. As young co-ops from a small company, they recall being asked “Who is Sugar CRM?” Undeterred, they worked through the night on their clever idea: “We made an add-on for Firefox that lets you keep track of how much time you’re spending on productive and non-productive sites,” explains Aamir. The add-on includes a graphing capability that generates a visual comparison of the time spent on each. “It’s a whole suite of controls to [track] how you spend your time,” says Aamir.

After hours of work, each team was given exactly three minutes to present their product to a panel of judges. “That’s not a lot of time,” says Cam. “You want to go up there, say what your project is, what it does, and how it helps people.” Their pitch, paired with a smart, unique project, won them first place. The add-on, now called “Surf Control,” is available for open-source download.

The Kings of Hack

Amir Mansoor, three hours into the Hack competition.Aamir (left, pictured three hours into the hack competition) and Cam beat out close to 300 competitors to take the grand prize: a trip of their choice to any conference in the United States. Now back in Waterloo, the pair remain humble in spite of their success. Celebrities and contests weren’t the best part of the experience. “My favourite thing was being around so many smart people,” says Cam. “This was my first work term…and it was just instant access to so much knowledge.” Unsurprisingly, profit wasn’t a motivation for these partners either; their product is available for anyone to download. The reward is the satisfaction of hard work, the opportunity to share innovation, and the joy of seeing an idea from start to finish. As Aamir simply puts it, “It’s the Waterloo spirit.”

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Congress 2012 volunteers needed

A message from the Congress 2012 organizers

Congress 2012 of the Humanities and Social Sciences will bring more than 7,500 delegates from across Canada to the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University. The host universities are looking for volunteers to help with the successful execution of this exciting conference and to help welcome these delegates to the Kitchener-Waterloo region.

Congress 2012 involves thousands of academic sessions, special events and receptions. The volunteer opportunities available from May 26 to Jun 2, 2012, include:

  • Campus ambassadors
  • Audio-visual and information technology monitors
  • Airport ambassadors
  • Uptown Waterloo ambassadors | Downtown Kitchener ambassadors
  • Special event attendants

Students, faculty and staff are welcome, and training will be provided. If you are interested in volunteering for Congress 2012, please go online and fill out the volunteer application form.

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Monday's memos

If at some point next week it seems to you that the students on campus are getting younger and younger, don't fret, it's because Waterloo Unlimited, the high school enrichment program for students in grades 10-12 will be hosting a Grade 11 Design Program from Monday to Friday. "From engineering and the environment to science fiction and virtual reality, students will spend a week exploring the theme of Design with a community of like-minded peers.

Waterloo Unlimited will be hosting a Grade 10 program on the theme of Change in May, and a Grade 12 program with "Roadmap to Research" as the theme in November 2012.

Here's the latest Nutrition Month "myth vs. truth" nutrition tip from Health Services dietician Sandra Ace.

"Myth": Everyone needs to drink eight glasses of water a day.
"Truth": Water is your best choice for staying hydrated , so sip often, especially in hot weather or when you’re active. However you don’t need to drink exactly 8 glasses a day. The amount you need depends on many factors, including your age, physical size, activity level and environmental conditions like heat and humidity. Other liquids, like milk, tea and coffee are also hydrating, as are foods like soups, watermelon and tomatoes.

If you have any questions or comments about these tips, which are running the month of March in support of Nutrition Month, please contact Sandra.

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Link of the day

Commonwealth Day

When and where

Drop, Penalty 1 Period ends March 12.

Waterloo Unlimited Grade 11 Design Program, Monday, March 12 to Friday, March 16.

KI-X 2012: Capstone Design Project on display at the University of Waterloo Art Gallery, Monday, March 12, 12:00-4:00, Tuesday, March 13, 12:00-7:00, Wednesday, March 14, 12:00-6:00, 263 Phillip Street. Details.

Vision 2015 Town Hall for engineering graduate students, Monday, March 12, 3:00 p.m., DC 1304.

Drop, Penalty 2 Period begins March 13.

Undergraduate Council Tuesday, March 13, 12:00 p.m., NH 3004.

Noon hour concert at Conrad Grebel featuring Brass Essentials, Debra and Martin Lacoste (trumpets), Trevor Wagler (french horn), Carolyn Culp (trombone), Susan Follows (bass trombone), Wednesday, March 14, 12:30 p.m.

Nanotechnology for Cancer chemo and immunotherapy seminar, Wednesday March 14, 2:00 p.m., School of Pharmacy.

Department of Spanish and Latin American Studies lecture series ‘Testimony and Human Rights’, featuring a presentation by Professor Marjorie Ratcliffe (University of Western Ontario), “Solos en Ameríca: Children of the Spanish Civil War”. Wednesday, March 14, 3:30 p.m., HH 373. Reception follows at 4:30 p.m.

Waterloo Institute for Hellenistic Studies presents Meagan Ayer, SUNY Buffalo, "Traces in Stone: Refugees in the Epigraphic Record," Wednesday, March 14, 4:30 p.m., ML 246.

Medieval Studies presents Sweet Pastries and Marital Bliss featuring Dr. Elizabeth Cohen, York University, "Despite the Council of Trent: Marriage Troubles in Rome, circa 1600," Wednesday, March 14, 4:30 p.m., St. Jerome's room 2011.

Center for Career Action workshop "Setting Work And Life Goals," Thursday, March 15, 3:30 p.m., TC 1208. Details.

Pension & Benefits Committee Friday, March 16, 8:30 a.m., NH 3004.

Systems Design Symposium 2012, Friday, March 16, 10:00 a.m., Davis Centre foyer.

Knowledge Integration seminar, Luigi Ferrera, "Systems of Sharing: The Next Economy," Friday, March 16, 2:30 p.m. St. Paul's room 105.

Bechtel Lecture with Professor John D. Roth Thursday March 15 and Friday March 16, 7:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel Chapel. Details.

The UW Cabaret Club presents La Vie Du Cabaret, Friday, March 16, 9:00 p.m., Federation Hall.

Engineering Shadow Days, Monday, March 19 to Friday, March 30.

Vision 2015 Town Hall for engineering faculty, Tuesday, March 20, 2:30 p.m., EIT 3142.

Waterloo Research Institute in Insurance, Securities and Quantitative Finance (WatRISQ) presents Tong Yu, associate professor of finance, College of Business Administration, "By Force of Habitat? On the Dynamics of Insurers' Government Bond Portfolio Durations," Tuesday, March 20, 4:00 p.m., M3 3127.

Noon hour concert series, "Paraguay Primeval" featuring Rebecca Campbell (vocals), Carol Ann Weaver (piano), Katie Honek (flute), Ben Bolt-Martin (cello), Kyle Skillman (percussion), Wednesday, March 21, 12:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel chapel.

Centre for Career Action Webinar: Writing an A+ resume, Wednesday, March 21, 4:30 p.m. Details.

ECE Design symposium, Wednesday, March 21, 9:30 a.m. Davis Centre.

Street party at Mudie's, Wednesday, March 21, 4:30 p.m.

Vision 2015 town hall for engineering undergraduates, Wednesday, March 21, 5:30 p.m., RCH 301.

Waterloo Lecture: Homer, the Brain, and Rhetoric, hosted by the Waterloo Stratford Campus, Wednesday, March 21, 7:00 p.m., Stratford Public Library.

Co-op Student of the Year Awards, Thursday, March 22.

Careers in Health Informatics and E-Health (CHiE) 2012 Career Fair, Thursday, March 22, 4:00 p.m., Kitchener City Hall. Register online.

World Water Day Graduate Research Fair and Water Celebration, Thursday, March 22, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Federation Hall.

PhD Oral Defences

Physics and Astronomy. Christopher Erven, “On Experimental Quantum Communication and Cryptography.” Supervisors, Dr. Raymond Laflamme, Dr. Gregor Weihs. On deposit at the Faculty of Science Graduate Office, ESC-254A. Oral defence Wednesday, March 14, 1:00 p.m., RAC room 2004.

Electrical and computer engineering. Behzad Biglarbegian, “Integrated Antennas and Active Beamformers Technology Mm-Wave Phased-Array Systems.” Supervisor, Safieddin Safavi-Naeini. On display in the Engineering Graduate Office (PHY 3004). Oral defence Monday, March 26, 1:00 p.m., E5 5047.

Physics and Astronomy. Jacek Miloszewski, “Simulations of Semiconductor Laser Using Non-Equilibrium Green’s Functions Method.” Supervisors, Dr. Marek Wartak and Dr. Anton A. Burkov. On deposit at the Faculty of Science Graduate Office, ESC-254A. Oral defence Thursday, March 29, 3:15 p.m., PHY 352.

Philosophy. Rhys McKinnon, “Reasonable Assertions: Norms of Assertion and Why You Don’t Need to Know What You’re Talking About.” Supervisor, Dr. Tim Kenyon. On deposit at the Arts Graduate Office, PAS 2434. Oral defence Monday, March 30, 2:00 p.m. HH 373.

Friday's Daily Bulletin