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    Engineering and Applied Science

    Sparking curiosity

    Science Rendezvous is a free event and is open to children and their families. Join in the fun at the Rogers K-ROCK Centre and The Tragically Hip Way on Saturday, May 9 from 10 am to 3 pm.

    This Saturday, downtown Kingston’s K-ROCK Centre will transform into a hive of science activity, complete with bats, bugs, snakes, robots and even a giant walk-through colon for Science Rendezvous Kingston.

    Science Rendezvous immerses children from the community in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities that spark their curiosity Queen’s researchers are a fixture at the annual event and this year Tara Diesbourg (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies), Gillian Mackey (Chemistry), and Alvine Kamaha (Physics) will each host booths aimed at getting kids excited about STEM subjects.

    “Children engage with topics early on and sometimes they will develop a negative attitude towards STEM subjects as early as the third grade,” says Lynda Colgan, Director of the Queen’s Community Outreach Centre and the woman behind Science Rendezvous’s roaring success in Kingston. “Science Rendezvous is a chance to give children an informal experience with science and stimulate their curiosity at the same time.”

    Science Rendezvous events take place across Canada. Last year, Kingston’s Science Rendezvous had over 50 stations, 300 volunteers and over 3,750 visitors – making it the largest in Canada.

    For Tara Diesbourg and her team in the Biomechanics and Ergonomics Lab at Queen’s, their booth is inspired by this summer’s Pan-Am Games and will feature five stations which relate to different events at the Games.

    Kids will be able to test their strength in a weightlifting simulation, which will show them a measure of their muscle activity. At a jump-themed station, participants can use a force plate to see how high they jump according to force – an important skill if you’re a basketball player or track and field athlete.

    “We’re really hoping to captivate the kids who visit our booth and take part in our stations,” says Ms. Diesbourg, a PhD candidate in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. “Our team of ten have created some cool activities for the kids, including an accelerometer attached to a tennis racket to test how fast they can swing it, and a rowing machine so they can measure the force exerted by their hands and feet.”

    Gillian Mackey, a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemistry, has been making chemistry magic for the past five years at Science Rendezvous. This year, her booth will show kids safe chemistry experiments they can try at home.

    Visitors to Ms. Mackey’s booth will see how  a solution of vinegar and salt can make a copper penny shine like new, and how that same solution can coat the surface of a screw in copper. Outside the K-ROCK Centre, kids will be able to blow bouncy bubbles and watch them bob away.

    “I can’t wait to work with the kids and see how energetic they are,” says Ms. Mackey. “Each year, I’m astonished by their high energy and how excited they are to see chemistry at work.”

    Taking a break from studying particle astrophysics, Alvine Kamaha is preparing a selection of displays to show the fun in physics.

    This year, Ms. Kamaha has chosen two displays: a cloud chamber and a Kelvin water dropper – two physics experiments that can be recreated at home. The Kelvin water dropper uses falling water to generate voltage sparks and a cloud chamber shows signs of ionizing radiation as condensation is produced where charged particles have interacted.

    “We chose these experiments because we wanted something that would attract the kids, would be simple to understand, and would be something they could recreate at home as we’ll give them two sheets with instructions,” says Ms. Kamaha. “They’ll also have the chance to build their own experiments in the booth that they can take home with them.”

    Queen’s students earn ticket to Global Hackathon Seoul

    [Hive Developers]
    The team of, from left, Michael Layzell (Cmp'16), Jake Pittis (Cmp'18), Erik Pilkington (Cmp'18) and Max Bittker (Sc'16) are headed to the Global Hackathon Seoul after taking top place at Hack Western with their program Hive. (University  Communications)

    Sometimes simplicity is the best strategy.

    Queen's in the World

    Of course, a good team and a lot of hard work also help and that is what powered four Queen’s University students to first prize at Hack Western last month.

    Max Bittker (Sc’16), Michael Layzell (Cmp’16), Erik Pilkington (Cmp’18) and Jake Pittis (Cmp’18) took the top place at Hack Western – a weekend event known as a hackathon, which brings together teams of technology-minded people who try to take an interesting idea from start to finish over the course of the weekend.

    The team’s project, Hive, is a programming game where players write code to control the behavior of virtual ants. The game works on two levels – as an artificial intelligence (AI) competition and a fun environment for new coders.

    What gave them the winning edge, the team says, was that at the end of the weekend they had a finished, polished product geared toward their audience that was readily available via the internet. Fellow attendees could pull out their mobile devices and play the game while the team was presenting.

    “People can play the game themselves, which is cool, because AI is an awesome thing which is usually considered very difficult to get into," says Mr. Layzell. "But with Hive, it's really easy to create a simple five-line AI which still acts in a very ant-like way.”

    The game concept not only spoke to the audience, but had the team hooked as well. Once they had the first ants moving in the early stages of development they couldn’t wait to take the ants to the next level.

    Another important factor was that the team members are all friends, having met through Hack Nights, an informal group that meets on campus at Queen’s. Knowing their individual strengths and skills they divided up the responsibilities and workload accordingly. And while sleep isn’t a priority the team took turns taking naps throughout the weekend or getting food, while others continued the work.

    By pushing their boundaries they learned some valuable lessons. But it also took a toll. Several team members struggled with colds afterwards and catching up on sleep.

    “One thing we noticed is that in period of 36 hours, if you are steadily working as a team you can get so much work done. The amount you can get done is comparable to weeks and weeks of work on a more normal schedule,” Mr. Pittis says. “The hope is that the benefits of having this dense cluster of interesting things going on outweigh the costs of having to deal with the aftereffects.”

    They also learned more about themselves through the event.

    “I definitely learned a lot about how to deal with bigger projects because most of the stuff I was doing was for my own purposes and now, (at the hackathon) I have to collaborate with other people and look at their code and understand  it,” Mr. Pilkington says. “It was more difficult, definitely.”

    Looking ahead to Global Hackathon Seoul, set for July 29-Aug. 1, the team is excited about the possibilities the event provides, bringing  together approximately 2,000 hackers from around the world.

    “It’s not going to be prize-oriented, it’s all about collaboration and ideas,” Mr. Bittker says. “The Global Hackathon is more focused on collaboration and sharing ideas and bringing in people from all over the world. That’s one of the great things about hackathons – they bring people together from all sorts of universities to the same place with a common goal almost.”

    Exceptional research showcased in lecture event

    The Prizes for Excellence in Research public lectures. Monday, April 27 from 4:30 to 6:15 pm at the School of Medicine, 15 Arch Street.

    The Queen's community will have the opportunity to hear from five of the university’s top researchers. The free, public lecture event will see each researcher present a 12 minute overview of their work, so that in just over an hour audience will hear about a gamut of exceptional research from philosophy to nanophotonics to Vitamin D.

    The annual Prizes for Excellence in Research public lectures are set for Monday, April 27.

    The Prizes for Excellence in Research Public Lectures features the 2014 recipients – Stephen Hughes (Physics), Glenville Jones (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences), John Kirby (Education), Ian Moore (Civil Engineering) and Christine Overall (Philosophy).

    An internationally renowned researcher, Dr. Hughes has made a number of outstanding contributions to the field of nanophotonics and quantum optics. In a series of landmark papers Dr. Hughes and his group developed an accurate way to understand the influence of fabrication imperfections on the propagation of light in photonic crystals, and designed a “single photon gun” for use in quantum information processing.

    Dr. Jones is a widely respected biochemist and authority in the metabolism of vitamin D, a compound whose dysregulation or deficiency is correlated with a broad spectrum of diseases including osteoporosis, rickets, psoriasis, renal failure, cancer and various hypercalcemic conditions.

    Dr. Kirby is one of Canada’s preeminent educational scholars and is most renowned for his contributions related to theories of reading, intelligence and students’ conceptions of learning. He is also cross-appointed to the Department of Psychology and is a member of the Centre for Neuroscience Studies.

    Dr. Moore received the award for his achievements in fundamental and applied engineering research and advances in the understanding and design of buried pipes. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and in 2002 he became the second civil engineer to be awarded a Killam Research Fellowship.

    Dr. Overall has made important and diverse contributions to both applied ethics and social philosophy. Her pioneering insights into reproductive ethics, where she has contributed to debates about conception, pregnancy, birthing, and reproductive technologies, continue to be influential. In 1998, Dr. Overall became the first feminist philosopher to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

    For more information on the Prizes for Excellence in Research visit the website.

    Queen's partners with Jilin University

    Queen's in the World

    Queen’s University has partnered with China’s Jilin University to offer a new “two-plus-two” degree program in computer engineering. A delegation from Jilin visited Queen’s campus to formally sign the partnership agreement.

    The new program will allow Jilin students to earn a Bachelor of Applied Science (International Collaboration) from Queen’s after studying for two years at Jilin and a further two years at Queen’s. The new degree program was approved by the university's Senate in March.

    Principal Daniel Woolf and Yang Zhenbin, Chairman of Jilin University Council, sign the two-plus-two program agreement.

    “As Queen’s works to increase its international reach, it also seeks to attract highly qualified international students to our campus,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “This two-plus-two program is the next step in our ongoing collaboration with Jilin University and further deepens Queen’s ties in China, an area of strategic focus for our international efforts.”

    A Queen’s delegation, including Alan Harrison, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), and Kimberly Woodhouse, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, visited Jilin to discuss the new program during a trip to China in November.

    “This two-plus-two program will provide participating students with an exceptional and sustained international experience that will serve them well throughout their careers and further studies,” says Dean Woodhouse. “We look forward to welcoming the first group of students from Jilin in September. They will bring an international perspective and enrich the classroom experience for all students.”

    This is Queen’s second two-plus-two agreement. The first was a partnership with Tongji University in Shanghai in the field of environmental science. Expanding the university’s international reach is a strategic priority for Queen’s and a key driver in its strategic framework.

    Kick back and relax

    With exams and final assignments fast approaching, it’s a hectic time of year for Queen’s students so the staff in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science (FEAS) are holding a unique day of relaxation and stress relief.

    Open to all engineering students, the Engineering Health and Wellness Day on April 8 encourages students to enjoy drop-in yoga classes, play with therapy dogs and get a massage to celebrate the end of classes and take a short break before the start of exams.

    Stacy Shane (l), Joanne Roston and Corrine Hoas are getting prepared for the Engineering Health and Wellness Day.

    “We started thinking about what students are dealing with at this time of year, some of the issues they are working through,” says Stacy Shane, Manager, Student Services. “It’s nice to give back to the students and also help them prepare mentally for exams.”

    The day starts at 8:30 am in the atrium in Beamish-Munro Hall and includes a wide range of activities including a PAWS Room featuring therapy dogs, yoga and relaxation sessions, 15 minute massages and a “throwback” room where students can indulge their inner child with Lego, colouring books, board games, jigsaw puzzles and other games and toys. Special guest, Richard Hayward (SC’01, Engineering Physics) will be present to talk to students about the importance of maintaining a life balance while studying engineering, as well as working as professional engineer. There will also be information sessions to provide students with studying tips and positive reinforcement.

    All activities are free of charge and engineering students attending receive free exam care packages and snacks from Epicurious.

    “We want students to reconnect with some of their old hobbies they enjoyed when life was simpler. We want them to enjoy a massage or connect with a dog to help them de-stress. It’s a free day for students to simply enjoy,” says Joanne Roston, personal counsellor for FEAS.

    The faculty is hosting its first Engineering Health and Wellness Day with the hope of doing more in the future. In judging the success of the day, the organizing group is looking for something very simple.

    “We are looking for smiles,” says Ms. Roston. “Sometimes students get so caught up in their academic lives, they forget to smile and just relax. If we see that, we’ve done something right.”

    For more information on Health and Wellness Day, visit the Facebook page.

    Harnessing the power of the tides

    [Ryan Mulligan]
    Ryan Mulligan, an Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering, will be presenting his work at the 4th Oxford Tidal Energy Workshop, being held at the University of Oxford on March 23-24. (University Communications)

    Tapping the renewable energy found in the oceans’ tides is the focus of an upcoming conference at the University of Oxford and a Queen’s professor will be one of the presenters.

    Ryan Mulligan, an Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering, will be presenting his work at the 4th Oxford Tidal Energy Workshop, including the latest data collected by one of his Master’s students during a research cruise in the Bay of Fundy, one of the greatest potential sources of tidal energy in the world.

    As a coastal engineer and oceanographer, Dr. Mulligan’s research is focused on the large-scale effects that tidal current turbines would have on the underwater environment.

    “If we put out an array of tidal current turbines in the ocean to generate sufficient energy to power a city, which in the present economy isn’t feasible but could be in the future, we need   several hundred  turbines, like a windfarm but under water,” Dr. Mulligan explains. “My research uses computer models to examine the changes in the water levels, the currents and the sediment transport that could occur due to tidal energy extraction in the Bay of Fundy specifically.”

    The data collected from the Bay of Fundy provides “validation against observation” for the modelling being done, he says.

    The workshop also offers him a great opportunity to meet with others working in the field, particularly in the United Kingdom where the largest amount of research is being done.

    “I know several people who will be there and read the work of others but I will get the chance to meet them, learn about tidal research at UK sites and get a better feel for how my research  fits into the global perspective,” he says. “Some researchers are doing similar work on basin-scale modelling  and the impacts on the marine environment, and others are investigating  turbulence  around the turbine blades and small-scale issues related to designing turbines, so there’s a large range of scales of fluid motion that are going to be discussed.”

    Dr. Mulligan says he is honoured to be the only Canadian, and only North American, to present at the UK-focused research symposium that will bring together many of the leading researchers in the field.

    Extracting energy from tidal currents is still in the early stages of research, Dr. Mulligan points out, but there are projects that are bringing harnessing the vast amounts of power closer to a reality.

    The workshop will be held March 23-24 at University of Oxford.

    From Queen's to (Little) NHL

    [Caitlyn Lahonen]
    Caitlyn Lahonen, goaltender for the Queen's Gaels women's hockey team, faces a shot in practice. Ms. Lahonen is featured in "The Hockey Project," a new outreach video series developed by the Aboriginal Access to Engineering program. (Photo by Robin Kasem)

    At the Little Native Hockey League (LNHL) tournament last year, Aboriginal Access to Engineering Director Melanie Howard started thinking about different ways to engage thousands of hockey-obsessed Aboriginal youth.

    A year later, she returns to Ontario’s largest Aboriginal youth hockey tournament with “The Hockey Project,” a four-part video series featuring Queen’s Gaels hockey player and Metis Caitlyn Lahonen.

    “We strive to connect Aboriginal youth with role models so that they can see themselves in engineering,” Ms. Howard says. “The Hockey Project is great because Caitlyn’s story encourages Aboriginal youth, especially girls, to dream of a future as an engineering student as well as a varsity athlete.”

    Ms. Lahonen, a fourth-year chemical engineering student, describes her background and interest in engineering in the first video. The second video focuses on the connection between engineering and hockey. Queen’s researcher Tim Bryant explains how his experience as a junior hockey player with the Kingston Frontenacs eventually led to his interest in blending engineering with sport and sport equipment design.

    Other videos provide viewers with a glimpse into Ms. Lahonen’s day-to-day life and her volunteer work with youth hockey players in Kingston. Ms. Lahonen says she loves getting involved in helping with the Aboriginal community.

    “I would like kids to watch the video and see that playing hockey and getting a great education is possible if you stay committed to the goals you have set out for yourself,” she says. “And I would also like them to take away that hockey and school are a lot of fun.”

    AAE worked with the Media Squad in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science to develop the videos. The videos include footage shot using a Go-Pro camera attached to Ms. Lahonen and other players.

    “This collaborative project showcases the talents of both the Media Squad students and Caitlyn,” says Meagan Suckling, Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “The storytelling element of the videos successfully demonstrates how someone’s passion or hobby can lead to an education and career in engineering.”

    Ms. Howard will screen the videos at the Queen’s University booth set up at the LNHL tournament March 16-19. AAE has also posted the videos online.

    Empowering tomorrow's engineers — with robots

    A Robogals session begins with an experiment. The club, which works with local schools and youth groups to encourage young women to consider becoming engineers, will have students draw what they imagine an engineer to look like. For the club’s members, the results are telling.

    Robogals recently held a session with the Boys and Girls Club of Kingston. (Photo Supplied)

    “Typically, they’ll draw a person holding a wrench or standing by a bridge, but regardless of what they’re doing, it’s almost always a man,” says Mandy Jor, Sci’15 and the club’s president. “If they do draw a woman, it’s because they have a mother, an aunt or family friend who’s an engineer.”

    A major part of the work that Robogals members, who are female engineering students, do, is to provide a positive female role model. An offshoot of the international Robogals organization, the Queen’s chapter leads robotics workshops for young women, giving them a chance to learn the ins and outs of engineering by building and programming LEGO robots.

    By working in an all-female environment, Ms. Jor says they’re better able to cater to specific learning styles.

    “We usually see that boys and girls approach problems differently. The boys like to experiment and try things out to see how they work, but the girls prefer to strategize. They hang back and think things through before going hands on. When the boys go straight for the building materials, the girls can get left out, so we try to provide an all-female environment so the girls can come out of their shells and try things in a way that works for them.”

    Robogals have partnered with groups like the Boys and Girls Club of Kingston and a number of elementary schools and their numbers are continuing to grow. They now have nearly 60 volunteers to conduct workshops and visit classrooms.

    “Robogals is empowering for us and it empowers the girls we work with too,” says Ms. Jor. “We want to inspire them to see engineering as an option, something they could do, even if they eventually decide it’s not what they want to do.”

    Historically, women have been underrepresented in various engineering fields, a matter that Robogals works to change. At Queen’s, they collaborate with another likeminded group, Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), to make women more aware of the opportunities available in engineering. Their efforts seem to be having an effect, as Queen’s continues to outpace the national average for females studying engineering.

    “While our faculty doesn’t do anything specifically to attract female students, many are nonetheless drawn by the fundamental pillars of our program,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “This year, 28.8 per cent of our first-year students are female, compared to the national average of approximately 19 per cent.”

    A new way to pay GRAs

    Current and former graduate students who received payments as Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs) between 2008 and 2012 could be receiving a tax refund from the Canada Revenue Agency in the next few months.

    Effective January 1, 2013, Queen’s has changed the way it pays GRAs, who are typically graduate students who take on research positions that support their studies and provide financial compensation.

    Historically, the support GRAs received for their studies was taxed as income from employment and a T4 was issued at tax time.

    The university’s decision to change its tax treatment of payments to GRAs was made to reflect the fact that GRA positions are essentially research fellowships, funded directly from research grants awarded to the faculty members who recruit and supervise graduate students.

    The change in tax treatment, which is in accordance with the Canada Revenue Agency’s guidelines, makes most GRAs eligible for T4A income (fellowship income) instead of T4 income (employment income).

    The change, which aligns Queen’s with practices at other universities, also benefits graduate students by reducing income tax payments and increasing take-home pay. It may make some students eligible for a retroactive tax refund for the 2008-2012 period.

    The change does not apply to a GRA if the graduate student held or holds the GRA for financial gain and also was or is performing work not directly related to his or her studies. Such students continue to be classified as employees receiving T4 income. If a graduate student simultaneously holds a GRA directly supporting his/her studies as a trainee and is also a research assistant whose work is not related directly to his/her studies, the student will receive a T4A for income received as a research fellowship, as well as a T4 for the income received as an employee.

    Where applicable, the Canada Revenue Agency has agreed to issue retroactive refunds automatically to affected students and alumni and there is no need for anyone to re-file a tax return.

    Questions should be directed by email to GRAT4A@queensu.ca

    Student startup gets TV treatment

    William Yin, Sci’15, says he wasn’t an entrepreneur when he first created his company, Scent Trunk, during the Queen’s Summer Innovation Initiative (QSII). It was during the months-long competition — where student teams compete against one another to design and create startup businesses — that he developed the skills he’s using as he continues to market and build his company.

    William Yin founded Scent Trunk during the Queen's Summer Innovation Initiative. (Photo supplied)

    Scent Trunk, for which Mr. Yin is founder and CEO, is a cologne subscription service that sends monthly samples to its customers. Equipped with a predictive algorithm, the company personalizes and forecasts what scents they think each customer will like best.

    “Buying cologne in a store has problems,” says Mr. Yin. “There’s little variety, the selection isn’t personalized and though you can smell the scents, you don’t know how they’ll react with your body chemistry when you actually wear them.”

    By analyzing customers’ preferences and responses over time, he says Scent Trunk is able to find the colognes that best match each individual.

    The company has had a number of recent successes, winning the Toronto regional competition in the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards and was given a chance to pitch the business on a CBC spinoff of the popular show Dragon’s Den. Called Next Gen Den, the web-based show has young entrepreneurs pitch their early-stage businesses to a panel of industry professionals including Michele Romanow, Sci ’07 and MBA ’08, who co-founded Buytopia, an online discount service.

    The episode featuring Scent Trunk is set to air on March 9 and Mr. Yin has to stay tight-lipped until then.

    “At the moment, all I can say is that it went well,” he says.

    Despite these successes, the company has faced its fair share of challenges, one of which happened while in QSII.

    “We fared poorly in QSII and it was one of the biggest defeats I’ve ever had,” says Mr. Yin. “I’d never put so much into something and not had it pan out. I wanted to prove the judges wrong.” Failing to win the competition, he says, was a spark that made him work even harder. “My biggest motivator is being told I can’t do something.”

    In the months since he started Scent Trunk, Mr. Yin says he’s made his company’s pitch hundreds of times and that to be an entrepreneur you have to have thick skin.

    “You get rejected often, so you have to seize on the small wins to stay motivated. In QSII I learnt that I love growing a business, selling things, crunching numbers and making an enterprise work. The competition prepared me for the challenges I’ve faced, but each day as the business grows, it gets harder,” he says. “But, I’m very competitive, I love a challenge.”  


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