Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Engineering and Applied Science

Student entrepreneurs get innovative

Hasina Daya (Artsci'14) provides an update on her team’s start-up business, Cellblock Brewery, during a 3-2-1 meeting that is held weekly as part of the Queen’s Summer Innovation Initiative. University Communications

This article is published in the Aug. 12 edition of the Gazette. Pick up your copy of the newspaper at one of the many locations around campus.

By Andrew Carroll, Gazette editor

Friday mornings throughout the summer there is a group of students who gather in Beamish-Munro Hall. Divided into teams, they take their turn at the front of Room 313 and provide a progress report on their projects.

This is a 3-2-1 meeting. They have three slides, two minutes for presentation and one minute for questions.

These are young entrepreneurs and they are taking part in the Queen’s Summer Innovation Initiative (QSII).
Run by the Queen’s Innovation Connector (QIC), the program brings together students from a number of faculties, as well as St. Lawrence College, with a range of backgrounds. Their goal, however, is the same – to plan and create a product and then make it market-ready.

From a device providing digital video in boreholes deep in the earth to a microbrewery drawing upon Kingston’s a prison town heritage to an electronic device cleaner for hospitals, the projects are imaginative and diverse.

QIC itself was established in 2012 as a collaboration between Queen’s School of Business and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. The aim, along with that of QSII, is to build on the university’s strengths “in cultivating ideas and fueling discoveries.”

It is clear within a few presentations at the 3-2-1 meeting that those goals are being met.

Leading the way at the QSII are Jim McLellan, QIC’s Academic Director, professor and head of Chemical Engineering and Engineering Chemistry, Greg Bavington, QIC’s Executive Director, and Alix Murphy, QSII Co-ordinator. University Communications

Leading the way at the QSII are the trio of Greg Bavington, QIC’s Executive Director, Jim McLellan, QIC’s Academic Director, professor and head of Chemical Engineering and Engineering Chemistry, and Alix Murphy, QSII Co-ordinator. The 16-week paid internship program, now in its third year, is aimed at advancing innovation and entrepreneurship and each summer has a fresh crop of bright minds, eager to see their ideas come to fruition.

While there are similar programs at other schools, QSII differentiates itself in the breadth of programming and that it is a pan-university effort. Instead of belonging to a particular faculty the QIC reports to the Provost. There is tangible support from all the major faculties and even the Alma Mater Society.
In a short time, the team has seen a lot of progress.

“I’d say we’ve leap-frogged most of them,” says Mr. Bavington when comparing QSII to similar programs in Canada. “We don’t have the track record, we don’t have the scale but I’d say our programming is exceptional and at the leading edge.”

For example, Mr. Bavington and Dr. McLellan recently attended a symposium in Massachusetts where the organizers offered a list of around 20 best practices for on-campus incubation. QSII had already implemented all of them on its own.

One is that the teams are formed by the students themselves, rather than being pre-selected by the directors. The reason for this is simple: while there may be some hurt feelings and awkward moments for the students, it mirrors what really happens in the private sector.

That’s experiential learning and that is key to the program. It is not an academic certificate course and isn’t run as such. The projects really are start-ups and there are no grades.

The teams do not work in isolation either. While there is plenty of competition, with a $30,000 first prize on the line to help grow the team’s business, there also is a massive amount of collaboration. The weekly meetings are an example. Not only are the teams giving a progress report, they are turning to their peers for ideas, support, and perhaps most importantly, constructive criticism. Teams and individuals are held to account.

“They enjoy problem solving and they enjoy brainstorming and they enjoy critical thinking and they enjoy creativity,” Dr. McLellan says. “And where you will see that is in these 3-2-1 presentations where each venture will say ‘here is what we have done, here is our timeline and here are some of the obstacles.’ They just sort of put it out there and they get feedback. Everyone understands that it is time for a constructive but potentially critical feedback.”

Now with the third group of students working on projects, the team is confident in saying that there is a large amount of interest in such a program and that Queen’s students are showing that they are self-starters and bring a strong mix of initiative, creativity and critical thinking to the table. Yet, they aren’t perfect, Mr. Bavington says.

“One of the things that I’ve learned personally is that I am absolutely convinced not only is there a lot of pent-up demand, there’s a lot of talent in these young people” he says. “They’ve got a ton of talent, they’re nice kids, they’re well-intentioned kids, they’re bright, eager, highly motivated, they’re organized and they’re fun. But one of the weaknesses that they have is that they have failed very rarely in their lives.”

Many of the students have been the top of their class throughout their education. The QSII program will challenge them like never before and by the time the program is over there are plenty of students who realize that entrepreneurship is not for them.

However, they will have gained much.

“Some of the important qualities for entrepreneurship are thinking on your feet, being able to say something succinctly, take an idea, figure out what you don’t know, what you don’t know and being able to go dig and figure out what you need to know,” Dr. McLellan says. “Those are all sorts of critical thought qualities you want in students anyway.”

Making the connection

EngQonnect from Queen's Engineering on Vimeo.

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer
Maria Lahiffe, outreach coordinator in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science (FEAS), is preparing a full schedule of event and activities for the EngQonnect program with the support of a $40,000 Innovation Generation grant from the Motorola Solutions Foundation.
The engineering outreach programs include Go ENG Girl, Take Your Kids to Work Day and the Emphasis on Engineering program.
Go Eng Girl encourages female youth to get involved in engineering.
“We want youth from across Canada to come to Queen’s to study engineering,” explains Ms. Lahiffe. “We are sending engineers into schools, we are supporting the engineering students currently attending Queen’s and we are partnering with the Faculty of Education to bring our programs to the wider community.”
To help her raise the engineering program profile, Ms. Lahiffe is providing paid and volunteer opportunities for engineering students and a chance for Grade 4 to 12 students to experience engineering in a variety of ways:
  • Go ENG Girl on Oct. 25 is being co-hosted by Queen’s and the Royal Military College of Canada. It is a chance for girls in grades 7-10 and their parents to visit Queen’s campus, meet engineers and engineering students, and learn what career opportunities await anyone who chooses to study engineering. Admission is free and lunch is included.
  • Take Your Kids to Work Day is running Nov. 5. Youth in Grade 9 can spend part of the day at Queen’s and learn about engineering. Admission is $30, which includes lunch. Subsidies are available.
  • Emphasis on Engineering is a workshop that will be offered in two versions: one for Grade 11/12 students and another for Grade 7/8 students. It is a great chance for youth to meet engineering students and learn how to be an engineer. The workshop will appeal to creative students who enjoy a challenge. The program has different costs depending on age and length of workshop, and subsidies are available.
  • Queen’s students will also visit elementary and secondary school classrooms to lead hands-on engineering problem-solving activities that are linked to curriculum expectations in math, science and careers. Teachers in Kingston are encouraged to contact Queen’s for information.
“We want to help our engineer students develop professionally,” Ms. Lahiffe says. “It’s a chance for them to expand their communication and leadership skills and learn to work with people who do not have a technical background. It’s a chance for them to pass their love of engineering along to others. They need to be passionate about what they do.”
For more information visit the EngQonnect website.

Student builds backyard dream

By Andrew Stokes, Communications Officer

With some scrap wood and a whole lot of ambition, David Chesney (Sc’17) set out four years ago to build a roller-coaster in his parents’ backyard in Thornhill, Ont. His labour of love, which he has dubbed “The Minotaur,” is finally complete, running on 92 feet of track and reaching 12 feet in height.

“I had some extra wood lying around and wanted to see what I could do. I’ve always loved and been fascinated by roller-coasters, so I decided to try to make one,” Chesney says. “I hadn’t taken physics, hadn’t done much math and I hadn’t even used a power tool before, but I started sawing and putting things together. Before I knew it I had a track, but it didn’t really work.”

Chesney tweaked his designs, tinkering away, making his coaster bigger and bigger. At first he enlisted his parents to take him to Home Depot to buy new parts and materials, but eventually he was sourcing steel and lumber to find the best price.

Chesney took on a summer job to help pay for his project. “I was working at Canada’s Wonderland, saving up my money so that I could go home and spend it on my own coaster. It was a funny circle that way.”

After completing his first year of engineering at Queen’s, he brought a wealth of knowledge to bear on his roller-coaster. “I suddenly understood why certain things worked and why others didn’t,” he says with a laugh. “There were principles I was following without knowing why, but the physics I’ve learnt have given me a much deeper understanding of the forces at work. Physics class convinced me to adjust the orientation of the seat to get more potential energy on the hills.”


When on campus away from his roller-coaster project, Chesney finds other things to fill his time. He has experimented with computer programming and, during exams, he built an iPhone app. He also likes to spend his free time in SparQ Labs, the first “makerspace” on a Canadian campus where students can work on projects and share resources.

“I’m always coming up with a new project, and SparQ Labs are the one of the best places on campus for people who want to build something,” he says. “It gives me a space to be creative and is a great way to keep my mind busy.”

Hoping for a future in the amusement industry, Chesney decided to make his own experience. “There’s no program anywhere for learning to build rides, but it’s what I want to do with my engineering degree,” he says. “As an engineer I want to make people happy and this seems like a great way to do it.”

Queen's extends training agreement with Chinese ministry

By Craig Leroux, Senior Communications Officer

Queen’s and the Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) renewed their two-decade-long relationship this week with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU). Under the agreement, Queen’s will continue to provide training to Chinese officials and the MLR and its affiliates will continue to offer an internship program for Queen’s students.

“We are very grateful for this collaboration in land and resource management and we look forward to this fruitful partnership continuing for many more years,” says Alan Harrison, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “This collaboration has provided the opportunity for the MLR and Queen’s to share best practices, policies and processes.”

Queen's in the World

Each year Queen’s organizes a three-week training session for up to 50 MLR officials and mining professionals, aimed at exposing them to land and resource management practices in Canada. The program is jointly offered by the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering and the Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining. Several Ontario and Canadian government ministries also present to the participants.

“I believe that our partnership will bring about a better future for both countries,” says Zhang Zhi, Director General, Department of Personnel in the MLR. “We really appreciate the support and work…provided by Queen’s University over the years.”

China provides a very good laboratory for our students to see how what they learn here can be applied in another culture.

- Professor Emeritus Hok-Lin Leung

The partnership began in 1995 as an initiative of Hok-Lin Leung, professor emeritus and former director of the School of Urban and Regional Planning, and was formally established through the signing of the first MOU in 1999. The MOU allows two Queen’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning students to work within the MLR in China each year. The agreement also covers a three to six month internship program for a small group of MLR officials to gain experience within a relevant public or private organization in Canada.

“China provides a very good laboratory for our students to see how what they learn here can be applied in another culture,” says Professor Leung. “Invariably when they come back they all have changed their perception about what China really is.”

Queen’s has a number of active partnerships and recruitment activities in China, including the recently established Master of Finance program with Renmin University and a semester abroad program with Fudan University.

Surgical success story

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Once the stuff of science fiction movies, computer assisted surgery is now commonplace in operating theatres around the world. One of the leaders in the field, Queen’s University professor Randy Ellis was recently honoured with Maurice E. Müller Award, a lifetime achievement award from the International Society for Computer Assisted Orthopaedic Surgery.

For the past 19 years, Dr. Ellis (School of Computing, Surgery and Mechanical and Materials Engineering) has dedicated his career to computer assisted surgery and helping surgeons successfully complete difficult surgeries.

Randy Ellis demonstrates how computer assisted surgery works.

“Contributing to society is important,” says Dr. Ellis, who started his career in the field of robotics and now works out of the Queen’s Human Mobility Research Centre, “and this award is recognition from my peers for a successful career.”

In 1994, Dr. Ellis went to Italy to study surgery and a year later he joined forces with Queen’s professor John Rudan (Surgery) to develop software to perform the first computer assisted orthopedic surgery.

“Using computer assisted surgery, surgeons can accurately predict the result of the surgery. The technology also makes a difficult surgery possible, which increases the chances of a successful surgery,” he says.

Dr. Ellis is continuing his research into learning how joints move to create even more accurate computer programs for surgery. Currently, he is focusing on poorly healed fractures and early onset arthritis.

“I am revisiting how the human hip moves,” he explains. “I’m fascinated with the human hip because it’s vastly underappreciated. I want to maximize the potential of the hip and help people suffering from arthritis.”

For information about the award visit the website.

Solar house gets a new home

The experimental solar house, constructed by the Queen’s Solar Design Team, is moving this week to a new home on West Campus. Crews were on site Tuesday, at the corner of Union and Division streets, preparing the house to be lifted onto a flatbed trailer. The actual move to the West Campus parking lot near the water tower is expected to happen on Saturday, July 19. Once the house is moved, the parking lot at Union and Division will be graded and eventually paved to provide additional spaces for Queen’s parking permit holders.

Sea Cadet program sparks interest in engineering

Last year's Sea Cadets test a newspaper bridge they built during their Science WORKS! workshop at RMCC.

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

Thanks to a grant of $19,200 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Science WORKS! will be able to continue its program for Sea Cadets for the next three years.

Science WORKS!, a collaboration between Queen’s and the Royal Military College of Canada (RMCC), was founded in 2012 by Dr. Jennifer Scott, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at RMCC. The program is designed to get youth involved with engineering.

“Giving the Sea Cadets the chance to get involved with engineering is a great way to spark what could potentially be a new career or study option for them,” says Maria Lahiffe, outreach co-ordinator of EngQonnect, an education outreach program in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science aimed at getting youth involved in engineering.  

The six-week program begins this week and over 600 12-17 year old Sea Cadets will be able to spend their Tuesday evenings learning about engineering. There is no cost for them to sign up.

“Demonstrations at ScienceWORKS! typically show research that is currently going on at RMCC. They really bring science to life for the students,” says Ms. Lahiffe. “We’re also including hands-on engineering design activities where students will be presented with a problem and have to generate ideas to create and test a solution.”

Dr. Scott, principal investigator for the collaboration, says that the team has been measuring the effectiveness of the program and have found Science WORKS! to be quite successful.

“Last year, we surveyed a subset of the 150 youth that we worked with and found a measurable increase in their understanding of what engineers do,” she says. “This year we plan to survey all Sea Cadets and I hope we’re able to continue this program for the coming years with even more success.”

Visit the NSERC website to learn more about the PromoScience grant.

Engineering lab a real blast

By Communications Staff

A new video (above) invites viewers inside the Alan Bauer Explosives Laboratory in the Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining. Queen’s is the only university in Canada with a well-equipped explosives test facility, which is located 50 km north of Kingston on 400 acres of land.

The facility includes a bunker with an ultra-high-speed framing camera, digital oscilloscopes and data acquisition systems, a high-speed camera and two blasting chambers for the study of dust explosions and detonation products. The laboratory is named after Dr. Bauer, the former head of the Department of Mining Engineering, who developed the facility in the 1970s.

The student media team within the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science filmed and edited the video. Visit the faculty's YouTube channel to view more videos on engineering and applied science laboratories.

Funding supports research and innovation

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Fifty-eight Queen’s researchers have been awarded a total of $11.7 million in research grants from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for 2014. The funding will help advance research projects in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Support from NSERC and other partners is vital to facilitating new discoveries and innovations at Queen’s,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “In a competitive funding environment, the fact that so many of our faculty members, graduate students and post-doctoral researchers have received these awards is a testament to the high quality of research happening on campus.”

Fifty-eight Queen's researchers have earned NSERC funding.

Receiving a sizeable portion of the funding is Mark Boulay (Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy) who is being granted $836,000 over two years for his dark matter search experiment located underground at the SNOLAB in Sudbury.

Along with the research funding announcements, Queen’s researchers Christopher Eckert (Biology), Noel James (Geological Sciences), Kurtis Kyser (Geological Sciences), Yan-Fei Liu (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and Roel Vertegaal (School of Computing) were selected for a Discovery Accelerator Supplement designed to provide additional resources to accelerate progress and maximize the impact of superior research programs.

The supplements are valued at $120,000 over three years.

These grants are awarded to researchers whose projects explore high-risk, novel or potentially transformative lines of inquiry, and are likely to contribute to groundbreaking advances.

The final NSERC announcement is the Postgraduate Scholarships – Doctoral and the Canada Graduate Scholarships – Doctoral along with the Postdoctoral Fellowships. The Postdoctoral Fellowships Program provides support to a core of the most promising researchers at a pivotal time in their careers while the scholarships provide funding to the researchers of tomorrow. Twenty-three of these were awarded to Queen’s for projects in a variety of disciplines.

Visit the NSERC website for more information.

High demand for Queen's programs outpaces Ontario university trend

By Communications Staff,

The number of students choosing Queen’s University is outpacing the provincial trend, reflecting strong demand for Queen’s undergraduate education and quality programs.

According to data recently released by the Ontario University Application Centre, the number of confirmations—students who have accepted Queen’s offer of admission—is up 11 per cent for the 2014 academic year. That compares to an overall decline of 1.3 per cent across Ontario universities. Queen’s continues to have one of Canada’s highest entering averages at 88.4 per cent.

“Top students choose Queen’s not only because of its world-class academic programs, but also because we offer a welcoming community where faculty and staff do everything they can to ensure our students succeed,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “Thanks are due to our recruitment staff, faculty and alumni who talked to prospective students about our outstanding living and learning environment and the benefits of a Queen’s education.”

Queen’s is highly regarded for its student learning experience, performing very well in the National Survey of Student Engagement’s (NSSE) key benchmarks, including enriching educational experience and level of academic challenge. 86 per cent of senior-year Queen’s students surveyed by NSSE report their entire educational experience as “excellent” or “good”, which puts Queen’s among the top institutions in Ontario.

“Queen’s offers a unique value proposition to prospective students,” says Alan Harrison, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “We have all of the benefits of a mid-sized, residential university focused on an exceptional undergraduate education, within the context of a research-intensive institution where innovation happens on a daily basis.”

The growing interest in Queen’s extends beyond Canada’s borders, with international students expected to make up 6.3 per cent of the 2014 incoming class.


Subscribe to RSS - Engineering and Applied Science