Engineering 7 Building Impressions

I was at a conference and missed the official E7 building opening, but below is a video showing some of the facility highlights.  I walk through the building frequently, and I really like the environment.  Nice open spaces, well lit, great and vibrant “energy”.  There are always people around, talking, having events, and working together in one of the many gathering areas, drawing diagrams on the walls.  Definitely seems like a pleasurable place to be.

The Burden of the Iron Ring

A typical Iron Ring.

As some people know, Canadian engineers usually choose to wear an Iron Ring, as illustrated in the picture, on the small finger of their “working” hand.  Actually, it’s now usually stainless steel, and so about 72% iron, 18% chromium, 8% nickel and some other elements.  It is originally a Canadian invention, so engineers in the U.S. and elsewhere are often unaware of it.  What is its significance?  Let’s start with what it is Not supposed to be about:

  • It is not a reward from the university for finishing an engineering program.
  • It is not a status symbol.
  • It is not a sign of belonging to some prestigious or secret society.
  • It is not an indicator of any competence or qualification.

So what is it all about?  First, consider its history… Continue reading

Engineering Failure Rates-Redux

Here’s an update on a popular old post, with some new data and comments.

I’m never quite sure why people ask about failure rates, or what they are expecting.  Do they want to hear that the failure rate is high, so they are convinced it’s a tough (and therefore good) program?  Or maybe they don’t want the failure rate to be high, because they are concerned that they won’t be successful?  I’m not sure what the motivation for the question is, but anyways let’s examine failure rates.  Continue reading

German Baking

Waterloo Region has a long history of German immigration and influence since its initial settlement, leading to place names like Berlin (now Kitchener), New Hamburg, Baden, and local events like Oktoberfest.  Around the area you can find various places with German-style cuisine and products including at the bakery featured in this local news video link:  https://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1477166   From personal experience, their Christmas Stollen bread and chocolates are highly addictive.  But what does this have to do with chemical engineering? Continue reading

Transitions

‘I pass the test,’ she said. ‘I will diminish, and go into the West and remain Galadriel.’ (The Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter VII)

I too have passed a test, managing engineering admissions for the past decade through a period of rapid growth and various changes.  And it is now time for me to diminish and remain a professor, finishing my term as Director of Admissions and returning to a focus on teaching and research in Chemical Engineering.  As of September 1 a new Director takes over, and he will likely continue our recent tradition of running an admissions blog with up to date information and insights.  Since my blog URL is rather eponymous, there will be a new site and I’ll provide an introduction and link to it when available in the near future.

I plan to continue this blog with things related to engineering teaching, careers, research, and other topics of interest to me.  I will also post things about admissions in a more generic sense, looking at trends across Canada, the U.S. and suggestions and insights for applicants considering an engineering program at any university.  However, I won’t be answering questions or posting details about current Waterloo admissions news, since I will no longer be directly connected to it.

Reflecting on what has happened during my time as Director of Admissions, Engineering has seen applications grow from about 6,300 to just under 13,000.  We’ve added two new programs (Biomedical and Architectural Engineering), expanded the Mechatronics program to two streams, implemented an optional video interview system, hired more staff to handle the increased volumes, and seen dramatic growth in applications from outside Canada, including the U.S. and India.  The time has flown by, and I’ve had fun and satisfaction working with lots of different people, including faculty and staff, applicants, current students, alumni, parents, guidance counselors, and secondary school teachers.  There have been plenty of behind the scenes challenges along the way, but our talented Associate Directors and hard-working admissions team has always helped me to hit the annual admissions targets with no major surprises or disasters, and for this I’m very thankful!

For faculty members, these administrative positions are usually something we do out of interest and a desire to help out with the operations of the university.  But as they say in business, my “core mission” is in teaching and research.  So, having done what I can to continuously improve engineering admissions practices it’s time to step back and let someone with a fresh outlook carry on.

So now I can focus on other things and make some progress on teaching and research projects.  These projects include some course updating and redevelopment, and new research studies with industrial partners on air pollution control, water testing, and antimicrobial materials.  Unlike Galadriel however, I have no plans to go into the West.

Ideas Clinic-Scanning Tunneling Microscope

I was visiting my colleagues in the Engineering Ideas Clinic the other day, to discuss a design-fabricate-test project for a heat exchanger that we’re working on for Chemical Engineering students.  The basic concept for the Ideas Clinic is that students can do hands-on activities requiring engineering design, some fabrication and assembly, and some performance testing, part of our experiential learning philosophy.  A bunch of activities have been developed over the past few years, and many more are in development to take advantage of new space available in our Engineering 7 building,  opening soon.

One activity they previewed for me was the building of a desktop Scanning Tunneling Microscope for imaging surfaces at the atomic scale.  The video below shows the basic principle of an STM.  Once it’s finalized, this will be an activity for our Nanotechnology Engineering students, and it’s amazing that something like this can be built by students for a couple of hundred dollars.  I look forward to seeing it in action.

 

University of Waterloo engineering applicants sell themselves differently based on gender, new research says – The Globe and Mail

An interesting summary article of Prof. Golab’s semantic analysis work using parts of our Admissions Information Form.  Prof. Golab and his students are affiliated with our Management Engineering program, and semantic analysis is one aspect of data analysis and artificial intelligence.

Female applicants emphasized their desire to use engineering as a way to improve society. Male applicants choose to highlight their technical abilities

Source: University of Waterloo engineering applicants sell themselves differently based on gender, new research says – The Globe and Mail