Posts Tagged: entrepreneurship

A cut above: U of T startup Fyyne makes hair services more accessible

CivMin alumnus teams up to found app solving hair services difficulties.

Users can scroll through Fyyne’s app for the latest hair trends, find an artist who will best suit their needs and book an appointment with just a few clicks. (Image: Fyyne)

Jeffrey Fasegha and Olugbenga Olubanjo (CivE MASc 1T9) once shared a similar time-consuming frustration: finding the right barber.

Olubanjo says the idea of helping and giving back has always been central to his entrepreneurial outlook (photo by Rahul Kalvapalle)

Olugbenga Olubanjo  (photo by Rahul Kalvapalle)

The two University of Toronto alumni recall separately asking their respective friends about their experiences finding adequate hair services. They soon learned many faced the same difficulties and began thinking about ways to help.

“I think there is a gap between customers finding beauty artists and artists being able to communicate with new potential customers,” says Fasegha, who graduated from the Faculty of Arts & Science in 2020 with a degree from Rotman Commerce.

After initially working on their own solutions, Fasegha and Olubanjo later decided to join forces to launch Fyyne, a startup that prioritizes Black-owned businesses and seeks to eliminate the difficulty in finding suitable hair services.

The mobile-first social marketplace for beauty services helps hair artists start and scale their business, connecting them with customers. From barbers, braiders or anyone offering beauty services, professionals can register to Fyyne’s pro platform, which allows them to automate a booking process, track analytics like engagement with their profile, income and top services.

Meanwhile, customers can scroll through the app for the latest hair trends, find an artist who will best suit their needs and book an appointment in just a few clicks. They can also review an artist’s verifications, write and read reviews, as well as filter searches by price, distance or rating.

“We want to sit in the middle and find artists for customers and customers for artists,” says Fasegha.

Fyyne officially launched in Canada, the U.S. and U.K. in mid-February with more than 500 users registered so far. The startup is supported by an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding from Canada’s BKR Capital (formerly Black Innovation Capital), the first Canadian venture capital fund dedicated to supporting Black entrepreneurs in the technology industry.

Olubanjo notes that even in a large, diverse city like Toronto, it can be difficult to find time with popular Black hair stylists, which leaves customers searching elsewhere without much to go on.

“I’ve had to drive hours for a cut, but I had no idea what their work was like because they had no platform to list their reviews,” he says. “I would then wait hours, and I thought, ‘There has to be a better way to discover artists.’”

Fyyne’s arrival on the scene couldn’t come at a better time for the beleaguered Canadian beauty industry. Hairdressers and other beauty services were forced to close their doors for long stretches during the pandemic, with Statistics Canada estimating that hairstylists were more than three times more likely to have lost their jobs in 2020 than other occupations.

By providing them with the tools to be discovered, as well as to sustain and grow their clientele, Fyyne’s co-founders say they’re essentially providing business owners with an inexpensive platform to market themselves as COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed in many provinces.

“We’re amplifying talented artists who would have otherwise remained undiscovered,” Olubanjo says. “When you move to a new town as an artist, for example, you have to rebuild your customer base because you have to establish your credibility. Fyyne is solving that problem.”

Fasegha and Olubanjo say they received considerable support through U of T’s entrepreneurship community and accelerators.

Both are members of the recently launched Black Founders Network (BFN), which boasts more than 100 Black founders as members. Launched by U of T Scarborough alumnus Efosa Obano, BFN was created to support Black entrepreneurs at any stage of their career through access to resources and inspiration to launch their startups.

“Having community support, especially in the early stages of starting your business, is important and this is what the BFN is trying to do as well, to scale up these interactions and support Black entrepreneurs,” Fasegha says.

Another key source of support for Fyyne was U of T Mississauga’s ICUBE incubator, which employs a values-based approach to supporting and training entrepreneurs and served as a place for Fasegha and Olubanjo to test their ideas.

Both Fasegha and Olubanjo are no strangers to the business world.

Fasegha, who was named a Rhodes Scholar two years ago, started his first business at the age of 11, delivering flyers and franchising other paper routes, and later refurbished and sold yard and sports equipment. He is the founder of the Black Career Conference (BCC), which connects Black students, graduates, and entrepreneurs to industry professionals for an opportunity to connect with employers in various fields. He also co-founded Black Rotman Commerce (BRC), a student group whose mission is to support Black undergrads interested in business at the social, academic and professional levels.

Olubanjo, meanwhile, is the founder of Reeddi Inc., a clean energy startup company that brings affordable power to energy-poor communities. Rented for $0.50 a day, Reeddi’s rechargeable and portable batteries are powered by solar energy and used by more than 600 households monthly in Nigeria. Thanks to Reeddi, Olubanjo was one of 15 finalists of Prince William’s inaugural Earthshot Prize in 2021.

Whether working on Reeddi or Fyyne, the mission is the same for Olubanjo – he wants to lead the way to an equitable and inclusive future.

“I think it’s the only way I can make a creative future that I want for myself, and it’s the only way I can make positive change for people that I care about,” he says.

By Fahad Pinto

 

This story originally published by Engineering News


Reeddi powers up: CivMin alum’s startup brings portable, renewable electricity to rural areas

A Reeddi power capsule, shown at right, provides affordable and sustainable electricity for short-term needs. A startup created by Olugbenga Olubanjo (CivE MASc 1T9) is piloting the technology in Nigeria. (Photo: Leke Alabi Isama /GGImages /Proof Africa)

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 News


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:

Reeddi

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.

Xesto

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.

Themis

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


REEDDI: Putting power in the hands of the people

Photo of Olugbenga Olubanjo holding two Reeddi Capsules, with quote "The impact it can bring really drives me."

Olugbenga Olubanjo holding two Reeddi Capsules. Photo: Phill Snel, Civil and Mineral Engineering/ U of T

 

A hearty “Yah!” accompanied by a fist-pump of victory, is what Olugbenga Olubanjo (CivE MASc Candidate) remembers best about Victoria Day.

While the rest of the country was enjoying an extra day off as part of the holiday long weekend, Olubanjo heard of his startup’s latest prize – an award of US$10,000 as a runner-up in the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge. This is the third award the startup has received in 2019, as well as a provisional patent.

Olubanjo and his team at Reeddi Inc (pronounced “ready”) want to bring clean, affordable and portable power to the people of Nigeria, giving them autonomy over their otherwise expensive and unpredictable energy grid.

Many new inventions are conceived in the pursuit of solving a problem. In this case, the seed was sown in 2017 while in Toronto and the frustration of often being suddenly disconnected while talking to friends or family back home by phone. He would later usually find out the disconnection was the result of an all-too-frequent power outage.

Olubanjo recalls being “at Massey College at night with light everywhere,” and couldn’t imagine returning home where it was like “going back to darkness.” Growing up in Nigeria with sometimes only two hours of electricity a day, he set out to find a solution to a daily problem faced by many back home. The MASc student’s very personal irritant was the spark, which lead to a solution for a much broader issue.

The statistics are staggering. Some 600 million Africans live without access to electricity, with 70 million Nigerians among them. Alternatives for household lighting, cooking and other needs can be dangerous and expensive. Kerosene lanterns used inside create health risks, as well as the need to travel great distances to obtain costly fuel.

Vast amounts are spent on creating electricity from polluting sources, further adding to the poor air quality in Nigeria. The patchwork energy system is simply unreliable and dirty; a better way to serve the multitudes is still desperately needed. Olubanjo had a “lot of sleepless nights.” And added what “kept me going was the possibility of having an impact on millions of lives.”

Armed with the idea to create a solar “umbrella” capable of charging mobile phones, discussion with friends and engineering colleagues led to developing something of a somewhat larger scale. The road to this point began with friends and colleagues, but also with assistance from the U of T’s Hatchery NEST. Some 3D printing, acute business questions and collaboration has driven the idea along while Olubanjo completes his graduate studies in civil engineering.

Olubanjo is clear he’s had a lot of help. Ideas, prompts, expertise and questions from friends, colleagues and faculty led to the development of the project so far. Prof. Yu-Ling Cheng (ChemE, CGEN) acted as advisor and mentor along with Bill Nussey (CEO of Solar Inventions); Prof. Ireh Iyioha, Founder of PEIFFUND; Omozaphue Akalumhe, Director Prividia Energy UK; M.K Balaji of Delloite, and Okide Ezigbo of Ontario Power Generation. The team at Reeddi includes U of T’s Osarieme Osakue (CivE MEng Candidate) as Director of Communications and Joshua Dzakah (MechE 1T9) at the post of Mechanical Engineer, along with Olamide Oladeji as Director of Strategy & Analytics, Olatunji Oladipo and Azeez Oluwafemi. 

 

So how will Reeddi make an impact?

A Reeddi Energy Station

A Reeddi Energy Station

With the current project proposal, a large standalone, solar-powered structure, about half the size of a bus shelter, would have interactive screens at eye-level that control the user experience and provide access to the removable Reeddi Capsules. Each watertight Reeddi Capsule, about the size of a long 12-pack of soft drinks, is comprised of an internal rechargeable lithium-ion battery (LIB) with external USB and AC plug.

Customers would pay a nominal rent of up to US$0.50 per 24 hours for a 250 watt-hour (Wh) capsule. A standard 250Wh capsule is enough to provide a combined seven hours of lighting via two 150 lumen LED bulbs, fully-charge three mobile phones (3W) and provide four hours of laptop power (30W). Capsules can also be connected and scaled up in a modular fashion; doubled-up it would create a 500Wh unit, and so on, for greater power needs such as appliances.

Reeddi Capsule features include 250Wh/Capsule, power output of 220V/50HZ AC and 5V DC. Each capsule has an expected lifespan of eight years.

Reeddi Capsule features include 250Wh/Capsule, power output of 220V/50HZ AC and 5V DC. Each capsule has an expected lifespan of eight years.

The capsule(s) can be returned within the rental period, or when depleted before the return period. As an incentive, when a return is made on time the customer is awarded points to be used towards future exchanges .

“The impact it can bring really drives me and makes me excited,” said Olu. The very clean, affordable and dependable power would give households stability of their power needs, as well as provide scalable options.

As proof of concept, Reeddi created a mock-up prototype of one capsule in December 2018, then created a working prototype for a capsule as a contest entry. They are on track to running a micro-scaled pilot with five Interactive working Reeddi Capsules prototypes by August 2019 in Nigeria.

Some investments will be required in running a pilot test for the innovation making it possible to deploy working capsules to the field. A long-term plan for Reeddi would see the project expanded for medium power uses as a dispatchable power source for e-scooters, electric motorcycles and tricycles and large power uses (full home needs).

The idea has potential for use in Canada, and North America, as well. Whether for hikers taking trips to remote sites, or where disaster has disrupted power grid. Anywhere there’s a need for getting clean and affordable power into the hands of the people is a potential market.

Since January 2019, Reeddi has been internationally recognized for its innovative technology and business model. In February 2019, it won the North American Regional Award for the Best Emerging Startups in Decentralised Energy Track at the IEEE Empower a Billion Lives Challenge held at Georgia Tech, and in April, Reeddi Inc was won the MIT 2019 Clean Energy Prize (National Grid Energy Delivery Track).

Olugbenga Olubanjo (Olu), the founder of Reeddi started the company when he arrived in Toronto. Prior to starting Reeddi Inc., Olu was a Winner of the 2017 University of Toronto Hult Prize Competition representing UofT at the Regional Finals  . He was also awarded the RBC Prize for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (People’s Choice Award) for VECO, the company that transitioned into Reeddi Inc. Olu is also a Junior Fellow at Massey College. His MASc thesis, Embodied Emissions in Rail Infrastructure: A Critical Study, is supervised by Professor Shoshanna Saxe. He expects to graduate the fall of 2019.

By Phill Snel

 


Five U of T Engineering professors and alumni receive Ontario Professional Engineers Awards

Five U of T Engineering professors and alumni have been honoured by the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) and Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) with Ontario Professional Engineers Awards.

CivMin’s Professor Shoshanna Saxe was awarded the Young Engineer Medal, for an early-career engineer who has demonstrated professional excellence as well as service to the community.

Saxe’s research examines the societal impact of infrastructure, with a focus on environmental sustainability. Her main expertise is in life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) evaluation of horizontal infrastructure, such as roads, rails and pipes, including the impact of construction, operation, travel behaviour and interactions with land use. A civil engineer by training, she was a consulting engineer for Arup Toronto, where she worked on the design and construction of four Toronto subway stations and the Billy Bishop Airport Tunnel. For her PhD research, Saxe conducted a detailed analysis of the London Underground’s Jubilee Line Extension and Toronto’s Sheppard Subway, comparing greenhouse gases produced during construction and operation and those saved from travel and land-use change, to calculate the GHG payback period for rail construction. The work highlights the environmental implications of infrastructure construction and the need for significant changes in planning, construction and management of infrastructure to meet sustainability commitments.

“These awards highlight the tremendous contributions made by U of T Engineers in all aspects of engineering, including research, management, entrepreneurship, and service to the profession and to the community”, said Dean Cristina Amon. “On behalf of our Faculty, I offer my heartfelt congratulations to these outstanding engineers.”

 

Other members of the U of T Engineering Community who received awards are:

Professor Milos Popovic (IBBME) received the Entrepreneurship Medal, for applying new technologies or innovative approaches that have enabled new companies to get started.

Popovic’s research has led to the creation of MyndMove, a non-invasive electrical stimulation therapy for restoring upper-limb function in people with severe upper-limb paralysis due to conditions such as stroke and spinal cord injury. MyndMove trains new neural pathways in the brain and spinal cord, enabling improvement and recovery of voluntary movement. This transformational therapy enables severely paralyzed individuals to regain control over their arm and hand function many years after injury. The therapy has helped more 300 individuals with upper-limb paralysis to restore their arm and hand function. A 2008 recipient of the Ontario Professional Engineers R&D Medal, Popovic co-founded MyndTec to launch MyndMove commercially, leasing the technology to rehabilitation clinics. He serves as director and chief technology officer and is involved in all aspects of product design, as well as building its intellectual property portfolio and securing regulatory approval. The MyndMove system is now available in approximately 20 clinics across Canada and the U.S., with another 70 in the works.

 

Professor Milica Radisic (IBBME, ChemE) garnered the Research and Development Medal, for engineers who have advanced knowledge in engineering or applied science.

Radisic is an international leader in cardiac tissue engineering, building living heart tissue using stem cells and biomaterials. A 2011 recipient of the Ontario Professional Engineers Young Engineer Medal, she was the first to use electrical field stimulation to enable assembly of individual heart cells into functional and differentiated cardiac tissue. She also tackled the field’s hardest problem — immaturity of stem-cell-derived heart cells — maturing these cells to unprecedented levels with electro-stimulation. Radisic’s heart-on-a-chip technology has been developed commercially through her company, TARA Biosystems, and is already impacting the drug discovery process in partnership with pharma companies. In addition, her heart tissues are revolutionizing patient therapy: with cardiologists, she is using stem cells derived from adult and pediatric patients with arrhythmia and cardiomyopathy to build personalized heart tissues. Through sophisticated molecular analysis, her team is delineating the physiology of disease and tailoring drug personalized therapies.

 

Alumnus Ron Sidon (IndE 6T6) garnered the Citizenship Award, honouring an engineer who has made significant volunteer contributions.

An accomplished engineer and entrepreneur with several inventions and patents to his name, Sidon has a career-long history of volunteering and philanthropy, giving back to the engineering profession and the community. Sidon started five businesses that developed several innovative technologies, including the first electronic cream-dispensing machine and a heated tunnel for wrapping new cars in a protective coating for transport. Sidon has given back to the engineering profession by mentoring engineering students, young engineers and engineering startups. He contributes extensively to U of T Engineering, acting as a mentor, working with students in design courses, and fundraising to provide undergraduate and graduate scholarships. He also volunteers his time to help several small engineering-based companies in Ontario. Sidon has made extensive contributions internationally as well, leading the development of a water project in Tanzania that now supplies water to 3,500 people, and working with the charity Second Kicks to distribute soccer equipment to Tanzanian children.

 

Alumna Irene Sterian (IndE 8T5) received the Management Medal, for innovative management contributing significantly to an engineering achievement.

As director, technology and innovation at Celestica, Sterian manages a global team of senior engineers to provide customer solutions in the areas of electronics technology for health care, industry, aerospace, defense, enterprise, telecommunication and the solar market. Her team’s achievements include bringing environmentally friendly lead-free solders into the manufacturing mainstream. Partnering with academia, equipment suppliers and industry associations, her team formed a solar hub in Toronto and a technology roadmap for green energy manufacturing in Ontario. In 2014, Sterian founded a not-for-profit technology accelerator called the Refined Manufacturing Acceleration Process Network (ReMAP). Through shared resources, ReMAP creates a supply chain of start-ups, small-medium enterprises, large organizations and research institutions to focus on hardware optimization, advanced manufacturing and electronics innovations. To date, this group has attracted $55 million in foreign investment and revenues, built 195 prototypes and scaled 30 products to market.


By Carolyn Farrell

This story originally appeared on U of T Engineering News


From smart cities to smartphones, U of T Engineering celebrates industry partnerships

CivMin industry partner EllisDon takes home the 2018 Corporate Academic Citizen Award.

Over 180 representatives gathered at the annual Industry Partners Reception on Nov. 14 to recognize strong academic-industry collaborations. (Photo: Paul Terefenko)

U of T Engineering recognized three key industry partners at its annual Industry Partners’ Reception on Wednesday, Nov. 14.

More than 180 industry leaders, government partners and faculty members gathered at the Myhal Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship to acknowledge this year’s achievements in academic-industry collaborations.

“Tonight is our opportunity to say thank you to our partners for their continuous support, guidance and enthusiasm for collaborative research at U of T Engineering,” says Professor Ramin Farnood (ChemE), Vice-Dean, Research. “We’re looking forward to an exciting year ahead.”

The annual event celebrates the faculty’s ties with over 400 industry partners across multidisciplinary innovation clusters, including advanced manufacturing, data analytics and AI, human health, robotics, sustainability and water.

“This event is a testament to the strength of our ongoing relationships with industry, the number of new partnerships launched this year and the momentum we continue to maintain,” says Allison Brown, Director of Corporate and Foundation Partnerships at U of T Engineering.

The three awardees for 2018 are:

Professor Ramin Farnood (ChemE, left) presents the Corporate Research Partner Award to Fujitsu Laboratories Fellow Dr. Hirotaka Tamura. (Photo: Paul Terefenko)

Corporate Research Partner Award – Fujitsu Laboratories Limited

The relationship between U of T Engineering and Fujitsu Labs started with a six-week internship by Ali Sheikholeslami at the company’s headquarters in 1998.

Twenty years later, Sheikholeslami is now a professor in The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, and together with his long-time collaborator Fujitsu Labs Fellow Dr. Hirotaka Tamura, has worked on projects including developing ferroelectric devices, high-speed interconnect technology and creating the world’s first Digital Annealer.

In March, U of T Engineering officially launched the Fujitsu Co-Creation Research Laboratory at U of T, which is located in the Myhal Centre, to accelerate collaborative work in fields including machine learning, quantum-inspired computing, smart cities, advanced health care and financial technology.

“Fujitsu Labs is working with over 10 faculty members across three departments. We have professors from electrical and computer engineering, chemical engineering and mechanical and industrial engineering so it’s a true interdisciplinary research, and for this research, we needed a home where we could come together, hence the Co-Creation Research Laboratory,” says Sheikholeslami.

The lab is also an idea incubator that leverages the creativity of students and faculty.

“One thing I’ve found to be extremely impressive is the diversity of students in U of T Engineering, and the differences in their way of thinking. U of T has students from many different countries and cultures and this impacts how they think and how they describe things,” says Tamura. “Sometimes I give the students a problem, expecting them to resolve it in the way I would but they come up with a totally different solution and that’s very interesting.”

To date, the partnership has resulted in over 50 scientific papers and journals and led to 10 patents.

“The research with University of Toronto is very important because if a company just focuses on the business, it tends to only look at the surface level and that’s not sustainable. We need a solid foundation to keep things going and academia is a place to build this foundation of knowledge,” says Tamura.

From left: Dr. Allison Brown presents EllisDon Sustainability Coordinator Kaitlyn Tyschenko, Senior Vice President of Construction Sciences George Charitou and Senior Vice President of Aligned Chris Andrews with the Corporate Academic Citizen Award. (Photo: Paul Terefenko)

Corporate Academic Citizen Award – EllisDon

Many large-scale infrastructure projects come with an equally large carbon footprint — but Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon is collaborating with U of T Engineering to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the carbon impact.

The project focuses on developing a decision-support tool that can be used throughout the stages of design and planning to realize efficiencies that lower climate-warning emissions.

“EllisDon believes in providing the solutions for an ever-changing future and industry,” says EllisDon Sustainability Coordinator Kaitlyn Tyschenko. “Through this tool we will be able to not only receive mass amounts of region and EllisDon-specific data to better understand our carbon emissions, but also help our clients make the most applicable carbon-based decisions for their projects.”

EllisDon is also closely involved in academic-industry mentorship with U of T Engineering students.

“Student mentorship and teaching is an important part of [this] partnership we are committed to,” says EllisDon Senior Vice President Chris Andrews.

“This allows us to reach outside of our industry to connect students and leaders in academic research. It is fascinating and important to see what we can do by working together on some of the broader challenges we are seeing and to begin to find answers. Our relationship with U of T Engineering has been very important and we look forward to continuing this work with the university.”

Vittorio Scipolo, Manager of R&D Metals Division, accepts the Small to Medium Enterprise Partner Award on behalf of Tenova Goodfellow Inc. (Photo: Paul Terefenko)

Small to Medium Enterprise Partner Award – Tenova Goodfellow Inc.

With spiking demand for electronics and other devices that rely on steel production and rare earth elements, the race to develop sustainable means of producing these materials is heating up.

Tenova Goodfellow has partnered with Professor Gisele Azimi (ChemE, MSE) to develop more energetically efficient techniques for the steelmaking industry.

“The objectives of the collaborative project are multiple,” says Manager of Research and Design, Metals Division Vittorio Scipolo. “We want to investigate high-temperature materials to improve the design of Tenova furnaces and sensors for an improved steelmaking control, find innovative ways to valorise steelmaking waste material, and verify the advantages and limitations of molten metal electrolysis for the steel industry.”

Scipolo describes the partnership as “very positive,” yielding promising results across all objectives.

“We’ve gained fundamental knowledge on high temperature materials and on the actual composition of steelmaking waste,” he says. “In particular the waste valorisation portion of the project has already provided few good insights on how to better transform the waste material into a valuable resource.”

“[But] the most rewarding part of the collaboration has been to be able to create a very collaborative and friendly environment. Results and next steps are always discussed together driven by passion and a desire to do better.”


This story originally appeared on U of T Engineering News.


Hana Zalzal: Professional makeup maven

Hana Zalzal

Hana Zalzal (CivE 8T8) is the founder of Cargo Cosmetics, a Toronto-based professional makeup line used by the industry’s top artists for TV and film.

This story appeared originally on U of T News.

This article is part three of a five-part series on #EngineeringtheUnexpected, in celebration of the firstGlobal Day of the Engineer on February 24, 2016

What do Hollywood stars Courtney Cox, Camryn Manheim, Lindsay Lohan and Debra Messing have in common? They have all designed custom lipstick shades for Cargo Cosmetics, a professional makeup line founded by alumna Hana Zalzal (CivE 8T8).

Zalzal worked as an engineer, marketer and financial analyst prior to founding and operating Cargo Cosmetics in 1995 from her home in North York, Ont. Over the past 20 years, Cargo has grown to become one of the most innovative and sought-after brands among professional makeup artists, celebrities and consumers worldwide.

Today, Cargo is a household name — its products have been featured in Time Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and a multitude of fashion and beauty publications. Current hit television showsAmerican Horror Story, Girls, The Mindy Project and Modern Family, and films such as Insidious, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Iron Man 2 have all used Cargo Cosmetics on set. They have also been included in official gift bags for prestigious events such as the Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes.

True to its engineering roots, Cargo has even made an impact on the international design community: the company’s foundation pouch won a 2006 DuPont Award for Innovation in Packaging and a 2007 Red Dot Award for Product Design.

Zalzal attributes the key to Cargo’s success as never being satisfied with the status quo.

“For me, it was all about continually asking myself, ‘How can this be better?’” she said. “It was about the innovation, and the innovation that drove [Cargo] to continually seek new ways of presenting product. Sometimes it was in application, sometimes it was in formulation and sometimes it was in packaging.”

Zalzal was included on The Caldwell Partners list of Canada’s Top 40 under 40 in 2004 and received an Arbor Award for her outstanding personal service to the University of Toronto.

Watch this video from Bloomberg TV’s show Venture to learn more about Zalzal and her company.


Parking app takes home top prize at Hatchery Accelerator competition

Recipe for success: coffee, and advice from Joseph Orozco, entrepreneur and executive director of The Entrepreneurship Hatchery (right). Twenty-three student teams worked to turn ideas into viable business plans at Hatchery Accelerator Weekend, Jan. 22 and 23 at the University of Toronto. (credit: Cherry Fan).

Recipe for success: coffee, and advice from Joseph Orozco, entrepreneur and executive director of The Entrepreneurship Hatchery (right). Twenty-three student teams worked to turn ideas into viable business plans at Hatchery Accelerator Weekend, Jan. 22 and 23 at the University of Toronto. (credit: Cherry Fan).

This story originally appeared on U of T Engineering News.

There is only one rule at Hatchery Accelerator weekend: there are no rules.

Fuelled by coffee, snacks and sage advice, on January 22 and 23, students worked furiously to transform their wildest entrepreneurial ideas into viable business models in just 28 hours. The competition, hosted by The Entrepreneurship Hatchery, was kicked off by a special panel presentation from Silicon Valley seed accelerator Y Combinator, the incubator that has launched companies such as Dropbox, Reddit, and Thalmic.

Students worked in teams of four to create viable business models, judged by a panel of industry experts and entrepreneurs, including Isi Caulder (EngSci 8T9), Richard Helbig (GeoE 7T3), Michael Augustanavicous (ElecE 7T6), Dag Enhorning and Richard Louttet. The top team took home a grand cash prize of $2,000, and the runner up won $1,000.

“Accelerator Weekend 2016 was a huge success. One hundred students, 23 teams, six finalists, and two prizes. The 28-hour journey that participants went through is a true representation of the journey of an entrepreneur that normally takes years,” said Joseph Orozco, executive director of The Entrepreneurship Hatchery. “We are excited to see the student’s entrepreneurial spirit growing year after year. “

U of T Engineering News caught up with the two teams that came out on top:

First prize—$2,000: TouchDown

Team TouchDown with their Hatchery mentor, Naresh Bangia, at centre.

Team TouchDown with their Hatchery mentor, Naresh Bangia, at centre. (courtesy: Sam Fang).

Members: Kyle Bimm (Year 2 MechE), Bryan De Bourbon, Sam Fang (Year 3 IndE), Bowen Wu(Year 3 Civil)

Elevator pitch: TouchDown is a parking management system to streamline parking for customers commuting into large cities. The system uses physical modules with Google Maps integration to help commuters find a registered parking spot before they start driving. After a quick selection, their parking space is booked and paid for, via in-app purchase, so commuters no longer have to worry about their parking situation once they start driving. This eliminates time wasted and money spent looking for parking for commuters as well as eliminates unnecessary parking enforcement for municipalities.

What problem does TouchDown solve?

Bryan: As a student that has to regularly commute between the Misssissauga (UTM) and the St.George Campus (UTSG), I became frustrated in my ability to make it on time to UTSG while still in my car, but still arrive 10 to 20 minutes late to my planned events because of the inability to find parking quickly and easily while driving around campus at saturated times. I thought “what if there was a system to allow me to see readily available parking spots before I even planned my route?” With a few more iterations we arrived at TouchDown!

What challenges did your team overcome during the competition?

Kyle: The team faced several challenges over the course of the competition that required a substantial amount of pivoting. The first obstacle we faced was the discovery of existing competition rather late on the first day. Hours spent scouring the internet for existing solutions to the problem proved little was being done in North America, and almost nothing in Canada in the way of smart parking. Upon research into parking related ideas for the company, after many other teams had already called it a night, we stumbled upon several different services that had flown under the radar up until that point. This forced us to rethink our business model and re-establish ourselves as an innovator in the parking world. We decided to create an all-in-one parking system that could not only link parking spot owners and commuters, but enhance security in commercial facilities and eliminate the need for regular, manned parking enforcement. The second challenge the team encountered was the strict regulations involving parking in private facilities like condos that require key access. This, coupled with the lack of previous information available on partnerships between parking services and commercial organizations, motivated the team to design the product launch with mainly the typical “house and driveway” consumer in mind, as a beta launch of sorts. Once a desire for the service was proven in the market, we would have the necessary backup to approach larger scale operations about joint business ventures with confidence.

What’s next for Touchdown—will you all continue to work on the business?

Team: All of us are considering the practicality of the project in industry given the availability of necessary technology and regulations currently in place. As of now time constraints among the group seem to be the biggest issue to get TouchDown to market, but we all are super excited about trying to do so.

Runner up—$1,000: Aurum

Members: Bonny Khanna (MechE 1T5), Min Lee, Rod Parsa, Lucas Huang

Elevator pitchAurum is a noise-cancelling product that dampens the constant background buzz we all hear while living and working in a city like Toronto.

What problem does Aurum solve?

RodStudies have shown that noise pollution has adverse health effects including higher stress levels, sleep disturbance, hypertension and tinnitus. Most of us go about our days without giving it a second thought, only to wonder why we aren’t working as hard as we’re capable of doing, or wake up groggy in the mornings. Furthermore, noise pollution has been linked to a 10-per cent decrease in housing prices in dense cities. Aurum solves this problem by bringing active noise cancellation to your living room, bedroom or office, creating an aura of tranquility conducive to studying, sleeping or just relaxing. This technology has already been put to use on a large scale in certain commercial aircrafts (where engine noise is a concern), as well as on a small scale in popular noise-cancelling headphones like the Bose QC series. Aurum bridges the size gap and creates a solution that doesn’t necessitate the use of bulky headphones or expensive installations. We came up with the idea when my teammate Bonny mentioned that ever since he had moved closer to a subway line, he’d had trouble sleeping. We did a bit of brainstorming and realized that short of expensive, thick, sound-proof glass windows, there was no real solution out there – we’d all have to suck it up if we wanted to live in the city.

What challenges did your team overcome during the competition?

RodI don’t think there were any major hiccups, maybe just a few minor ones. Our greatest concern was that we couldn’t show the judges any sort of proof of concept. Unlike many other app-based ideas, a product like ours may require millions in R&D before its viability can be ascertained. Nonetheless, we were confident in the value that it offered, should it come to fruition; nearly everyone who heard about our idea wanted one and was willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a working solution. In the short context of the 28-hour marathon, we figured we’d make promises first and apologize later.

What’s next for Aurum—will you all continue to work on the business?

With regard to the future, we’re considering applying for the Hatchery summer incubator program. Our mentor Rob Klein is very supportive of us, and it would allow us to get started on a functional proof of concept in the form of a primitive prototype.

Students from across the University of Toronto can apply to participate in the Hatchery Incubator summer internship program. Deadline to apply to the 2016 cohort is Jan. 31, 2016.

Read more about the Hatchery summer internship program


Three industry professionals leading U of T Engineering courses

Randy Sinukoff, a Senior Associate at Stantec Consulting Ltd., teaching his graduate level course, CHE1431H Environmental Auditing. (Photo by Tyler Irving)

Randy Sinukoff, a Senior Associate at Stantec Consulting Ltd., teaching his graduate level course, CHE1431H Environmental Auditing. (Photo by Tyler Irving)

 

 

 

This story originally appeared on U of T Engineering News Friends.

For Randy Sinukoff, the best part of being a course instructor is watching new understanding take root. “I love it when the light goes on in someone’s head,” he says. “I love it when they discover something they never thought of before, or realize something that they can apply to their own life and work.”

Sinukoff (ChemE 8T2, MASc 8T4) is a Senior Associate at Stantec Consulting Ltd. and is also the instructor for CHE1431H Environmental Auditing, a Master of Engineering course for full-time and part-time graduate students. He is one of a number of sessional lecturers who work full-time in industry and make time to offer their expertise to students at U of T Engineering.

In addition to his own course, which he has instructed since 2012, Sinukoff delivers guest lectures for students in fourth-year classes and volunteers for an on-campus mentorship program. He offers students first-hand knowledge of what it’s really like to work in industry.

Sinukoff clearly enjoys interacting with students, but he says that there are other benefits to himself and his company. “In my business, we don’t run ads; it’s all about the quality of the people we hire,” he says. “When you’re engaging with 20-plus students in a classroom, you can see who the future employees might be.”

Another advantage is reputational. “To teach, you have to be on top of your game and make sure that you’re current with everything in the field,” he says. “When people find out that I teach a course, they can see I know what I’m doing. That speaks to the credibility and professionalism of me and my company.”

Two more industry professionals who are involved with courses at U of T Engineering are profiled below:

Glen Ehasoo, P.Eng

Glen EhasooAs a new instructor, Ehasoo is eager to share his knowledge with fourth-year Mineral Engineering students and to help introduce them to the industry. “I recently relocated to Toronto and when the opportunity came up to help, it felt like a good way to become engaged in the local mining community,” he says, adding that building links with like-minded individuals is an important part of professional engineering.

Ehasoo is involved with MIN467H Mineral Project Design, a two-part course that focuses on the design of a mining project.  He is sharing his knowledge of the technical details of mine design and the applications of mine design software. “Computer models are only as good as the data you put into them — garbage in, garbage out,” he says. “You need to understand what is going on so that you can verify and understand the output.”

As a Principal Mining Engineer at RPA Inc., Ehasoo has more than 15 years of experience in the industry. He has consulted on project evaluations, due diligence reviews, open pit mine design, resource modelling, and mine scheduling. Ehasoo has worked on gold, silver, base metals, iron ore, coal, diamond, and rare earth projects in North and South America, Europe, and Asia.

Kim Iwasa-Madge, P.Eng (IndE 8T1)

Kim Iwasa-MadgeIwasa-Madge sees teaching as a natural extension of her own practice. “In my job, I was often involved in supervising and mentoring young engineers,” she says. “I found that very fulfilling.”

Iwasa-Madge teaches MIE542H Human Factors Integration. She is an expert in human factors engineering, which applies knowledge of human capabilities and limitations to the analysis, design and operation of products, services and systems. Through her own company, iMadgen Human Factors Inc., she provides consulting services, primarily for the nuclear power industry. For example, she might be involved with designing an operator interface in a control room to be more intuitive, minimizing the potential for human error.

Running the course in addition to a full-time job takes a lot of work, but for Iwasa-Madge it is worth the effort. “As a practitioner, we often work with interns or recent graduates, and there are capabilities we want our new hires to have,” she says, adding that through the course, she can help impart that knowledge.

Teaching also helps with other aspects of her job. “The course also makes me think about how to communicate human factors concepts — something that I have to do all the time, and not just with students,” she says. Still, like most lecturers, her favourite part of the job is meeting new people. “U of T has amazingly diverse students because the university is so multi-cultural,” she says. “Learning more about them and their goals is a lot of fun.”


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