Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Student Learning Experience

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.”

'Theatrical conscience' of the Isabel

The concert hall of the Isabel Bader Centre for Performing Arts awaits the grand opening set for September. University Communications/Greg Black

This article is printed in the July edition of the Gazette, which is now available. Copies are avaialble at newsstands around campus. It is the first of a series featuring some of the people and firms behind the planning, design and construction of the Isabel Bader Centre for Performing Arts.

By Andrew Carroll, Gazette editor

It’s a jewel along the shores of Lake Ontario, and David H. Rosenburg knows it.

As the Isabel Bader Centre for Performing Arts nears completion, the vision of what the facility can be is taking full form. While work continues inside, the Isabel’s exterior offers a breathtaking glimpse of the near future.

When Mr. Rosenburg, theatre consultant and managing principal of Theatre Projects, speaks about the Isabel, his excitement is clear.

“I’m very excited about it. Of all the projects I have worked on, it is one of my favourite sites,” Mr. Rosenburg says. “You can’t ask for a better site than on the shore of Lake Ontario.”

But his excitement isn’t strictly about the location of the project; it’s also about its potential for education and performance. He also sees The Isabel as a catalyst for the arts community at Queen’s as well as Kingston.

David Rosenburg of Theatre Projects. Supplied photo

That’s a view that is based on a decades-long connection with the area. While Theatre Projects is based in Connecticut, Mr. Rosenburg and his family have been coming to the Kingston area for around 25 years. He feels the timing for such an education and performing arts facility is just right.

“Having a new building like this is like waking up in the morning and stretching. For the university, it’s going to be like ‘Wow, we can actually stretch here. We can reach our arms out and actually do something we weren’t able to do previously,’” he says. “It’s not unusual for a building like this to open and to have the arts community come rushing in and say ‘let’s find all sorts of ways to use this.’”

Rosenburg and his team have been involved in the project from the beginning stages. As he explains, theatre consultants are one side of the design triangle, along with architects, Snohetta and N45, and acoustician Joe Solway of Arup.

“There is a creative tension between theatre consultant, acoustician and architect that ultimately makes for a better end product for the university” he says. “With these three disciplines striving to get the best outcome possible, it pushes each of us to think outside the box and find innovative solutions.”

As for the role of a theatre consultant, Mr. Rosenburg explains they act as the conduit between those who work in the performance world and those who work in the construction world. The staff of Theatre Projects all come from theatre backgrounds and work with architects, engineers and clients to ensure all the performance requirements end up in the final design.

“We think of ourselves as the theatrical conscience of the project, constantly maintaining diligence over the functionality of the end product so that the building works the day it opens,” he says.

In the case of the Isabel, Mr. Rosenburg says Queen’s knew they wanted a concert hall and that the School of Music, the Department of Drama, the Department of Film and Media, and the Visual Art – Bachelor of Fine Art Program were coming together to create much-needed space. Theatre Projects then took those requirements and turned that information into a vision, determining things such as how big the lobby would be and the size of the bar, the number of dressing rooms, restrooms and the layout for the performing spaces.

“We know what typically goes into a concert hall and we can say, based on seat count, here is what you require, then we actually get into shaping the room with the knowledge of what they want – seats, types of productions, etc. – and then provide the architects a sketch of what is needed,” Mr. Rosenburg says.

“We’re giving them the basis of a starting point so that it works from a sightline standpoint, from a theatrical, rigging and lighting standpoint and that it is as functional as it possibly could be and that it meets the goals of what the end-user is trying to accomplish.”


Flying the nest with some help from SOAR

For the past three years, thousands of first-year students and their family members have visited campus in July for the Summer Orientation to Academics and Resources (SOAR). The program, which continues this week for engineering, commerce and nursing students, gives participants an additional opportunity to learn about academic expectations, resources, learning strategies and common student transition issues.

Lori Payne and her son Gavin Crowder (Artsci’18) attended SOAR on July 10. Senior Communications Officer Mark Kerr caught up with them at various times during the day to get their reaction to the program and their thoughts about Gavin's upcoming transition to university.

'I have to let my baby go'

[Gavin and Lori sign in]Gavin Crowder and his mother Lori Payne sign in for the Summer Orientation to Academics and Resources at the BioSciences Complex.

Lori Payne is reminded of her son Gavin Crowder’s growing independence soon after they arrive at Summer Orientation to Academics and Resources (SOAR). Wanting to help her son, who is a graduate of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, Lori encourages Gavin to get course selection advice from a current Queen’s student who is also an IB grad.

But Gavin, still adjusting to his surroundings and waking up after an early morning car ride from Ottawa, isn’t ready to interact with the student quite yet.

“He has to do it on his own,” she says with a laugh, resisting the urge to push her son.

For thousands of parents who attend SOAR, the program is one of the first tentative steps toward negotiating new boundaries with their children. The process isn’t always easy, according to Lori.

“I am feeling a little bit of trepidation because I have to let my baby go,” she says. “But there is excitement as well. I want to learn what Queen’s is all about and see it from the inside.”

Similarly, Gavin is eager to learn more about university life during SOAR. He is familiar with Queen’s campus having previously lived in Kingston, but he still wants to attend SOAR to get specific information on topics such as course selection and registration.

“I figured I would come here where I can ask questions and it would clear up a lot of things for me.”

‘Nothing like this when I was going to university’

Gavin Crowder walks from the BioSciences Complex to the resource fair in Ban Righ Hall during the lunch break.

Lori and Gavin wander over to Ban Righ Hall for lunch after the morning sessions. “They were very informative. They kept me awake,” Lori jokes.

Even though the sessions kept her alert, they will help her sleep at night when Gavin is off at university. Hearing about the transition supports and activities offered at Queen’s, Lori is confident Gavin will get involved and not spend all of his time studying in his room or at the library.

With the dining hall lined with information tables representing various university services and student organizations, Lori marvels at the work Queen’s has done to ease the transition for incoming students.

“Thirty years ago there was nothing like this when I went to University of Ottawa and Western,” she says. “I think it’s a great idea. It’s scary when you go that first week and you don’t know anything about the school. To be able to come down and meet people and see the different buildings, that’s fantastic.”

After lunch, Lori and Gavin join a group heading over to Victoria Hall for a look inside residence rooms. Lori notes the size of the rooms but doesn't let it worry her.

“Two people in this room? Yeah, they can do it. They’re young; they will be fine.”

‘Students themselves are the best resources’

Gavin Crowder and Lori Payne take a moment after the SOAR sessions to look over Athletics and Recreation information.

Shortly after SOAR ends, a smile beams across Gavin’s face, replacing the nervous expression he wore just a few hours earlier at the BioSciences Complex.

“I am really glad I came and my mom came too. I think she understands a lot more what’s going to happen next year, which is really good,” he says.

Gavin says he was surprised how open professors were during SOAR. He is also reassured knowing he can get help with essay writing, a self-admitted weakness, through Student Academic Success Services (SASS).

But he is most impressed by a panel discussion with upper-year students, a new addition to SOAR this year.

“Students themselves are the best resources. I got a lot of frank answers about different classes and things you can do to make your life easier in residence and classes.”

SOAR 2014 runs until July 21. Students in Engineering and Applied Science, Nursing, and Commerce can still register.

For Lori, SOAR helped her better understand how she can support her son during the transition to university.

“As I listened to a counsellor, I was thinking, ‘this is a day by day thing.’ Do I have some apprehension? Absolutely. But you reach a point where you know you have taught them well so it’s okay for them to go on, spread their wings, and do their thing.”

New guide eases transition to university or college

The Regional Assessment and Resource Centre (RARC), based at Queen’s University, has created a comprehensive guide to help students with disabilities successfully transition from high school to university or college.

The Transition Resource Guide, developed with funding from the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, is a one-stop repository of information to help students navigate the transition to post-secondary studies and access the services and supports they need.

“Starting university or college can be a difficult transition for any student, and a disability can bring additional challenges,” says Marie McCarron, Clinical Manager at RARC. “Regardless of whether there is a learning, mental health or physical disability involved, the Transition Resource Guide offers valuable information to help students through the entire process, from making an application to getting the services they require once they arrive on campus.”

Starting university or college can be a difficult transition for any student, and a disability can bring additional challenges...the Transition Resource Guide offers valuable information to help students through the entire process.

- Marie McCarron, Clinical Manager at RARC

The guide includes general information on topics such as selecting a college or university, scholarships and bursaries, and disability support services. It also makes it easier to navigate the resources available at each of Ontario’s universities and colleges by providing specific information about each institution and their disability and accessibility services.

The guide was created with input from a variety of stakeholders, including students with disabilities, disability service professionals at Ontario’s universities and colleges, as well as secondary school counsellors.

“We’ve had tremendous feedback from many people.” says Allyson Harrison, Clinical Director at RARC. “There is a great demand from students, educators and counsellors in Ontario to have this type of information available in a central, easily accessible place.”

The print version of the Transition Resource Guide will be distributed to secondary school guidance departments across Ontario.

The Transition Resource Guide is available online at transitionresourceguide.ca in English and French and will soon be available in print and distributed to secondary school guidance departments across the province. An advisory board of stakeholders, including students and disability service professionals, will provide ongoing oversight to ensure the guide remains accurate and continues to meet the needs of transitioning students.

Established at Queen’s University in 2003, the Regional Assessment and Resource Centre provides psychoeducational assessment services to post-secondary students in southern Ontario and assists students in making the transition from elementary to secondary and post-secondary studies. It also provides training and supervision to graduate students and conducts research on learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and autism spectrum disorder.

Legacy of trailblazing professor lives on in bursary

Jeanna Faul, Office of Advancement, and Teresa Alm, Associate University Registrar, accept a cheque for $50,000 from Marilyn Wilson and Danna Dobson, representatives of the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) Kingston Club. Supplied photo

This article is printed in the July edition of the Gazette, which is now available. You can get your copy at newsstands around campus.

By Alec Ross

Not many people know this, but a direct connection exists between a certain asteroid, a crater on Venus and Queen’s University. That connection is Dr. Allie Vibert Douglas, one of the world’s first female astrophysicists and Queen’s Dean of Women for 20 years.

Vibert Douglas died in 1988 at the age of 93. A year later, to acknowledge her many contributions to science and Queen’s, the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) Kingston Club established a scholarship in her name. Since then, through a variety of activities the club’s membership has worked steadily to raise funds for an endowment.

That persistence came to fruition on May 14, when at their annual dinner the club members presented the hard-earned cheque that finally pushed them past their $50,000 target.

The endowment will support the CFUW Kingston Club A. Vibert Douglas Award, which was created in memory of Vibert Douglas and Caroline Mitchell, an outstanding Kingston businesswoman who was one Ontario’s top amateur golfers and a longtime member of the CFUW Kingston Club. Mitchell died in 1978.

The original Vibert Douglas scholarship and a bursary honoring Mitchell existed as separate awards given out by the Office of the University Registrar (Student Awards) until July 2011, when they were combined in a single award.

Marilyn Wilson, chair of the scholarship trust for the Kingston club, says creating the endowment was a practical decision. The club's 50-odd members had been supporting the two awards through their own fundraising efforts, but as many club members were getting older, Wilson says, “We felt we should make a permanent mark and have a permanent endowment.”

Born in Montreal in 1894 and orphaned while young, Allie Vibert and her brother George were raised by their maternal grandmother, whose surname, Douglas, Allie would later adopt. When George enlisted in the army in 1914 the family moved to England. During the First World War, Allie served as a statistician at the British War Office, and for her work she was named a Member of the British Empire – at age 23. She spent her university years at McGill and Cambridge, where she studied under the renowned astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington. After the war she returned to McGill, earned her PhD in 1926 and taught at university for 13 years. She accepted a position as Queen’s Dean of Women in 1939 and remained in the post until 1959, acting as a strong advocate and role model for acceptance of women in professional courses. After her retirement she taught astronomy for six more years in the physics department.

In 1947 Vibert Douglas was elected president of the International Federation of University Women, the first and only Canadian to occupy the post. She was elected president of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada that same year – becoming its first female president – and helped to establish the society’s Kingston chapter.

The International Astronomical Union named an asteroid and a Venusian crater after Vibert Douglas in 1988.

The CFUW Kingston Club A. Vibert Douglas Award is given to a Bachelor of Science student who demonstrates both financial need and academic achievement. First preference is given to students in third or fourth year of a physics program, and second preference is given to female students.


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.

Residence don praised for 'mighty advocacy work'

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

Over the course of her university career, Rebecca Wallace (Artsci’13, MA’14) has faced challenges living with an invisible disability. Her personal experience led her in second year to Queen’s InvisAbilities, a student group that promotes awareness and provides support for young adults living with hidden, chronic illnesses.

[Rebecca Wallace with her dog Crosby]Rebecca Wallace, seen here with her dog Crosby, recently won the student leadership award from the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services.

“I really became passionate about advocating on the behalf of others after connecting with InvisAbilities,” she says. “Seeing some other students and learning about their struggles on campus and their experiences with the social and academic communities, I knew it was something we needed to talk more about at Queen’s.”

Ms. Wallace focused her efforts in residences as a don the past two years. She provided quality learning opportunities for residents and staff members to help them understand and empathize with students who live with invisible disabilities. Whenever asked, she visited residence floors to share her experience with other students. She also gave a presentation on the topic with a friend at the annual Ontario Association of College and University Housing Officers residence life and student leader conference.

Ms. Wallace’s advocacy work earned her a student leadership award from the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services. The honour recognizes students whose exceptional contributions enhance the quality of life for students with disabilities. Stacey Kiefer, Assistant Manager, Residence Life, nominated Ms. Wallace for the award.

“Rebecca is a student for whom I have much respect,” Ms. Kiefer says. “She has received the highest honour in Residence Life for community development, and her quiet but mighty advocacy work in this area merited further recognition from this national organization.”

Ms. Wallace will return to Queen’s this fall to begin her PhD in political studies under the supervision of Keith Banting and Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant. She anticipates continuing to offer “invisAbility” training to staff and students this coming year as a senior don.

“We can always use more accessibility training and awareness in any capacity on campus, so I am really looking forward to working with Residence Life again,” she says. “I think it’s really beneficial especially for first-year students to hear about the issues and understand how university can be really different for a person with a disability.”

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.

Student success initiative expands

By Andrew Stokes, Communications Officer

Bounce Back, a program initially offered to first-year Arts and Science students at risk of academic probation, is expanding to include Nursing, Commerce, and Engineering & Applied Science in 2014-15.

“There was a very strong response last year, with nearly 35 per cent of those eligible signing up,” says Arig Girgrah, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs (Student Life and Learning). “We are thrilled to be able to reach more students through the campus-wide expansion of the program this coming academic year.”

Bounce Back pairs first-year students struggling academically with a trained peer-mentor. (Photo by University Communications)

Run by Student Affairs in collaboration with the various Schools and Faculties, Bounce Back pairs first-year students who are struggling academically with a trained upper-year mentor who helps them identify effective learning strategies, set academic goals, develop self-management and coping skills, and plan how they can be most successful through their first year.

Students showed improvement after participating in Bounce Back, according to Ms. Girgrah. “Compared to those students who were eligible and chose not to enroll, we saw what appeared to be an intervention effect. The mean end-of-year GPA, as well as the increase in GPA from mid-year to end-of-year, was higher among those who participated. As well, the retention rate of the group that participated was higher, meaning there was a lower rate of withdrawal from Queen’s after first-year.”

Along with its expansion, Student Affairs is also implementing changes to the way the program is delivered. Peer facilitators who are returning for a second year will have the opportunity to work as senior facilitators and take on a greater leadership role. These senior facilitators will provide support for new facilitators, play a more active role in training, and act as program ambassadors.

“The objective is to make the program as peer-centered as possible: participants are paired with upper year peer mentors, peer groups on campus help to promote the program, and existing peer tutoring services are being leveraged to provide subject-specific support,” says Cassandra Eberhardt, Bounce Back Program Coordinator. “If a student is in need of support, we will work with them to access the resources they need to succeed.”

Incoming students prepare to take flight during SOAR

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

More than 1,000 first-year students and their family members will flock to campus over the next few weeks for the third annual Summer Orientation to Academics and Resources (SOAR).

[SOAR students]Students and family members visit the Queen's University International Centre information table during a previous edition of the Summer Orientation to Academics and Resources.

“We are excited to welcome incoming students and their families to Queen's. Feedback from previous years has shown us that SOAR helps first-year students with their transition to university life,” says Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs.

SOAR, which kicks off July 4, continues to grow in popularity. As in previous years, participants will spend a day on campus, learning about academic expectations, learning strategies, course selection and registration, career exploration, residence life, health and wellness, and common student transition issues. There is a student services resource fair during lunch and optional campus tours. Academic advising is available for Arts and Science students and workshops for Commerce, Engineering and Nursing students have been arranged.

The Student Experience Office is working to improve SOAR based on feedback, adding an additional Saturday to respond to the demand for weekend sessions and giving this year’s participants more opportunities to interact with upper-year students.

“Past SOAR participants have indicated that they are eager to connect with current students and hear about their experiences and the ways they got involved at Queen’s,” says Tim Tang, Manager, Student Experience Office. “Incoming students also benefit from meeting professors, staff and students in their faculty and hearing what kind of electives they might be able to take to support their career and academic goals.”

Other new additions this year include a question and answer panel discussion with representatives from Health, Counselling and Disability Services, Student Academic Success Services, and upper-year students, as well as more targeted parent-specific information.

To register, visit the SOAR website.


Subscribe to RSS - Student Learning Experience