Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Engineering and Applied Science

'Just ask Aphra'

[Aphra Rogers]
A constant source of information and support at the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Aphra Rogers received the Michael Condra Outstanding Student Service Award, one of the six Principal’s Teaching and Learning Awards. (University Communications)

For first-year students at the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, if they ever have a question or need someone to talk to, they know they can always turn to Aphra Rogers.

While she is not the only person providing support for engineering students, she is the touchstone for new students, a kind of hub of information and connections.

It makes for a busy schedule, but Ms. Rogers revels in her role.

“Our students always know that they can call Aphra. One of the students wrote me a thank you card just a couple days ago and commented on the amount of times she had heard someone say ‘Oh, just ask Aphra. She’ll know,’” she says with a smile. “It’s more of a way to personalize the university experience, so the students know there’s someone they can always contact if they don’t know the right answers. Sometimes I don’t know but I do know who to direct them to.”

For her efforts Ms. Rogers was named the 2016 recipient of the Michael Condra Outstanding Student Service Award, one of the six Principal’s Teaching and Learning Awards. The award was established by the Division of Student Affairs in 2014.

“Student services are an important component of the student experience at Queen’s, and the individualized attention that students receive from people like Aphra can make a significant difference to their academic and personal success,” says Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Ann Tierney. “We are very pleased to be able to recognize the contributions of staff and faculty members in supporting our students.”

As Ms. Rogers explains, her job is unique at Queen’s. While she plays a key role in student services for the faculty, she is also the program associate for the first-year engineering program APSC 100, which introduces students to the professional skills required for a career in engineering.

The result is that instead of pulling her in different directions the two aspects of her job intersect and, for students looking for support, she has a full understanding of what they are dealing with academically. At the same time, Ms. Rogers strives to ensure that she is available to every first-year engineering student – there are 750 – connecting with them on campus and online.

“First year is always a big transition for students because a lot of times it’s their first year living away from home, it’s their first year of studying in a university atmosphere,” she explains. “There is whole new social game a whole new educational game. There are so many firsts that they go through and that can be challenging for them.”

In receiving the award Ms. Rogers was credited with being a key contributor to the faculty’s 97 per cent retention rate between first and second year as well as the high student satisfaction rate. But, as she points out, she isn’t alone in the effort.

First, the faculty has “great” office staff in the Student Services, providing valuable support and advice. Ms. Rogers also manages 80 teaching assistants for the first-year program. All of them are fourth-year engineering students and once were in the exact spot that the new arrivals find themselves. Beyond their instructional duties the senior students act as the eyes and ears for Ms. Rogers.

The Principal’s Teaching and Learning Awards, created in 2015, recognize individuals and teams who have shown exceptional innovation and leadership in teaching and learning on campus. The awards are administered by the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL).

The Michael Condra Outstanding Student Service Award recognizes the high level of service and commitment to students and student wellbeing exemplified by Dr. Condra during his 30 years at the university. He served as the director of Health, Counselling and Disability Services (now Student Wellness Services) and assistant professor in the Department of Psychology.

Nominations for the 2017 award are currently being accepted. All nominations should be sent electronically in PDF form to the Office of the Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs at vpdean.sa@queensu.ca no later than Tuesday, Aug. 1, by 4 pm. For more information about the award and the nomination form and process, visit the CTL website.

Feeling the power

Queen’s professor Praveen Jain receives the IEEE Canada Phoivos Ziogas Electric Power Medal.

One of Canada’s leading power electronics expert has been recognized by his peers for his pioneering work in the field.

On May 1, Queen’s electrical engineering professor Praveen Jain received the Phoivos Ziogas Electric Power Medal from the Canadian arm of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE Canada). The award recognizes outstanding Canadian engineers who have made important contributions to the field of electric power engineering.

Praveen Jain (Electrical Engineering) received the IEEE Canada Phoivos Ziogas Electric Power Medal in recognition of his numerous achievements as a pioneer in the field of power electronics.

“This is one of the top awards in power engineering in Canada, so it is a tremendous honour to be selected to receive the P. Ziogas Electric Power Medal,” says Dr. Jain. “I was very excited and humbled to receive the news.”

For over 30 years, Dr. Jain has been conducting leading-edge research that has opened up new possibilities in solar power generation. His research has resulted in over 550 publications, 107 patents and numerous spin-off companies which have translated his research into real-world applications. Along with his colleagues and graduate students at the Queen’s Centre for Energy and Power Electronics Research (ePOWER), Dr. Jain is working to develop new energy efficient, cost effective and environmentally friendly power electronic technologies to meet society’s ever-increasing energy demands.

Dr. Jain’s research has received substantial investments from government and industry alike, including a recently announced $4 million grant from the Ontario Research Fund - Research Excellence to advance the development of more efficient, small-scale, point-of-use photovolataic (solar) power systems for residential use. He explains this funding will go towards new, more efficient power systems that can meet growing demand for renewable energy.

“This will help reduce the burden on the existing power grid in the short term and, in time, allow us to replace large-scale electrical generation infrastructure with point-of-use systems,” he adds. “Renewable energy systems can help reduce our environmental impact and meet our growing energy needs. There is a worldwide effort to meet 50 per cent of our energy needs by solar power by the end of the century, and our research will play an important role in making that happen.”

Established in 2007, the IEEE Canada P. Ziogas Electric Power Medal is awarded to outstanding Canadian engineers recognized for their important contributions to the field of electric power engineering.

For more information on IEEE Canada or the P. Ziogas Electric Power Medal, please visit the website.

From breaking ground to a groundbreaking building

As he provides an update on the Innovation and Wellness Centre, John Witjes can’t help but get excited about the finished product. 

“Seeing a state-of-the-art facility rise from a building built in the 1930s and the 1970s will be really impressive,” says the associate vice-principal (facilities). “Connecting the old and the new is something that Queen’s does well – just look at Goodes Hall and the Isabel – and the Innovation and Wellness Centre is going to be another great example of that.”

[Foundation rising at IWC]
After the demolition work, crews started forming and pouring columns, foundation, and shear walls for the new Innovation and Wellness Centre. (Submitted photo) 

Construction work began on the project in September 2016, thanks to investments from Queen’s, the federal and provincial governments, and numerous benefactors. When students return to campus in September 2018, they will have full access to expanded research and innovation spaces, a wellness centre, athletics and recreation facilities, the Queen’s University International Centre, and a new Exam Centre.

Within the next couple of weeks, the Queen’s community will notice a shift in the project. Demolition is nearly complete, and the new structure will start to rise out of the ground. Crews have poured footings and foundations and the structural steel will arrive on the construction site next week.

“It will be very exciting to watch this incredible building truly start to take shape,” says Benoit-Antoine Bacon, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “The steel structure will soon rise into view, and soon after we will start to fit in the state of the art research, innovation and student wellness spaces that make this project so important for the future of Queen’s.”

Mr. Witjes says crews have managed to stay on schedule while overcoming certain challenges that arise from retrofitting an existing building instead of constructing something brand new. 

“You will always find unexpected things that you have to react to or design around,” Mr. Witjes says. “It’s particularly challenging with this project because there are essentially two buildings: the 1930s building and the 1970s addition.”

The project team is also taking great care to preserve the heritage components of the original structure. The limestone façade facing Union Street will remain, and Queen’s will reinstate the original windows.

[Front facade of IWC]
The new Innovation and Wellness Centre will include the original limestone façade. Queen’s will also reinstate the original windows. (Submitted photo)

While the heritage aspects on the outside will remain, the inside will have a completely new look and feel. From Union Street, visitors will enter into an expansive space with skylights and glass on all sides. The Bews Gymnasium that used to be at the front of the building will be relocated underneath the Ross Gym.

“Whereas the old building was very compartmentalized and disconnected, the new building will be much more open. We are introducing intersecting spaces where people will come into contact with each other as they travel from one area of the building to the other,” Mr. Witjes says.

The building will be enclosed by the end of the fall, with crews continuing to work inside through the winter. Mr. Witjes says he appreciates the Queen’s community’s co-operation and understanding as the university constructs a major capital project in the heart of campus.

“We realize it is disruptive, but I think the facility is going to be amazing and people are going to be impressed by the end result,” he says. “With so many key components of the Queen’s student learning experience coming together in this space, it’s nice to see this happening to a building that is in the centre of campus. It’s going to be really exciting.”

Follow the construction live on this webcam

[Innovation and Wellness Centre]
An architectural rendering of the Innovation and Wellness Centre, showing the blend of the old building and the new structure. The centre will include expanded research and innovation spaces, a wellness centre, athletics and recreation facilities, the Queen’s University International Centre, and a new Exam Centre.

 

New dean of Engineering and Applied Science announced

[Kevin Deluzio]
Kevin Deluzio has been appointed dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science for a five-year term effective July 1, 2017.

Queen’s University announced today the appointment of Kevin Deluzio as dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science for a five-year term effective July 1, 2017.

Principal's Advisory Committee
• Benoit-Antoine Bacon, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)
• Irène Bujara, University Advisor on Human Rights and Equity
• Mark Daymond, Professor, Mechanical and Materials Engineering
• Marc Dignam, Department Head and Professor, Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy
• Amir Fam, Associate Dean (Research and Graduate Studies), Professor and Donald and Sarah Munro Chair in Engineering and Applied Science
• Saba Farbodkia, President, Society of Graduate & Professional Students
• John Fisher, Acting Vice-Principal, Research
• Brian Frank, Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning) and Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
• Melanie Howard, Director, Aboriginal Access to Engineering
• Sarah Kauffman, Executive Director Finance & Administration, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science
• Marianna Kontopoulou, Associate Head and Professor, Chemical Engineering
• Jane McMillan, Executive Director of Development, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science
• Kathy O'Brien, Associate Vice-Principal (International)
• Julian Ortiz, Associate Professor, Mining Engineering
• Taylor Sawadsky, President, Engineering Society Representative
• Lori Stewart, Director, Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)
• Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs

Dr. Deluzio, a proud alumnus of Queen’s, is currently the head of the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering as well as head of the Human Mobility Research Laboratory at Queen’s. He has been a member of faculty at Queen’s since 2006.

Previously, he was the founder and director of the Dynamics and Human Motion Laboratory at Dalhousie University and an associate professor in the School of Biomedical Engineering, cross appointed to the Department of Surgery. 

“I am very pleased that Dr. Deluzio has accepted my invitation to lead the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at Queen’s,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “I am confident that the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science will continue to grow in reputation and impact under his leadership.”

Dr. Deluzio’s research career is based on an academic foundation of applied mathematics, statistics and mechanical engineering. His transformative work, in particular on human motion and orthopaedic biomechanics, has gained international recognition through various publications, direct contributions in international conferences and service and leadership in his profession.

“Kevin is an outstanding teacher and researcher, and he has shown exceptional leadership as head of the department of mechanical and materials engineering,” says Benoit-Antoine Bacon, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “His collaborative leadership style will serve the faculty well at a time of great opportunity provided by substantial faculty renewal and the opening of cutting-edge engineering research space in the Innovation and Wellness Center.”

Dr. Deluzio’s service to Queen’s has included various advisory committees across the university, the development of a workload standard model to support a highly productive faculty, and the implementation of a successful mentorship program for new faculty members. As an instructor, he has been recognized for his award-winning collaborative teaching models and cross-disciplinary programming. His promotion of research excellence has been a hallmark of his headship which has led to success in innovation, funding and reputation for the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.

The principal and the provost wish to extend their sincere thanks to Kim Woodhouse for an exceptional 10-year tenure as dean, and to the members of the Principal’s Advisory Committee for their exceptional commitment and sound advice.

Early entrepreneurial learning

[Startup @ Sydenham]
Sydenham Public School students, Martin, Clara and Henry built a model for the outdoor solar USB charging table during a recent visit to SparQ Studios, a makerspace and design studio at Queen’s. (University Communications)

A new program bringing together a number of community partners is helping students at Sydenham Public School learn about entrepreneurship and fostering creative problem solving skills.

Through Startup @ Sydenham, students in grades 5 to 8 have been introduced to various aspects of innovation and entrepreneurship, such as how to research an idea, overcome challenges, create a business plan and present a marketing campaign by guest speakers from Queen’s University and Innovate Kingston.

The students are also being engaged to create an outdoor solar USB charging table for the school and recently visited SparQ Studios, a makerspace and design studio at Queen’s. The students worked with Jordan Morelli, a professor in engineering and applied physics at Queen’s, as well as students from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science’s APSC 100 course, who helped them develop ideas for their prototypes. The planned table will combine solar cell and pedal-power technologies with the aim of keeping kids active and allowing them to socialize while charging their electronic devices at the same time.

The prototype displayed by the team of Clara, Henry and Martin featured a round table top with the solar panel in the centre. After receiving feedback from the engineering students the solar panel was covered by Plexiglas for protection.

Holding up their model, the team explains they opted for a round table to allow more people to be seated and they wanted it to be “easy and cheap” to build.

The trio was excited by the hands-on learning opportunity.

“It’s interesting how we are learning about energy,” says Clara. “Also a lot of people in our class are really interested in engineering. They’re really, really creative and it’s cool seeing everybody’s ideas come to life.”

Startup @ Sydenham was created after the school and its parent council started looking at redesigning the school playground, explains Dorianne Sager, a parent council member and coordinator for the program.

“There is very little for senior kids to do on an elementary school playground once they are no longer interested in playing on monkey bars, so the challenge was to think of a way to keep the older kids engaged on a playground they are quickly growing out of,” she says. “After some discussions, including with Dr. Morelli, we designed a program that teaches kids how to think like entrepreneurs while at the same time gaining experience in design and working as part of a team.”

The program received a $7,100 grant from the Limestone Learning Foundation.

The outdoor charging table is currently being constructed under the direction of Jarrad Fairborn of St. Lawrence College. In May, students will test the table in the playground and will make their pitch as “entrepreneurs” to Innovate Kingston in June. An end-of-year celebration will be held at the Tett Centre on June 15 where the students can show off their prototypes.

Fostering connections at Royal Society of Canada seminar

[RSC Eastern Ontario]
Three Queen's researchers – Elizabeth Eisenhauer, Ugo Piomelli, and Una Roman D’Elia – will be making presentations at the Eastern Ontario Regional Seminar of the Royal Society of Canada on Saturday, April 22.

Four members of the Royal Society of Canada will be presenting their ongoing research at an upcoming event being hosted by Queen’s University on Saturday, April 22.

Four researchers – three from Queen’s and one from Carleton University– will provide insights into their work at the Eastern Ontario Regional Seminar of the Royal Society of Canada, set for the University Club from 10 am-4 pm.

The schedule of presentation includes:
10 am: Ugo Piomelli, FRSC, Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering – Queen’s University “Turbulence simulations: unravelling disorder, one vortex at a time”
11 am: Una Roman D’Elia, College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, Department of Art History and Art Conservation – Queen’s “Donatello and Pygmalion”
2 pm: Elizabeth Eisenhauer FRSC, Department of Oncology – Queen’s “Moving from the lab to the clinic – 30 years of progress in cancer treatment”
3 pm: Donald Beecher, FRSC, Department of English - Carleton “Boccaccio's ‘Tale of Titus and Gisippius’ (Decameron X.8) with a Coda on Friendship from a Cognitive Perspective

Along with presenting the research by Fellows and Members of the New College of Young Scholars Artists and Scientists one of the goals of the seminar is to foster discussion and connections, explains Pierre du Prey, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Art History and co-chair with Mike Sayer, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy.

“Participants, including our four speakers each year, make fruitful contacts among each other and the audience; contacts which stretch between the four universities represented and which cross disciplinary lines,” says Dr. du Prey. “Overarching themes emerge as if by magic from the diverse papers presented and the discussion that follows them. In this way arts and science become reunited by the common quest for knowledge.”

After 12 years at the helm, Dr. du Prey and Dr. Sayer are handing over direction of the forum, confident that it is set on a stable course, and bound for exciting new destinations. Hosted by Queen’s and actively encouraged by the RSC, it gives New Scholars and Fellows of the Society, as well as members of the general public, a chance to benefit from discourse at the highest level. The presentations are open and free to the public.

RSVP by April 19 at sayerm@queensu.ca, or 613-531-4853. 

Achieving a long-time goal

Queen’s engineering professor delivers prestigious Terzaghi Lecture.

A momentous achievement in a long and distinguished career, Queen’s civil engineering professor R. Kerry Rowe achieved a long-time goal last month when he delivered the Karl Terzaghi Lecture at the invitation of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Geo-Institute.

Dr. Rowe delivered the ASCE Terzaghi Lecture this past March. He described the experience as the achievement of a goal held since his time as a graduate student. (Photo Credit: ASCE/Mark Skalny)

“Ever since I was a graduate student, I felt that being selected to deliver the (British Geotechnical Association’s) Rankine Lecture or the Terzaghi Lecture would signify reaching the peak of the profession,” says Dr. Rowe. “It’s an incredible honour to be selected to present both in the last few years.”

Established in 1963, the lecture is named in honour of Karl von Terzaghi – regarded as the founder of modern scientific soil mechanics. For over two decades, Dr. Rowe has been at the forefront of developing new methods for preventing contaminants from waste disposal and mining sites from affecting surface and groundwater. His work has received countless accolades, including the Killam Prize for Engineering (2004). He has also been elected a Fellow of both the Royal Academy of Engineering (2010) and is the only Canadian civil engineer elected to the Royal Society in the UK. In 2013, the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering honoured him by naming the R. Kerry Rowe Lecture in recognition of his contributions to the formation and development of the discipline of geoenvironmental engineering.

“Dr. Rowe is a pioneer in the field of geosynthetics and has made immeasurable contributions to the development of new technologies and methods to prevent the contamination of water sources by mining and landfill activity,” says Dr. John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “Being invited to deliver this prestigious lecture is indicative of Rowe’s national and international leadership in civil engineering. I wish him my most sincere congratulations.”

While acknowledging that the invitation was a deeply personal honour, Dr. Rowe is quick to highlight the contributions of colleagues as well as past and present graduate students in allowing for the work for which he is most well known.

“Recognitions such as this are not just as a result of my work, but the work of a fantastic set of colleagues that I have at Queen’s and the graduate students I’ve had the privilege of working with over the years,” says Dr. Rowe. “This it’s not just a recognition of me, but of our work together and that a lot of the credit goes to them.”

For more information on the ASCE Karl Terzaghi Lecture, please visit the website.

Engineering an early start

[Queen's Summer Engineering Academy]
Students work on an experiment during last year's Queen's Summer Engineering Academy. For 2017, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science has introduced a junior program for students entering grades 8 and 9. (Supplied photo)

The Queen’s Summer Engineering Academy (QSEA) is getting bigger and better.

Building on the success of its inaugural camps last year, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science is offering an expanded program to expose students currently in grades 7 to 12 to the array of possibilities engineering at Queen’s has to offer.

New this year is QSEA Jr., which provides introductory programing for students going into grades 8 and 9 in the fall of 2017. The focus of QSEA Jr. is to introduce students to the basics of engineering design, robotics, and innovation as well as the opportunities available in makerspaces.

Queen’s already has a makerspace in SparQ Studio and more are planned. Makerspaces provide use of equipment and technology that users might otherwise be unable to access such as 3D printers, laser cutters and wide range of electronics, says Scott Compeau, Engineering Outreach Coordinator.

“Through QSEA Course D and QSEA Jr. we are planning to teach students how to use these tools and then apply it in a context where they can solve a problem that is related to something that they have an interest in,” he says. “These are 21st century competencies and skills which are becoming an important topic of discussion in education.”

Mr. Compeau, who has a Master’s degree specializing in Engineering Education with a thesis on high school students’ perception of engineering, adds that the QSEA Jr. program hopefully will act as a feeder or introductory step for the senior QSEA program, which offers a more in-depth and specialized engineering experience.

The QSEA program has also been expanded with two courses running simultaneously during each of the four weeks. Last year’s single course drew a maximum of 24 students each week, however, this year each course is capped at 16 students, allowing for a better student-teacher ratio, Mr. Compeau points out.

Also, each of the courses will explore different disciplines of engineering, such as electrical and computer, mechanical and biomedical engineering, chemical engineering and engineering chemistry, to geological, mining and civil engineering. One course (Course D) will also explore the intersection between engineering, innovation, and entrepreneurship which will be modelled after the successful Queen’s Innovation Connector Summer Initiative (QICSI) program.

QSEA 2016 provided a solid foundation for the programming and this year organizers are looking to build on those successes.

“Among the successes that we heard about through student feedback was that they became a lot more aware and a lot more knowledgeable about various disciplines within engineering and what engineering might be like,” Mr. Compeau says. “Some of the students said they had no idea about the breadth of engineering disciplines and they really enjoyed learning about that. A lot of them, in terms of the hands-on opportunities, really enjoyed doing the practical aspects of engineering in the labs on campus and doing all the experiments. This was an amazing opportunity to showcase the facilities that Queen’s University can offer”

Registration is currently open for both the senior and junior programs.

QSEA is available for four weeks (July 17-21, July 24-28, July 31-Aug. 4, Aug 14-Aug. 18). QSEA Jr. is being hosted for the first three weeks.

Again this year there are commuter and residence options available.

For more information including registration, schedules, and to view videos about the academy, visit the QSEA webpage.

Delivering on the pitch

The Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC) recently handed out a total of $28,000 to six companies that participated in its first-ever regional pitch competition.

“The support of the Dunin and Deshpande Foundations makes it possible to provide this type of financial support to QyourVenture and to support ventures in southeastern Ontario,” says Greg Bavington, Executive Director, Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre.

[Greg Bavington with members of TimberWolf]
TimberWolf Cycles representatives David Timan (Sc'13) and Caitlin Willis (Com'09) receive feedback from Greg Bavington, Executive Director, Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre, during the recent regional pitch competition. (Submitted photo)

DDQIC hosted the regional pitch competition with the goal of supporting early-stage companies based at Queen’s and the surrounding area.

The pitch competition was open to anyone with a business idea who has not already received more than $5,000 in support from DDQIC. The field included several companies from QyourVenutre, an acceleration program which supports Queen’s students who want to take their idea to the next level. QyourVenture accepts companies on a regular basis throughout the school year, giving them access to space and training for their business venture.

The pitch competition was judged by members of the DDQIC Global Network in London, England, who connected via videoconference, along with the DDQIC executive team. Chaired by Heather Christie (Artsci’09), the London branch is supported by 13 Queen’s alumni who come from a variety of different professional and education backgrounds. This branch offers support to DDQIC ventures that want to expand into the UK and the rest of Europe.

The winning ventures at the pitch competition included:

TimberWolf Cycles ($5,000) – The company, founded by David Timan (Sc’13), produces high-performance road bikes made from wood. Using a variety of woods, Mr. Timan has designed a bike that softens road vibration while efficiently delivering power to the road through an exceptionally lightweight frame.

Capteur ($5,000) – A QyourVenture company, Capteur enables building operators and maintenance companies to ensure facilities are always clean and operating according to sustainable environmental practices. Cole MacDonald (Sci’19) and Nathan Mah (MEI’17) founded the cloud-based technology start-up.

Robot Missions ($5,000 plus time in SparQ Studios) – Robot Missions, founded by Erin Kennedy, has developed a 3D-printed robot that collects harmful tiny trash debris from shorelines. The company’s robot workshops enhance STEM education for elementary students by applying robotics to the environment.

Your Mobility Innovations ($4,000) – Founded by Loyalist College students Dylan Houlden and Brett Lyons, the company designs and produces products to improve the lives of people with physical disabilities and the elderly. Mr. Lyon, who was born with cerebral palsy and confined to a wheelchair, had the idea for an adjustable grab bar when he was eight-years-old. The founders are trying to turn that idea into a reality, working with several partners including Queen’s Biomedical Innovations Team, PARTEQ, and Queen’s Business Law Clinic.

Pronura ($4,000) – Pronura plans to commercialize a non-invasive, inexpensive method for testing for multiple neurological diseases at the same time – all with accuracy unseen in any current tests. The test, developed by Dr. Douglas P. Munoz of the Queen’s Eye Movement Laboratory, uses an eye-tracker to detect unique biomarkers associated with multiple neurological diseases. Founders Matthew De Sanctis and Adam Palter met in the Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation program offered by Smith School of Business.

SŌ Seeds ($3,000 plus in-kind donations from the Department of Chemical Engineering) – The venture aims to disrupt the tree-planting industry by replacing saplings with coated super-seeds. SŌ Seeds was founded by five chemical engineering students as part of their innovation and entrepreneurship course under the mentorship of Jim McLellan, Professor and Academic Director, DDQIC.

SWFT ($2,000) – The start-up focuses on developing portable and wireless charging solutions for festivals, stadiums, transit systems, theme parks, and other venues. The service allows patrons to charge their phones without being tethered to charging stations. Friends Greg Fedele (Com’17) and Anish Sharma (Sc’17) founded the company.

Through a variety of programs, services, and resources, the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre encourages, enables, and supports the innovation activities of students, professors, entrepreneurs, and Canadian companies. More information about the centre is available online.

A passion for harmony

The Innovators, Entrepreneurs, and Collaborators series profiles regional innovations, startups and collaborations that are flourishing and which engage Queen’s faculty, staff and/or students.

[Canarmony]
The tech firm Canarmony has developed a healthcare scheduling tool called MESH. From left: Hassan Nouri, Chief Technology Officer; Dr. Shahram Yousefi, Co-founder, President and CEO; and Ethan Heming, Chief Product Officer. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)

As entrepreneurs go, Shahram Yousefi is a paradox – a “black sheep,” he says. 

Most entrepreneurs seek to strike it rich. First and foremost, the professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Queen’s is looking for solutions to problems. Entrepreneurs are single-minded. Once they have an idea, they clamp on like an angry pit bull, to the exclusion of everything else. He has not one but two seemingly different ideas, both of which he is passionate about. And, in a world where new ideas and products are hailed for their “disruptive” potential, he says that at the root of what he does is “my passion for harmony.”  

Innovation Park is helping him realize it.

Arriving at Queen’s in 2003 (drawn, he says, by the university’s generous policies towards the intellectual property its professors develop and  students who “are strong on the technical but understand the social and business aspects of what they do”), he spent his 2008 sabbatical at Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. 

“It’s a very entrepreneurial school,” he says. “And when I got back I decided I wanted to concentrate more on entrepreneurial projects.” 

To that end he has developed a new entrepreneurial stream within electrical and computer engineering programs dubbed ECE innovation or ECEi. Dr. Yousefi praises Kim Woodhouse, Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Michael Greenspan, his department head, and Greg Bavington, Executive Director of the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre, for fostering a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. 

Out for a meal with a medical resident friend one evening in 2012 he was shocked when she told him that a young mother and her twins had died because a scheduling mistake meant that a needed specialist was not on duty. 

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and could not get it out of my head for days,” he says.

Talking to other health care professionals, he learned that medical scheduling was incredibly complicated, but usually done with very simple, and inappropriate, tools like spreadsheets and emails. 

“And communications between the scheduler and the team were very spotty and extremely rudimentary,” Dr. Yousefi says. 

A chief resident of cardiology might spend an entire weekend trying to schedule his or her first-, second- and third-year residents. Add in trying to juggle sick days and holidays and other variables, and there were many possibilities for errors.\

“Because I come from an algorithm background, I knew that these were the hardest problems to deal with in computer science. Difficult but not impossible,” Dr. Yousefi says. “Here was a great chance to create a system that would harmonize doctors’ and other healthcare professionals’ work schedules.” 

He started working on it in 2013, and in 2014 he and his co-founder, Dr. Mohsen Omrani, a medical doctor and neuroscientist, incorporated Canarmony (as in Canadian Harmony – there’s that idea again). 

Yousefi’s solution is a cloud-based scheduling tool called MESH (which combines the initials of the four developers’ first names and says succinctly what the tool does). 

“It meshes staff schedules seamlessly,  at the push of a button,” he says. “You identify whom you need, say so many E.R. nurses and so many residents and with what skills.” 

MESH can even incorporate who wants to work with whom and what shifts they prefer. 

“When the schedule is done, it gets pushed along to everyone in the pool,” he says.

They can access it through iOS and Android mobile apps on their phones, tablets, or via any web browser on any computer. If anything changes, because of sickness or an accident, everybody gets informed in real time. 

“The other thing MESH does is allow people to swap shifts really easily,” Dr. Yousefi says. “Life does not happen on schedule. Just send out a swap request on your phone and someone can take your shift.”

A self-described perfectionist, Yousefi and partners have taken their time developing MESH. Today the company is trialing the app with medical users, including Kingston General Hospital and Hotel Dieu, and plans to launch a new version of the app featuring an “improved Canarmonizer” (as he terms the algorithm) and a “more user-friendly and attractive version of the interface.” Monetization comes next.

“What got us where we are has been the move to Queen’s Innovation Park,” says Dr. Yousefi. “We’ve received lots of help. There are so many examples. We’ve made connections through IRAP and OCE, we’ve had so many networking and learning opportunities in the last six months.

“Not only has it been good for the company as a whole, but our people have benefited individually.” 

With a mission-focused startup like Canarmony, “it is extra important to make sure the team is highly motivated.” Thanks to Canarmony’s involvement in GrindSpaceXL (Innovation Park’s acceleration program for startups that offers them work space and expert advice), “they understood a lot better what we were doing and why. We also worked out where we were not doing things optimally. The amazing team at the Innovation Park harmonized Canarmony even further.”

MESH would be enough to keep most entrepreneurs busy. Not Dr. Yousefi. 

“I teach my students you want to be the sharpest knife – you do one thing and you do it the best. So I am seemingly violating that by launching a second product” called OPTT (for Online Psychotherapy Tool). Many people seek psychotherapy help, but for various reasons – geographic isolation,  personal schedules, cultural or language barriers or  stigma – cannot get it. OPTT lets them access help over the web, connecting them with mental health professionals, and offering tests, cognitive behaviour therapies and exercises, completely confidentially. 

“OPTT creates a clinic-in-the-cloud delivering the latest clinically proven methods of therapy through our proprietary modules,” he says. Still in its early stages, “We want to get hospitals and governments involved. It’s a challenging feat, but I am not here to do something easy.” 

Currently on sabbatical, as well as researching fifth-generation wireless telecommunication systems (5G) at the University of California, Santa Cruz, he is working with his PhD students at Queen’s on mass cloud-based data storage and transmission technologies for high-rate applications such as video. They have one recent U.S. patent filed with one more under review by PARTEQ Innovations (Queen’s commercialization arm) also located at Innovation Park. Dr. Yousefi is also busy “growing a Canarmony subsidiary in the Bay Area, to benefit from, the rich high-tech ecosystem around San Francisco.” 

Dean Woodhouse has also appointed Yousefi faculty liaison to C100, a non-profit association of Canadian business leaders based in the San Francisco Bay Area dedicated to helping Canadian high-tech start-ups and our  next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators. 

“One thing I hear again and again from entrepreneurs and investors is that Canada is the place to be. Toronto, Ottawa, Kingston. They are it. Down here (in the Bay Area), people are not going to offer you the kind of support we have received at Innovation Park, and are still receiving,” Dr. Yousefi says. “So kudos to Janice and the teams at Innovation Park. Deciding to move there has been the single most important decision we have made since Canarmony’s inception."

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Engineering and Applied Science