U of T student success at U.S.-based ECIC competition
The CECA U of T presentation team (left to right): Yiyang Hu (Year 3 CivE), Sarah De Sousa (Year 4 CivE), Joanna Melnyk (Year 4 EngSci), Zhiyuan Zhu (Year 4 Architecture), Ruth Zachariah (Year 4 CivE) and Lina Mollazadeh (Year 3 CivE). (Photo by Ruth Zachariah)
By Phill Snel
Students, representing the Canadian Electrical Contractors Association (CECA) U of T Chapter, were recognized for their success at the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Electrical Contracting Innovation Challenge (ECIC) held Saturday, October 9.
The team won the Most Innovative proposal and placed third overall in the competition, behind Iowa State and Wayne State University.
CECA U of T is the first and only Canadian student chapter, with a team consisting of some 30 members comprised of a range of Engineering and Architecture students, who worked on the four-month design proposal from January to April 2021. CECA U of T was selected in July 2021 as one of the top three finalists.
The finals were held on October 9, 2021, where six U of T Team Leads / Members from every sub-team delivered an oral presentation virtually to the in-person event in Nashville, Tennessee. The presenters included Joanna Melnyk (Year 4 EngSci – Building Energy Management Team Lead), Ruth Zachariah (Year 4 CivE – Smart Building Design Team Lead), Sarah De Sousa (Year 4 CivE – Community Engagement Coordinator), Aaron Hu (Year 3 CivE – Team Member for Lighting sub-team), Lina Mollazadeh (Year 3 CivE – Project Management Team Lead) and Zhiyuan (Scott) Zhu (Year 4 Architecture – Building Information Team Lead). The team took direction from their faculty advisor Ian Sinclair, a CivMin sessional instructor.
“We did our best, given that we presented virtually by video from Toronto, while the other finalists were in Nashville for this year’s in-person conference,” says Zachariah.
The ECIC is an annual case competition run by Electric International and NECA Student that provides university students and faculty advisors an opportunity to actively engage with a range of industry professional and other Student Chapters. This year’s competition focused on designing an innovative, and efficient electrical system, based on NECA-approved construction documents and building information models, for a new student dorm residence that would meet the needs of future UofT students.
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 Barfoot, Angela 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.
“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™.
“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!”