“Lucia Stafford will go down in the record books as one of the best Varsity Blues athletes of all time.”
The University of Toronto recognized 19 Varsity Blues student-athletes with Silver T awards on Monday, April 12. The prestigious Silver T is awarded to Bronze T holders in their graduating year for outstanding athletic performance. In years past, the awards were handed out at the annual President’s Reception, however, the University of Toronto campuses remain closed as we play our part to ensure the health and wellbeing of our community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, U of T President Meric Gertler understands and values the exceptional accomplishments and contributions of these U of T students to the university and Varsity Blues program.
Lucia Stafford (Year 4 CivE) will go down in the record books as one of the best Varsity Blues athletes of all time. She was named the OUA and U SPORTS female cross country rookie of the year in 2016, helped the Blues to the 2017 national team title, earned OUA first team all-star and U SPORTS first team all-Canadian honours in all three of her cross country seasons, including winning both races to be named OUA and U SPORTS female athlete of the year in 2019. On the track, Stafford is a four-time OUA all-star and three-time U SPORTS all-Canadian. In her first season with the Blues, the civil engineering major from Toronto was named the OUA rookie of the year and U SPORTS female performer of the meet, leading the Blues to the 2017 national title. The following season, Stafford was named the winner of the Dr. Wendy Jerome Trophy as the OUA female most valuable performer. Internationally, Stafford represented Canada at the 2016 U20 world track and field championships, and also earned two fifth-place finishes in the 1500m and 4×400 relay at the 2019 FISU Summer Universiade in Naples, Italy. She was named U of T’s female rookie of the year across all sports in 2016-17, while also being named U of T’s T-Holders’ female athlete of the year and the OUA female athlete of the year across all sports in 2019-20. This story originally published by Varsity Blues
Previous stories include: CivMin’s Stafford named female Varsity Blues Athlete of the Year Lucia Stafford named OUA Athlete of the Week Lucia Stafford breaks Canadian U23 1500m record National champion: Lucia Stafford strikes gold in Kingston Read More
A CivMin professor and two alumni are among the two U of T Engineering professors and three alumni who have been honoured by the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) and Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) with Ontario Professional Engineers Awards. These awards recognize professional engineers in Ontario who have made outstanding contributions to the profession and to society.
Professor Baher Abdulhai (CivMin) won the Engineering Excellence medal, recognizing overall excellence in the practice of engineering. Professor Eric Diller (MIE) garnered the Young Engineer Medal, for an early-career engineer who has demonstrated professional excellence as well as service to the community. Alumnus Hugo Blasutta (CivE 7T7, MEng 7T8) received the Management Medal, for innovative management contributing significantly to an engineering achievement. Alumnus Peter Halsall (CivE 7T7) won the Gold Medal, recognizing public service, technical excellence, and outstanding professional leadership. Alumna Sandra Odendahl (ChemE MASc 9T0) received the Citizenship Award, given to an engineer who has made significant volunteer contributions to the community.
“These recipients illustrate the amazing depth and breadth of the contributions being made by U of T engineers, spanning research, management, entrepreneurship, professional leadership, and service to the profession and to the community,” said U of T Engineering Dean Christopher Yip. “On behalf of the Faculty, my warmest congratulations to these outstanding engineering faculty and alumni on this well-deserved recognition.”
Baher Abdulhai conducts leading-edge research aimed at reducing traffic congestion and enhancing efficiency and sustainability. His achievements include the establishment and leadership of the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Centre and the iCity Centre for Transformative Transportation Systems, as well as the invention of two patented traffic signal control systems, which have been licensed by major technology firms.
He has authored and co-authored 65 journal papers, 146 refereed conference papers, and 12 book chapters. Abdulhai’s research team has won several international awards, including the International Transportation Forum Innovation Award in 2010 and best dissertation awards at the IEEE ITS and INFORMS conferences. The ITS Centre garnered the Ontario Showcase Merit Award of Excellence and the National Bronze Medal Award in 2005. In 2014, Abdulhai received the U of T Inventor of the Year Award. He held a Canada Research Chair from 2005 to 2010. Abdulhai has led the teaching of intelligent transportation systems at U of T since 1998, receiving an early career teaching award from the Faculty in 2002. He is an elected fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and the Engineering Institute of Canada, and received the 2018 Canadian Society for Civil Engineering Sandford Fleming Award for contributions to transportation engineering.
Hugo Blasutta has more than 40 years of high-level management experience in the consulting engineering industry. His numerous executive roles include Partner at Yolles Partnership Inc., CEO of MMM Group Limited, and President and CEO of WSP Canada Inc. In these roles, he energized the organizations, developing a high-performance culture, recruiting and developing leading technical and business talent, and developing and implementing ambitious strategic plans. Through enhanced development opportunities and performance incentives, Blasutta ensured that young engineers in these firms could develop their technical and managerial skills and advance in their careers.
He also spearheaded technical and business innovations which put the companies he led at the forefront of the industry and resulted in significant business improvements, including employee engagement, client satisfaction, and financial performance. His management of these firms advanced the Canadian consulting engineering industry. Blasutta has served on several industry boards of directors and advisory boards. He is currently a member of the Industry Advisory Board for the Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering, providing guidance to support the department’s collaborative research activities with industry and enhance opportunities for experiential learning for students.
As Chairman/CEO of the Halsall group of companies, Peter Halsall led the integration of sustainability into all aspects of its businesses and services and its growth to over 350 employees. After Halsall’s sale to an international company, he was responsible for creating the company’s global sustainability program. As Executive Director of the Canadian Urban Institute, Halsall led the development of Solutions for a Low Carbon Future. He has co-founded Synergy Partners, a building restoration firm, and Purpose Building, a sustainable building company.
Throughout his career, he has ensured that sustainability is the central tenet of the organizations he leads. Through the Halsall Family Foundation, Halsall has supported several community organizations providing opportunities for disadvantaged youth. He has served on advisory boards for U of T and McMaster University, as well as community organizations such as Evergreen Cityworks, and has led many efforts to design a greener city. Halsall’s work has been recognized with Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Canada Green Building Council, Sustainable Buildings Canada and the Ontario Building Envelope Council. He has been inducted into the U of T Engineering Hall of Distinction and received a U of T Arbor Award for his service to his alma mater. Halsall was elected a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering in 2011.
By Carolyn Farrell
This excerpt from the article originally published in full by U of T Engineering NewsRead More
Created by the University of Toronto’s Engineering Society, in order to recognize instructors who went above and beyond during this global health crisis,
the Student Choice Awards are the first to be fully curated and operated by students.
Two CivMin professors received Skule™ Student Choice Awards, as announced at Faculty Council on Tuesday, April 6:
- Prof. Daniel Posen receives the Student Wellness Award
- Prof. Brenda McCabe receives the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Award.
In the six categories there were several CivMin contenders:
- Prof. Michael Seica, Qualifying Runner-up for Best First Year Instructor and Qualifying Runner-up Best Online Learning Experience
- Prof. Ron Hofmann, Qualifying Runer-up for Best Upper Year Instructor
- Prof. Daniel Posen, Qualifying Runner-up for Supporting International Students
- Prof. Eric Miller, Qualifying Runner-up for Supporting Student Mental Wellness
Background on the SCA
from the Skule™ website:
What are the Student Choice Awards?
The Student Choice Awards (SCA) seek to acknowledge instructors in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering (FASE) who demonstrate excellence through a set of student-defined criteria, including teaching methods and skill excellence, community involvement, EDI, and more. Each academic year, students can nominate instructors to be recognized in several categories. Nominations are carefully evaluated by an appointed committee of students and award recipients will be invited to a ceremony at the end of the school year to celebrate their achievements and lasting impact on the Skule™ community. Students who nominate winning instructors may be invited to present the awards. Take a moment today to recognize the hardworking instructors in your life and help promote the values that are important to you in teaching!
Why have these awards?
We want to recognize and give thanks to the instructors who went above and beyond as educators. We are all part of a larger community of education and this is an opportunity to express our gratitude to those who’ve made an impact. These awards aim to promote an atmosphere of high-quality teaching, student-oriented support and ethical practices. By recognizing these attributes when they appear in our instructors we can encourage other instructors to exhibit the same.
While other teaching awards and accolades already exist within the FASE, the SCA are the first to be fully curated and operated by students, giving us direct control over what we wish to recognize in our instructors.
Over 500,000 views within a two-week period provides spotlight to Structures Lab video
A video posted on CivMin’s YouTube channel nearly seven years ago has received a sudden surge of interest during the month of March.
The 2014 posting titled “Beam test…watch beam failure in slow-motion!” has garnered over a half-million views in recent weeks. Over the last several years the video has received moderate attention, but suddenly surged to almost 1.4 million total views, the majority of which occurring over the last two weeks of March. A peak of nearly 46,000 views in a single day stood out on March 26.
Speculation abounds as to the reason the nearly seven-year-old video has bloomed in popularity. A suggestion offered was it might be the time of year in many engineering courses when it is usual to discuss different ways that concrete members can fail, and maybe they added our video to their online class. Perhaps a professor made a list of useful videos to watch, and this was one.
The testing was done June 2014, as part of the annual Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) Big Beam Contest by Team University of Toronto, in the Structures Lab. Participants include Rami Mansour (CivE MASc 1T6), Amos (Mengyuan) Chen (CivE 1T3, MASc1T6), Karl (Bingyue) Shao (EngSci 1T3, CivE MASc 1T6) and Xi Li, with faculty advisor Prof. Paul Gauvreau.
The concrete span was tested to failure (when the reinforced concrete beam could no longer carry the load). The strands started to yield at approximately 156KN. Strands yield when the load reached 157.8KN. The U of T team’s entry placed fourth in the Zone 7 grouping for the 2014 competition.
The online video description reads:
Each year, the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) challenges students to design, fabricate and test a prestressed concrete beam. Each beam is judged on a number of criteria including cost, efficiency, practicality and accuracy of predicted behaviour. Teams from all around the world compete in this international competition. The 2014 team from the University of Toronto includes Rami Mansour, Amos Chen, Karl Shao and Xi Li. The rectangular, variable depth beam is post-tensioned with harped strands.
For the test, the beam was supported at it’s two ends with two incrementally increasing loads at midspan. It is interesting to note that the majority of the beams deflection occurs after the steel tendons have yielded. In addition, the explosive failure is a result of the concrete crushing at the top of the beam.Read More
“Thank you to the Awards Committee and EngSoc for recognizing our achievements. I want to give a huge shoutout to all the discipline clubs for all their hard work this year to improve the student experience with everything online.
This year has been different, to say the least, and everything Civ Club has done was a team effort. From our first mentorship event back in May to our final dinner dance event, everyone has put in countless hours for not only our social events but also for our student resources such as our academic calendars, PEY blog, and health and wellness. Civ Club wouldn’t have been able to accomplish all that we did without a dedicated group of leaders who wanted to provide memorable events despite the pandemic and its limitations. I am really proud of the Civ Club team for all their efforts and motivation, so thank you to Kent, Awale, Emanuele, Nina, Polina, Fahd, Christian P, Bo, Tanin, Naveen, Thomas, Michael, Mahzabin, Christian C, and Mahia because, without you guys, there would be no Civ Club.
I also want to say thank you to the Civ/Min department for their continued support and to both Skule and the civil engineering community for allowing us to serve as the 2020-2021 Civ Club, and for allowing me to serve as your Civ Club Chair. It has been an absolute honour and pleasure, thank you!”
– Karen Chu, Civ Club Chair 2T0-2T1 (Year 4, CivE)Read More
Monday, March 22 is World Water Day
– this year’s theme is Valuing Water.
To celebrate, we’re highlighting the incredible research our
CivMin faculty and students are leading to preserve and value water.
Prof. Jennifer Drake is a co-researcher at the Daniel’s Geen Roof Innovation Testing Laboratory (GRIT Lab). She’s currently working on connecting a greywater system that reuses storm water to irrigate the GRIT Lab’s green roof, reducing the embedded energy and carbon.
My group specializes in green infrastructure and works on urban drainage issues. While focus the three big technologies: permeable pavement, green roofs and bioretention system.
We’re getting ready to try to connect a greywater system to the Daniel’s Geen Roof Innovation Testing Laboratory (GRIT Lab) to re-use stormwater for irrigation. This month we’ll be tracking the water quality in the cistern before connecting the system to our green roofs in May
The work is connected to the DesignLIFES’ CREATE Network. I am the lead investigator of this network which includes professors at UofT, UTSC, Ryerson University, Saint Mary’s University and University of Saskatchewan. The goal of DesignLIFES is to train the next generation of living and green infrastructure professionals.
Green roofs are a great technology but require irrigation to support plant growth. Most roofs are irrigated with drinking water! By re-using stormwater, we can significantly reduce the embedded energy and carbon associated with this technology.
The Meadoway in Scarborough is a is a world-class example of innovative and forward-thinking land management. By re-introducing meadow vegetation within the Hydro corridor important ecosystem services are restored. This includes flood control, reduced urban heat island effects, urban biodiversity and, most of all, multi-functional public green space.
Drinking Water Research Group
The Drinking Water Research Group (Profs. Susan Andrews, Robert Andrews and Ron Hofmann) examines all aspects of drinking water. One area of research is in the removal of microplastics in drinking water as well as their occurrence in lakes and rivers.
- Municipal drinking water treatment: Finding ways to address emerging contaminants and to protect the public, but more economically and effectively.
- Examining treatment requirements to convert municipal wastewater directly into drinkable water. This is the wave of the future in many parts of the world. A lot of places are running out of water (e.g. Cape Town last year), so recycling the wastewater directly into drinking water is going to become more common. Technologically it’s feasible, it’s just very expensive, and we need to find the best and cheapest way to do it.
- Investigating means to incorporate sustainable “green” technologies into drinking water treatment including the use of biological processes (biofiltration) in lieu of chemical addition.
- Assessing the occurrence and removal of microplastics in drinking waters as well as their sources (lakes and rivers). A recent Toronto Star article reported, plastics in the environment are considered to be the greatest threat after global warming.
- Optimizing treatment methods including the use of ultrafiltration membranes for some of the largest cities in Canada.
Prof. Ron Hofmann: A lot of small projects looking at how to best use current assets in Canadian drinking water treatment plants to be more effective and cheaper. Also, looking at how they might be able to address newly identified contaminants, such as PFAS or microplastics (this last one is Prof. Andrew’s work).
My own work focuses on activated carbon (the same stuff as the black charcoal in aquariums), and on using UV light to disinfect the water and to destroy chemicals. UV is relatively recent and is very cheap and effective. I have a small project on harnessing sunlight to drive photovoltaic-based UV water treatment for remote and resource-poor parts of the world.
Prof. Susan Andrews: My research interests are somewhat eclectic, but they generally include some aspect of the chemistry of drinking water treatment processes or distribution systems. For example, we are beginning some work on some small-scale water mains to see if we can improve the way that chlorine protects the treated water as it travels from the treatment plant to our taps.
Many of the largest water providers in Ontario (Toronto, York, Peel, Durham, Peterborough, Barrie, London, Ontario Clean Water Agency)
The three professors in the DWRG (Profs. Robert Andrews, Susan Andrews and Ron Hofmann) and approximately 30 personnel (Undergraduate students, Graduate students, Post-doctoral fellows, Research assistants).
Improving drinking water quality, learning more about emerging contaminants that we should address through new regulations.
Ground & Surface Water
Prof. Elodie Passeport’s research explores the environmental remediation of contaminated surface and groundwater, primarily working on two types of green infrastructure: Constructed wetlands and bioretention cells. Her goal is to improve the reliability of green infrastructure.
My research focuses on environmental remediation of contaminated surface- and groundwater in urban, agricultural, and industrial settings. My approach is to characterize the transfer and transformation mechanisms that govern the fate and removal of contaminants in natural and engineered aquatic environments. Human activities use thousands of chemicals that reach stormwater, wastewater, and our freshwater aquatic resources. Some of these chemicals have known impacts on human and environmental health, but many are still to be discovered or are unregulated due to lack of knowledge about their toxicity.
The goal of my research is to improve the design and implementation of remediation measures. To this end, my research seeks to evaluate the efficiency of natural attenuation in contaminated groundwater and green infrastructure. I primarily work on two types of green infrastructure: constructed wetlands and bioretention cells. In support of this goal, my research group also develops new analytical methods based on stable isotopes.
Green infrastructure is a cost-effective and energy-efficient approach to water treatment but must become more reliable before it sees widespread adoption. While in principle wetlands and bioretention cells can eliminate a significant portion of contaminants, their present-day performance is highly variable. My objective is to improve the reliability of green infrastructure by advancing our understanding of their internal processes.
There are a few exciting projects in my group on two main topics: 1) Microplastic Research and 2) Stable Isotope Analysis.
- Microplastic research
Microplastics are small plastic particles, in the 1-5000 µm range, that are widely distributed in the environment, and whose toxicological effects are mostly unknown. In collaboration with Prof. Chelsea Rochman (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) and Prof. Jennifer Drake, our PhD student Kelsey Smyth has conducted the first comprehensive study of microplastic fate in bioretention cells. This two-year long field work showed an 84% decrease in median microplastic concentration between the inlet and outlet of a bioretention cell. Her work showed that atmospheric deposition was a significant source of microplastics – especially microfibers – in urban stormwater, and urban stormwater was a significant pathway of microplastics to downstream aquatic ecosystems. Green stormwater infiltration systems like bioretention cells have great potential to limit this pollution.
Future research will evaluate if existing total suspended solids models can be used to characterize the fate and removal of microplastics in bioretention cells to better understand if accumulation in the cell is a significant issue.
Compound Specific Isotope Analysis (CSIA) is now an accepted diagnostic tool for identifying and quantifying the transformation of traditional contaminants, e.g., toluene and chlorobenzenes, in groundwater. My group is developing new analytical methods for stable isotope analysis of non-traditional contaminants (e.g., trace organic contaminants). We are also developing new applications of CSIA in less explored environments such as surface water.
Langping Wu, a postdoctoral fellow in my group is investigating the reaction mechanisms that govern the aqueous phototransformation of benzotriazole, a corrosion-inhibitor present in urban stormwater and wastewaters. Using stable carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen isotope analysis, we found a pH-dependence of benzotriazole direct photolysis which can be explained by a complex contribution of different reaction mechanisms. With PhD student Suchana Shamsunnahar, we have developed a novel method for CSIA of NO2– and NH2-substituded chlorobenzenes. These are common groundwater contaminants that raised significant concern for human and ecosystem health. We are working on a complex highly contaminated industrial site in Brazil with multiple academic and private partners and have proposed a novel method based on passive integrative samplers to conduct CSIA down to very low concentrations.
Altogether, these results demonstrate the potential to use CSIA as a diagnostic tool to monitor contamination and remediation in the field.
Cleaning up water using passive remediation solutions (green infrastructure such as bioretention cells, constructed wetlands) and developing new diagnostic tools to monitor remediation.
Mining, Water and Environment
Prof. Lesley Warren’s research examines the largely unexplored bacteria present in mine wastes and impacted waters to generate innovative new technologies that will enhance the environmental practices of the mining industry.
The Mining Wastewater Solutions (MWS) Project is developing better tools for reactive sulfur compounds management. Funding for this project come from our mining partners and Genome Canada and Ontario Research Fund – Research Excellence (ORF-RE).
My group is also leading a project to constrain sulfur risks to oxygen levels in Syncrude Canada’s first pilot wet reclamation project, Base Mine Lake (BML). Funding for this project comes from Syncrude Canada and NSERC.
I am the Principal Investigator on both projects (both international).
For the MWS project there are three professors from three institutions, three research scientists, one field researcher, 10 students, four post-doctoral fellows and two research assistants involved.
For the BML project there are three professors from three institutions, one field researcher, 12 students and three post-doctoral fellow involved with the project.
Mining requires huge amounts of water to extract valuable commodities and generates massive amounts of wastewater that must be cleaned according to strict environmental standards before being discharged. This wastewater also provides an ideal habitat for microbes, and studying these can help reduce wastewater treatment costs and the environmental footprint of the mining industry.
My research focuses on identifying the microbes that occur in these contexts and how they drive changes in water quality or waste stability. These new discoveries are leading to new models and tools that tackle the underlying root causes of potential risks to the environment.
A donation from industry to CivMin has allowed for the acquisition of specialized machinery used in preparing rock samples for testing.
PETRONAS Canada’s donation of $25,000 to Grasselli’s Geomechanics Group, led by Prof. Giovanni Grasselli, has resulted in the purchase of a new computer numerical control (CNC) mill. The CNC mill is used to precisely prepare rock samples in the Concrete and Materials Preparation Lab in the Galbraith Building.
Previous attempts at preparing rock samples with Claraia fossils with existing equipment were fraught with frustration and disappointment, when some 240 attempts to prepare samples were met with no success. Now, after the November 2020 donation for the new equipment, a 45-minute milling process results in ideal testing specimens.
The computerized manufacturing process, in which pre-programmed software and code controls the movement of the production equipment, allows the delicate layered rock to be prepared without the use of the usual cooling liquids. Instead of using water during coring, which can make the rock unstable and fragile, the gentle and dry process results in competent samples. Typically, rock is prepared into cylindrical samples to be tested for its physical properties such as strength and stiffness which are ultimately used in engineering design and numerical modelling.
Grasselli explains, “The rock formation [Montney] is known to swell when exposed to fresh water and to exhibit weak structural laminations. The water sensitivity and fragility of the material makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to prepare testable samples using conventional sub-coring methods which requires the use of water.”
Measuring mechanical properties of the rock formation at depth for engineering purposes is crucial. With intact specimens now readily available, testing is accomplished by recreating stress conditions from one kilometre to two kilometres below the surface. These stress conditions are known to impact the behaviour and response of the rock. The ability to have intact samples will push this research and will help Canada in its goal to reduce GHG emissions, as we can better use our underground resources, such as geothermal, natural gas and carbon sequestration.
“In our current research, we are investigating industry problems related to wellbore stability, microseismicity, nuclear waste storage, and hydraulic fracturing design,” he adds. “A proper undertaking of the characterization of the material will better inform our numerical models and help our industry partners improve the social, economic, and environmental impacts of their operation.”
Benefits of the new equipment extend beyond Grasselli’s Geomechanics Group, with its 25 faculty, staff and research students. Others at U of T, from Physics and Earth Sciences, use the lab’s machinery to prepare samples for a broad array of research as well. “We expect this equipment to be of continuous use to U of T for at least the next 20 years,” predicts Grasselli.
Acknowledging others, Grasselli offers, “I want to really offer a big thanks to those we had tremendous help from. The leadership of Matthew Adams [Interim Director at Unconventional Center of Excellence (UCOE)] and Nicole Deyell [VP Development at PETRONAS Canada], were instrumental in getting this donation. Without them, this wouldn’t have been possible.”
By Phill Snel
Only two years after its creation, U of T Engineering startup Reeddi, Inc. (pronounced “ready”) is well on its way to fulfilling its mission to bring sustainable, affordable electricity to places where reliable power is hard to come by.
“Right now, our technology serves a combined 600 households and businesses monthly in Nigeria,” says Olugbenga Olubanjo (CivE MASc 1T9), founder and CEO of Reeddi. “We have plans to increase that number.”
In 2017, Olubanjo’s first year at U of T, he would make phone calls to family and friends in Nigeria, where he grew up. Often, these calls would be disrupted by power outages that are all too common in that part of the world.
Those who can afford them buy diesel generators, but these units and the fuel needed to run them are costly, and they produce harmful emissions, including greenhouse gases.
Olubanjo knew that the cost of solar power had plummeted in recent years, and he wanted to make this technology more accessible to rural Nigerians. The solution he hit upon was a solar-powered “electricity bank” where portable power packs could be rented on a short term basis.
In its current iteration, a Reeddi bank contains 20 capsules, each of which holds about 250 Watt-hours of energy, enough to charge three mobile phones or power a laptop for four hours. Capsules are rented for 24 hours, after which they can be returned to the bank to recharge in the sun.
Olubanjo developed the company with support from U of T’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, including The Entrepreneurship Hatchery at U of T Engineering. He quickly started attracting attention: in 2019 alone, Reeddi won awards at the Cisco Global Problem Challenge, the MIT Clean Energy Prize competition, and the IEEE Empower a Billion Lives competition.
The past year has brought even more accolades. Last summer, Olubanjo and his team placed in the top three at ISHOW USA, a competition organized by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The win netted them a $10,000 seed grant, as well as the $1,000 “fan favourite” prize.
“We benefitted from fantastic insights from the ASME judges,” says Olubanjo. “We are equally excited to explore the potential networking and advisory opportunities that come with the prize to scale our venture for global impact.”
Olubanjo and his team have enrolled in Third Derivative, a technology accelerator focused on clean energy. The team also received a $25,000 award from the Nigeria Off-grid energy challenge and are currently among the finalists at the Royal Academy of Engineering African Prize. They have presented their innovation to a World Energy Council Panel group and at the Africa Indaba Energy Conference.
“Our current efforts are directed at upscaling local operations and manufacturing more Reeddi capsules for our customers in Nigeria,” says Olubanjo. “The future is bright.”
By Tyler Irving
This story originally published by Engineering NewsRead More
With nearly a dozen startup incubators and accelerators spread across its three campuses, the University of Toronto is a thriving hotbed of entrepreneurial activity – even amid the pandemic.
U of T Engineering entrepreneurs and their startups are finding innovative solutions to pressing problems – all while creating jobs and strengthening Canada’s innovation ecosystem.
As U of T’s virtual Entrepreneurship Week kicks off, here are four exciting U of T Engineering startups to keep an eye on in 2021:
Clean energy startup Reeddi has developed a portable tool that provides clean and affordable electricity to individuals, households and businesses in energy-poor regions of the world.
Founded by Olugbenga Olubanjo (CivE MASc 1T9), who has personal experience of growing up in energy-poor communities in Nigeria, the company provides portable energy via compact capsules that are charged at solar-powered stations located in communities. Customers rent the capsules at an affordable price and are incentivized to return them on time by earning credits that can go toward future rentals.
For Olubanjo, who earned a master of applied science in civil engineering at U of T, helping and giving back has always been central to his entrepreneurial outlook.
“At the end of the day, it’s not only about making money. Anyone can make money, but it’s about the happiness that you give people,” says Olubanjo. “Just knowing that my innovation could have a positive impact on people’s lives – oh my God, there’s no feeling like that in life.”
HOPE Pet Foods
Bugs aren’t on most dog and cat owners’ pet food shopping lists, but U of T Mississauga’s HOPE Pet Foods is looking to change that by using insects and other alternative sources of protein to produce pet foods that are both eco-friendly and nutritious.
Founded by postdoctoral researcher Sofia Bonilla (ChemE), HOPE Pet Foods is producing dog food made with insect proteins and cat food made with algae-based proteins.
Bonilla, the mother of two small children and owner of an enthusiastic insect-protein-eating dog named Snuffie, was recently a semifinalist in Scotiabank’s Total Mom Pitch Competition. HOPE Pet Foods also picked up the second place prize in the Adams Sustainability Innovation Prize and has received support from U of T’s Lo Family Social Venture Fund.
“What we think we can bring to the market is an evidence-based, scientific approach, where we are really looking at the evidence behind dog nutrition and the best possible protein is the one with all the amino acids, but is also sustainable,” Bonilla recently said, adding that HOPE Pet Foods’ products will also appeal to consumers who care about their products being cruelty-free.
The iPhone’s TrueDepth camera may have been designed with facial recognition in mind, but U of T startup Xesto has developed a way to use the technology so you can find perfectly fitting footwear.
The UTEST startup, whose co-founders worked with researchers in The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE), offers a free app that allows users to take pictures of their feet in order to obtain an accurate shoe size. The Xesto Fit app then references the output with the sizing guidelines of over 150 shoe brands.
Xesto has been granted one patent for its process and has another pending, with CEO and co-founder Sophie Howe saying the startup’s involvement in UTEST was a big step forward.
“It was our entry to the U of T startup community, which has provided us with an incredible amount of resources and a launchpad that enabled our growth,” said Howe.
Themis, a startup whose co-founders include U of T Engineering students Cindy Chen (Year 4 EngSci) and Amardeep Singh (Year 3 ChemE), has developed an AI program that helps significantly reduce the time it takes to draft legal contracts.
The company’s AI-powered Microsoft Word add-in automatically builds a library of clauses from a lawyer’s precedents and makes those available within Word.
Last September, Themis took home the $20,000 top prize at Demo Day, the culmination of an intensive four-month entrepreneurship and mentorship program at the Entrepreneurship Hatchery at U of T Engineering.
“There are no competitors who provide this fully integrated solution out of the box,” said Rishi Dhir, one of two lawyers – alongside Jey Kumarasamy – who co-founded the company with Chen and Singh.
Going forward, Themis is looking to continue to test its prototype and partner with small law firms across Canada to garner feedback.By: Rahul Kalvapalle
Original story published in U of T Engineering News Read More
Funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation will be used to acquire an adjustable,
multi-dimensional loading module and other equipment for the Structural Testing Facility
An upgraded facility at U of T Engineering — one that is unique in the world — will let engineers test next-generation infrastructure designed to be resilient in the face of natural disasters, from hurricanes to earthquakes.
A grant announced today from CFI’s Innovation Fund 2020 will fund a suite of new tools and equipment to be housed within U of T Engineering’s existing Structural Testing Facility. They will be used to design everything from elevated highways to high-rise residential buildings to nuclear power plants, including replacements for legacy structures across North America.
“Much of our infrastructure is decades old and needs to be replaced,” says Professor Constantin Christopoulos (CivMin), the project leader and Canada Research Chair in Seismic Resilience of Infrastructure.
“The scientific and engineering communities, along with governments and the private sector, are becoming increasingly aware of the inherent vulnerability of our infrastructure. We also need to design new structures to address new pressures, such as a rapidly growing Canadian population, and more frequent extreme weather scenarios due to a changing climate.”
The centrepiece of this new development is the world’s first fully movable, adjustable multidirectional, large-scale and large-capacity loading frame.
“This unique piece of equipment will allow structural elements and structural systems to be tested under more realistic loading conditions,” says Christopoulos. “We’ll be able to better simulate the complex effects of extreme loading events, such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes or tsunamis.”
The adjustable, multi-dimensional loading module will be capable of applying up to a total of 2,000 tonnes of force in six translational and rotational directions for specimens of up to eight metres tall and thirty metres long.
The project will also include new state-of-the-art sensing equipment and the redesign of 500 square metres of lab space. Construction is expected to begin in 2022.
To make full use of it, Christopoulos will be working with a large team of experts from within and beyond U of T Engineering. Project partners include U of T Engineering professors Oh-Sung Kwon, Evan Bentz, Oya Mercan and Jeffrey Packer (all CivMin). This team is also collaborating with a team of structural engineering and large-scale testing experts at other leading North American facilities to develop, commission and use this unique equipment. Collaborating institutions include:
- Western University’s WindEEE and Boundary Layer Wind Tunnels
- University of British Columbia
- University of Sherbrooke
- Polytechnique Montreal
- University of Illinois
Once completed, the new facility will be used for research by 10 professors from U of T and their national and international collaborators. It is also expected that it will allow for dozens of unique graduate student research projects and industry tests every year once it is fully operational.
Together this team will be able to carry out a technique known as “distributed hybrid simulations.” This means that full-scale portions of real structures — such as concrete pillars or steel beams — will be tested simultaneously in each of these labs across North America.
By integrating all of these physical tests into a single numerical model, they can use the experimental feedback of each of the large-scale elements to more realistically simulate the response of the entire infrastructure system to extreme loading conditions. The data from the physical experiments will be integrated in real-time with models run using high-performance computers and the UT-SIM integration platform.
“This facility will enhance our capabilities not only here at U of T, and across Canada, but will position Canadian engineers as global leaders in the area of structural resilience” says Christopoulos. “It is a critical step toward designing the resilient cities of the future.”
By Tyler Irving
This article originally published on Engineering NewsRead More
U of T Engineering remains Canada’s top-ranked engineering school and is now in the global top 20, according to the QS World University Rankings by Subject for 2021.
The rankings, released March 4, placed U of T Engineering 18th globally in the category of Engineering & Technology. This marks an increase from last year’s position of 22nd and the fourth consecutive year where the institution improved its ranking. Among North American public universities, our closest competitors, U of T Engineering now ranks 3rd.
“Our rankings and reputation are a direct result of the hard work and dedication of our community: faculty, staff, students, alumni and partners,” said Dean Chris Yip. “From the world-leading impact of our research to the richness of our student experience – including opportunities to develop leadership and global perspectives – we can all be proud of everything we do to shape the next generation of engineering talent.”
In terms of overall institution-level rankings, U of T placed 25th in the world. It also placed first in Canada in 30 out of the 48 specific subjects on which it was measured, and in the global top 10 internationally in areas ranging from education (third) to anatomy and physiology (sixth).
“This latest international subject ranking reflects the University of Toronto’s strength across a wide array of disciplines, from the humanities and social sciences to medicine and engineering,” said U of T President Meric Gertler.
“It is also a testament to our unyielding commitment to research, innovation and academic excellence.”
Quacquarelli Symonds evaluates universities by looking at five broad fields – Arts & Humanities, Engineering & Technology, Life Sciences & Medicine, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences & Management – and 51 specific subjects. The results are based on four measures: academic survey results, employer review survey results, citations per faculty and an index that attempts to measure both the productivity and impact of the published work of a scientist or scholar.By: Engineering Strategic Communications
This article originally published on Engineering News Read More
With a fourth-place finish in this year’s 2021 Canadian Mining Games virtual competition, the U of T team was a mere 20 points behind first place. An incredible accomplishment for the team made up of predominently first-time participants.
The event was held online February 19 – 20, 2021, with McGill University and Polytechnique Montréal hosting, and bringing together students from 11 Canadian universities.
The team’s co-captains, Stefano Girardo (Year 4 MinE) and Devlen Malone (Year 4 MinE), penned a letter of thanks including the following:
“The 31st anniversary of the games marked a monumental year for the University of Toronto team as our successes were not only celebrated by our own team, but by other collegiate teams and event sponsors as well. We are proud to say that the team was able to place: 1 st in three events (Underground Rock Mechanics, Health and Safety and Crisis Management), 2nd in 5 events (Leaderboard, Scheduling for Value, Mineral Economics, Sustainable Development and the Stock Market Challenge), 3rd in Underground Data Analytics and 4th in five events (Underground Mine Design, Surface Geotechnics, Mine Trivia, Mineral Processing and Operational Excellence) just narrowly missing a podium finish!”
With COVID-19 making it vital for people to keep their distance from one another, the city of Toronto undertook the largest one-year expansion of its cycling network in 2020, adding about 25 kilometres of temporary bikeways.
Yet, the benefits of helping people get around on two wheels go far beyond facilitating physical distancing, according to a recent study by three University of Toronto researchers that was published in the journal Transport Findings.
PhD candidate Bo Lin (MIE) with Professors Shoshanna Saxe (CivMin), and Timothy Chan (MIE), all of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, used census, city and survey data to map Toronto’s entire cycling network – including the new routes – and found that additional bike infrastructure increased low-stress road access to jobs and food stores by between 10 and 20 per cent, while boosting access to parks by an average of 6.3 per cent.
“What surprised me the most was how big an impact we found from what was just built last summer,” says Saxe, an assistant professor in the department of civil and mineral engineering.
“We found sometimes increases in access to 100,000 jobs or a 20 per cent increase. That’s massive.”
The impact of bikeways added during COVID-19 were greatest in areas of the city where the new lanes were grafted onto an existing cycling network near a large concentration of stores and jobs, such as the downtown core. Although there were new routes installed to the north and east of the city, “these areas remain early on the S-Curve of accessibility given the limited links with pre-existing cycling infrastructure,” the study says.
In these areas, the new infrastructure can be the beginning of a future network as each new lane multiplies the impact of ones already built, Saxe says.
As for the study’s findings about increasing access to jobs, Saxe says they are not only a measure of access to employment but also a proxy for places you would want to travel to: restaurants, movie theatres, music venues and so on.
The researchers used information from Open Data Toronto and the Transportation Tomorrow 2016 survey, among other sources. Where there were discrepancies, Lin, a PhD student and the study’s lead author, gathered the data himself by navigating the city’s streets (as a bonus, it helped him get to know Toronto after moving here from Waterloo, Ont.).
“There were some days I did nothing but go around the city using Google Maps,” he says.
For Lin, the research has opened up new avenues of investigation into cycling networks, including how bottlenecks can have a ripple effect through the system.
The study, like some of Saxe’s past work on cycling routes, makes a distinction between low- and high-stress bikeways to get a more accurate reading of how they affect access to opportunities. At the lowest end of the scale are roads where a child could cycle safely; on the other end are busy thoroughfares for “strong and fearless cyclists” – Avenue Road north of Bloor Street, for example.
“It’s legal to cycle on most roads, but too many roads feel very uncomfortable to bike on,” Saxe says.
For Saxe, the impact of the new cycling routes shows how a little bike infrastructure can go a long way.
“Think about how long it would have taken us to build 20 kilometres of a metro project – and we need to do these big, long projects – but we also have to do short-term, fast, effective things.”
Chan, a professor of industrial engineering in the department of mechanical and industrial engineering, says the tools they used to measure the impact of the new bikeways in Toronto will be useful in evaluating future expansions of the network, as well as those found in other cities.
“You hear lots of debates about bike lanes that are based on anecdotal evidence,” he says. “But here we have a quantitative framework that we can use to rigorously evaluate and compare different cycling infrastructure projects.
“What gets me excited is that, using these tools, we can generate insights that can influence decision-making.”
The U of T team’s research, which was supported by funding from the City of Toronto, may come in handy sooner rather than later. Toronto’s city council is slated to review the COVID-19 cycling infrastructure this year.
This story originally published by U of T NewsRead More
Student clubs are a vital part of campus life at U of T, providing students with a social outlet, networking skills and professional development. Sponsorships are the lifeblood in keeping clubs active, and in providing resources towards programming and outreach.
David Schaeffer Engineering Ltd (DSEL), an engineering consulting firm, recently became a silver tier sponsor of the Civil Engineering Club (Civ Club). The company was founded by U of T Civil Engineering alumnus, David Schaeffer (CivE 8T1) in 1994. Schaeffer describes DSEL as, “Using the power of AI technology to redefine industry expectations in subdivision design.”
“With DSEL’s sponsorship, Civ Club and its members will benefit from their contributions. We will be able to offer discounted prices on merchandise and increase the level of resources used towards our events,” says Karen Chu, Chair of the Civ Club.
Civ Club will also be allocating funds toward upgrading its student common room to better suit the needs of students. In addition, the sponsorship has allowed the club to offer official Civil Engineering hoodies to the Civ community.
Throughout the year, Civ Club organizes various social, academic, professional and wellness events to strengthen the Department’s tight-knit community. Its upcoming annual Coffeehouse event, on Friday, February 26, will showcase the Civ community’s many talents via Zoom (signup HERE).
The club also hosts multiple mentorships events to connect first year students with upper year students, as well as game nights and other social events.
“School can be challenging and stressful at times, so we organize events that will hopefully relieve some stress through our game nights and prize giveaways,” says Chu.
As Civ Club has found, sponsorships are critical to student-run clubs, as funding makes it possible for clubs to offer greater services to its members and community.
About: DSEL is an industry leading consulting engineering firm that harnesses the power of AI technology to solve complex subdivision design challenges with unparalleled speed and efficiency. Canada’s largest and most reputable builders and developers rely on DSEL to guide them through the complex development process. DSEL has positioned itself as an industry disruptor and is constantly seeking young engineers who do not accept the current industry status quo. DSEL will continue to leverage technology to push the limits of the possible and redefine industry expectations for subdivision design speed, precision and cost effectiveness.Read More
Kelly-Marie Melville (ChemE 1T2 + PEY) was in her dorm room, just two weeks into her studies at U of T Engineering, when a fellow student Korede Owolabi (CompE 1T5 + PEY) and member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) U of T chapter came knocking on her door.
“He gave me a full rundown about NSBE, and I didn’t fully understand the gravity of it at the time,” says Melville. “But once I started my classes, I got it.”
Melville remembers sitting in Convocation Hall, where all first-year engineering students traditionally gather for their first class together.
“It was intimidating for someone who just moved here from Trinidad and for someone who is just starting engineering. I remember thinking, ‘oh my goodness, there is no one here who looks like me.'”
NSBE, founded in 1975 at Purdue University, aims to promote, support and increase the number of Black engineers who excel academically and professionally. Each year, the NSBE National Convention brings thousands of members together for networking and professional development opportunities. The organization’s goal is to graduate 10,000 Black engineers annually by 2025.
The U of T chapter, founded in 1999, is the largest in Toronto. And for more than 20 years, NSBE U of T has played an important role in increasing Black inclusion at U of T, and in fostering a safe space among Black engineering students, who continue to be underrepresented among the student body.
Three years after that knock on the door, Melville was NSBE president (2009 to 2010), and found herself using the same recruitment strategy. “Sometimes I was even chasing students down in the hallways to talk to them [about NSBE],” she says.
One of the students she introduced NSBE to was Akira Neckles (ChemE 1T7 + PEY), who would also eventually become president (2016 to 2017). During her studies, Neckles remembers seeing only five Black students within her year.
“That can really make you feel like you don’t belong,” she says. “With NSBE, it felt like it brought us together. Within a program, we’re less, but within a group, we’re more.”
Over the years, each NSBE U of T president would bring a unique vision and leave their own legacy of impact.
During Melville’s term, she worked to significantly increase NSBE U of T memberships. For Neckles, her focus was on professional development, inviting organizations to U of T so that members were informed of career pathways, even before looking ahead at their Professional Experience Year (PEY) Co-op.
During Dimpho Radebe’s (IndE 1T4 + PEY, ChemE PhD candidate in EngEd ) presidency (2014 to 2015), she was challenged with keeping NSBE U of T afloat, as memberships began to dwindle.
“I think the biggest challenge for NSBE is that, although it is an organization created to support Black students, we’ve always said, we’re open to everyone and not exclusively to Black students,” explains Radebe. “But many students don’t realize that, and it makes our potential pool that much smaller.”
Radebe says one of her greatest achievements during her leadership was sending 10 students to the NSBE National Convention in Anaheim, Calif.
“That experience really inspired students to join because they can see the full power of NSBE versus when you don’t see many of us around at school,” she says. “Many of them ended up running for leadership positions after that.”
For Iyiope Jibodu (ChemE 0T8 + PEY), it was about “NSBE family and NSBE love.” As president from 2008 to 2009, he was instrumental in launching D-Battle, a student dance competition that would attract large crowds to the Sandford Fleming atrium. D-Battle started as an idea by Owolabi to increase membership – the event would become a staple NSBE event for years to come.
“NSBE had a reputation as a professional student group, but we took the risk to host D-Battle, which turned out to be a fantastic platform to increase awareness on campus,” says Jibodu. “By having a fun event with mass appeal, we brought the entire Faculty together and showcased our strong and vibrant community.”
During Mikhail Burke’s (MSE 1T2, IBBME PhD 1T8) presidency (2010 to 2011), he would play a pivotal role in founding ENGage, an outreach program for Black students in Grades 3 to 8 that sparks passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). ENGage has been running for more than a decade out of the U of T Engineering Outreach Office, and would pave the way for Blueprint, a new program designed for Black high school students interested in STEM.
Alana Bailey (Year 3 CivMin) is NSBE U of Ts current president and has had a term like no other – having to lead from home during the pandemic. Despite this challenge, Bailey has set out ambitious goals.
Her mission when she took office in May was to have each executive member recruit at least five students – this led to a growth of more than 60 members by September 2020. Under her leadership, NSBE U of T has been more involved in Faculty recruitment events, as well as leading their own high school outreach efforts.
This year, NSBE U of T has also brought in more external sponsors to support initiatives – most recently, NSBEHacks garnered a wide range of sponsorships with leading companies such as Google, NVIDIA and Shopify, just to name a few.
Bailey hopes this effort builds toward retaining sponsorships year-round, providing funds for members pursuing professional development endeavours.
“If students need help to go to a conference or to enrol in an expensive course, our hope is to have the supports to actively help them achieve that,” says Bailey.
Bailey has three months left in her term, before she takes up her PEY Co-op position next fall. She plans to stay in close contact with NSBE, and she isn’t alone in wanting to stay in touch – many former presidents and members continue to advise, mentor and participate in NSBE U of T events.
That includes Burke, who is now the Dean’s Advisor on Black Inclusivity Initiatives and Student Inclusion & Transition Advisor at U of T Engineering. Over the last decade, he has seen and participated in many efforts by U of T Engineering to address Black underrepresentation – and NSBE has always played a role.
“There’s been a shift in what the Faculty feels empowered to do and it’s a good start, but there’s always room to do more. We have to continue to lean into the discomfort of talking about the lack of Black representation and about anti-Black racism on campus,” he says. “Organizations like NSBE are key advocates in driving the Faculty to engage in that change.”
By: Liz DoRead More