‘Assemble it like IKEA furniture:’ U of T Engineering TA creates build-at-home machine to enable hands-on remote learning

Lab kit

Materials Science & Engineering (MSE) teaching assistant Crystal Liu designed, sourced and mailed 50 lab kits for students to build a mini mechanical tester from home. (Photo courtesy Crystal Liu)

In February, U of T Engineering students in MSE398: Materials Manufacturing and Design Laboratory received a package in the mail. Inside was a lab kit, with components — mechanical parts, electrical components, a printed circuit board (PCB), and tools — to build an at-home mini mechanical tester machine for their labs.

“You assemble the pieces like IKEA furniture,” says teaching assistant Crystal Liu (MIE 1T8 + PEY, MSE MASc candidate).

To keep remote learning engaging and hands-on during the pandemic, U of T Engineering instructors have gotten creative to adapt their teaching and lab exercises. For Liu and course instructor Professor Scott Ramsay (MSE) it was paramount that third-year materials science engineering students still had an opportunity to gain experience performing hands-on work.

“Last spring, Professor Ramsay and I talked about the term ahead — we knew the pandemic was far from being over in a year’s time. We both agreed that we couldn’t have students doing just simulations, it’s just not the same as a hands-on experience,” says Liu. “So, we decided to send them something.”

Liu began designing a lab kit for the course and decided to make the design freely available online to benefit others. Through the summer, she sourced materials and components. For custom designed parts, she worked with staff at the Myhal Centre’s Fabrication Facility to 3D print and laser cut them.

By the Fall Term Liu had the materials to package 50 lab kits, and by the Winter term, she had mailed them to students as far away as Dubai, China and Turkey. For those in Toronto, Liu safely delivered them to students’ homes or arranged for them to be picked up.

The course’s first assignment is to build it. Once fully assembled, the mechanical tester is the size of a shoe box. It comes complete with a custom-designed PCB, user interface, and all firmware, as well as safety features such as a shield that must be installed for the machine to run, and a large emergency-stop button.

For their second assignment, students were provided with a bag of material samples to analyze. “These include 3D printed samples, ranging from very brittle to very stretchy, and items you can find in daily life, like tapes and plastic bags,” explains Liu.

Once students insert the sample, the machine stretches it, measuring the force being applied, as well as the displacement, or how far the sample has been stretched. The user interface shows the force-versus-displacement curve while the data is saved in real time. Students then use this to study the material’s properties and how the data is generated.

The students’ final assignment required them to find an adhesive seam to peel, such as the ones at the top of a bag of chips, to conduct their own peel-force test using the machine.

“They go from learning how to perform a tensile test that is already designed for them, to then having to apply what they learned in order to conduct their own experiment procedure from scratch,” says Liu. “What they’re learning and how they go about it, is as close as you can get to what it would be like if they were operating equipment on campus.”

Liu and Ramsay have received positive feedback from students. “They like how hands-on it has been and really appreciated the amount of time and effort we put into the course,” she says.

Liu’s experience designing the lab kit is helping to inform her master’s project on designing and implementing open-source hardware in engineering research. The kits were partially funded by Ramsay’s Hart Teaching Innovation Professorship.

“Crystal has worked exceptionally hard on this project and it is impressive that she was able to put this together for our students,” says Ramsay. “The hands-on experience is one of the most important aspects of this course — I’m so pleased that we’ve been able to give the students some of that experience in the remote environment.”

After the term wraps up in a few weeks, Liu plans to turn her research, including two mechanical testers, into a startup with the support of U of T Engineering’s Entrepreneurship Hatchery.

“I believe students learn better by building and playing, so this type of device could be beneficial to students at other universities, they could even be used in high school science labs,” says Liu. “However, not everyone can go from freely available design plans to components and to a product. So, through a startup, I’m hoping to make these designs even more accessible to others.”

Article by Liz Do originally published April 6, 2021, at U of T Engineering News.

Posted in Uncategorized

Black History Month: Presidents reflect on the impact of National Society of Black Engineers at U of T

NSBE Presidents

Past and present NSBE U of T presidents reflect on the legacies they’ve left behind and the impact the chapter has had in improving Black inclusion at U of T Engineering. (From top left, clockwise: Iyiope Jibodu, Akira Neckles, Alana Bailey, Dimpho Radebe, Mikhail Burke and Kelly-Marie Melville.)


Kelly-Marie Melville (ChemE 1T2 + PEY) was in her dorm room, just two weeks into her studies at U of T Engineering, when a fellow student Korede Owolabi (CompE 1T5 + PEY) and member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) U of T chapter came knocking on her door.

“He gave me a full rundown about NSBE, and I didn’t fully understand the gravity of it at the time,” says Melville. “But once I started my classes, I got it.”

Melville remembers sitting in Convocation Hall, where all first-year engineering students traditionally gather for their first class together.

“It was intimidating for someone who just moved here from Trinidad and for someone who is just starting engineering. I remember thinking, ‘oh my goodness, there is no one here who looks like me.’”

NSBE, founded in 1975 at Purdue University, aims to promote, support and increase the number of Black engineers who excel academically and professionally. Each year, the NSBE National Convention brings thousands of members together for networking and professional development opportunities. The organization’s goal is to graduate 10,000 Black engineers annually by 2025.

The U of T chapter, founded in 1999, is the largest in Toronto. And for more than 20 years, NSBE U of T has played an important role in increasing Black inclusion at U of T, and in fostering a safe space among Black engineering students, who continue to be underrepresented among the student body.

Three years after that knock on the door, Melville was NSBE president (2009 to 2010), and found herself using the same recruitment strategy. “Sometimes I was even chasing students down in the hallways to talk to them [about NSBE],” she says.

One of the students she introduced NSBE to was Akira Neckles (ChemE 1T7 + PEY), who would also eventually become president (2016 to 2017). During her studies, Neckles remembers seeing only five Black students within her year.

“That can really make you feel like you don’t belong,” she says. “With NSBE, it felt like it brought us together. Within a program, we’re less, but within a group, we’re more.”

Over the years, each NSBE U of T president would bring a unique vision and leave their own legacy of impact.

During Melville’s term, she worked to significantly increase NSBE U of T memberships. For Neckles, her focus was on professional development, inviting organizations to U of T so that members were informed of career pathways, even before looking ahead at their Professional Experience Year (PEY) Co-op.

During Dimpho Radebe’s (IndE 1T4 + PEY, ChemE PhD candidate in EngEd ) presidency (2014 to 2015), she was challenged with keeping NSBE U of T afloat, as memberships began to dwindle.

“I think the biggest challenge for NSBE is that, although it is an organization created to support Black students, we’ve always said, we’re open to everyone and not exclusively to Black students,” explains Radebe. “But many students don’t realize that, and it makes our potential pool that much smaller.”

Radebe says one of her greatest achievements during her leadership was sending 10 students to the NSBE National Convention in Anaheim, Calif.

“That experience really inspired students to join because they can see the full power of NSBE versus when you don’t see many of us around at school,” she says. “Many of them ended up running for leadership positions after that.”

For Iyiope Jibodu (ChemE 0T8 + PEY), it was about “NSBE family and NSBE love.” As president from 2008 to 2009, he was instrumental in launching D-Battle, a student dance competition that would attract large crowds to the Sandford Fleming atrium. D-Battle started as an idea by Owolabi to increase membership — it would become a staple NSBE event for years to come.

“NSBE had a reputation as a professional student group, but we took the risk to host D-Battle, which turned out to be a fantastic platform to increase awareness on campus,” says Jibodu. “By having a fun event with mass appeal, we brought the entire Faculty together and showcased our strong and vibrant community.”

During Mikhail Burke’s (MSE 1T2, IBBME PhD 1T8) presidency (2010 to 2011), he would play a pivotal role in founding ENGage, an outreach program for Black students in Grades 3 to 8 that sparks passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). ENGage has been running for more than a decade out of the U of T Engineering Outreach Office, and would pave the way for Blueprint, a new program designed for Black high school students interested in STEM.

Alana Bailey (Year 3 CivMin) is NSBE U of T’s current president and has had a term like no other — having to lead from home during the pandemic. Despite this challenge, Bailey has set out ambitious goals.

Her mission when she took office in May was to have each executive member recruit at least five students — this led to a growth of more than 60 members by September 2020. Under her leadership, NSBE U of T has been more involved in Faculty recruitment events, as well as leading their own high school outreach efforts.

This year, NSBE U of T has also brought in more external sponsors to support initiatives — most recently, NSBEHacks garnered a wide range of sponsorships with leading companies such as Google, NVIDIA and Shopify, just to name a few.

Bailey hopes this effort builds toward retaining sponsorships year-round, providing funds for members pursuing professional development endeavours.

“If students need help to go to a conference or to enrol in an expensive course, our hope is to have the supports to actively help them achieve that,” says Bailey.

Bailey has three months left in her term, before she takes up her PEY Co-op position next fall. She plans to stay in close contact with NSBE, and she isn’t alone in wanting to stay in touch — many former presidents and members continue to advise, mentor and participate in NSBE U of T events.

That includes Burke, who is now the Dean’s Advisor on Black Inclusivity Initiatives and Student Inclusion & Transition Advisor at U of T Engineering. Over the last decade, he has seen and participated in many efforts by U of T Engineering to address Black underrepresentation — and NSBE has always played a role.

“There’s been a shift in what the Faculty feels empowered to do and it’s a good start, but there’s always room to do more. We have to continue to lean into the discomfort of talking about the lack of Black representation and about anti-Black racism on campus,” he says. “Organizations like NSBE are key advocates in driving the Faculty to engage in that change.”


Article by Liz Do originally published at U of T Engineering News on February 19, 2021.

ChemE student earns prestigious Schwarzman Scholarship — a U of T Engineering first

Fletcher Han

Fletcher Han (Year 4 ChemE + PEY Co-op) has been selected to join the Class of 2022 Schwarzman Scholars, making him the first U of T Engineering student to receive the scholarship and the fifth U of T student to be selected.

The prestigious graduate fellowship is awarded annually by Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Scholars are selected based on their exemplary leadership qualities and ability to bridge and understand political and cultural differences.

One week after his interview, Han received the call informing him he was selected as one of 154 successful applicants. “As soon as I heard the words, ‘Congratulations, you have been selected as a Schwarzman Scholar’, I was left speechless,” says Han. “After letting the news sink in, I was ecstatic and eager to share my achievement with my friends and family, while also nervous for the new possibilities my future may now hold.”

Han’s experiences as a chemical engineering student and as an international volunteer played a key role in his decision to apply for the fellowship.

“Both the Department and the Centre for Global Engineering (CGEN) gave me a platform to pursue an interdisciplinary capstone project in water insecurity and an undergraduate thesis in malnutrition — two topics rooted in global engineering,” says Han. “These opportunities have helped guide my future aspirations while also providing me with the skills necessary to thrive in the Schwarzman Scholars program and beyond.”

Through his experiences, Han developed the skills needed to understand some of the world’s most pressing challenges through a scientific and mathematical lens, and sees the Schwarzman Scholarship as an opportunity to further expand his world view.

“Through the program, I hope to explore how global relations, diplomacy and political policy can be intertwined with engineering design to effectively promote international development in an interconnected world,” says Han. “I now realize that the global implementation of a solution is only a success if global affairs is incorporated into every aspect of the final design.”

Han’s determination to make a difference is evident throughout his academic career. Since joining U of T Engineering in 2016, Han has held several leadership roles and executive positions including mentorship director of the Chemical Engineering Student Council (Chem Club), chair of the Association of Leadership in Chemical Engineering (ALChemE) and vice-chair of the University of Toronto chapter of the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering (CSChE), to name a few.

“These experiences have been essential to my development as both an individual and a leader,” says Han. “I was able to hone areas of strength and broaden my understanding of leadership, recognizing courage, humility and integrity as key ingredients, which I will bring with me when I begin my journey as a Schwarzman Scholar.”

Han is looking forward to exploring his academic and professional interests through the program — he’s also hoping to learn a little bit more about himself along the way, too. Having lived abroad his entire life, Han says he’s “thrilled to start uncovering my Chinese ancestry. I’m also excited to learn about China’s complexities and their future role in tackling some of our world’s most intractable issues.”

“To be the first U of T Engineering student named a Schwarzman Scholar is a tremendous recognition of Fletcher’s ability and potential as a leader,” says Professor Grant Allen, Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry. “I look forward to what Fletcher will accomplish with this incredible opportunity. My congratulations to Fletcher on this exceptional achievement.”

Beginning August 2021, Han will complete a one-year Master’s degree in Global Affairs and live in Beijing for an intensive year of study and cultural immersion. The program is now in its sixth year.


Article originally published on U of T Engineering News. Article by Amanda Hacio. Posted December 16 2020.

Posted in Uncategorized

Tackling social and systemic change: Meet U of T Engineering’s 2020 Loran Scholar

Loran Scholar 2020

Margaux Roncière is among four U of T undergraduate students and 36 recipients across Canada to receive the Loran Award this year.

Roncière (Year 1 TrackOne) may have just begun her studies at U of T Engineering, but Roncière is already well on her way to becoming a leader in the community.

Roncière is among four U of T undergraduate students and 36 recipients across Canada to receive the Loran Award this year. The award, valued at $100,000 over the course of four years, recognizes students who, in addition to academic achievement, have demonstrated their character and made positive changes in their communities.

Offered to students in their final year of high school, Loran Scholars must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 85 per cent. However, what makes this award unique is its emphasis on character and the belief that “integrity, courage, grit and personal autonomy are better indicators of overall potential than standard academic measures.”

Diagne, Mitchell, Thompson and Roncière faced stiff competition for the Loran Award, having been selected from a pool of more than 5,000 students.

Roncière published a book in high school about an international co-operation project that aimed to develop female leadership in Senegal. She also worked on humanitarian projects in Benin and Nepal.

Now at U of T Engineering, Roncière wants to continue pursuing innovative solutions to humanitarian crises. She says she was drawn to U of T’s engineering program because its “outstanding reputation demonstrates its quality of education and its commitment to innovate.”

“I’m particularly interested in sustainability and social impact, and I believe technology can be a great lever for that,” says Roncière, who is from Dorval, Que.

Roncière was a member of her school’s United Nations club and several student committees. As a first-year engineering student, she is pursuing projects that focus on tackling global development and social and systemic change.

“I joined the Engineers without Borders chapter on Indigenous Reconciliation,” Roncière says.

“In the future, I’d also like to get more involved in policy and mental health advocacy, especially within the engineering faculty.”

Learn more about U of T’s 2020 Loran Scholars.

Article originally published at U of T Engineering News on November 20, 2020. Article by Emily Allison.

Posted in Uncategorized

Dean’s World Tour: Checking in with U of T Engineering students across the globe

Dean's World Tour Zoom Snapshot

Dean Christopher Yip met virtually with undergraduate students in time zones around the world during the first-ever Dean’s World Tour on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020.

This week, U of T Engineering Dean Christopher Yip took a virtual trip around the world.

Using the digital meeting platform Zoom, Dean Yip facilitated a series of open discussions for undergraduate students, who are currently studying remotely in dozens of locations around the world — from Toronto to Tehran to Taipei — due to public health restrictions put in place to combat the spread of COVID-19.

“We wanted to do this session because we are now more than halfway through the semester, which is the time when the stress level naturally starts to inch up a bit,” said Dean Yip in his opening remarks.

“I want to hear from you about what’s working and what isn’t, but I also want to give you a chance to connect with other students in your time zone who may be going through the same challenges you are.”

More than 100 students registered for the three sessions, each of which was scheduled at times convenient for a certain section of the globe. Session 1 covered Southeast and East Asia, while Session 2 covered Europe, Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East. Session 3 was aimed at students in North, Central and South America.

The Dean was joined by front-line staff including academic advisors, learning strategists and the Faculty’s registrar and Mental Health Programs Officer.

Also joining were more than a dozen alumni, from recent graduates to seasoned professionals. Each shared their own experiences on how students can make the most of their time at Skule™, how to network and prepare for future career opportunities, and offered to connect with those in their regions of the world.

“I was really grateful to get a chance to talk to Faculty, alumni, and students from U of T Engineering because it demonstrated the support and availability of the community from all over the world,” said Carmelle Chatterjee (Year 3 ChemE), who attended remotely from Frankfurt, Germany.

“Especially in these times. it’s nice to get a reminder of what we all have in common and how we can connect, regardless of our background or where we may be situated in the world.”

This event was the first of its kind, but it likely won’t be the last. U of T Engineering has extended its Remote Access Guarantee for the Winter semester.

I’ve been so gratified and impressed to see how everyone has handled the current situation, using their engineering talent to develop creative solutions to unusual challenges,” said Dean Yip. “Going forward, I think it’s really important to continue to maintain our strong community, form new connections and for me to hear directly from students.

Article originally published in the U of T Engineering News on November 13, 2020. Article by Tyler Irving.

Posted in Uncategorized

Three-peat victory: U of T Engineering team wins AutoDrive Challenge, Year Three

Zeus, a self-driving car. The car has a blue and white paint job.

Zeus, shown here outside the Myhal Centre in October 2019, is a self-driving car designed and built by aUToronto, a student-led team from U of T Engineering. This week, aUToronto placed first overall in the three-year AutoDrive Challenge, an intercollegiate competition between eight top engineering schools across North America. (Photo: Liz Do)

aUToronto has placed first in an intercollegiate challenge to transform an electric car into a self-driving one — their third consecutive win.

“All of us take pride in the work that we have done at aUToronto,” says Jingxing “Joe” Qian (EngSci 1T8 + PEY, UTIAS MASc candidate), Team Lead for aUToronto. “The competition results clearly reflect the high calibre and dedication of the team.”

The team also took the top overall prize for the most cumulative points over the three years of the AutoDrive Challenge. Second place went to Texas A & M, with Virginia Tech scoring third. The other schools in the competition were: University of Waterloo, Michigan State, Michigan Tech, North Carolina A&T State, and Kettering University.

The AutoDrive Challenge began in 2017, when each of the student-led teams was provided with a brand-new electric vehicle, a Chevrolet Bolt. Their task was to convert it into an autonomous vehicle, meeting yearly milestones along the way.

Sponsors of the AutoDrive include General Motors, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and a number of other companies that produce hardware and software for self-driving cars.

The U of T team took the top spot at the first meet of the competition, held in the spring of 2018 at the General Motors Proving Grounds in Yuma, Ariz. In the second year, they again placed first at the competition, which took place in MCity, a simulated town for self-driving vehicle testing, built at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The third yearly meet was originally scheduled to take place last spring at the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, Ohio. However, it was postponed and reorganized due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“The goal of this year’s challenge was to simulate an autonomous ride-sharing scenario,” says Qian. “That means the car needed to arrive at a sequence of pre-determined address points and perform pseudo pick-up and drop-off behaviours. The routes would have been much longer and more complex compared with Year 2.”

In the absence of a live event, the organizers used what are known as “static event” scores, which are based on reports and presentations that the teams could submit remotely. These included an analysis of the social responsibility aspects of the project, the overall conceptual design and the results of a number of sophisticated computer simulations.

Qian says that the latest iteration of Zeus includes a number of enhancements, including improvements in perception, path planning and GPS-free localization. To make them, the aUToronto team overcame numerous challenges, not the least of which was coordinating more than 50 team members who were working remotely on the project.

“We are located in many different places around the world, so team building and organization becomes extremely important,” says Qian. “We have weekly meetings online where sub-team leads present their updates to the rest of the team, and we have also been planning virtual paper talks and knowledge sharing sessions.”

“aUToronto has been focused on putting together a top-notch self driving car for three years now,” says Keenan Burnett (EngSci 1T6+PEY, UTIAS MASc candidate), who served as aUToronto’s Team Lead through the first two years of the AutoDrive Challenge. “This win is the result of hundreds of hours of work by our team.”

“As a faculty advisor, I have watched with awe as the 100%-student-run team really seized this unique opportunity,” says Professor Tim Barfoot (UTIAS). Barfoot, along with Professor Angela Schoellig (UTIAS) is one of the two co-Faculty Leads of the team. He also serves as Associate Director of the University of Toronto Robotics Institute and the Chair of the Robotics Option offered by the Division of Engineering Science.

“Robotics is a very hands-on discipline, so experiences such as the AutoDrive Challenge are needed to complement classroom learning,” says Barfoot “I am deeply grateful to SAE and GM for organizing this activity and the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering for their ongoing support through the Dean’s Strategic Fund.   I feel our graduates are better prepared to head into the exciting field of autonomous vehicles than perhaps anywhere in the world at this moment in time.  The fact that we won the competition is a bonus.”

The competition has been rolled into a fourth year, with a live meet set to take place sometime in 2021, again at MCity in Ann Arbour, Mich.

“We’re very proud the results of this third-year competition and looking forward to raising the bar yet again at the fourth-year competition,” says Burnett. “Although we’re disappointed we didn’t get to show off our autonomous functions this year, we’re looking forward to going back to MCity and demonstrating our Level 4 self-driving car.”

But aUToronto is also thinking beyond the end of the AutoDrive Challenge.

“We’ve always said we do not want to design a system that is specific towards this competition,” says Qian. “Our goal is to achieve full autonomy under many different scenarios.”

Article first published at U of T Engineering News on October 2, 2020. Article by Tyler Irving.

Posted in Uncategorized

Back to Skule™: Mental wellness strategies for students

Working from home

Photo via Envato.

This year, U of T Engineering students are preparing for a very different back-to-school season. Keeping mental health in mind will be more important than ever. 

Below, U of T Engineering’s Mental Health Programs Officer Melissa Fernandes lays out some advice on how students can effectively deal with some of the new challenges they may be facing. 

Challenge #1 — A sedentary, screen-filled day  

While faculty and staff have been working to ensure that your learning can happen asynchronously where possible to accommodate your daily schedules, it is likely that you will be spending a significant portion of your day on a screen. 

This is unavoidable, so be sure to take care of your body by taking breaks. Get up, move and look beyond your screen. Make sure that you get in all the things your body needs: 

  • Seven to nine hours of sleep 
  • Nutritious meals and snacks 
  • Lots of water (and yes, I will say it, using the toilet as needed!) 

Remember, mental and physical health are fundamentally linked. What’s good for the body is good for the brain! 

Challenge #2 — Finding community & supports  

Usually, orientation events help to break the ice and showcase opportunities for students to engage with each other in social settings. 

Many of this year’s orientation events were shifted to online delivery, but it still may have been a bit more difficult to make these connections.  

The important thing to note is that these opportunities (clubs, societies, resources) all still exist and for the most part are all continuing with their mandates. So, it’s not too late if you are looking to get connected to a resource offered here at U of T. 

Check out these resources for more information on joining anEngineering specific club/team,a U of T club/organizationor to explore the resources available throughout campus consider downloading the Student Life App. 

Challenge #3 — Staying motivated 

As you attend classes and complete homework assignments in your room, on your own, in the midst of a global pandemic that may bring up feelings of grief, fear, and a looming second wave it may be challenging to stay motivated. This will be even more difficult if you are met with challenging concepts, a rigorous workload, and possibly grades that are lower than you expected. 

In these times, remember that resilience is a process that involves using the resources we have around us, and inside of us, to promote our well-being. When you are met with challenge or failure, reframe it as a learning opportunity and reach out for support. By doing this, you will be displaying your ability to have a grit and growth mindset.  

You may choose to reach out to: 

The important thing is that you reach out to someonewe are all here to help you succeed! 

If things get to be too much to handle on your own or if you are recognizing that your mental health is beginning to affect the way that you would like to function, consider connecting with: 

 We are all in this together. Welcome to U of T Engineering! 

Melissa Fernandes


Article by Tyler Irving originally published September 9, 2020, at U of T Engineering News.

Posted in Uncategorized

How to work effectively when your team is both global and virtual

Solar Ship

A steel-tethered airship, known as an aerostat, designed by Solar Ship, Inc. The company is one of several clients whose projects are facilitated by U of T Engineering’s International Virtual Engineering Student Teams (InVEST) initiative. (Photo: Solar Ship, Inc.)

Last January, U of T Engineering launched a new program focused on using online collaboration tools to build effective, multidisciplinary design teams with members all over the world. Its creators could not have known how timely their efforts were.

“Prior to the pandemic, utilizing virtual-international teams was seen as a time and cost-saving approach to harness talent and maximize efficiency,” says Professor Elham Marzi (ISTEP). “In the present state, we are seeing organizations left with little choice but to embrace virtual-international teams as the best way forward.”

There are signs that the shift online caused by COVID-19 may continue even after the virus subsides. Already, major technology companies such as Twitter, Shopify and Facebook have told their employees that they can keep telecommuting indefinitely.

“This is the new global reality our graduates need to prepare for,” says Marzi.

The International Virtual Engineering Student Teams (InVEST) initiative facilitates virtual and cross-cultural collaboration by connecting U of T Engineering students with their peers at partner universities abroad.

Student teams undertake technical projects under the supervision of faculty members at partner universities. They also participate in value-added learning activities on technology use, effective teamwork and intercultural communication and understanding.

Together, these international, multidisciplinary teams complete design projects, sometimes for an external client, using a suite of software tools to communicate and track their progress.

InVEST is delivered by a team that includes:

  • Professor Elham Marzi (ISTEP), InVEST Director & Principal Investigator
  • Rahim Rezaie, InVEST Assistant Director
  • Debbie A. Mohammed, University & Industry Liaison
  • Anuli Ndubuisi (OISE), Research and Program Manager
  • Oluwatobi (Tobi) Edun, Operations & Research Manager
  • Patrick Ishimwe, Website & Social Media Developer

“Some of our students already travel abroad at some point in their degree programs,” says Rezaie. “But travel is expensive, and the students usually can’t stay away for more than a few weeks. Virtual collaboration offers a more scalable way for the university to enhance international experience for graduates.”

InVEST, which is supported by the Dean’s Strategic Fund, was designed to be compatible with existing experiential learning activities, such as fourth-year capstones courses, MEng research projects, or independent project courses.

However, at the request of U of T’s Centre for International Experience, the team has added a number of summer research exchanges that were moved online due to travel restrictions.

“What this program provides is the ability to have eyes and ears in more than one country,” says Edun. “This leads to a bigger and more diverse set of ideas around the table, and a richer experience for everyone involved.”

Jeff Mukuka (Year 4 CivE) is one of the participants. His project is a design exchange internship with Solar Ship, Inc., a company that designs tethered and mobile airships, known as aerostats, for applications ranging from tourism to freight transportation.

“Through InVEST, I’ve had the privilege of working with people from many countries, including the U.S., U.A.E., Nepal and Zambia,” says Mukuka. “The experience working with such a diverse team was transformational and I have made many lifelong friends.”

In addition to their design work, students in InVEST engage with educational modules that help them address some of the issues that come up during extended online collaboration.

“These days, we’re all learning that Zoom etiquette is important, that we need to be respectful when having a meeting that essentially lets your co-workers inside your home,” says Marzi. “That’s true whether you’re in Ecuador, Canada or Africa, but how it is perceived may vary from place to place, so we’re getting the students to think through that.”

InVEST Session

Students and staff from three InVEST projects participating in an intercultural learning session held July 16, 2020. Left to right, top to bottom: Tobi Edun, Professor Elham Marzi, Anuli Ndubuisi, Malama, Laura Williams, Mohamed Mbarouk, Matt Jagdeo, Sampanna Bhattarai, Chao Wang, Maryam Naqi, Rayni Li, Ali Khan, Carlos Qixiao, Jenny Li. (Photo courtesy Elham Marzi)


“I learned a lot from the modules: intercultural communication skills, group conflict resolution, and how to use software tools for virtual collaboration,” says Mukuka. “The skills I have acquired are invaluable, especially now that the future is projected to have more remote work even after COVID-19 ends.”

Mukuka’s project is one of four completed over the last several months, with others ongoing, involving a total of 24 students. These include 13 students from partner universities such as University of Johannesburg in South Africa, and the University of the West Indies in Trinidad.

Heading into the fall semester, the team will expand the program with more projects.

“We are in contact with more than fifteen universities around the world at the moment,” says Edun. “Some of the projects I’m excited about for the fall include one about biogas production, in partnership with Covenant University in Nigeria, as well as one about making power grids more resilient to lightning strikes, with Brazil’s Federal University of Minas Gerais.”

All members of the InVEST team agree that while online collaboration across cultures was already emerging as a critical skill for engineering graduates, the current situation has accelerated the trend.

“When we started out, we heard from partners that online collaboration would be complicated and cumbersome,” says Rezaie. “Our goal was to de-risk this approach, to show people that there was value in this kind of engagement. That value proposition has become a lot clearer over the past few months, which has led to much more interest.”

Visit the InVEST website to learn more about the program.

Article by Tyler Irving originally posted at U of T Engineering News. August 20, 2020.

Posted in Uncategorized

Students spark new solutions for COVID-19 challenges

Student Engagement Awards

From left: Lilian Kabelle (CivE MEng candidate), Marie Merci Ishimwe (ECE MEng candidate) and Ngone Lo (Faculty of Information). The team is building an “engineering think tank” to counteract the impact of COVID-19 in East Africa. (Photos courtesy of Lilian Kabelle)

As the COVID-19 pandemic rearranged the plans of students across U of T Engineering over the past few months, one question was on many minds: what can I do to help?

Now, dozens of students are taking action.

The U of T COVID-19 Student Engagement Awards were created to fund inspiring innovations designed to respond to the COVID-19 crisis to take flight. Across the University, more than 150 multidisciplinary teams have received up to $3,000 each to support development of their projects over the next three months.

A total of 47 U of T Engineering undergraduate and graduate students are leading or contributing to these teams. The Faculty has invested an additional $54,000 total to support the engineering projects, which address a wide range of issues, from hand hygiene to reduce the spread of the virus, to strategies to maintaining good mental health while in isolation.

“I feel very thrilled, grateful and inspired. As a team we are honored to have U of T’s support in our endeavours to make a difference,” says Lilian Kabelle (CivMin MEng candidate). Her team’s project envisions an “engineering think tank” which will bring together engineers of various disciplines to consider and counteract the impact and challenges of COVID-19 in East Africa.

Kabelle, who grew up in Kenya, believes this coordinated approach could identify and develop viable engineering solutions for issues that are complicating the fight against the virus.

“I have a burning desire to be a causative change agent for positive development in my home region, to whatever degree possible,” adds Kabelle, whose team also includes Marie Merci Ishimwe (ECE MEng candidate) and Ngone Lo (Faculty of Information).

Their team is currently building the think tank platform, gathering data to finalize the challenges to be tackled in the think tank, and confirming commitments from volunteer engineers to engage in the project.

The complete list of U of T Engineering projects includes:

    • The future of protein design: a machine learning approach to COVID-19 outbreak — Tianyu Lu, Joseph Bellissimo, Hannah So, Rochelle Wang, Shea-sarah Garcia, Danielle Serra, Rose Talebi, Edward Shen, Xiaotong Wang (ChemE), Adriana Díaz Lozano Patiño (EngSci), Gamen Liu (ChemE)
    • A proposal for the development of an App for self-reporting of COVID-19 associated symptoms — Sulaiman Jalloh (ChemE MEng candidate), Abhinav Mohan (MIE MASc candidate), Leticia Nndagang (MEng candidate), Kuda Masalila
    • The Global Artistic Manifestations of COVID-19 — Ben Sprenger (MechE), Ally Fraser (MechE)
    • Tackling Shortages of N95 Masks with a Simple, Effective, and Removable Desiccant Strip Design — Ziting (Judy) Xia (ChemE), Purushoth Thavendran (ChemE), Amro Aswad (ChemE), Jingyi (Jenny) Wei (MechE), Xiaoou (Bessie) Li (IndE)
    • Assessing the Effectiveness of Videos for Exergaming Technology for use with Isolated Older Adults During COVID-19 Pandemic — Sharon Ferguson (MIE MASc candidate), Chelsea Ferguson (MechE), YouZhi Hu (MIE MASc candidate)
    • Knowledge Without Borders — Songeun You (CompE), Daniel Lu (CompE)
    • UnityOR: a digital assistant for the operating room — Ingrid Grozavu, Daniel Szulc (BME PhD candidate), Brandon Ho
    • Environmental Impacts of Hand Hygiene Practices: Handwashing with Soap and Alcohol-Based Hand Rubbing — Daniel Tse (CivMin MEng CEM candidate), Pedro Torres-Basanta (CivMin MEngCEM candidate), Lisa MacTavish (CivMin MEngCEM candidate)
    • Survey: Impact of COVID-19 on Graduate Students in Canada — Sivani Baskaran, Frank Telfer, Maegan Ong, Dawn Bannerman (ChemE PhD candidate), Caroline Pao, Samantha McWhither, Bryony McAllister, Isabella Lim, Vidhant Pal (BME PhD candidate), Farah Qaiser, Kali Iyer
    • Agent-Based Modelling in Global Health: An Analysis of Various Social Distancing Policies using COBWEB — Adebisi Akande, Dina Bernstein (MechE), Leshi Yang, Muhammad Anas Ansar, Yi Yue Jiang, Yuzhou Pan
    • COVID-19 Crisis Management: a 360 Perspective — Priyanjli Sharma, Michelle Nurse, Avani Bhardwaj, Emma Sass (CivMin)
    • Assessing the Need for Virtual Medical Care in Canadian Communities Using Machine Learning Models and Predictive Analysis — Abdula Maher, Esmat Sahak (EngSci), Ahmed Kaimkhani
    • Analysis of Economic Impact Caused by COVID-19 Pandemic and Comparisons to that Caused by Past Public Crises — Weiqing Wang, Zhiya Lou, Guanyao Liang, Jincheng Leng, Ziyi Wang, Jiaru Li (IndE), Xiaoli Yang
    • Healing by the Arts — Nahyun Lee, Junhyeok Hong (ECE), Chaemin Kim
    • Flatten the Negativity — Karishma Shah (ECE), Nimit Vediya
    • Documenting the Post-COVID City — Jillian Sprenger, Katy Tiper (BME PhD candidate)
    • COVID19Recovery — Leo Zhu (ChemE MASc candidate), Julia Lee, Grace Guo, Sissi Zhu, Juliana Lee
    • Engineering Think Tank — Lilian Kabelle (CivMin MASc candidate), Marie Merci Ishimwe (ECE MEng candidate), Ngone Lo
    • Easing the burden: A dashboard to track COVID-19 financial aid across the globe — Adam Lam, Mubtaseem Zaman (CompE)
    • Together we Learn: Fostering an online learning community in an Engineering Science undergraduate course — Rubaina KhanNikita Dawe (PhD candidate)
    • Projecting the supply and use of pristine and reprocessed N95 respirators in a hospital — Paul Chen (ChemE PhD candidate), Matthew Yau, Tommaso Alba, Krish Bilimoria, Shangmou (Samuel) Wu
    • Home-based COVID-19 Self-care System — Ramtin Mojtahedi (BME PhD candidate), Saeed Shakib (CivMin PhD candidate)
    • Studio Babble: Creative Engagement in the Age of COVID-19 — Gemma Robinson, Aisling Beers, Declan Roberts, Jay Potts, Savanna Blade (EngSci), Sheetza McGarry
    • The COVID Action Hub — Denise Lee, Melanie Seabrook, Emma Seabrook, Shiyi Zhang (CompE)
    • Mitigating stigmatization, ensuring food security and preventing the transmission of COVID-19 in Bangladesh and Canada — Tahsin Reza Tasnim Reza, Mahiya Nasrin, Nithila Sivakumar, Clara Chick, Thanoshan Ariyanayagam (CompE)
    • Dear Uni to Be — Brandon Yu, Ahmedullah Shah, Alessia Priore, Theodora Girgis (EngSci)
    • Equipment trade website business model and interface design — Tianyi Yu (CompE), Minjing Xu
    • Get educated on the subject, stop with the misinformation — Rosa Yang, Yinghui Liu, Yihe Zhang, Tianyi Tang, Xinyu Zhou (MSE)

Article first published by U of T Engineering News. Article by Liz Do and Tyler Irving.

Posted in Uncategorized

2019-2020 Award Winners from the U of T Engineering Class of 2T0

Recognition of Awards

Congratulations to the 2019 – 2020 award winners from the Class of 2T0 for their incredible academic achievements!

Class of 3T5 Second Mile Award
Rahemeen Ahmed / Civil Engineering

The Elsie Gregory MacGill Memorial Scholarship
Jin (Victoria) Cheng / Engineering Science

Otto Holden Scholarship
Amin Heyrani Nobari / Mechanical Engineering

John Dixon Campbell Memorial Prize
Sijie Tian / Industrial Engineering
Rouzbeh Hadjibaba / Industrial Engineering

John Dixon Campbell Memorial Scholarship
Rui Cheng Zhang / Mechanical Engineering

Dr. Arthur Herrmann Memorial Award
Emma Shibata / Mechanical Engineering

G. W. Ross Dowkes Memorial Prize
Narmin Zakizade / Chemical Engineering

J. E. Reid Memorial Prize
Hao Yun Hsu / Electrical Engineering

MacKay Hewer Memorial Prize
Leigh McNeil-Taboika / Chemical Engineering

Ontario Professional Engineers Foundation for Education Gold Medal for Academic Achievement
Hanzhen Lin / Engineering Science

Adel S. Sedra Gold Medal
Jordan Lee / Computer Engineering
Zi Han Zhao / Electrical Engineering

A. B. Platt Award, Toronto Section of the Society of Tribologists & Lubrication Engineers
Zhenghao Yan / Materials Engineering

Ontario Chapter, American Concrete Institute Award
Zhe Hao Dong / Civil Engineering
David Anthony Gallucci / Civil Engineering
Da Eun Yoo / Civil Engineering

Centennial Senior Project Award
Rashad Brugmann / Civil Engineering
Lia Orders Codrington / Engineering Science
Somerset Prittie Jarvis / Civil Engineering
Sophie Ordman / Civil Engineering
Syed Muhammad Ali / Mineral Engineering
Faiq Ali Qadri / Mineral Engineering
Jacob Bruce Gary Rumsey / Mineral Engineering
Patrick Dong Min Chang / Chemical Engineering
Sofia Tijanic / Electrical Engineering
Dawei Shi / Computer Engineering
Zhenglin Liu / Mechanical Engineering
Rachel Wong / Industrial Engineering
Diana Darinka Vucevic / Materials Engineering
Hanzhen Lin / Engineering Science Engineering
Jihad Raya / Mineral Engineering

Society of Chemical Industry Merit Award
Wei Cheng Hooi / Chemical Engineering

W.S. Wilson Medal
Caleb Daryl Stuckless / Chemical Engineering
Adam Robert Parker / Civil Engineering
James Meijers / Computer Engineering
Sofian Zalouk / Electrical Engineering
Ali Haydaroglu / Engineering Science
Selena (Shi Ting) Lu / Industrial Engineering
Kyle Michael Owen-Springer / Mineral Engineering
Zhenglin Liu / Mechanical Engineering
Joshua Ilse / Materials Engineering

Wallace G. Chalmers Engineering Design Scholarships
Arash Nourimand / Mechanical Engineering
Aditya Pal Bhatia / Mechanical Engineering
Omar Rabbat / Mechanical Engineering
Clara Zaki / Mechanical Engineering

John W. Senders Award for Imaginative Design
Betty Bingruo Liu / Engineering Science
Netra Unni Rajesh / Engineering Science
Jacob Brennan Smith / Engineering Science
Charlie (Seung Doo) Yang / Engineering Science
Sulagshan Raveendrakumar / Engineering Science

Gordon R. Slemon Capstone Design Award in Electrical & Computer Engineering
Arnav Goel / Computer Engineering
Jiashen Wang / Electrical Engineering
Tsun Man Beston Leung / Computer Engineering
Miguel Alejando Teran Benalcazar / Computer Engineering

John H. Weber Scholarship in Mechanical Engineering
Arash Nourimand / Mechanical Engineering
Aditya Pal Bhatia / Mechanical Engineering
Omar Rabbat / Mechanical Engineering
Clara Zaki / Mechanical Engineering

Peri Family Industrial Engineering Design Award
Tianshu Shen / Industrial Engineering
Xiaonian He / Industrial Engineering
Yian Zha / Industrial Engineering

© 2021 Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering