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News from Waterloo Engineering

Collaborative effort captures 3M Nano paper award

September 10th, 2012

A paper written by engineers from Waterloo and South China University of Technology recently won the Best Student Paper Award at the 3M-NANO international conference held in Xi’an China. The paper was co-authored by John Yeow, a Waterloo systems design engineering professor, Manu Pallapa, a Waterloo Engineering doctoral candidate, Hui Chen, a Waterloo Engineering exchange student, and Weijie Sun and Zhendong Sun, who are both South China University of Technology professors. The title of the winning paper is Sliding Mode Control of a 2D Torsional MEMS Micromirror with Sidewall Electrodes. [3M Nano conference website]

Waterloo Engineering ranks with best in world

September 10th, 2012

Waterloo Engineering has been ranked number 43 in the world (number two in Canada) in the “Engineering/Technology and Computer Sciences” Field of the Academic Ranking of World Universities for 2012! Along with the University of Toronto in 13th spot, we are the only two Canadian schools in the top 50 of what’s also known as the Shanghai Ranking. Seven other Canadian schools appear in the top 200.

This is the second impressive ranking Waterloo Engineering has received this summer. Business Insider, a respected U.S.-based online news source, ranked the Faculty as the best engineering school in Canada. The same survey placed Waterloo 29th in the world, with two other Canadian universities included in the top 50. The University of Toronto ranked 35th and the University of Ottawa took the 44th spot. [academic ranking of World Universities]

Engineering-designed simulator could prevent knee injuries

August 8th, 2012
Naveen Chandrashekar is developing a method of simulating career-ending injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) located in the knee. The mechanical and mechatronics engineering professor has designed a  simulator that is capable of accurately replicating high-speed knee movements, such as those resulting from intense athletic activity.

According to Chandrashekar, around 100,000 athletes in North America tear their ACL every year, resulting in more than $2 billion in treatment costs annually.

Currently, the mechanism of ACL injury is not well understood, which hampers strategies to prevent such injuries. By recreating conditions for ACL damage in the lab, Chandrashekar and his students can study the causes of those injuries. Plans are in the works to design and test neuromuscular protection strategies that can be implemented during training to prevent ACL injury in athletes. [DB article] [The Record article]

Laser research promises to lead to next-generation imaging systems

August 8th, 2012
An electrical and computer engineering professor is creating a novel terahertz frequency laser that can operate closer to room temperature than any other previously developed.

Dayan Ban and his research team have designed and fabricated a laser that can be operated at a temperature of 199.5K (-73.5 degree C) — a new world record for the maximum lasing temperature.  Their findings push the lasing temperature closer to the ones that can be obtained through a thermal electrical cooler. Ban says the end result will likely lead to next-generation terahertz imaging systems and high-speed communications products, including everything from non-invasive medical imaging, environmental monitoring to satellite communication.

“Eventually we wish to demonstrate a laser device that can be operated at 230K or higher temperatures and therefore don’t need to be cooled down through a bulky, energy-hungry and in-efficient cryostat,” says Ban, who is also the associate director of Waterloo’s nanotechnology engineering program. “We will then be able to package a plug-and-play device that is similar to the size of a BlackBerry cell phone, which would greatly promote the emerging terahertz technologies and allow people explore new applications in the largely-unexploited terahertz electromagnetic spectrum.”

Ban, who originally began his research eight years ago when he was employed by the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada, leads a Waterloo Engineering research team that collaborates with researchers from NRC, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Technische Universität München and Shanghai Jiao Tong University.  Their research was recently highlighted in scientific journal Nature Photonics. The first author of the paper entitled “Chasing Room Temperature” is Ban’s doctoral student Saeed Fathololoumi. [Nature Photonics article]

Alumni receive scientists and engineers fellowships

August 8th, 2012
Three Waterloo Engineering graduates are the first recipients of the new Scientists and Engineers in Business Fellowship, created to help turn innovations into businesses. Armen Bakirtzian, JS Rancourt, and Ryan Denomme each received $60,000 in the first round of fellowships. Two more rounds of fellowships will be awarded in the next eight months.
 
The Waterloo program is supported by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and offers fellowships to Waterloo graduates and recent alumni (graduates who earned their last Waterloo degree within five years) in a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) program who want to commercialize their innovations and start high-tech/STEM related businesses.

For Denomme, a mechanical engineering graduate, the fellowship is helping advance the operations of Nicoya Lifesciences, his new company that has developed a unique home diagnostics technology that can monitor a wide range of medical conditions and illnesses.

The fellowship is helping Rancourt, a mechanical engineering graduate, and his partners with Hockey Robotics, a company that started as a fourth-year engineering project. During the next year, the fellowship will provide the funds needed to develop a more advanced version of Slapshot XT that will result in the employment of several co-op students as well as spin-off employment for clients of Hockey Robotics as their products evolve.

And Bakirtzian, a mechatronics engineering graduate and chief executive officer, director, and co-founder of Avenir Medical Inc., would like to see his concept for intelligent instrumentation that can be used in hip replacement surgery become the future standard of care. PelvAssistTM is under development and expected to be available to orthopedic surgeons by early 2014. The fellowship will have a significant impact on getting this new technology into the hands of doctors sooner by helping to accelerate the steps needed to commercialize the product. [full article]

Grad student’s research spotlights solar roads

August 8th, 2012
Thanks to groundbreaking research being undertaken by civil engineering master’s student Andrew Northmore we could one day be driving on glass  instead of asphalt or concrete. With solar panels embedded below the glass much-needed electricity would be generated.

“If you were to put down solar road panels across every interstate highway in the United States, you’d be able to generate three times the electricity that they use in a day,” says Northmore whose paper on his research was named among top student papers at a recent engineering conference. He will also write his master’s thesis on his research. 

In the next few months, Northmore plans to build and test three prototypes, each about one square metre. One will measure electricity from a solar panel embedded between glass surface and fibreglass base. Glass will be laminated, tempered and textured, to boost strength, contain fragments if it breaks and prevent slipping.

A second prototype will be put through 100 freeze-thaw cycles in a laboratory freezer, to simulate three winters. A third prototype will be squashed to see what it takes to break it. [Record article]

Professor emeritus honoured with civil engineering award

August 8th, 2012
Reinhold Schuster, a Waterloo civil engineering professor emeritus, has been awarded the 2012 CAN-AM Civil Engineering Amity award by the Technical Council on Cold Regions Engineering. Schuster was recognized for his research in cold-formed steel structures in both Canada and the U.S. His award will be presented to him during the International Cold Regions Engineering Conference taking place August 19-22 in Quebec City.

Engineering students win BrainSTEM Build-a-thon

August 8th, 2012
Crouton Labs, a team made up of third-year mechatronics engineering students Drew Gross, Akash Vaswani and Jake Nielsen and computer science student Christophe Biocca, took first place in the Brainstem Build-a-thon. The competition was held as part of the June 25-27 BrainSTEM “unconference” at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo. The Build-a-thon included 10 teams of university and college students that worked for 48 hours to create a digital media product. Crouton Labs, a startup from the VeloCity incubator, won for its product called Ropuzzle, an educational puzzle game that teaches robotics to high school students, assembling and programming it to achieve objectives. [DB article]

Survey ranks Waterloo top engineering school in Canada

August 8th, 2012
According to a recent survey conducted by Business Insider, a respected U.S. based online news source, Waterloo Engineering is the best engineering school in Canada.

The same survey placed Waterloo 29th in the world, with two other Canadian universities included in the top 50. The University of Toronto ranked 35th and the University of Ottawa took the 44th spot.

Industry and business leaders participated in the survey, and 91 per cent of the respondents reported having a computer science, engineering or equivalent degree. Among these respondents, the majority sited the two most important criteria considered when selecting an engineering school were the skills and knowledge acquired, and the brand value of the school. [news release]

Engineering research may lead to less expensive consumer lasers and LEDs

August 8th, 2012
A recent theoretical study by a doctoral candidate in nanotechnology engineering suggests that manufacturers may one day make lasers and LEDs out of silicon, with the potential to significantly lower their price.

Daryoush Shiri says that making lasers and light emitting diodes (LED) from bulk silicon, one of the most abundant minerals on earth, has been a longtime goal of the photonic engineering community. But while the cost of silicon is low, it suffers from an inherent electronic property called indirect bandgap that hinders the light emission from this material. As a result, lasers are currently manufactured using other, more expensive materials.

“Extensive numerical calculations that involved first-principle quantum mechanical and other studies proved that silicon nanowires show dramatic changes of light emission properties when we apply mechanical strain,” said Shiri. [news release]