Posts By: Christina Heidorn

EngSci alumnus establishes fellowships to support research in AI and robotics

Photo of EngSci alumnus Steven Truong

Steven Truong and his company VinBrain have created eight new fellowships which will provide undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to catalyze research at the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics

 

Steven Truong (EngSci 8T9) was just 17 when he moved to Canada from Vietnam in the 1980s to study Engineering Science at U of T.  Now the successful computer engineer and entrepreneur is giving back to U of T Engineering by supporting undergraduate and graduate research in AI and robotics related to Smart Cities, Smart Health and the Internet of Things.

Truong believes that each of us has the power to leave this place better than we found it. After more than 12 years as a senior leader in artificial intelligence (AI) at Microsoft, he recently a founded VinBrain to use AI to help create more equitable healthcare.

 

Screenshot of a chest x-ray and the AI-based app developed by Steven Truong's company.

VinBrain has developed an AI-based assistant to help radiologists detect diseases faster and more accurately. (Photo courtesy: Steven Truong)

 

As AI and robotics play an ever-increasing role in our daily lives, Truong believes U of T Engineering students are in prime position to have a significant positive impact by applying technology to improve the lives of people around the world.

With a donation of $130,000 he and his company have created the VinBrain AI Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowships and the VinBrain AI Graduate Student Fellowships. These fellowships will provide funding to undergraduate students and PhD students working with U of T’s many experts in these areas, including in the Centre for Analytics and Artificial Intelligence Engineering (CARTE) and the University of Toronto Robotics Institute.

Learn more about Steven Truong and his motivation to support U of T Engineering.

“Being able to spend the summer in internationally renowned research groups working at the leading edge is an invaluable experience for undergraduate engineering students,” says Professor Will Cluett, EngSci’s Director. “We are very grateful to Steven Truong for establishing these fellowships and encouraging students to apply their skills to improving the lives of others.”


Are you interested in supporting students in the Division of Engineering Science?
Find giving opportunities here.


Building tech solutions for an inclusive future: Meet EngSci’s 2021 Schulich Leaders

2021 Schulich Leaders Lisa Bera, Andrew Magnuson, and Kevin Qu

(Photos courtesy: Lisa Bera, Andrew Magnuson, and Kevin Qu)

 

First year students Lisa Bera, Andrew Magnuson, and Kevin Qu (pictured above) are among five U of T Engineering recipients of a 2021 Schulich Leader Scholarship.

Since their founded in 2011 by philanthropist Seymour Schulich these awards have recognized Canadian high-school graduates who exemplify academic excellence, community leadership and a passion for STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

This year ten U of T students earned scholarships valued at $80,000 for science, technology or mathematics students and $100,000 for engineering students. The award also includes membership in the growing Schulich Leaders Network of successful alumni.

Learn more about what motivates EngSci’s recipients of this prestigious award—full story in the U of T Engineering News.


ParkinSense: EngSci alumnus helps design award-winning medical monitoring system

ParkinSense is a medical monitoring system that uses wearables to provide detailed, real-time data on the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. It can be used to objectively determine the effectiveness of treatment. (Image courtesy of ParkinSense)

 

EngSci alumnus Christopher Lucasius (1T7 PEY, ECE PhD candidate) and his colleagues are among the five winning teams from Hatchery Demo Day 2021 that will share $80,000 in seed funding.

They have designed a system called ParkinSense that can provide real-time information about tremors in people living with Parkinson’s disease to their physicians.  The system can expedite treatment and track its effectiveness.

Read the full story and watch their video in the U of T Engineering News.


Applying lessons from the racetrack in engineering classrooms: Meet Professor Sasha Gollish

photo of Professor Sasha Gollish

Professor Sasha Gollish (EngSci, ISTEP). (Photo provided)

 

Professor Sasha Gollish (CivE MEng 1T0, CivE PhD 1T9) has joined the Division of Engineering Science (EngSci) and the Institute for Studies in Transdisciplinary Engineering Education and Practice (ISTEP) as an Assistant Professor in the teaching stream.  

Gollish brings a unique combination of experiences and skills to the task of teaching some of EngSci’s core engineering design courses. In addition to being a licensed professional engineer with experience in transportation and sustainability, and holding a PhD in engineering education, she is also an elite athlete who applies the lessons of competing on the international stage to the classroom. 

Writer Christina Heidorn spoke to Gollish about how her academic, professional and athletic careers to date all inform her approach to teaching. 

Can you tell us a little about your career path? 

My story is not your traditional one. When the Pan Am Games were coming to Toronto in 2015, I took a leap of faith. I left a job I absolutely loved in professional engineering to return to professional running after a decade of working in the public and private sectors, primarily in road safety and vulnerable user groups. I trusted my gut and the dedication I’d put into training to compete at the highest level again. 

I started my PhD as a side project when I returned to professional running; I continue to pursue professional running and engineering alongside my teaching. I was inspired by wrestler Erica Wiebe, who won the gold medal at the 2016 Olympics after having missed out on the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games. Wiebe described how her studies saved her when wrestling fell apart, how she demanded excellence in a variety of facets of life that helped her be a whole person, not just a wrestler, which in turn made her the greatest wrestler.  

Tell me about your PhD research? 

I completed my PhD studies in 2019 and my research focused on the connection of mathematics to engineering. I explored how coaching principles, similar to those used in high performance athletics, can be applied in engineering classrooms to spur motivation, perseverance and engagement. I also looked at which themes in mathematics — broadly speaking, statistics, or more specifically, ordinary and partial differential equations — are most important in the curriculum. It’s been really cool to watch the suggestions of my PhD come to life in U of T Engineering’s Core 8 curriculum.  

My current area of research is evolving. I’m interested in data and machine learning as it relates to sports performance. I’ve applied a host of engineering principles to my training and that definitely makes me a better athlete and competitor, and I’d like to share and grow my knowledge in this area. 

What will you be teaching? 

As part of EngSci’s Praxis III teaching team I will focus on engineering design and transdisciplinary competencies. My teaching philosophy centres around empathy and using it in all contexts of engineering and life in general. I’ll also continue to work with the Engineering Communication Program (ECP) and to liaise with the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering (MIE) and the Engineering Career Centre (ECC).  

What are you most looking forward to in your new position? 

Working with an incredible group of talented and hard-working people. From the Praxis III team to the students, I feel fortunate to work with some of the best of the best. 

Speaking to the Praxis I EngSci students about resilience in 2019, after I returned from not finishing the Marathon at the Doha World Championships, was one of the most memorable experiences of my career so far. I learned a lot about myself on the journey to put together that lecture. First, working on the technical details to understand the mathematical models for resilience in earthquake engineering. Next, working through the details of my failed marathon. And then combining the theory of resilience with the what I learned about myself in that marathon to find the positive lessons to carry forth in running, teaching and life in general. 

As a new professor, what’s one piece of advice you would give to new students? 

Be thoughtful with the time you dedicate to assessments. If something is worth 5% do not treat it the same as a 20% assignment. Too often I see undergraduate students fretting over 1 and 2% assignments. What’s that saying — “Don’t sweat the small stuff?” 

Finally, is there anything fun about yourself that you’d like to share? 

I’m a registered professional coach with the Coaching Association of Canada. Alongside my professional engineering and teaching career I continue to pursue middle and long distance running at the elite level. I won a bronze medal in the 1,500-metre race at the Pan Am Games in Toronto. Since then, I’ve represented Team Canada at world championships, including the 2016 Pan Am Cross-Country Championships in Venezuela and the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Qatar. In 2018 I was Canada’s national half-marathon champion and placed in the top 30 at the World Half Marathon Championships in Spain. It’s been an honour to don the maple leaf and compete with the best in the world. And because I believe in sharing big goals, my 2022 goal is to break the Masters world record in the women’s 40–45 1,500m, which stands at 3:59.73!

This article originally appeared in the U of T Engineering News.


Engineers Canada Awards honour EngSci’s Director

Will Cluett

 

Professor William Cluett (ChemE), Director of the Division of Engineering Science (EngSci), has received one of Engineers Canada’s national awards celebrating engineers who have made distinguished contributions to Canada.  He is the recipient of the Medal for Distinction in Engineering Education in recognition of his exceptional contributions to the education and development of engineering students and to engineering education in Canada.

In addition to his current role as EngSci’s Director, Cluett has served in many key academic leadership roles, including as Chair of the Division from 2005 to 2011, Vice-Dean, First Year (1997-2003), and Vice-Dean, Undergraduate (1998–2003). 

Throughout his tenure, he has developed innovative approaches to engineering education. These include Engineering Strategies and Practice, a foundational first-year design course that introduces students to engineering concepts, and the Da Vinci Engineering Enrichment Program (DEEP) for high school students. 

 

Watch Professor William Cluett (ChemE) reflect on engineering education and how engineering can build a better world.

 

Cluett led the development of EngSci’s Engineering Mathematics, Statistics, and Finance major, a unique program in Canada. He also oversaw a significant expansion of the Engineering Science Summer Research Opportunities Program (ESROP) that supports research placements at institutions around the world for approximately 50 EngSci students each year. These impactful initiatives were recognized in 2012 with the University’s Northrop Frye Award for the Integration of Teaching and Research. 

Cluett’s excellence in teaching and dedication to engineering education has been recognized with several awards, including the OCUFA Teaching Award (2020), the President’s Teaching Award (2018) and the Sustained Excellence in Teaching Award (2016). 

Read the full story in the U of T Engineering News.

 


Dedicated alumni volunteers honoured with Spirit of EngSci Alumni Award

Jonathan Chan and Azadeh Mostaghel

Professor Jonathan Chan and Azadeh Mostaghel are the 2021 recipients of the Spirit of EngSci Alumni Award.

 

Two EngSci alumni have received the 2021 Spirit of EngSci Alumni Award in recognition of their outstanding support for the Division’s mission and current students through significant volunteer service.

“On behalf of the Division, I would like to thank this year’s award recipients, Jonathan Chan and Azadeh Mostaghel, for their dedication to the EngSci community,” says EngSci Director, Professor Will Cluett. “Our program’s over 6,300 alumni span the globe and provide invaluable support through mentorship, in-class involvement and philanthropy that is critical to our mission. Our students benefit tremendously from the advice and expertise of those who have gone before them.”

Azadeh Mostaghel (EngSci 1T2, MASc IndE 1T5) has supported students through informal mentorship, her involvement in the Entrepreneurship Hatchery’s NEST program, and as a guest speaker and panelist. She also serves on EngSci’s Honours & Awards Committee, where she helps to identify and nominate outstanding alumni for the annual Engineering Alumni Network Awards, the Faculty’s highest honours for U of T Engineering graduates.

Mostaghel is an entrepreneur interested in the integration of engineering, science, business, and policy to meet our society’s rising healthcare demands. As the founder and CEO of ORCHID Analytics she is developing AI decision tools for more seamless and efficient healthcare operations. Mostaghel has over eight years of experience in healthcare, analyzing data and modeling to support decision-making, quality and process improvement initiatives.

Since 2014 Jonathan Chan (EngSci 8T4, MASc ChemE 8T6, PhD ChemE 9T5) has hosted over 35 EngSci students at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT), Thailand, as part of the Engineering Science Research Opportunities Program (ESROP). He has worked diligently to create a welcoming and supportive community for the students who spend the summer doing research in labs at the university, including hosting past and incoming summer students at the annual EngSci Alumni Dinner in Toronto.

Chan is an Associate Professor of Computer Science and a co-founder of D-Lab at the School of Information Technology (SIT), KMUTT. He is the Director of the Innovative Cognitive Computing (IC2) Research Center at SIT, and an honorary Visiting Scientist at The Centre for Applied Genomics at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Canada. He holds an NVIDIA Deep Learning Institute (DLI) University Ambassadorship and is a certified DLI instructor. His research interests include intelligent systems, biomedical informatics, and data science and machine learning in general.

Chan and Mostaghel shared their thoughts on mentorship and why they stay engaged with EngSci.


Why have you remained involved with EngSci and U of T Engineering as an alumna or alumnus?

Chan: I have always kept in touch with the University of Toronto and was a Visiting Professor there a number of occasions. My EngSci 8T4 classmate, Prof. Mark Kortschot, was the EngSci Chair for a period of time and both he and his son had visited me at KMUTT to initiate the ESROP connection. I enjoy working with EngScis and this is an excellent opportunity to interact and shape the new generation.

Mostaghel: Remaining involved in the EngSci community seemed like the natural progression to my involvement as a student. It has also given me the chance to see the new cohort of students, interact with them and watch as they blossom into amazing engineers who want to leave their mark on their community and society at large. I have also been privileged to be introduced to and discover the impact of the alumni who came before me and aid in their recognition in the U of T community.

Professor Chan tours the Ancient Siam museum park in Thailand in 2019 with several EngSci students during their placements at KMUTT as part of the Engineering Science Research Opportunities Program.

What role has mentorship or professional community played in your own life? What do you think alumni can contribute to current students?

Chan: Ever since I came to Thailand back in 1999, I’ve been involved mostly in the academic setting, started with linkages with industry, and have maintained close contact with both academic and industry sectors. KMUTT fosters close industry ties and we provide training for the industry as well. As such, mentorship has been a major role since I came to Thailand. I strongly believe that alumni can share valuable experience with current students, both the positive and negative aspects, as we need to learn from successes as well as failures.

Mostaghel: I think our interactions shape who we are and how we see the world around us. I have been fortunate to have a few remarkable mentors guiding me through technical and business terrains. Their experience and support have allowed me to recover more quickly from a setback, avoid pitfalls, and be able to foresee and pivot.

U of T alumni are a vast resource of knowledge for current students, whether that knowledge is industry specific or life advice, we can all learn something new from one another.

What advice would you share with the graduating class?

Chan: Keep an open mind and keep on learning and you will find what you enjoy doing. The only difference is responsibility will become increasingly more important as you progress in your career. Nonetheless, if you enjoy what you are doing, then you will be successful.

Mostaghel: Believe in yourself and your abilities and always, always, always bet on yourself!  Just because something hasn’t been done before, whether that’s at all or in a particular way, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. And lastly, create the change you seek!

 


Celebrating Impact: EngSci’s 2021 Student Award Winners

This year’s recipients of EngSci’s student awards have been involved in diverse activities outside of the classroom, but they share a common goal: to have a positive impact through volunteer work within and outside of the university community.

The Spirit of EngSci Award is presented to graduating students for exemplary non-academic contributions within the University community. The Engineers for the World (E4TW) Award is presented to graduating students for exemplary non-academic contributions to the community-at-large.

Students were nominated by their peers and selected by a student committee.

“The Spirit of EngSci Award and Engineers for the World (E4TW) Award are our Division’s most prestigious non-academic awards,” says Professor Will Cluett, EngSci Director. “This year’s winners exemplify the commitment to community and improving the lives of others that we value so highly among our students. I would like to congratulate Hanna, Dylan, May, and Kevin on this well-deserved recognition.”

Spirit of EngSci Awards

Hanna Zhang (2T0 PEY Robotics)

Hanna Zhang

Hanna Zhang served as Head Leedur during F!week 2T0. (Photo courtesy of Hanna Zhang)

Connecting students, whether it’s with each other or with industry leaders, is one of Hanna Zhang’s great strengths. She is known among her classmates for her energy, hard work, and commitment to creating a supportive and enriching community.

As Co-Chair for the 2019 Engineering Science Education Conference—a cornerstone event for first- and second-year EngSci students—Zhang was responsible for connecting students with engineering leaders from a wide range of career paths. She had a keen focus on helping students build confidence by engaging professionally with the speakers. To help students develop their networking skills she introduced a new conference prep workshop to improve professional communication skills—a popular initiative that has become a mainstay of the conference in subsequent years.

Zhang has also demonstrated an impressive ability to foster community, particularly through her involvement with Frosh! Week. Over the years she has taken on increasing responsibilities, beginning with Skule Patrol where she delivered first-aid to first-year students and student volunteers. She later ran the Matriculation Subcommittee and served as a Head Leedur.
As Vice Chair of Operations in 2020, she took on the Herculean task of shifting this large and important in-person event to an online format while catering to an international audience in time zones around the globe. With welcome events scheduled at all hours, she became a night owl to help welcome international students in distant time zones and build a truly global student community. She also went above and beyond the requirements of her role to work with Troost ILead to plan substantial, long-term improvements to Orientation communications that will improve the Frosh! Week experience long after she graduates.

Zhang has also served in various capacities within the EngSci community, including as an EngSci Ambassador at recruitment events, as EngSci Club class representative, and as Co-Chair of the alumni dinner organizing committee.

Zhang will join the Continuum Robotics Laboratory (CRL) in U of T’s Department of Computer Science as a Masters student after graduation.

“Coming into EngSci I was a plucky, hyperactive, 17-year old who had no idea what she was getting herself into. Today I leave EngSci as a still-plucky, only occasionally hyperactive, 22-year old with more knowledge than I’ll likely need about reinforced concrete, a shiny pinky ring, some great memories, and an amazing group of friends. I am so thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to learn and challenge myself as well for the amazing people I’ve gotten to know along the way. Without them I wouldn’t have the confidence and audacity to pursue my dreams in Robotics and Science.”

Dylan Vogel (2T0 PEY ECE)

Dylan Vogel

Dylan Vogel led a team of students as Chief Engineer for the University of Toronto Aerospace Team’s satellite mission for the last three years. (Photo courtesy of Dylan Vogel)

Dedication, strength of character, and kindness combined with deep technical knowledge—this is how classmates describe Dylan Vogel.

Over the past six years, Vogel has created a technical and social legacy through his outstanding engineering work and commitment to the University of Toronto Aerospace Team (UTAT), a student design team on campus.

Vogel joined UTAT on a gap year before even starting his university studies. Since then he has held increasingly important roles in its Space Systems Division. For the last three years he has been the Chief Engineer for UTAT’s first spacecraft—a satellite mission called HERON—that will launch in Q2 of 2022. This low cost, modular CubeSat platform will include a biological experiment to study the effects of low Earth orbit on the yeast Candida albicans, with implications for astronaut health during long-duration human spaceflight.

As Chief Engineer Vogel oversaw nearly all details of satellite design. He led the design, simulation and manufacture of the satellite electronics, including the power subsystem, on-board computer, and payload sensors, as well as simulation of the spacecraft structure and environmental testing.

Vogel’s commitment and outstanding leadership skills helped the team through multiple delays and setbacks. He dedicated himself to building a strong team culture with compassion and mutual support as guiding principles. He brought an individual-focused view to team building and made a point of getting to know each team member. His efforts helped to establish a positive environment where students were encouraged to grow into skilled and inclusive leaders.

Beyond UTAT, Vogel has been an informal mentor to EngSci students past and present. In 2020 he joined Blue Sky Solar racing to support their electrical team, and in 2017 directed the EngSci Dinner Dance Movie.

Vogel will be joining the Department of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering at ETH Zürich this fall to pursue a Master’s degree in Systems Control.

“It always brings me great joy to talk with someone who is just starting out on their own journey. The upper year EngSci students I met on UTAT were some of my greatest sources of inspiration for many years, and I’m grateful to my friends and classmates for making it such a memorable experience.”

Engineers for the World (E4TW) Awards

Chinmayee Gidwani (2T0 PEY ECE)

Chinmayee Gidwani

Chinmayee Gidwani served as Equity & Inclusivity Director for the Engineering Society. (Photo courtesy of Chinmayee Gidwani)

U of T Engineering is home to an incredibly diverse community and Chinmayee (May) Gidwani is committed to making it a welcoming place for all, regardless of identity, location, or circumstance.

In leadership positions within the Engineering Society (EngSoc)—the student government for undergraduate engineering students at U of T—she has been a fierce advocate for equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) among her engineering peers, at work, and in the community at large.

As Chair of the Policy & Structures Committee she drafted an Accessibility Policy to make it easier for all students to participate in EngSoc activities. She also worked with EngSoc Officers to develop a Diversity in the Workplace workshop to support students in the the PEY Co-op program.

While serving as EngSoc’s Equity and Inclusivity Project Director, Gidwani developed a Faculty-wide event on equity and inclusivity in the workplace called TIPS – Towards Inclusive Practices Series. To foster a sense of belonging in the diverse student community, she organized events for Skule’s undergraduate student pub with QueerSphere, the Association of Latin American Students, Indian Students Association, the Citizens Foundation and the Association of Macedonian Students at U of T. She also trained Skule club leaders on EDI topics at the EngSoc Clubs Training Day.

To help support the many U of T Engineering students who commute to campus, Gidwani introduced a new Commuter Handbook while serving as EngSoc’s Commuter Program subcommittee chair. She also created a mentorship program to help build a sense of community for commuter students.

Gidwani’s work on Orientation Week as the F!rosh Week Vice-Chair Operations impacted over a thousand students through her careful planning of F!rosh Week events, internal and external communications, and safety procedures. She ensured that events included opportunities for more introverted students and those who favour individual communication over the typical boisterous group F!rosh Week culture.

Gidwani also served as an EngSoc Board of Directors At-Large Representative and as Ombudsperson, responding compassionately to facilitated fair resolutions.
In addition to her work as part of EngSoc, Gidwani also served on the Engineering Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Group, Sexual Violence Prevention & Response Action Group, and conducted undergraduate research focused on improving the engineering ethics curriculum.

After graduation, Gidwani will be working with operating systems software at AMD.

Thank you to the incredible community in EngSci for making the past five years so rewarding and memorable! I’ve learned so much from my peers about leadership and inclusivity that I’ll take with me after graduation.”

Gensheng (Kevin) Zhang (2T0 PEY Machine Intelligence)

Kevin Zhang

Gensheng (Kevin) Zhang served as Executive Chair of the IEEE U of T chapter. (Photo courtesy of Gensheng (Kevin) Zhang)

Gensheng (Kevin) Zhang truly champions the culture of students helping students. Throughout his five years as an EngSci student, he helped create a supportive and enriching experience for students through mentorship and professional development opportunities outside of the classroom.

Zhang has been an impactful leader for several professional and technical students clubs at the Uuniversity. He served as Executive Chair of the IEEE U of T chapter, one of the largest student chapters of a professional association on campus. In this role he worked toward removing financial barriers that can prevent students from accessing career development opportunities. He helped quadruple industry sponsorship, allowing hundreds of students to attend over a dozen technical and professional development events for free. He also brought new, high profile student competitions to U of T Engineering, such as MakeUofT, an annual hardware hackathon with 300+ participants. The new industry and faculty relationships he helped build will benefit the chapter for years to come.

Zhang founded U of T’s Developer Student Club (DSC) backed by Google and Google Developers.

Bringing his artistic talents to bear, he served as EngSoc’s Gradball Director, winning the Directorship of the Year Award for his planning of Gradball 2T0. He also served as EngSci Club’s Dinner Dance Director, bringing his organizational skills and creative vision to these popular annual social events for hundreds of engineering students. For the past four years Zhang has also been an exceptional mentor In EngSci’s NSight Mentorship Program, helping over 15 Year 1 EngSci students with advice about academics, career, research and, most importantly, being a dependable friend.

Starting in May 2021, Kevin will join Wish, a SF-based e-commerce company, as a full-time software engineer. Despite leaving school, he plans to stay connected with campus initiatives and do his best to be an exemplary alumnus of his alma mater.

“Some things are temporary, while others are permanent. I’ve always believed that it was up to us as learners and leaders within our communities to take the temporary opportunities and turn them into permanent benefits. Over these years, I’ve never regretted sacrificing some grades to bring positive impacts to both my own and others’ lives through mentorship, leadership, and community service. Moving forward, I hope to carry this spirit with me as I tackle the challenges of becoming an industry professional while encouraging younger students to reach higher heights.”

 


EngSci Grads to Watch 2021

By Liz Do and Tyler Irving


ADVOCATING SOCIAL CHANGE

Chinmayee (May) Gidwani (EngSci 2T0 + PEY)

Chinmayee GidwaniThroughout her studies at U of T Engineering, Gidwani’s guiding principle has been to help build a sense of belonging among students, whether welcoming new engineering students as part of the F!rosh Week team, or as the Engineering Society’s equity and inclusivity director.

“Being the EDI director was challenging, but I learned so much about different perspectives of the diverse student body, and how to approach reconciling them to come up with solutions that don’t leave anyone behind,” says Gidwani.

In her final year at U of T Engineering, Gidwani completed an undergraduate thesis on ethics in artificial intelligence (AI), where she developed a practical framework to approach ethical AI development. This work could be helpful in her future endeavors, as she returns to her PEY Co-op placement at AMD to work on operating systems.

If she could describe her engineering experience in one word, Gidwani says the word is “Rewarding.”

“Even though these past few years at U of T have been challenging, it has been incredibly rewarding to learn and grow from these experiences,” she explains. “All the late-night study sessions and last-minute group meetings have made me more confident in my abilities as a leader and engineer.”

“I’d like to give a shout-out to everyone involved with the Engineering Society! Thank you for volunteering your time to help manage our budget, organize events, advocate for students, and making the Skule™ community such a welcoming and lovely place.”

 

SOARING HIGHER

Zayne Thawer (EngSci 2T0 + PEY)

Zayne ThawerThawer is the first in his family to attend post-secondary education, and like many students, struggled with ‘impostor syndrome’ when he first arrived at U of T Engineering.

“I definitely felt like I did not belong at first,” he says. “But I slowly worked through that fear by increasing my participation in extracurricular activities and building relationships with my peers and professors.”

One program that Thawer found valuable was the NSight Mentorship Program, which pairs first- and second-year students in Engineering Science with upper year students for guidance and advice. Thawer eventually became the co-chair of the program, overseeing more than 200 mentees and 70 mentors per year, as well as hosting academic workshops and professional seminars.

He also focused on gaining research experience. After his second year, he began working with researchers at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, using a virtual reality driving simulator to study the effects of cannabis use on driving performance and safety. After his third year, as well as for his undergraduate thesis, he analyzed unsteady aerodynamic effects over transonic aircraft wings with Professor David Zingg (UTIAS).

For his PEY Co-op internship, Thawer worked at Safran Landing Systems, collaborating with engineers in France, England, and the United States on the design of the upcoming Aerion Supersonic AS2 business jet. Next fall, Thawer is headed to the California Institute of Technology to pursue a PhD in aerospace engineering.

“Over the past five years, I have learned so much from some of the best professors in Canada and incredible group of peers in the Engineering Science program,” he says. “The knowledge and skills I have developed have given me the confidence to pursue my dreams and make a difference in the world.”

“I would love to thank the entire Engineering Science family, including my incredible peers, insightful professors, and supportive faculty, for allowing me to become a member of such a welcoming community! I would also like to say how grateful I am to my supervisors, Professors David Zingg (UTIAS), Bruce Haycock and Jennifer Campos, for preparing me for the next phase of my academic journey. Thanks to all my friends and family — I can’t wait to see what’s next!”


Read the full list of Engineering’s Grads to Watch posted on Engineering News


U of T startup Kepler Communications raises US$60-million for aerospace venture

rocket taking off

A rocket bearing one of Kepler Communications’ satellites launching in 2018. (Courtesy: Kepler Communications)

 

Kepler Communications, a startup founded by EngSci and UTIAS alumni that provides space-based telecom services, has raised US$60-million for its growing fleet of miniature satellites, according to the Globe & Mail.

The company recently became became Canada’s largest satellite operator with 15 satellites in orbit.

Kepler’s founders Wen Cheng Chong (EngSci 1T3), Mark Michael (EngSci 1T2, MASc MIE 1T4, PhD 1T6), Mina Mitry (EngSci 1T2, AeroE MASc 1T4), and UTIAS graduate Jeffrey Osborne (AeroE PhD 1T6) first met as students.  All four were part the U of T Aerospace Team (UTAT), a student-led design team with focuses on rocketry and satellites.  Their startup was supported by U of T Engineering’s Entrepreneurship Hatchery and Start@UTIAS, and aims to build a global satellite network.

Read the full story in the Globe & Mail.


AutoDrive Challenge™: U of T Engineering places first for the fourth straight year

Zeus, a self-driving electric car created by a team of students from U of T Engineering, parked outside the MarsDome at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies. The team has placed first in the intercollegiate Autodrive Challenge the last four years in a row. (Photo: Chude Qian)

 

By Tyler Irving

Last night, the aUToronto team — U of T Engineering’s entry into the AutoDrive Challenge™ — placed first in a virtual competition to demonstrate the capabilities of their self-driving electric vehicle, dubbed Zeus. It marks the fourth year in a row that the team has come out on top.

The aUToronto team consists of more than 70 members, most of whom are U of T Engineering undergraduate or graduate students. Its faculty supervisors include Professors Tim BarfootAngela Schoellig and Steven Waslander (all UTIAS).

Keenan Burnett (EngSci 1T6+PEY, UTIAS PhD candidate), a former captain of the team, has continued to act as a key advisor in the latest competition.

“We’re elated to see this continued validation of our team’s efforts,” says Burnett. “We try our best to stay competitive and not let our past wins make us complacent. We use ourselves as our benchmark for success, continually trying to outdo ourselves and improve on our previous iterations.”

“Despite all the challenges of keeping the team going throughout COVID, our students have had a great year of learning about self-driving technology, working in a team, and pushing their limits,” says Barfoot. “I couldn’t be more proud of our aUToronto team once again for another great year in the Autodrive competition.”

“A tremendous amount of effort went into succeeding this year,” says Schoellig. “We had to accomplish new and more advanced autonomous driving tasks, complete more sophisticated simulation challenges, and prove the safety of our car. This win reflects our team’s continued technical, collaboration and communication strength. I am extremely proud to work together with such a capable team.”

Zeus is a Chevrolet Bolt that has been retrofitted with a suite of sensors, including visual cameras, radar and lidar. Additional hardware and student-designed software inside the car processes these signals and converts them into commands that enable the car to drive itself safely and efficiently.

The AutoDrive Challenge™ launched in 2017 with eight universities from across Canada and the U.S. In addition to U of T Engineering, competitors included Kettering University, Michigan State University, Michigan Tech University, North Carolina A & T State University, Texas A & M University, University of Waterloo and Virginia Tech.

Zeus has taken the top spot in each of the competition’s yearly meets: the 2018 meet in Yuma, Ariz., the 2019 meet in Ann Arbor, Mich., and a virtual competition held in the fall of 2020. Originally scheduled to be a three-year competition, the challenge was rolled over for a fourth year, and it is this competition that the team has now won as well.

“Both the Year 3 and Year 4 competitions challenged the teams to perform autonomous ride-sharing under controlled environments,” says Jingxing “Joe” Qian (EngSci 1T8 + PEY, UTIAS MASc candidate), the current Team Lead for aUToronto.


Watch the team’s safety video to see Zeus in action.

“The vehicles are tasked with navigating multiple destinations while handling various traffic scenarios. One particular interesting requirement this year is that we need to reach SAE J3016 Level standard for the loss-of-GPS scenario: the vehicle must perform fallback strategies to either continue the task or pull to the road shoulder when GPS signal is lost.”

While the teams based in the U.S. were able to meet in person in Ann Arbor, the Canadian teams competed by means of reports, presentations, simulations and video demos. Qian says that the team is used to this format, as much of the work on the car has been done virtually for the past year.

“We managed to get a small task force to perform real world tests one or two days per week,” says Qian. “After testing, they would share demo videos and results to the team. We also developed an automatic evaluation system that leverages various simulation environments. It runs daily on our deployment server against a set of test scenarios, and it has greatly improved our development efficiency.”


Watch the full demonstration video that earned the aUToronto team first place in the Year 4 competition of the AutoDrive Challenge™.

As for the next steps, aUToronto has already been selected to compete in the SAE AutoDrive Challenge™ II, scheduled to begin in the fall of 2021. They will have a new car and new competition, and they are actively recruiting new team members as well.

“We will be getting a brand new GM Chevy Bolt EUV 2022 to build up our autonomy system from the ground up,” says Frank (Chude) Qian (UTIAS MASc candidate), who will lead the team for the AutoDrive Challenge™ II.

“We hope to develop our vehicle with real-world driving scenarios, apply industry safety standards, and bring awareness and assurance to the general public about autonomous vehicles. We are excited to compete with the new universities and hopefully continuing our winning streak!”

This article originally appeared in the U of T Engineering News.


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