Posts Tagged: CivMin

U of T Entrepreneurship Week: Four engineering startups to watch

From left: HOPE Pet Foods; Xesto; Themis; and, Reeddi

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:


Olugbenga Olubanjo (back row, second from left) poses for a photo with members of the Reeddi team, local community members and his startup’s power-providing capsules during a pilot project in Ayegun, Nigeria (photo courtesy of Olugbenga Olubanjo)

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.”

Reeddi received support from the Entrepreneurship Hatchery and the Lo Family Social Venture Fund.

HOPE Pet Foods

Sofia Bonilla, a U of T post-doctoral researcher who is preparing to launch a line of alternative-protein pet foods, already has her dog Snuffie gobbling up insect-based treats (photo courtesy of Sofia Bonilla)

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.


Using the iPhone’s TrueDepth camera, Xesto offers a free app that allows users to take pictures of their feet in order to obtain an accurate shoe size (image courtesy of Xesto)

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.


The team from Themis uses AI to create a Microsoft Office add-in that saves hours of time drafting legal papers. The students’ startup pitch took home the grand prize at this year’s Demo Day (photo courtesy of Themis)

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

Disaster-proof: Major CivMin lab upgrade lets engineers design structures that can better withstand earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis

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


A new adjustable multi-dimensional (AMD) loading system will soon be added to U of T Engineering’s Structural Testing Facility. (Image: Myron Zhong)

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 KwonEvan BentzOya 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 News

Meet Engineers Without Borders: U of T Chapter Co-Presidents Natalie Enriquez-Birch and Lauren Streitmatter

EWB Co-Presidents Natalie Enriquez-Birch (Year 2 IndE) and Lauren Streitmatter (Year 3 EngSci)

Tell us about yourselves:
Natalie: My name is Natalie, I’m in Industrial Engineering. I started in Track One, and I decided to go into IndE. Right now I’m finishing my second year in Industrial Engineering but I’m actually in my third year at U of T. I did my second year in part-time engineering because I wanted to do some classes in Arts and Sciences. I’m trying to minor in Latin American studies and Indigenous studies. I’m from Toronto and have grown up here most of my life, other than that I also grew up in Ecuador because that’s where half of my heritage is from. I’m co-president this year and I’ve been involved with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) since my first year.
Lauren: My name is Lauren I’m in third year of Engineering Science in the Energy Systems option and I’m minoring in Environmental Engineering. I’m from just outside of Chicago but half of my family is from Canada in Toronto which is what motivated me to come here. I’m also co-president of EWB and have been involved since my first year.

How did you both get involved with EWB?
Lauren: I got involved in my first year in the Policy and Advocacy portfolio. We have six different portfolios in EWB right now and they vary year to year but Policy and Advocacy is still one we have now. I was interested in more of the social impact side of engineering. So that portfolio gave me the chance to participate in a petition campaign to promote the UN sustainability development goals. We also got to host events for International Women's Day and I liked being able to work on different awareness projects while still learning about technical content. EWB was a place for me to get a balance from the technical content of school. In second year, I was in the Local Poverty Alleviation portfolio, and also an exec in VP Mentorship (now called VP Community), which is a position to help the community become more tightly knit. I really liked both those experiences, I really liked being in the club, the community and all the people I met, so I really wanted to run for president at the end of my second year.
Natalie: When I started at U of T, I knew I wanted to join a club right a way. As I was browsing the clubs in engineering, EWB is the one that spoke to be first because I’ve always been interested in social impact. I got involved and joined the Indigenous Reconciliation portfolio because it is one of my interests. It kind of exceeded my expectations in terms of how many opportunities there are to get involved because it’s such a big club, there’s something for everyone.

I was part of Indigenous Reconciliation and through that portfolio I actually went to Nunavut. I went to Iqaluit with some of the other members in the portfolio in first year. That was a really exciting opportunity and after first year I did a program with EWB Canada called the Junior Fellowship. Through that program I did an internship, I worked for a social enterprise in Uganda for four months. They were doing acceleration for local agribusinesses there and I was in a marketing role. In second year I decided to apply for the exec team and I became the VP of learning, which is one of our core values at EWB. We always try to have opportunities for people to learn about social impact. One thing I’m really passionate about is doing my own research and sharing it, so I loved that position. Running for president was a bit of a natural progression for me as I’ve always been really super involved with the club. I hadn’t always considered doing it but I got inspired when it was time to run.

What does EWB do?
Natalie: EWB is a social impact club and at its core it’s looking to create leaders who are critical thinkers and have a basis of understanding systemic change. In particular, we target engineering students and students in technically focussed STEM fields, in order to compliment their technical studies with an understanding of social impact. I think what people get out of EWB is being able to challenge the status quo. Especially within technical realms and ask the question, if I'm working for social impact or in a mission driven organization, how can I know a technical solution is the best solution? And be comfortable with that. I think that’s what’s interesting about EWB, we really want people to be challenging the way that they think about the world.

What does a typical year on EWB look like?
Lauren: When people join the club they can join as a general member, get a feel for it and not be attached to a portfolio. But usually after a certain point, at least most people will filter into at least one portfolio, some are in multiple. It’s whatever portfolio interests them, and it’s up to the initiative they take to get involved in that portfolio. Each portfolio works on certain projects and those projects almost always have room for more people to work on them, but it’s up to you to insert yourself into them and take on that work.

In terms of the actual trips and especially in the past two years, our trips have taken more of a local focus. The junior fellowship program EWB Canada runs, which sends a fellow to Africa, is something our club has not done in the same capacity because of COVID but also because of our changing relationship with EWB Canada. It’s also that’s an opportunity that’s only available for one to two students anyway. For the most part, people in our club participate by being part of a portfolio that is working locally. There may be the occasional extra opportunity you can sign up for but it’s less common.

EWB Chapter-run Student Leaders' Summit in Muskoka, January 2019.

What are the six portfolios students can get involved with at EWB?
Lauren: Indigenous Reconciliation, Local Poverty Alleviation, Policy and Advocacy, Sustainability and Environmental Justice, Cyber Ethics/Digital Rights and Youth Engagement.

Can you tell us about your experience on trips?

Natalie: The trip I went on to Uganda was pretty life changing. While I was there I was working with a social enterprise and they ran a program to accelerate agri-businesses in the area. I ran the marketing side of that. So I would get the marketing materials ready to market to both prospective entrepreneurs as well as partners and other people who can support it because a social enterprise does need to make money but it's not necessarily looking to make a lot of profit. What was cool about the junior fellowship is you get work experience and you also get to understand how the work culture in another place is different from the work culture you’re used to. I had never worked outside of Canada before but I also got an opportunity to travel and see the county as well as surrounding countries.

I think the most important part of that experience was the people I was travelling with. There were about eight other people with me in Uganda, but in the program in total there were 15 from other universities across Canada. They’re still some of my best friends now, I still keep in contact with a lot of them. They share a lot of similar values to me and are like minded so sharing that experience with them is what made it such a great opportunity.

The trip I did in Nunavut was not affiliated with my EWB, it’s something I found out about through my involvement working on the portfolio. But the point there is that portfolios connect you to opportunities but not necessarily everyone who joins a portfolio will go on a trip. In terms of a trip I took to Uganda, it’s not something that’s happening in the same capacity. Not just in our chapter but in the organization, this year they restructured the program so it doesn’t look the same as it did in the past. Most people who join EWB don’t go on a trip it’s kind of rare and especially right now because of COVID and other reasons, it’s really not at all the main focus.

What has the EWB been up to now that everything is virtual?
Lauren: Luckily since we’re not a building focussed tech design team. We aren’t struggling too much with not having the ability to meet in person and build so we’ve been able to adapt a lot of our events to online settings. All six of our portfolios are still running, pretty much in full capacity. They’re still able to run through Zoom. There are regular learning events, project meetings and weekly or monthly portfolio meetings. So lots of meetings happening in the club still.

Our policy advocacy portfolio is in the middle of creating a podcast, the first episode is about to be released. The starting up projects are in the research phase and are able to do that just as well. We also have more established projects, like the Local Poverty Alleviation portfolio is working on a food bank that’s stepped in and become the main food bank for U of T. The UTSU food bank closed during the start of COVID, so the food bank our club is working on has grown and expanded a lot. They're working really hard on keep donations coming in so they can still keep supplying food to students in need. We still have a lot of the same sense of community. Now more than ever, it’s really on the individuals who want to get involved to get involved. It’s a lot easier for people to fall through the cracks online. For those who are taking the initiative to join different portfolios, projects and meetings, they are still able to participate pretty fully in an online setting.

What is the best way for someone to get involved with EWB?
Natalie: The best way to get involved is registering with a membership form but to get access to that link you’ll have to get in contact with us. Send us an email, let us know you want to get involved, we’ll send you a membership form and once you complete that you’ll get access to our Slack board space which is our main hub. On the Slack board space you get access to all the portfolio channels, where they tell you about their events, weekly meetings, projects and if they’re looking for people to increase the capacity of their teams. Once you’re on our Slack you’re set, you just have to make sure to check it. But reach out to people if you want to get involved and learn more about a specific project or portfolio.

Anything to add?

Lauren: We are open to everyone, beyond engineers. We really like having people from Arts and Science to join as well and create an environment where our projects are super interdisciplinary. The Eng and STEM students can learn from Arts and Science and vice versa.

For more information about Engineers Without Borders: University of Toronto Chapter please visit

Meet Concrete Toboggan Co-Captains, Elisabeth Gagnon and Georgia Collins


Co-Captains Georgia Collins (Year 3 CivE) and Elisabeth Gagnon (Year 4 MechE)

Tell us about yourselves:
Elisabeth: I’m Elisabeth but most people call me Liz. I’m MECH 2T1 and I’m currently doing my PEY at a biomedical engineering company called Profound.
Georgia: I’m Georgia Collins and I’m a third year Civ student.

Any Hobbies?
Elisabeth: I play basketball and softball recreationally. I’m also new to fostering cats. I got a cat today so it’s very new, her name is Squeak and she’s really cute. I fostered her through the Toronto Cat Rescue.
Georgia: I really like oil painting and I like travelling a lot. Normally, I’d be travelling a lot more than I am now. My first destination would ideally be Germany. I’ve lived in Germany before so I’d love to go back to see my high school friends.

How did you get involved with Concrete Toboggan?
Elisabeth: I was always looking to join a design team. I’m into biomedical engineering so I never even thought about Concrete Toboggan. But last year, some of my friends said my skills would be good in a design, because I have a lot of hands on experience. So I tried it and I loved it and I’ve been here ever since. This is only my second year on the team but I got involved because it’s a way for me to apply what I’ve learned in mechanical engineering into an actual thing I can build. Even if it isn’t what I go into as an adult, it’s really fun. I love a team atmosphere, I love sports and this is just like a sports team but with design.
Georgia: I got involved in first year early on. I went to an initial meeting and I didn’t know anything at all but I really liked the people on the team. So I became friends with them and started going to more builds. I liked working with people of other disciplines because I got to hear about things I wouldn’t have ever heard about in my program in Civil Engineering. In second year I got to apply what I was learning in class, when we were doing the concrete fabrication, which was really nice. I applied for a captain position this year because I really enjoyed being on the team and I wanted to move up into more of a leadership position and have more responsibility.

What does the Concrete Toboggan Club do?
Georgia: Concrete Toboggan is a design team that focuses on building a concrete toboggan, which is an unusual thing. It has four main requirements, a concrete running surface, a shell, a steering mechanism and a braking mechanism.
Elisabeth: A misconception is that the toboggan is all concrete but it’s only our skis, so it’s only what's contacting the snow that has to be made of concrete. The rest is all mechanical or carbon fibre. Originally, the competition was just a slab of concrete but eventually it got more sophisticated and people added steering and braking systems.
Georgia: This year we have electro-mechanical steering, which is much more advanced compared to a just a slab of concrete.

Casting Day for 2020 Competition

How is it now that everything is online?
Elisabeth: Normally we’d have an in-person competition in February and we would race our toboggan and there’s a technical exhibition. But because of COVID it’s been moved online. The equivalent competition is, we still design a toboggan, and we still cast it and come up with a theme. A big part of the competition is also the theme and spirit side. Every year we come up with a new theme. This year our theme is “Bogglympics,” which is Olympics themed. So the competition is still being held but everything that would be in person has an online equivalent or is cancelled.

Do you come up with the theme collectively?
Georgia: That's the unique part about us as a design team, and many design teams don’t have this. The theme is a big part about the competition we go to and a big part of what unifies us as a team. So it’s collectively decided upon. Typically previous year’s members come up with something in the summer before the school year but then it's developed throughout the year.
Elisabeth: Our team is divided into two sub-systems, we have the design side and spirit side. Design is focused on the design and fabrication of the toboggan. Whereas the spirit side focuses on the theme and spirit challenges. We also have a technical exhibition where we display our fabrication and design process. There are games and interactions and that’s the spirit side of things.

Where are the competitions typically held (in a normal year)?
Georgia: It’s at a different location every year, last year it was in Toronto at Snow Valley. This year it was supposed to be in Calgary. It’ll be pushed a year, so next year it will be in Calgary again.
Elisabeth: Typically, it alternates between East Coast and West Coast, so after Calgary it’ll be on the East Coast again. It’s an international competition with a few teams from the U.S. even.
Georgia: Fun fact we’re the largest student run engineering competition in North American.

Aside, from winning the competition, what would a successful year of Concrete Toboggan look like to you?
Georgia: We were successful in winning last year but the biggest success was how tight knit the team became and the friendships and connections you make within the team. And also, on the design side of the team, it’s important to push ourselves and always strive for the newest innovations. That’s something that makes us standout at competitions. I would say we really lead the pack in some ways in innovation.
Elisabeth: As Co-captain, what I would say is a successful year for me is seeing new members join the team and grow and seeing their development. Especially with the hands-on aspect, you really learn a lot in a short period of time. It’s really impressive to see first year's or first time on the team member’s growth from the beginning of the year to competition.

2020 Shell

How can someone get involved?
Elisabeth: What’s unique about our team is it’s open to anyone. You can join any time during the year and you can be from any discipline, even Arts. Our competition team has 30 people already but even if you can’t get to competition you can still help with the design and spirit side of things and we really encourage people to come out and get involved.

To join you can visit our website or follow us on Instagram and we post about general meetings. We have general meetings once a month. You don’t have to have attended any prior meetings, you can just drop in. You just have to show up one day and that’s how you join. You can definitely DM or email us to ask any questions.

When are the meetings held?
Elisabeth: Typically it’s on Wednesday, but it varies month to month and it’s on Zoom. We post about it a week before on Instagram, so if you follow us you can stay up to date.

What’s your best memory of Concrete Toboggan?
Georgia: My best memory was getting the chance to ride in the toboggan. It’s five people that get to go in the toboggan. Last year we were really fast and kept winning every race. It starts off with a speed run, so you run individually down the hill and they test your time. Then typically there’s a steering test and then eventually you go head-to-head with King of the Hill. In King of the Hill you keep running your toboggan down continuously trying to beat your opponents. It was really exciting that whole day and full of adrenaline because we just kept going up and down. Eventually we won, and the feeling of coming out of the toboggan at the end and having the team rushing toward you and banging on the toboggan was really exciting. It felt like all our hard work paid off, which was really nice.
Elisabeth: Obviously winning the competition is a huge part that stands out in my memories but last year, on competition day, after the first run, the ski attachment sheared off so there was a crack. It could no longer keep the ski to the toboggan, or if we were to run again it was at risk of failure. So in between runs I had to go to our van and use this super glue. It was a metal binding glue and you’re not supposed to apply it with your hands but we had no choice. It was freezing cold and we were scooping it with our hands and smearing it on hoping it would keep the ski and the ski attachment together. I really enjoyed the adrenaline and rush and it worked! Our toboggan ended up winning!

Race Day 2020

Anything else to add?
Elisabeth: It can be intimidating as a first year student or if you haven’t been that involved in school, to go to a club for the first time but we have new members joining all the time, it’s very open. Also, all the upper years are very welcoming on the team. There’s a family and friendship that bonds the team really well and that’s what's unique about our design team. We build lasting friendships.

Meet Concrete Canoe Co-Project Managers, Ashley An and Stella Gregorski

Concrete Canoe Co-Project Managers, Ashley An (Year 4 CivE) and Stella Gregorski (Year 3 ChemE)

Tell us about yourselves
Stella: My name is Stella, I’m a Chemical Engineering student in third year. I’ve been involved with Concrete Canoe for three years now. I started out as a general member, then a concrete technical lead last year before becoming Co-Project Manager this year. Concrete Canoe is the only design team I’m a part of but I’m also very involved with the school spirit community and the band in EngSoc so I do a bit of everything. I find being involved with the student spirit community helps inform the way I approach leading the team.

Ashley: My name is Ashley I’m a Civil Engineering 2T1 student and I’ve been with the team for four years now. I started as a general member, then I was a concrete lead and last year I became co-project manager. So I’m continuing in that role this year. I’m also involved with other clubs within civil engineering dept. but I really enjoy doing Concrete Canoe because it’s a chance to bond with my team.

Any hobbies?
Stella: It’s kind of a cliche, but I’m really involved in music. I spend a lot of my time trying to discover new music and sometimes I dip my toe in arranging music because I think it’s a good way to decompress. I also really enjoy puzzles, so everyone buying puzzles off the shelves in mass quantities during the pandemic has not been appreciated. Us puzzle fanatics need them! I really enjoy my downtime, getting outside to walk around and just not doing anything for a while.

Ashley: Right now I’m living downtown, so it’s easy to go on walks and visit a lot of construction sites nearby. I like doing that in my free time especially after taking the construction management course in second year. I can now identify all the different structures and techniques. I also like to point out different types of cranes to my friends—which they find annoying.

How did you both get involved with Concrete Canoe?
Stella: For me I actually had a friend in first year who I met during frosh week and we were walking through clubs fair and she said, “Oh, I want to do a design team, you should do a design team with me.” I was so new to everything but I was like if I know friends are doing it, it could be fun. Basically, we came across the concrete canoe club first. Three years later, she's moved on to do other things and here I am, a Concrete Canoe project manager. A lot of my extra curricular activities centre around school spirit and student government so it’s nice to have a creative outlet and dip my toe into design.

Ashley: In first year I was in Track One, which is general engineering stream. I was introduced to concrete canoe by my friends who were also in Track One. We just kind of floated to this design team by like the mantra, “Concrete that can float,” which is pretty cool. Also, I think concrete canoe is a very close knit community, like a small family, and if you find friends there, you’ll have them for a long time.

What does the Concrete Canoe club do?
Stella: I’ll explain what we do in a normal year since this year has been kind of an anomaly. What we do is we design, build, test and race a canoe made entirely out of concrete. As Ashley said, it’s kind of an interesting process because you’d never expect concrete to be something that should float and that’s why it presents such an interesting engineering challenge. It’s also a good way to apply the information you learn in your courses in a fun way.

Over the summer, the exec team begins to lay out the foundation for the project by doing some light leg work by planning out sponsorships, material acquisitions and what not. In fall is when we have our recruitment and form our team. We have weekly meetings usually on Saturdays for an hour or two. We do a lot of testing of concrete mixes and members get to help us make the beams and are invited to the labs to test them during the week. We also have a lot of workshops during the fall in addition to those.

We have workshops to determine the aesthetic and theme we base our canoe design around. As well as potential costumes for competition or a display board and other spirit aspects. We also have a workshop on hull design because we do a lot of AI generation of hull designs throughout the year. We also have a structural workshop, so if you’re taking CIV100 that does help out with that.

In the spring we finalize things. We usually have a big casting day in February where we actually make the canoe. It usually takes about six to eight hours to make the canoe. Then in May is when we have our competition and take our canoe that’s sanded and ready to go. We present it and we actually get to race it. Race day is usually a really fun event because you get to go and cheer on your team and see how all the other team’s canoes compete.

How are you continuing the club's activities this year in a virtual world?
Stella: So it’s been a little bit of a challenge. Last year, our competition was canceled around March, even though we had already made a canoe. This year the CSCE made the tough decisions to cancel this year as well. So there isn’t an in person competition and they’re actually discouraging construction of an actual canoe.

We’ve been fortunate that the CSCE has put forward an alternate competition for this year. So what we will be doing is a little bit of forensic engineering by looking back at a past canoe and analyzing what could have been better. We’re going to do an in-depth discovery of what could have made it go wrong and what could be improved.

As I mentioned, our exec team put a lot of work this past summer laying out the groundwork for new innovations and materials. So, CSCE has given them the opportunity to look at a past canoe and figure out how those innovations and new materials would have made it better. It’s obviously a poor substitute for getting to make an actual canoe this year but we’re very thankful we can still apply all the hard work our exec team has done. We are going to be writing this report and doing all sorts of analysis which is kind of a cool opportunity for us to have a retrospective.

Can other students still get involved?
Stella: It’s a bit of a challenge this year when we aren’t doing as many in person events that people can actually come out to and experience. But the report isn’t something we are determined to keep just to our exec team. We love when people come out to meet us and want to join our little canoe family and continue to grow with us. The competition for the forensic analysis will be mid-May so we’ll be writing it throughout the semester. There are plenty of opportunities for students to jump in and get involved. We encourage people to tap in to our social and communication channels.

What was your favourite canoe you got to work on and why?
Stella: I’ve only worked on two canoes but I would say my favourite canoe would be the one we made last year, 704 Spadina. I was able to be a bit more involved in it as an exec member and leave my mark on it. It is a little bit tough because both canoes have a special place in my heart. Polaris, which was our 2018-19 canoe, was the first one I got to work on and the only Canoe I got to bring to competition. But with 704 Spadina, I got to take my experience from first year and make it my own.

Ashley: I also really enjoyed working on 704 Spadina. I feel like that canoe was an ode to everything our team has worked toward and will work on moving forward. Mostly because we overcame a lot of challenges that year. Last year we moved to two different work spaces. Our old space at 704 Spadina Ave. is being torn down to create a new residential building. It was a difficult process being in two different locations. We couldn’t mix concrete in one location so we had to transport concrete between the two. It was a five to seven-minute walk carrying really heavy concrete in order to cast the canoe. That was a huge challenge. We were in 704 Spadina Ave. for nine years so it holds a special place in our hearts.

704 Spadina Canoe

What makes it a successful year in Concrete Canoe aside from winning competition?
Stella: You don’t become a project manager without having specific goals in mind for the team. What makes a successful year of concrete canoe for me is after competition is done, no matter what happens, people want to come back for the next season. Keeping people around and making people say, ”Man this was a great year,” or “Man this was a tough year but let’s do it again!” You want people to be dedicated not to just the drive of winning but to finish the year and be able to have the retrospective of what could have been done differently. It shows people are passionate and that the passion hasn’t ebbed away over the year.

Ashely: For me, every year right before competition and during competition we say to our team, it doesn’t matter how we do in competition, it’s all about having fun and enjoying yourself with the team. Concrete isn’t the most technical design team at U of T engineering but it is one of the most fun and that's what gets people to come back.

Race Day 2019, Polaris Canoe.

What is the best way for students to stay up to date with Concrete Canoe ?
So what we’d recommend to people is to sign up for our mailing list, get involved and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Reach out and we’ll find a way to get people involved.

CivMin well represented at COVID-19 transportation challenges and solutions student competition

As the COVID-19 pandemic raised awareness of inequities and challenges in transportation, the U of T Transportation Alumni Committee recognized a unique opportunity to focus their annual New Frontiers in Transportation student research competition on timely, relevant issues. They chose for this year’s theme “Transportation Network Resilience in the Age of COVID-19 and Beyond.”

CivMin representation

Engineering students were well represented, as 41 per cent of total participants. The Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering (CivMin) saw a fantastic turnout within the winners, with four Civil Engineering (CivE) undergraduate and graduate students, and another four Master of Engineering, Cities and Engineering Management (MEng CEM) students.

Results of the student teams’ research projects under this theme were presented at a public online symposium on November 12, 2020.


The competition

The student competition symposium was the final stage of a process that began with a virtual launch event on June 9. Student team proposals on the topic “Transportation Network Resilience in the Age of COVID-19 and Beyond” were submitted later in June, and from those, short-listed teams were chosen and assigned mentors.

The student teams worked with mentors over a four-month period and submitted final reports mid-October.

Finally, at the symposium on November 12, twenty-two University of Toronto students in six interdisciplinary teams presented their research projects to a panel of judges in front of a live audience of over 90 attendees over Zoom. Following high-level presentations of ten minutes, each team responded to Q & A.

Interdisciplinary collaboration key

Competitors ranged from 2nd year undergraduate students to recent Master’s program graduates. Teams consisted of three or four students and were required to have participants from at least two different U of T departments. The resulting teams included students from a variety of programs of study including Commerce/Rotman, Urban Studies, Engineering, Architecture, and Geography and Planning. Several of the students’ programs include majors and minors spanning Political Science, Economics, Anthropology, Russian Literature, Environment, and Peace, Conflict and Justice.

A breakdown of programs of study for the 22 competitors at the New Frontiers in Transportation Student Competition Symposium November 12, 2020. There was an even split between graduate and undergraduate students, some of whom were 2020 graduates.


Each student team worked on their research project and competition presentation with oversight from two volunteer mentors from the transportation profession. Twelve mentors participated:

  • Onkar Chander, Specialist, Operations Excellence, Purolator
  • Raphael Dumas, Project lead at City of Toronto Big Data Innovation
  • Antonio Gittens, Transportation Planner, IBI Group
  • Heidi Herget, Principal Transport Consultant, Move Consultants
  • San Kassiedass, On Demand Transit Expert
  • Ben Loucks, Highways and Roads Business Class Lead, HDR
  • Loui Pappas, Vice President, Business Development, Transportation, Morrison Hershfield
  • Matt Pinder, Transportation Engineer, Alta Planning
  • Malvika Rudra, Head of Corridor Management, Ministry of Transportation
  • Shahan Shaikh, Communications System Designer, Toronto Transit Commission
  • Katie Wittman, Transportation Service, City of Toronto
  • Patrick Yip, Transportation Engineer, HDR


Teams were scored based on their overall idea, research methods, written paper and presentation.

The judging team consisted of Michelle Berquist of City of Toronto, David Forsey of IBI Group and Tyrone Gan, Senior Vice President at HDR Corporation. Following the presentations, the judges met privately before returning to the event to announce the results.

Michelle Berquist acted as spokesperson for the judging team. In her remarks, she noted the high level of work demonstrated by all teams, saying:

“It’s very hard to judge these kind of competitions. The quality across the board is incredible … so much work and so much thought into very different projects, so they’re they’re hard to compare because they’re all great and because they’re all different. Everyone has achieved a lot tonight.”

Prize winning student team presentations

gold trophy with number 1First place of $550 per student: “Adapting Bikeshare Toronto to meet transportation needs in a COVID-19 era”

Team members:
  • Pooja Brahmbhatt (MUrbDes 2020), currently a proposal and marketing coordinator at Baird Sampson Neuert Architects
  • Drishya Nair (MEngCEM 2020), currently a Research Associate at U of T
  • Amy Protheroe (MScPl 2021)

Summary: This project seeks to increase transportation options and improve equity in access to Bike Share Toronto through investigating opportunities for network expansion and proposing options to address financial and structural barriers to use.

Mentors for this team were Matt Pinder, Transportation Engineer, Alta Planning and Katie Wittman, Transportation Services at the City of Toronto.

silver trophy with number 2Second place of $450 per student: “Sense and scalability: Up scaling neighborhood solutions to city-wide problems”

Team members:
  • David de Paiva (BA 2021) Majors: Urban Studies, Political Science; Minor: Russian Literature
  • Lewis Walker (BA 2021) Majors: Human Geography (focus in Planning), Urban Studies; Minor: Anthropology
  • Bethany Wong (MScPl 2022)
  • Michelle Zhang (HonsBA 2021) Urban Studies specialist; Major: Peace, Conflict and Justice; Minor: Human Geography

Summary: Our approach is centred on creating system resiliency by building community engagement. We propose a two-step solution: adapt to meet COVID-related challenges in the short-term, and construct a cross-jurisdictional framework to handle challenges in the long-term.

Mentors for this team were Raphael Dumas, Project lead at City of Toronto Big Data Innovation Team and Heidi Herget, Principal Transport Consultant, Move Consultants.

bronze trophy with number 3Third place of $375 per student: “A framework for integrating on-demand transit into urban transit networks during disruption scenarios”

Team members:
  • Simon Faux (MEng 2020 Civil Engineering), currently Project Engineer at Ausenco
  • Colin Gibling (MEng 2020 Civil Engineering)
  • Omar Kabbani (MASc 2020 Civil Engineering)
  • Niki Van Vugt (MScPl 2020)

Summary: On-Demand Transit (ODT) could provide flexibility for a transit system experiencing a wide range of demand due to COVID-19. Our study will review ODT in Canada and develop an emergency ODT implementation framework that could be used in times of crisis to ensure safe and accessible access to transit.

Mentors for this team were Antonio Gittens, Transportation Planner, IBI Group and San Kassiedass, On Demand Transit Expert.

More presentations from student teams

“Equitable transportation in the age of COVID-19”

Team members:
  • Maria Demitiry (BASc 2021 Engineering Science)
  • Calvin Kwan (BASc 2021 Civil Engineering)
  • Vincent Lai (BASc 2022 Civil Engineering), currently Transportation Engineering Intern at IBI Group
  • Dorothy (Yuxin) Liu (BASc 2021 Civil Engineering), currently Transit Technology Analyst intern at IBI Group

Summary: This study will leverage transit data and public health and safety measures to inform policy changes that will promote transportation equity in the post COVID-19 Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

Mentors for this team were Malvika Rudra, Head of Corridor Management, Ministry of Transportation and Patrick Yip, Transportation Engineer, HDR.

“Towards a resilient airport: Implementing COVID-19 testing at Pearson Airport”

Team members:
  • Yash Kulshreshtha (MEng 2021 Civil Engineering), currently PEY Co-op Peer Coach at Engineering Career Centre (Work Study)
  • Michael Liu (MScPl 2022)
  • Andrew Yin (HonsBA 2022) Majors: Urban Studies and Economics

Summary: Our research aims to examine safety challenges of passenger terminal operations at Pearson Airport during COVID-19, identify bottleneck areas and rooms for improvement, and propose solutions to enhance the safety of airport travellers and staff members during a pandemic.

Mentors for this team were Onkar Chander, Purolator and Ben Loucks, Highways and Roads Business Class Lead, HDR.

“Improving the TTC’s congestion problem through a sustainability, equity and rider experience approach”

  • Lovely Juson, HBA (2021) Majors Economics and Human Geography; minor Urban Studies
  • Isabel Lee (HonsBA 2021) Geography and Planning
  • Sabrina Poinen (HonsBA 2021) Geography and Planning & School of the Environment
  • Jessica Zhang (BComm 2021) Rotman

Summary: Transit overcrowding is a long-standing issue that has been aggravated by the COVID-19 crisis. This study will tackle transit congestion and present recommendations for improvement through three lenses: equity, sustainability, and enjoyability.

Mentors for this team were Loui Pappa, Vice President, Business Development, Transportation, Morrison Hershfield and Shahan Shaikh, Toronto Transit Commission.


Wow, fantastic presentations! During the pandemic, there have been many webinars springing up with various experts. These student presentations were of such high quality and someof the best seminars I’ve seen. The future of transportation is so bright! – Bruce Mori, Chair, Transportation Alumni Committee and Director and Sr. Practice Lead, Transportation Planning, IBI Group

I thoroughly enjoyed being a mentor for the “Sustainability, Equity and Rider Experience” team. Congratulations to all the teams for all your hard work! – Loui Pappas, competition mentor and Vice President, Business Development, Transportation, Morrison Hershfield

Great job to all six teams, very interesting topics and fantastic presentations! – Anthony Sgro, Membership and Fundraising, Transportation Alumni Committee and Systems Engineer, IBI Group

These were each and all incredible bodies of work – Michelle Berquist, competition judge and Area Transportation Planning at City of Toronto

I would like to thank UTTAN committee for coming up with an interesting project to work on during this pandemic. This competition really helped us to engage and network with various industry professionals.  – Yash Kulshreshtha, competitor

Congratulations to all the teams! Absolutely amazing work! – Onkar Chander, mentor and Specialist, Operations Excellence, Purolator

Well done everyone. You should all be proud of what you have accomplished! – Tyrone Gan, competition judge and Senior Vice President, HDR Corporation

This entire experience was so informative and enjoyable – Jessica Zhang, competitor

All the presentations were truly excellent. Great work! – competition attendee

Watch the symposium videorecording

The 2020 New Frontiers in Transportation Student Competition Symposium was recorded and is posted (with timings) on UTTRI’s YouTube channel at


The event and prize awards were sponsored by Mazen Hassounah, CIMA+, HDR, IBI, Parsons, Steer, Morrison Hershfield, Stantec, and the Masters’ Program Class of ’88.

About New Frontiers in Transportation

The New Frontiers in Transportation Student Competition is an initiative hosted annually since 2019 by the University of Toronto Transportation Alumni Network with the goal of connecting current students interested in transportation with alumni who currently work in the field. It is open to all University of Toronto students.

About the U of T Transportation Alumni Network

The U of T Transportation Alumni Network (UTTAN) was established in 2018 to bring together generations of U of T graduates who work in transportation. In addition to being a community for alumni, UTTAN plans events and programs for current students to foster their interest in the transportation field and connect them to the wealth of knowledge in the U of T alumni community.


This story originally published by UTTRI

CivMin study: Electric vehicles can fight climate change, but they’re not a silver bullet

Sales of passenger electric vehicles are growing fast, but a new analysis from U of T Engineering researchers shows that on its own, electrifying the U.S. fleet will not be enough to meet our climate change mitigation targets. (Photo: microgen, via Envato)

Today there are more than 7 million electric vehicles (EVs) in operation around the world, compared with only about 20,000 a decade ago. It’s a massive change — but according to a group of U of T Engineering researchers, it won’t be nearly enough to address the global climate crisis. 

“A lot of people think that a large-scale shift to EVs will mostly solve our climate problems in the passenger vehicle sector” says Alexandre Milovanoff, lead author of a new paper published today in Nature Climate Change. 

“I think a better way to look at it is this: EVs are necessary, but on their own, they are not sufficient.” 

Around the world, many governments are already going all-in on EVs. In Norway, for example, where EVs already account for half of new vehicle sales, the government has said it plans to eliminate sales of new internal combustion vehicles altogether by 2025. The Netherlands aims to follow suit by 2030, with France and Canada to follow by 2040. Just last week, California announced plans to ban sales of new internal combustion vehicles by 2035.

Milovanoff and his supervisors, Professors Daniel Posen and Heather MacLean (both CivMin) are experts in life cycle assessment — modelling the impacts of technological changes across a range of environmental factors. 

They decided to run a detailed analysis of what a large-scale shift to EVs would mean in terms of emissions and related impacts. As a test market, they chose the United States, which is second only to China in terms of passenger vehicle sales. 

“We picked the U.S. because they have large, heavy vehicles, as well as high vehicle ownership per capita and high rate of travel per capita,” says Milovanoff. “There is also lots of high-quality data available, so we felt it would give us the clearest answers.” 

The team built computer models to estimate how many electric vehicles would be needed to keep the increase in global average temperatures to less than 2 C above pre-industrial levels by the year 2100, a target often cited by climate researchers. 

“We came up with a novel method to convert this target into a carbon budget for U.S. passenger vehicles, and then determined how many EVs would be needed to stay within that budget,” says Posen. “It turns out to be a lot.” 

Based on the scenarios modelled by the team, the U.S. would need to have about 350 million EVs on the road by 2050 in order to meet the target emissions reductions. That works out to about 90% of the total vehicles estimated to be in operation at that time. 

“To put that in perspective, right now the total proportion of EVs on the road in the U.S. is about 0.3%,” says Milovanoff. 

“It’s true that sales are growing fast, but even the most optimistic projections suggest that by 2050, the U.S. fleet will only be at about 50% EVs.” 

The team says that in addition to the barriers of consumer preferences for EV deployment, there are technological barriers such as the strain that these vehicles would place on the country’s electricity infrastructure. 

According to the paper, a fleet of 350 million EVs would increase annual electricity demand by 1,730 TWh, or about 41% of current levels. This would require massive investment in infrastructure and new power plants, some of which would almost certainly run on fossil fuels. 

The shift could also impact what’s known as the demand curve — the way that demand for electricity rises and falls at different times of day — which would make managing the national electrical grid more complex. Finally, there are technical challenges to do with the supply of critical materials, such as lithium, cobalt and manganese for batteries. 

The team concludes that getting to 90% EV ownership by 2050 is an unrealistic scenario. Instead, what they recommend is a mix of policies, including many designed to shift people out of personal passenger vehicles in favour of other modes of transportation. 

These could include massive investment in public transit — subways, commuter trains, buses — as well as the redesign of cities to allow for more trips to be taken via active modes, such as bicycles or on foot. They could also include strategies such as telecommuting, a shift already spotlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“EVs really do reduce emissions, but they don’t get us out of having to do the things we already know we need to do,” says MacLean. “We need to rethink our behaviours, the design of our cities, and even aspects of our culture. Everybody has to take responsibility for this.” 

By Tyler Irving


This story originally published in Engineering News

Indigenous leaders, U of T researchers look to build collaborations grounded in understanding and reciprocity

From Left: Sonia Molodecky (RTEI program lead), Shakya Sur (RTEI research associate), Jamie Fine (MIE Postdoctoral Fellow), Professor Bomani Khemet (Architecture), Professor Liat Margolis (Architecture), Becky Big Canoe, and Professor Marianne Touchie (CivMin, MIE).

The Centre for Global Engineering (CGEN) Forum recently brought together Indigenous leaders and U of T researchers to underscore the importance of a Two-Eyed Seeing approach — the bridging of expertise of both Indigenous communities and faculty — to create sustainable infrastructure solutions for Indigenous communities across Canada.

Presenters included Elder Whabagoon, co-founder of Nikibii Dawadinna Giigwag, a U of T Access mentorship and employment program for Indigenous youth, who led the opening and closing ceremonies; Becky Big Canoe of the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation, a natural building designer, activist and founder of EnviroNative Training Initiatives; Jeff Kiyoshk of the First Nations House, CGEN’s Shakya Sur and Sonia Molodecky; Professors Marianne Touchie (CivMin, MIE), Liat Margolis (Architecture), Heather Castleden (Queen’s University); and Jason Bazylak (MIE), who emceed the event.

The forum also reflected upon the many ways systemic discrimination and misappropriation of Indigenous Knowledge have historically and negatively impacted past collaborations between Indigenous communities and researchers, specifically in the field of engineering.

“I think of my own ancestors, the Métis in Saskatchewan, and how their first encounter with Western engineers would have been British surveyors showing up on their homeland, not speaking the language, not introducing themselves, but proceeded to divvy up the land to give away to settlers. That’s damaging,” says Bazylak, who is the Dean’s Advisor on Indigenous Initiatives.

“Though damaged this relationship may be,” he adds, “I believe we can reconcile, and together move forward in a positive way as partners.”

Deep collaboration, understanding and reciprocity will be the foundations of projects identified through CGEN’s Reconciliation Through Engineering Initiative (RTEI), which launched last December.

RTEI will ultimately identify six projects to improve access to clean drinking water, food security, housing, health care, transportation and communication systems through a multi-disciplinary and holistic perspective.

Two projects, focused on housing and food security in Northern Ontario have so far been identified.

Becky Big Canoe presented on her vision for healthy housing in First Nations communities.

Housing insecurities and the spread of mould in residences are issues at the heart of Big Canoe’s work in First Nations communities, who has seen failed attempts to address these concerns because of lack of community consultation. “The solutions weren’t sustainable, did not fit the environment or take into account high occupancies,” she says.

During the forum, Big Canoe, Touchie, Margolis, Professor Bomani Khemet (Architecture) and Jamie Fine (MIE postdoctoral fellow) discussed ways that they could support Big Canoe’s vision and the challenges she identified. In close collaboration with Big Canoe and the Chippawas of Georgina Island First Nation, the project will lead to developing a holistic mould-mitigation framework for Indigenous housing.

As a natural building designer, she has created a prototype of a land-based, multi-unit, high-occupancy house. Big Canoe and the U of T researchers, who specialize in building science and design, will work together to incorporate those aspects into developing appropriate ventilation and building envelopes to control moisture accumulation.

“When I saw Becky’s designs, I thought, ‘this is incredible.’ I look forward to learning a lot from this experience,” says Touchie.

Sonia Molodecky, RTEI program lead, hopes the event and RTEI’s projects will continue the much-needed cultural shift in seeing Indigenous peoples as experts, partners and leaders, in order to co-create truly sustainable solutions to infrastructure challenges.

“Two-Eyed Seeing encourages us to see from one eye, the best of Indigenous ways of knowing, and from the other eye, the best of Western science ways of knowing,” she says, referring to the work of Elder Albert Marshall, who coined the term. “These two ways of knowing are actually complementary and will lead to deeper ways of researching that wouldn’t have been possible if we looked at it from one perspective.”

By Liz Do

Story originally posted on U of T Engineering News

Reconciliation through Engineering Initiative to improve transportation and housing in Indigenous communities

Professors Tracey Galloway and Chris Beck in one of the planes used to transport food, supplies and passengers to remote Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario. (Photo courtesy of Chris Beck)

Professors Tracey Galloway and Chris Beck in one of the planes used to transport food, supplies and passengers to remote Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario. (Photo courtesy of Chris Beck)

Mitigating indoor mould and optimizing air transportation in Northern Ontario are the first two collaborative projects between Indigenous community leaders and U of T researchers to get underway through the Reconciliation Through Engineering Initiative (RTEI).

Launched last December by the Centre for Global Engineering (CGEN), RTEI will ultimately identify six projects to improve access to clean drinking water, food security, housing, health care, transportation and communication systems in Indigenous communities across Canada.

All RTEI projects aim to find sustainable engineering solutions through community-driven, multidisciplinary and Two-Eyed Seeing collaborations, leveraging the expertise of both Indigenous community members and U of T researchers specializing in diverse fields.

“In today’s challenging environmental climate, a Two-Eyed Seeing approach to research is critical to building sustainable futures for all,” says Sonia Molodecky, RTEI program lead.

The first project focuses on developing a holistic, land-based mould-mitigation framework for Indigenous housing on Georgina Island in Lake Simcoe, north of Toronto. The work, which can be used to support other First Nations communities across Northern Ontario, is led by Professors Marianne Touchie (CivMin, MIE), Liat Margolis (Architecture), Bomani Khemet (Architecture) and natural building designer Becky Big Canoe of the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation.

Mould contamination, which is associated with respiratory illnesses, affects 44% of houses in First Nation communities in Canada. And as Becky Big Canoe has seen first-hand, previous attempts to address the spread of mould were unsuccessful. A key factor of failed mould remediation strategies was the lack of consultations with residents.

“The solutions weren’t sustainable, did not fit the environment or take into account high occupancies,” says Big Canoe, whose prototype of a land-based, high-occupancy house will be incorporated into the team’s ventilation and building-envelope design.

“I think we understand what the technical solutions are,” says Touchie, who will focus on ventilation systems. Khemet will work on the building envelope, and Margolis on the house’s soft-scape surroundings.

“The key to success in this project is actually gaining an understanding of the ways in which communities use their houses, what housing needs aren’t met, and what they’d like to see done differently. That is why Becky’s expertise and prototype will play a vital role in this.”

RTEI’s second project will develop techniques for more efficient air transportation to Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario. The work is led by Professors Chris Beck (MIE), Chi-Guhn Lee (MIE), Shoshanna Saxe (CivMin), Tracey Galloway (Anthropology) and Michael Widener (Geography).

In Northern Ontario, the reliability of air service, both cargo and passenger, is hampered by persistent challenges. These include aging infrastructure, limited weather information and navigational supports, as well as long flight paths between communities and limited emergency supports. These challenges significantly affect food security for these communities, which rely on air transport for their food.

These challenges are further compounded by extreme weather patterns. Even de-icing, a matter perceived as routine in southern Canada, is more complex to operationalize in the North.

In addition to consulting with Indigenous community leaders, the engineering researchers are working closely with Galloway — drawing on her long history of work in remote Northern Canada — and Widener — an expert in geographic systems and the interplay between accessibility and wellbeing — to understand the human impact of their proposed solutions.

In the second collaboration, Beck’s team will work closely with Northern businesses to develop models that optimize travel routes and cargo/passenger transportation.

“We have a lot of research about transportation optimization that’s been developed over the last 50 years, but almost always, this research is within the context of the South, where there’s a market environment and plenty of transportation links,” says Beck, who recently visited the airports in First Nation communities Webequie, Neskantaga and Eabametoong.

Meanwhile, Lee’s team will apply machine learning techniques to manage uncertainty, such as when adverse weather conditions or emergencies lead to a cascading effect of unknowns in air transport operations.

“If there’s an emergency situation where a plane carrying essential supplies can’t land at the optimized destination, we would have to find an alternative that causes the least disruption,” says Lee. “Our work aims to minimize the impact of uncertainty.”

Saxe’s group will analyze the current physical infrastructure of these airports to identify their impact on air service. Her lab is currently engaging with both users and providers of air travel services to learn about their experiences.

“It’s most important that we’re listening to learn about a context different from our lived experiences as Southerners,” adds Saxe.

Researchers across both projects emphasize the importance of taking the time to find the appropriate solutions, rather than developing a quick fix.

“Strange as it sounds, we will spend most of the next year listening: sitting down with experts, decision makers, Elders and community members,” says Galloway. “We need to listen to the larger, ongoing conversation happening in Canada around self-determination for Indigenous people, and ask our partners and collaborators how we can support their goals through research.”

By Liz Do

Story originally posted on U of T Engineering News

Survey Camp Centennial: CAMP100

A ceremonial groundbreaking for the upcoming construction of the new HCAT Bunkhouse and MacGillivray Common Room. With spades (L to R): Brent Sleep, Chair, Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering; Georgette Zinaty, Executive Director, Advancement & Alumni Relations; Scott MacGillivray (Civ 8T2), Alumnus & Donor; Christopher Yip, Dean, Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering; Robert MacGillivray (8T5), Alumnus & Donor; Brenda McCabe (9T4), Faculty and Project Lead.

A ceremonial groundbreaking at the U of T Survey Camp on Gull Lake, near Minden, Ont,. for the upcoming construction of the new HCAT Bunkhouse and MacGillivray Common Room. With spades (L to R): Brent Sleep, Chair, Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering; Georgette Zinaty, Executive Director, Advancement & Alumni Relations; Scott MacGillivray (Civ 8T2), Alumnus & Donor; Christopher Yip, Dean, Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering; Robert MacGillivray (Civ 8T5), Alumnus & Donor; Brenda McCabe (Civ 9T4), Faculty and Project Lead.

Survey Camp Centennial logo: CAMP100, Celebrating 100 Years of Survey Camp

On Saturday, September 7 attendees celebrated a century of Survey Camp at Dorset and Gull Lake. With a fantastic turnout of Alumni, current students, Faculty and interested family members, the event showcased existing facilities at Gull Lake and marked a ceremonial groundbreaking for a planned new HCAT bunkhouse and MacGillivray Common Room.

The event marked the 100th class since the first group of University of Toronto Engineering students used the site, located on the north shore of Gull Lake near Minden, Ont. Purchased in 1919, the first cohort of U of T students took classes on the site in 1920, with the current 2019 class becoming the 100th consecutive year to attend Survey Camp – now known as Civil And Mineral Practicals (CAMP). The centennial celebrations included recognition of the many alumni and supporters who have contributed to the Centennial Campaign for Camp, helping the camp to reach 70% of a $1.5 million goal. Donors are also gratefully acknowledged on the campaign website and through bunkbed, bench and room dedications.


Leave your own mark on Camp:
The ongoing Centennial Campaign for Camp offers alumni an opportunity to once again ‘leave their mark’ on camp, and bolster the success future generations of Civil & Mineral students. All Donations are matched dollar-for-dollar as we work toward a goal of $1.5 million (we’ve reached 70 per cent to date!). Donors are gratefully acknowledged on the campaign website. Those who contribute $1,000 or more will be recognized on a permanent donor wall. In addition, bunkbeds can be named for $5,000, built-in benches for $10,000 or even rooms for $25,000 and above.

Direct link to donate





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