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Engineering and Applied Science

Promoting research partnerships

Four Queen's University researchers receive Strategic Partnership Grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

Four Queen’s University researchers have been awarded Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Strategic Partnership Grants totaling over $2 million in funding. Announced Friday by Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, these grants promote partnership between academic researchers and industry or government organizations. Funding will go to six networks and 80 projects from across the country with the goal to enhance Canada’s economy, society, and environment within the next 10 years.

“The Strategic Partnership Grants facilitate and promote important collaborations for Queen’s researchers and their partners,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “These collaborations are critical for the translation of basic research into the technologies, jobs, policies and services that benefit all Canadians.”

Mohammad Zulkernine (School of Computing) $535,500 – Dr. Zulkernine’s research is creating a more secure environment for connected vehicles using the Cloud. In this project, he and his research team will propose countermeasures for attacks on connected vehicles by providing access control, availability, and privacy components. This research will play a major role in improving the next generation of connected vehicles by providing useful information to drivers and vehicles, enabling them to make safer, faster, and more informed decisions. His co-investigator on the project was Hossam Hassanein.

Dr. Zulkernine’s approach will position Canada as a leader in securing connected vehicles against increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks and will train highly-qualified software engineers and network security engineers in techniques in automating modern connected vehicles.

Dr. Zulkernine is also co-applicant on another Strategic Partnership Grant on a project that promises to enable ‘Internet of Things’ systems (that connect devices such as cellphones, appliances and vehicles to the Internet and to one another) to perform more effectively and at a lower cost.

Ian Moore (Civil Engineering) $590,100 – Using new technologies developed to assist with pipeline rehabilitation, Dr. Moore and his research team are addressing knowledge gaps that exist as communities assess, rehabilitate, and replace water and sewer pipelines. The present knowledge gaps create challenges for consulting engineers advising on specific projects, and significantly magnify the 'new technology' risks perceived by city engineers and others charged with public safety.

Unique buried pipe and polymer durability test facilities will allow Dr. Moore’s industry partner and eight PhD students to undertake experimental work and analyses to study and address these challenges. The project outcomes can be incorporated into standards, practice guidelines, and specifications for use by industry partners and others. Drs. Richard Brachman and Neal Hoult worked with Dr. Moore on the project.

Kevin Mumford (Civil Engineering) $537,475 – Dr. Mumford is studying gas migration in groundwater related to the extraction of natural gas from previously inaccessible formations (shale gas). Natural gas from deeper formations can move along damaged or inadequately sealed wells and enter shallower aquifers. This gas can then dissolve into the groundwater leading to chemical and biological reactions that reduce groundwater quality. Focused research is needed to better understand the factors influencing this gas migration and dissolution to develop best practices for risk management and monitoring for potential effects on groundwater quality. 

A series of laboratory experiments will track gas flow and dissolution using high-resolution visual techniques as well as the analysis of gas and water samples. Dr. Mumford will also use numerical models to simulate the experiments and to investigate larger-scale, longer-term field scenarios to develop monitoring strategies and establish a framework for risk assessment.

John Smol (Biology) $520,000 – Dr. Smol and his research team will incorporate the use of forensic paleolimnology to determine the impact mink farming may be having on natural environments in Nova Scotia. Working with local stakeholders, Dr. Smol and his colleagues will use both established and newly-developed “fingerprinting” tools to determine the relative impacts from mink farms – nutrients, metals, and persistent organic pollutants – that may lead to algal blooms and overall deterioration of water quality, including potential loss of fish habitat and alteration of aquatic food webs.

The research will allow Dr. Smol to provide regulators and stakeholders with the critical information to determine management and potential additional mitigation policies needed to help resolve the polarized debate on the environmental impacts of mink farms. The techniques developed in this project will be readily exportable to other agricultural regions in Canada and elsewhere faced with water quality issues.

For more information on the Strategic Partnership Grants visit the website.

Balancing research and sporting careers

Arriving at Queen’s through the Principal’s Development Fund for Visiting Scholars, engineering researcher Rossana Pasquino is also a member of the Italian national wheelchair fencing team.

Rossana Pasquino took up wheelchair fencing five years ago as a way to stay fit and as a distraction from the rigours of her academic work. She was introduced to the sport in 2015 by childhood friend, and top-ranked Italian epee fencer, Francesca Boscarelli.

[Rossana Pasquino is a world-class athlete in wheelchair fencing]
Rossana Pasquino, associate professor, researcher, and a member of the Italian national wheelchair fencing team, is spending part of the summer at Queen’s as a visiting scholar in the Department of Chemical Engineering. (University Communications)

“Francesca was training at a fencing club in Napoli at the time,” Dr. Pasquino says. “They had a wheelchair platform but no athletes. It ended up being a lot of fun because there were many athletes there who were not disabled but who would sit and fence with me. I started to just like it for recreation. Then, as my skills improved, I started to try different weapons and to compete.” 

Dr. Pasquino joined the Italian National Wheelchair Fencing Team after earning a bronze medal in the team sabre category at the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports (IWAS) Federation World Cup in Warsaw in 2017. She and her team went on to win silver in the IWAS World Championships in Rome later that year, and silver in epee and sabre in the Italian Championships earlier this year. She’s planning to compete in the European championships later in 2018 and is positioning herself now to qualify for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

“It’s a lot of work to balance the sport with my career,” says Dr. Pasquino. “I only started to be very good at fencing in the last two years and it’s not possible to be competitive at such a high level as you get older, so I have about 10 years to go. It’s not easy to do everything and do everything well, but I’m going to do the best I can.”

And it’s an impressive career to balance.

Dr. Pasquino recently earned a spot as associate professor in chemical engineering at the Universita degli Studi de Napoli Federico II in Naples. She’ll be starting at that post in September. She met Queen’s engineering professor Jeffrey Giacomin in 2011 while he was teaching a short course on polymer processing in Crete, Greece. They had a meeting of academic minds, so Dr. Giacomin successfully nominated Dr. Pasquino to visit Queen’s this summer through the Principal's Development Fund for Visiting Scholars. She’s working with Queen’s researchers to better understand ways to characterize polymers.  

“The plan was to understand how polymers scatter laser light,” says Dr. Pasquino. “We can get insight into a materials’ molecular structure – if, for example, molecules are branched, form linear chains, rings, or other structures.”

It’s work that could help industry to better determine the physical properties of the polymers they use in manufacturing for the purposes of quality control or for selecting the best materials for any given job.

“We are also studying polymer degradation in parallel-disk geometry and we will probably end up with a scientific paper at the end of my visit,” she says.

To those who may find inspiration in Dr. Pasquino’s athletic and academic work, she has some advice:

“So much of life is about fear,” she says. “‘I don’t want to travel because something bad could happen,’ or ‘I don’t want to start engineering because maybe I’m not good enough,’ or ‘I don’t want to fence, or try a sport because I’m not competitive.’ You just have to try. There are barriers you have to overcome, otherwise you don’t do anything. That’s how it is in any life.”

Dr. Pasquino is scheduled to practice at the Kingston Fencing Club, 83 Terry Fox Dr. Unit 4, Kingston, Tuesday evenings from 6 to 8 pm through August. 

Tea Room receives gift for renovations

The Beamish-Munro Hall cafe received a $70,000 gift from the Class of Sc'82 to renovate the space.

  • [Isabel Hazan (Sc'20), Head Manager of The Tea Room, updates the sign. (Photo: Queen's Alumni)]
    Isabel Hazan (Sc'20), Head Manager of The Tea Room, updates the sign. (Photo: Queen's Alumni)
  • [Renovations underway at The Tea Room (Photo: Queen's Alumni).]
    Renovations underway at The Tea Room (Photo: Queen's Alumni).
  • [Ms. Hazan holds up drafted plans for The Tea Room renovations. (Photo: Queen's Alumni)]
    Ms. Hazan holds up drafted plans for The Tea Room renovations. (Photo: Queen's Alumni)

Most members of the Class of Sc’82 have never visited The Tea Room, a student-run, environmentally friendly coffee shop that opened in 2006. It might come as a surprise that members of Sc’82 has announced a class gift of $70,000 to renovate the cafe in Beamish-Munro Hall, but Class President Don MacDiarmid says the gift is about engineering alumni supporting engineering students.

“If The Tea Room is important to students, it is important to my classmates,” says Mr. MacDiarmid.

Sc'82 has established two funds to support current engineering students. One is an endowment for student awards, while the other supports special projects to enhance the undergraduate education of engineering students. The class decided to support The Tea Room after a recommendation from the Dean of Engineering’s office and a presentation from The Tea Room staff.

“We see our endowment as funding the extras that might not be covered by regular faculty spending,” says Mr. MacDiarmid. “The students made a very polished funding request document that I circulated to about 25 members of my class for input. They were universal in their support.”

Sc’82 Reunion Co-ordinator Cathy Ella was on the Engineering Society Board of Directors from 2002 to 2008. She remembers The Tea Room founder Michele Romanow (Sc'07, MBA'08), who now stars on the hit CBC TV show Dragons’ Den, pitching The Tea Room and the board supporting the venture.

“The Tea Room is a great student enterprise and Sc’82 is very pleased to contribute to its success,” says Ms. Ella.

The Tea Room is a socially conscious cafe that proves an environmentally friendly model can be profitable. All of The Tea Room’s products and packaging are 100 per cent compostable and the company plants trees to offset its carbon footprint, achieving carbon neutral status in 2015. It was the first zero-consumer-waste-certified cafe in North America, according to The Tea Room Head Manager Isabel Hazan (Sc’20).

“The Tea Room is a symbol of entrepreneurship within Queen’s,” she says. “Our mission is to make sustainable choices accessible to students. How do we do it? We make a sustainable choice as easy as deciding where to buy your coffee.”

The cafe is entirely run by students from all faculties, with the five managers and 55 staff. This model provides financial support to students during the school year.

The Sc’82 donation will allow The Tea Room to serve more customers by adding an extra cashier station and relocating the side bar to divert the traffic away from the entrance. The renovations will also improve the flow of operations behind the bar, making service more efficient and consistent. With the design changes implemented, the business will be able to keep up with its increasing popularity on campus and The Tea Room’s mission can reach more students at Queen’s. 

“We are humbled by the donation,” says Ms. Hazan. “When we first discovered that the Sc’82 alumni were interested in funding The Tea Room’s renovations, we were extremely excited – it validated our mission of combining environmental responsibility with community education and financial sustainability. The alumni’s generous donation is making it possible for us to reach more customers and serve them optimally while making a positive impact on campus. We are extremely grateful for the class’ enthusiasm about The Tea Room, and we are eager to watch the renovations come to fruition throughout the summer.”

Donations can be made to the various Sc’82 funds through the Give To Queen’s website.

This story was originally published on the Queen's Alumni website.

A life-changing experience

A new bench near Summerhill has been dedicated to an engineering alumnus who credited Queen's with helping him pursue his dreams.

[Howie Toda]
Howie (Hisao) Toda (BSc’52). (Supplied Photo)

Howie (Hisao) Toda (BSc’52) was always grateful to Queen’s for helping to change his life.

Mr. Toda, who passed away in December 2017, overcame a challenging childhood that saw his family imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp. After graduating from Queen’s with an engineering degree, he got married, had four children, and went on to a long career at Ontario Hydro.

“Queen’s did not judge him by his family heritage or by who his parents were, but only by his capabilities and potential,” his son, Brian Toda, told family gathered at Summerhill for his father’s memorial bench dedication held in June. “Queen’s allowed him to pursue his dream and become an electrical engineer. [This bench dedication] is so meaningful because Queen’s represents a momentous inflection point in Dad’s life. He had two different lives – one before Queen’s and one after.”

Although Mr. Toda never returned after graduation, Brian said his father spoke fondly of his time at Queen’s. His family felt that dedicating a bench on campus was a fitting tribute and a way to bring him back to the school that changed his life.

Mr. Toda was one of three children in his family who grew up in New Westminster, B.C. His Japanese parents ran a successful boarding house and his childhood was fairly typical. Everything changed after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Mr. Toda and his family were labeled enemy aliens by the government and stripped of their rights. In February 1942, their family home and car were confiscated and they were moved to an abandoned mining hotel. Howie’s father was forced to work on the Crowsnest Highway.

After the war, the family was expelled from British Columbia and they relocated to Ontario, where Mr. Toda and his parents found work as labourers on a farm near Chatham.

Despite these challenges, Mr. Toda worked hard to finish high school, was accepted to Queen’s, and found jobs to help pay for tuition while studying.

While the Canadian government treated him like an enemy of the state, Queen’s welcomed him.

Mr. Brian Toda said his father’s stories about Queen’s didn’t include discrimination. They were typical student stories such as playing pranks, volunteering at campus radio station CFRC, and working part-time at the campus arena. Some professors and classmates were veterans who fought against Japan in the Second World War, yet Mr. Toda always felt like he was treated the same as other students. 

After graduation, Mr. Toda had a long and successful career in Toronto as an engineer in a variety of increasingly senior roles with Ontario Hydro. While there, he met his wife, Mariko, who worked as a secretary in a nearby office building. Together, they had four children and eventually welcomed four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren into their family. He worked hard to make sure his kids had the type of happy childhood he did not get to enjoy.

“In our wildest dreams, we could not imagine being forced from our comfortable, secure house and have everything taken away,” said Mr. Brian Toda. “Growing up, his stories of his time before Queen’s were like exaggerations to me. It has only been as I’ve grown up, gone to school, and raised a family that I’ve come to understand what a heroic effort it was for Dad to make life seem so normal for all of us.”

Visit the Alumni website to learn more about opportunities to honour loved ones through bench and tree dedications. 

[Queen's Summerhill bench Howie Toda]
A new bench located near Summerhill is dedicated to Howie (Hisao) Toda (BSc’52). (Supplied Photo)

This story originally appeared on the Queen's University Alumni website.

Concrete ideas for the future

Queen’s University civil engineering researchers design and build Canada’s first Moving Load Simulator for highway bridge testing.

  • Amir Fam, the Donald and Sarah Munro Chair in Engineering and Applied Science, explains how the Moving Load Simulator to Mayor Bryan Paterson. (University Communications)
    Amir Fam, the Donald and Sarah Munro Chair in Engineering and Applied Science, explains how the Moving Load Simulator to Mayor Bryan Paterson. (University Communications)
  • Among those attending the unveiling of the Moving Load Simulator were, from left: Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research); Kevin Deluzio, Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science; Laura Tauskela, student; Mark Gerretsen, MP, Kingston and the Islands; Dustin Brennan, student; Bryan Paterson, Mayor of Kingston; and Amir Fam, Donald and Sarah Munro Chair in Engineering and Applied Science. (University Communications)
    Among those attending the unveiling of the Moving Load Simulator were, from left: Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research); Kevin Deluzio, Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science; Laura Tauskela, student; Mark Gerretsen, MP, Kingston and the Islands; Dustin Brennan, student; Bryan Paterson, Mayor of Kingston; and Amir Fam, Donald and Sarah Munro Chair in Engineering and Applied Science. (University Communications)
  • The Moving Load Simulator, a one-of-a-kind system that simulates the forces borne by a bridge when large and small vehicles drive across, undergoes a demonstration during its unveiling at Ellis Hall. (University Communications)
    The Moving Load Simulator, a one-of-a-kind system that simulates the forces borne by a bridge when large and small vehicles drive across, undergoes a demonstration during its unveiling at Ellis Hall. (University Communications)
  • Queen’s University researcher Amir Fam and his team have designed and built the Moving Load Simulator, featuring new technology to test structural integrity of bridge materials and design. (University Communications)
    Queen’s University researcher Amir Fam and his team have designed and built the Moving Load Simulator, featuring new technology to test structural integrity of bridge materials and design. (University Communications)
  • A total of $4.2 million in funding to design and build the simulator – the first of its kind in Canada – and other support infrastructure was provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Ontario Research Fund and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Sciences, with additional in-kind contributions. (University Communications)
    A total of $4.2 million in funding to design and build the simulator – the first of its kind in Canada – and other support infrastructure was provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Ontario Research Fund and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Sciences, with additional in-kind contributions. (University Communications)

Queen’s University researcher Amir Fam and his team unveiled a cutting-edge Moving Load Simulator on Thursday, July 12, featuring new technology designed to test structural integrity of bridge materials and design.

The one-of-a-kind system simulates the forces borne by a bridge when large and small vehicles drive across. It collects data which are then analyzed by engineers to assess the performance of all aspects of the bridge structure, including the deck, girders, joints, and connections of many types of bridges.

“This equipment here at Queen’s is remarkably unique,” says Dr. Fam, Donald and Sarah Munro Chair in Engineering and Applied Science and Associate Dean (Research and Graduate Studies). “We wanted to take the lead in understanding bridges under full-scale moving loads by creating testing infrastructure that was innovative and new. We accomplished that with this technology.”

The $4.2 million in funding to design and build the simulator – the first of its kind in Canada – and other support infrastructure was provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Ontario Research Fund and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Sciences, with additional in-kind contributions.

“The important research enabled by the Moving Load Simulator will save lives and reduce costs,” says Roseann O’Reilly Runte, President and CEO of CFI. “Aging infrastructure in bridges across North America can be a serious issue of safety and security. The ability to study simultaneously both load and motion will be key to building better bridges in the future and to knowing today which bridges should require load limits.”

Traditionally, bridge materials are tested using a pulsating technique that sees a large hammer-like instrument pounding the material repeatedly in the same spot. Dr. Fam says that, in reality, this isn’t how bridges are used in the real-world. By driving back and forth over the test material, the simulator recreates the forces bridges undergo every day and over a long period of time.

“We designed and built this new technology to give us deeper insights than we’ve ever had before,” says Dr. Fam. “The simulator gives us a more accurate estimate of material fatigue, which correlates to the service life of the bridge. This is critical knowledge we can now supply to the construction industry.”

The Ministry of Transportation (MTO), which owns and maintains the vast majority of bridges in the Province, is one of first partners that will be using the load simulator to test bridges in Ontario.  Dr. Fam says the technology will also contribute to more design efficiencies.

“In addition to our industry partners, the Moving Load Simulator will provide a unique opportunity for Queen’s students,” says Dr. Fam. “They are going to be exposed to one of the more unique research facilities in the world and will be able to use it for research projects.”

Dr. Fam worked closely with key players from the Structures Group in the Department of Civil Engineering, graduate students and also worked with industry partners, Dymech, Canadian Precast Prestressed Concrete Institute, and Forterra Engineering, to take this innovative facility from a vision to reality.

“The launch of the Moving Load Simulator is indicative of the highly advanced and applicable nature of research at Queen’s, and, importantly, of how strong collaborations, student engagement, and industry partnerships can work in synergy to address real-world challenges,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). 


Innovation and Wellness Centre gets a new name

New building signs will be going up at the corner of Union and Division streets next month.

[Innovation and Wellness Centre Queen's Mitchell Hall]
Signs will soon go up around the construction site to indicate the building's new name - Mitchell Hall. (University Communications)

A lead donation from a proud Queen’s engineering alumnus will support the university’s efforts to foster innovation and wellness on campus.

As a result of this generous donation, the Innovation and Wellness Centre – currently under construction – has been officially named Mitchell Hall.

“This gift, together with significant contributions from fellow alumni, the federal and provincial governments, and other friends of Queen’s will enable Mitchell Hall to be a powerful example of a shared commitment to research, innovation, and student wellness at Queen’s,” says Tom Harris, Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). 

The name of the new building has been under close wraps for the past few months, but the timing is now right to share it with the Queen's community. Mitchell Hall signs will soon be visible around the building's exterior and the new name is included in the Queen’s University Viewbook which is soon to be distributed to prospective students and across campus.

An event celebrating the building and the gift is currently being planned for the spring of 2019, where more details will be shared about this generous donation.

Located at the corner of Union and Division streets on the former site of the Physical Education Centre, Mitchell Hall was made possible through over $50 million in philanthropic support. An additional $22 million was contributed by the federal and Ontario governments.

The university is scheduled to open phases of the Côté Sharp Student Wellness Centre, the Beaty Water Research Centre, and much of the upper floors, in early 2019. In addition to wellness resources, the building will feature engineering research labs and classrooms, athletics resources, and an Innovation Hub.

To learn more about Mitchell Hall, visit queensu.ca/connect/innovationandwellness.

Three engineering faculty members named CAE fellows

Amir Fam, Richard Holt, and Yan-Fei Liu were inducted into the Canadian Academy of Engineering during a ceremony in Calgary.

Three faculty members of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science have been appointed Fellows of the Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE).

Amir Fam, Richard Holt, and Yan-Fei Liu were inducted into the CAE during a ceremony in Calgary on Monday, June 18.

The CAE, comprised of many of Canada’s most accomplished engineers, is an independent, self-governing and non-profit organization established in 1987 to provide advice in matters of engineering concern.

“The fact that three of our faculty members have been named CAE fellows is a testament to the quality of our professors and researchers at the Queen’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science,” says Kevin Deluzio, Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “Drs. Fam, Holt, and Liu have contributed immensely to Queen’s as well as the engineering field in Canada through their hard work and enlightened research– and there is more to come as they continue their careers. I congratulate each of them on this fantastic achievement.”

Fellows of the Academy are nominated and elected by their peers, in view of their distinguished achievements and career-long service to the engineering profession. Fellows work closely with the other national engineering associations in Canada, and with the other Canadian academies that comprise the Council of Canadian Academies.

Queen’s 2018 CAE Inductees

Amir famAmir Fam - Department of Civil Engineering

Dr. Fam is the Donald and Sarah Munro Chair Professor and Associate Dean (Research and Graduate Studies) in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. He is also co-editor of the Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering, vice-president and treasurer of the International Institute for FRP in Construction, and a former Canada Research Chair. Dr. Fam research is focused in the area of structural engineering using fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP) in bridges and buildings. He has received an Ontario Early Researcher Award, a Civil Engineering Teaching Award, and is a member of the Royal Society of Canada.

Richard HoltRichard Holt – Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Dr. Holt is recognized internationally for his contributions to the understanding of the mechanisms of radiation damage and deformation in nuclear materials, contributing significantly to the safe and efficient operation of both CANDU and light-water reactors. After a distinguished industrial career, he conceived and developed the program of the NSERC - UNENE IRC in Nuclear Materials at Queen’s where he has developed the Reactor Materials Testing Laboratory (RMTL) – a unique reactor simulation facility for the study of radiation damage. Professor Emeritus Holt's work has been recognized by prestigious awards from the American Society of Testing Materials.

Yan-Fei Liu - Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Yan-Fei LiuDr. Liu has advanced power electronics technology through a number of simple, practical innovations in digital control, driver technologies, high-efficiency resonant switching, and modeling of current-programmed control. He has collaborated with many global companies, such as the GE Global Research Centre and Huawei, has been the principal contributor to three IEEE standards, and holds 25 U.S. patents. Dr. Liu co-founded Potentia Semiconductor, a firm which developed power management integrated circuits, and whose products are used widely in LCD, LED and plasma TVs and monitors. Dr. Liu is also a Fellow of the IEEE.

Other inductees include Annette Bergeron (Sc’78) a former lecturer in Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and Smith School of Business, and current president of Engineers Canada, and Queen’s alumna Marilyn Gladu (Sc’84), Member of Parliament for the riding of Sarnia-Lambton.

Visit the CAE website for further information about the organization.

Making a difference in the community

Biomechanical engineering students are designing and building assistive devices for people living with disabilities.

Queen’s Engineering students Leigh Janssen, pictured, and Olivia Roud are working with Kingston resident Jim Stinson this summer to develop assistive devices to enable him to read and write more independently.

Having access to the best assistive technologies can mean the difference between dependence and independence for people living with disabilities. The simple joy of reading an exciting novel, for example, can be out of reach for someone who can’t comfortably hold a book upright and open or turn its pages for long enough to get lost in the story.

“I’m at the point where I either need someone to read to me or I can listen to audiobooks,” says Jim Stinson, who uses a wheelchair and has Multiple Sclerosis that affects his ability to hold a book or a pen. “But a big factor in reading a book is that you get to imagine the different scenarios. When the story is read to me, someone else develops the characters with their imagination. I like to do that myself.”

There are lots of assistive devices on the market that propose to help people with similar challenges but mass-market devices so often demand compromises from end users. Results are much better with custom assistive devices, or devices that can be infinitely adapted over time to an individual user’s specific needs and wants.

That’s where Queen’s engineering students come in.

Fourth-year Biomechanical Engineering students Olivia Roud and Leigh Janssen, under the supervision of Professor Claire Davies, are working with Stinson this summer to design, build, and refine the devices he wants to enable him to read and write more routinely and independently.

“This was our first experience getting to work with an actual end user and someone in the community,” says Janssen. “As undergraduates, our projects are often based on hypothetical problems involving imaginary people. Getting to work with Jim, an actual client, and address his needs directly is great experience. Jim gives so much more information and feedback than we would get in a hypothetical situation.”

Among the devices Roud and Janssen are working on is a special copy stand to fit over the armrest of Stinson’s wheelchair. It can help support the weight of a book and hold it open in just the right position so Stinson can read the text clearly and turn the pages much more easily. Another device provides support for Stinson’s right forearm to help steady his hand for writing with a pen.

“With the system they’ve developed, I can write more easily,” says Stinson. “I can sit here and read a book pretty naturally, so I’ll be able to finish all the books I’ve started but couldn’t read to the end.”

“It’s an iterative process,” says Roud. “There are some stability issues in some of the devices at the moment but the next steps are to look at the designs, take them apart, and improve each piece until we get the best results we can for Jim.”

For Roud and Janssen, the first steps on the road to this project came as part of Dr. Davies’ MECH 393 Biomedical Product Design course. That course is part of an interdisciplinary initiative, called Building Better Together, in collaboration with PhD student Elizabeth Delarosa (Mechanical and Materials Engineering), and Professors Catherine Donnelly (Rehabilitation Therapy), and Susanne Murphy (Rehabilitation Therapy). In it, Biomechanical Engineering students collaborate with Occupational Therapy students to make custom assistive devices for real-world end users.

“Four teams work with each end user in the course,” says Dr. Davies. “Then, the end users decide which devices to move forward with. I’ve engaged a couple of students from the class in each of the past two summers to move those projects forward. We iterate on the designs until they meet the end users’ needs before we give the devices to the end user. We re-interview the end user after one week using quality assessment tools that enable us to evaluate how well the devices perform. We do that again after four weeks, and again after six months. That’s how we ensure the needs of that end user are met throughout the year and the devices continue to be beneficial into the future.”

For Stinson, the preferred outcome is quite simple: more independence in his daily life.

“The philosophy I use in my life is that if you have a problem, you learn how to work around it,” he says. “We’ve worked around some things that were difficult for me and the devices they’ve developed are very good solutions for people who have difficulty reading or writing. I have nothing but great things to say about the engineers and occupational therapists who work at Queen’s.”

If you have difficulty with one or more tasks and might benefit from an assistive device developed for you with the researchers and students of Building Better Together, email BBTkingston@gmail.com for more information.

Innovation and wellness come together

Construction crews are working to bring the Innovation and Wellness Centre to life.

  • [Queen's innovation and wellness centre exterior]
    Work continues outside, with landscaping, paving, and other finishing touches well underway. (University Communications)
  • [Queen's innovation and wellness centre lobby]
    The atrium will be the first stop for many Queen’s students visiting the Innovation and Wellness Centre this fall. (University Communications)
  • [Queen's innovation and wellness centre main stairs]
    This feature staircase, located in the middle of the IWC, provides views into much of the building. (University Communications)
  • [Queen's innovation and wellness centre innovation space]
    The Innovation Hub, located in the southern half of the building, will feature meeting and event space along with other creative resources. (University Communications)
  • [Queen's innovation and wellness centre lobby from third floor]
    The northern end of the IWC will allow students easy passage between the building and the Athletics and Recreation Complex (ARC). (University Communications)
  • [Queen's innovation and wellness centre feature wall]
    The gym floors from the three gyms which resided within the Physical Education Centre (PEC) are being repurposed as a third-floor feature wall. (University Communications)
  • [Queen's innovation and wellness centre basement athletics]
    Major work on the basement will commence this fall. This section will be part of the high performance training centre for varsity student athletes. (University Communications)

Work continues at a steady pace on the Innovation and Wellness Centre (IWC) site, with some key areas of the building taking shape.

“It is exciting to see how far this ambitious and highly complex facility has come, and we eagerly look forward to its opening later this year,” says Donna Janiec, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration). “We are adopting a phased approach to the opening to help us best meet the needs of the Queen’s community and our obligations to our government supporters.”

The university is scheduled to open phases of the building this fall, including the atrium, Innovation Hub, some classrooms, and some of the Athletics and Recreation spaces. 

The final sections, including the Côté Sharp Student Wellness Centre and most of the upper floors, will open starting in January 2019.

The creation of the IWC was made possible through $50 million in philanthropic support, and an additional $22 million contributed by the federal and Ontario governments.

To learn more about the Innovation and Wellness Centre, visit queensu.ca/connect/innovationandwellness.

Graduate student team SWIM’s into AquaHacking Challenge final

Beaty Water Research Centre’s student innovation team is developing a new technology to detect and track sewage overflow due to high rainfall events.

[Sensing Wastewater with Infrared Monitoring (SWIM) team]
The Beaty Water Research Centre's Sensing Wastewater with Infrared Monitoring (SWIM) team of, from left, Shuang Liang, Alexander Rey, Maraika De Groot and David Blair, have qualified for the finals of the AquaHacking Challenge. (Supplied Photo)

A team of students from Queen’s University’s Beaty Water Research Centre (BWRC) has qualified for the finals of the AquaHacking Challenge in Toronto.

The Sensing Wastewater with Infrared Monitoring (SWIM) team competed Saturday, June 9 in the annual event that aims to create innovative solutions for water-related issues in the Great Lakes region. After an entire afternoon of pitching to individual judges in related business, technology and water industry, SWIM was selected as one of five teams proceeding to the final pitching round later this year.

[BWRC Logo]
Beaty Water Research Centre

SWIM is developing a new technology, comprised of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) with an HD visible spectrum camera and an infrared sensor. It will be used to detect and track sewage overflow, providing rapid results related to sewage overflow and contamination.

During high rainfall events, untreated sewage is discharged into nearby rivers, lakes, and oceans through combined sewer overflow to prevent sewer back-ups and flooding. In Ontario, there are over 800 registered beaches to monitor and last year, within the Ottawa River valley alone, there were over 65 closures at local beaches. SWIM will work towards helping protect the public from exposures to sewage pollution through monitoring beaches and pinpointing areas impacted by sewer overflows.

The SWIM team is a student-led, interdisciplinary group comprised of four graduate students. David Blair is a master’s candidate in Civil Engineering, with a chemical engineering degree and a background in wastewater treatment. Maraika De Groot is completing her Master’s of Management, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, with previous experience in business development. Shuang Liang is master’s candidate in Civil Engineering, with an environmental science background and experience with UAV operations and procedures. The fourth member, Alexander Rey, is completing his PhD, with a background in hydrodynamic modeling and computer programming.

“SWIM’s vision is to empower municipalities by providing rapidly delivered sewage discharge data so that the public can make well-informed decisions about water-related activities,” says Ms. Liang.

SWIM uses the turbidity and heat signature of untreated sewer overflow transmitted from the UAV, to detect, quantify and monitor discharge events. The platform, in addition to providing close to real-time data, provides targeted and high-resolution data for the assessment of water quality. This technology will employ Watson’s Discovery API technology, developed by IBM, for visual recognition and data processing.

“The SWIM technology is novel and creative, with enormous potential for future application. It will assist municipalities through data collection, analysis, and reporting, allowing them to more easily locate and identify sewage overflows,” says Pascale Champagne, Director of BWRC.

The BWRC supports interdisciplinary research, education, and outreach. 

As one of the five finalists the team receives $2,000 in funding to refine their innovation and is invited to participate in a two-day, all-expense paid expedition on Lake Ontario to engage with various stakeholders. The team will compete in the AquaHacking Challenge finals Oct. 25. The winners will receive $25,000 towards initial capital and a spot at an incubator. 


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