Ontario Climate Change Plan Input

The new Ontario government quickly trashed the beginnings of an approach to reducing carbon emissions and climate change, i.e. a “cap and trade” system in collaboration with California and other provinces and states.

Now the government is looking for input into their promised new and improved approach, which you can provide at https://www.ontario.ca/form/tell-us-your-ideas-climate-change .   It’s open until November 16 2018.

A recent report has re-confirmed that we only have until about the year 2030 to substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions, before the goal of keeping the global average temperature increase to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius becomes physically impossible.  (This is actually not surprising news since it’s been known for many years in the scientific literature, while the world at large continues to do nothing substantial).

Young people, and parents or grandparents of young people, should be commenting because these are the ones who will be inheriting the problem and all of its consequences over the next few decades.

Long-term effects of forest fires pose threats to drinking water

An interesting article about my colleague Prof. Emelko’s research.  I’m somewhat jealous that she gets to fly in a helicopter!

Forest fires are sweeping North America with detrimental environmental, economic and human impacts. A research team, led by University of Waterloo Engineering professor Monica Emelko, will receive $5.5 million from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) Strategic Partnership Grant for Networks to provide new knowledge on the impacts of different forest management strategies on drinking water source quality and treatability.

Source: Long-term effects of forest fires pose threats to drinking water | Water Institute | University of Waterloo

Garbage Research

Over the past month I’ve spent some time on research topics related to garbage.  Or more accurately, energy from waste, sustainable materials management, circular economy issues, reduction and recycling.  To the public, such things may not be as exciting as self-driving cars, but as landfills, oceans, and beaches fill with wastes they are becoming more noticeable and pressing issues.

First, I helped to organize our 5th annual Resource Recovery Partnerships Conference here at Waterloo in late June.  Over two days, we had lots of presentations and networking among academic, industrial and municipal government people discussing various issues related to waste reduction and management.  Shortly after that, I attended the Air & Waste Management Association’s annual conference, held in Hartford CT.  There, I saw a number of interesting presentations on “zero waste”, sustainability, and case studies of projects.  Between these two events I learned a few things that I can summarize below: Continue reading

Consider Geological Engineering

Waterloo has a Geological Engineering program that seems to get overlooked by many prospective applicants for some reason.  Maybe because it’s small, only about 25 to 30 available spaces.  Or maybe people just don’t realize what it’s about.  So I talked with the current director of the program, Prof. Stephen Evans, and he gave me some insights and nice photographs of geological engineering examples.  I’ll summarize a few key ideas about the Geological Engineering program:

  • It’s the intersection of civil engineering and earth science, and provides the ability to assess how the changing earth might affect the integrity and long term security of civil engineering structures and our societies.
  • There are a wide variety of jobs involving foundations for major buildings and structures, natural resource management (mining, hydroelectric, oil & gas), infrastructure construction and safety (dams, reservoirs, roads, railways), and managing geohazards (landslides, earthquakes, volcanoes).
  • It may be for you if you like travel, sustainable design, engineering to minimize natural hazard risks, and the interactions of infrastructure and nature.

Below are some pictures Prof. Evans has taken of geological engineering examples.  Several of these are from field trip locations our students have travelled to in past years.

 

 

More About Geological Engineering

Recent US College Fair and Outreach Activities

For 11 days in October we traveled across the U.S. to attend the NACAC College STEM Fairs in Santa Clara CA and New York city.   These were very good events, and we had the opportunity to meet a lot of high school students and families.  Some had heard of Waterloo, but many others had never considered the idea and potential benefits of studying in Canada.  So we had some good conversations, especially around the concept of Waterloo engineering’s co-operative education system, alternating study with up to 6 paid work opportunities.   It looked like very few (if any) schools sent faculty to these fairs, but I thought it was worthwhile for me to be there because I could discuss the program content in depth, as well as more general thoughts on engineering education and career paths.

In addition to attending the college fairs, we also did some outreach workshop activities.  Waterloo has a long history of outreach educational activities, especially through our Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing  (CEMC) who do mathematics classes and workshops in a wide variety of schools and locations.    Borrowing from their ideas, I created several engineering design workshops based on case studies from our Waterloo Cases in Design Engineering group, headed by Prof. Lambert.  With some adaptation for high school level and time limitations, we cover some math, physics and/or chemistry, and spend some time having the students come up with preliminary design ideas for a rocket, or rainwater harvester system, or some industrial equipment.  These are all based on things our own students have done during workterm employment, and it is meant to be an introduction to engineering design concepts and different approaches to problem-solving.

During our trip we engaged with about 7 classes in several schools, including Design Tech High School in San Mateo, Harker School in San Jose, Léman Manhattan Preparatory School in New York, and the United Nations International School in New York.  Although there was interest from other schools, we couldn’t squeeze in any other schools in our limited timelines this year.

We also had a very nice evening event held at Bellarmine College Preparatory school in San Jose.  A number of prospective students and families were able to meet some of our engineering and mathematics alumni and a few of the hundreds of co-op students currently working in the Silicon Valley area.  (Many thanks to our alumni and students for volunteering their time to attend!)

Finally, we had a couple of good meetings with quite a few independent college counselors to explain about Waterloo and co-operative education.  In Canada, such people are rare but in the U.S. they are more commonly employed by families to help them sort through the myriad of possible options for college.  It was an opportunity for us to explain what type of student and background might be the best fit, and to explain more about the Canadian admissions process and timelines.  For example, in the U.S. the application deadline is often November 1, but our engineering applications are open until February 1, so there is still lots of time for applicants in the U.S. to look into Waterloo or other Canadian schools.

We will be returning to the Houston area in early November for the last NACAC Stem Fair, after which we’ll return to Waterloo to start ramping up the admissions process for 2018.

 

University of Waterloo students make a big splash in the 2017 AquaHacking semi-finals | Water Institute

An interesting competition event showcasing environmental water quality innovations by student groups.  Sponsored by the Water Institute at Waterloo, one of the research centres I belong to.

The AquaHacking 2017 semi-final competition unfolded last week at CIGI. By the end of the evening, five teams were chosen to move on to the final competition at Waterloo on September 13. It was a difficult decision for the five judges, as all 17 teams that competed offered innovative ideas that tackled the challenges and opportunities facing Lake Erie.

Source: University of Waterloo students make a big splash in the 2017 AquaHacking semi-finals | Water Institute