Posts Tagged: engineering education

New scholarship aims to remove barriers to entry for Black engineering students

Photo of a banner on the exterior of the Bahen Centre.  The banner is dark blue and cyan with the Faculty's crest and the words "#1 Engineering School in Canada" in white text.

The Bahen Centre for Information Technology is seen on St. George Campus. As a first-entry degree, the tuition for engineering programs at universities is significantly higher than many other fields. (Photo: Daria Perevezentsev)

 

By Safa Jinje

The University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering has launched a new scholarship for the 2022-2023 academic year. The U of T Engineering Entrance Scholarship for Black Students will provide 10 annual scholarships valued at $10,000 each, renewable for four years for a total of $40,000, to incoming Black students for the next three academic years. 

“I hope that this attracts, excites and encourages more Black youth to consider U of T Engineering,” says Dawn Britton, Associate Director of U of T Engineering Outreach Office. “This is the first step, in what I hope will be many, of acknowledging our responsibility to remove barriers to access for this community.”  

Through the Engineering Outreach Office, academic enrichment programs such as Blueprint have provided education opportunities and mentorship to Black high school students who are interested in STEM and pursuing a career in engineering.  

“This scholarship is a piece of a larger framework of what the Faculty is trying to do to address the lack of inclusivity and pathways for Black individuals within engineering education, research and the wider profession,” says Mikhail Burke (MSE 1T2, BME PhD 1T8), who is the Dean’s Advisor on Black Inclusivity Initiatives.  

“It will help prime the foundation for the rest of the programmatic infrastructure that will hold us accountable, such as building support for entrepreneurship, graduate studies and research opportunities for Black students.” 

In 2019, the Faculty’s Black Inclusion Steering Committee published the Striving Toward Black Inclusivity report, which highlighted a variety of recommendations to address Black access, inclusion and success. One barrier to access that the Committee identified was financial need. 

While not all Black students need external financial support, the cost of an engineering education is a barrier for many. As a first-entry degree, the tuition for an Engineering program is higher than many other fields. Undergraduate tuition for a domestic student at U of T Engineering was $14,180 for the 2021-2022 academic year. 

“These $40,000 scholarships demonstrate that our commitment to supporting these students doesn’t end at the front door of our institution,” says Britton. “We want to actively support their success when they’re here. And part of being successful means that they need to have the burden of the costs reduced.” 

The scholarship application is part of the admissions process. Prospective students can fill out an Applicant Census and self-identify their ethnicity this information has no impact on the success of an application, as no one in the admission selection process can access this data, but it does give prospective students the opportunity to be contacted about scholarships. 

Applicants will also complete a needs assessment to determine their eligibility for financial supports, such as OSAP and UTAPS, which students can receive in addition to the new scholarship.   

I think that this funding will empower people to make a choice for their post-secondary future based on what they want, instead of what society and financial barriers are allowing them to do,” says Burke, who knows first-hand how life-changing a scholarship can be. 

“When I came to U of T Engineering as an undergraduate student, I had an Island scholarship from my home country Grenada, which paid for my tuition, books, and room and board,” he says. “That scholarship allowed me to thrive and focus on my studies in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to if I had the same financial stress that some of my Black peers had. I was able to just excel in school.” 

 The first cohort of scholarship recipients will be notified this spring when they receive their offers of acceptance. 

This story was originally published in the U of T Engineering News.


New EngSci course enhances experiential learning and global perspectives

Team NASSA stands with their cold air bubble piping system for the Thailand-based “Klongs for All” project. (Photo: Safa Jinje)

 

By Safa Jinje

In early December, more than 200 third-year Engineering Science students presented their collaborative solutions to a range of challenges — from recycling plastics to clearing invasive plants from canal waterways.

The two-day showcase was held in classrooms across U of T Engineering and recorded for organizations around the world, including partners based in Nigeria, Ghana, Thailand, Uganda and South Africa.

“Engineering is about people — it’s about the human condition,” says Professor Philip Asare (ISTEP, EngSci), who co-leads the course with Professor Sasha Gollish (ISTEP, EngSci).

“We want students to be able to see how technical work is influenced by all the human dimensions: the setting, the context, the people you are working with and the capacity you have.”

Held for the first time this year, the redesigned Praxis III course builds on the success of Praxis I and II — two first-year classes that introduce students to the models and tools of engineering design, including communication, teamwork and professionalism. Praxis III expands these learning opportunities to students in their second year while introducing a global element.

This year’s cohort collaborated with business students at Georgia State University as they designed and tested their functioning product prototypes, which propose solutions to the challenges faced by communities around the world.

In one of the projects from Ghana, called “The Potential of Recycled Plastics,” Makafui Awuku, who is the founder and CEO of Mckingtorch Africa, invited students to look for novel ways to re-use plastic and sawdust in the creation of new building materials.

Mckingtorch Africa recycles and upcycles plastic waste to create new products such as plastic mats, food-ware and makeshift beds. The social enterprise is exploring the production of wood-like panels for construction made from recovered sawdust and plastic.

“Each of the five teams decided to focus on a different part of the value chain, from acquiring sawdust to mixing it with plastic, to measuring properties of the produced composite wood/plastic panels,” says Asare. “The collection of projects when viewed together provide a great overall value for Mckingtorch Africa.”

Team DTUS stands with their device Jim (Just Insert Material), a thermal testing system, for “The Potential of Recycled Plastics” project. (Photo: Safa Jinje)

 

Students researched the local community, culture and practices to create designs that would provide benefit to the client while ensuring cultural sensitivity.

“Empathy is introduced as a core concept in Praxis III,” says Victoria German (Year 3 EngSci). “We had to do a lot of non-functional research to better understand the community we are serving.”

Instructors led students through reflection assignments, lectures, classroom discussions and hands-on building exercises that reinforced the importance of empathy in their designs.

During their presentations, teams also made an argument for why their designs would be relevant to the community that they were working with, through both the lens of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and what they understood about the people and their needs.

“We spent a lot of time on the conception of the design. It was really important for us to make sure we were meticulous at every stage,” says Rasam Yazdi (Year 3 EngSci). “We definitely gained good experiences out of this from working with computer-aided design models to electrical work and the actual build.”

Praxis III is intended for second-year students, but this first iteration was introduced to third-year students due to pandemic-related delays. The next iteration begins in the winter term and will have close to 300 second-year students.

“This course requires us to innovate in a number of ways, especially with supporting the hands-on technical work through our partnership with the Myhal Fabrication Facility,” says Asare.

“We’ve produced important systems and processes that supports the course work from a parts and components perspective. We have also introduced a procurement process, and tools and widgets to help students work well in their labs.”

Asare believes the experience has been a positive one for his global peers.

“The global partners are interested in these kinds of interactions with students; they have made it clear that they see value in it,” he says. “Next term, we are introducing humanitarian settings with projects in Yemen.”

“As the course evolves, we want to experiment with structures that make it possible for students to continue to pursue their designs beyond the course. There are lots of interesting things to come.”

This story was originally published 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.

 


Three cool virtual labs: How U of T Engineering instructors are getting creative with remote active learning


EngSci’s Director receives OCUFA Teaching Award

Will Cluett

Professor Wiliam Cluett recognized for his exceptional contributions to postsecondary education through teaching and leadership. (Photo courtesy Will Cluett)

By Carolyn Farrell

Professor William Cluett (ChemE) has been recognized by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) with a 2020 OCUFA Teaching Award. This award recognizes university faculty who have made exceptional contributions to postsecondary education through teaching and leadership.  

Cluett is currently the Director of the Division of Engineering Science. He has held several academic leadership roles in the Faculty, including Vice-Dean, First Year and Vice-Dean, Undergraduate, among others. Cluett was Chair of the Division of Engineering Science from 2005 to 2011. In these roles, he led the development of programs that helped reshape the Faculty’s approach to engineering education. 

As Chair, First Year, Cluett led the development and launch of the Da Vinci Engineering Enrichment Program (DEEP). DEEP has since expanded into a series of programs, which attract close to 1,000 high school students each summer. As Vice-Dean, Undergraduate, he played a key role in the creation and implementation of Engineering Strategies and Practice, the Faculty’s flagship firstyear design and communication course.  

And as Chair of the Division of Engineering Science, he led the development of a new major in Engineering Mathematics, Statistics, and Finance. Cluett also oversaw a significant expansion of summer research opportunities for engineering science students, which contributed to the Division winning the University’s Northrop Frye Award for the Integration of Teaching and Research in 2012.  

As an educator, Cluett has used innovative techniques in his classroom for decades, such as active learning and computer-based simulation. In 2009, he also created a new course for firstyear engineering science students, Engineering Mathematics and Computation, which uniquely integrates theory and computation in a single course.  

In 2014, Cluett received the Bill Burgess Teacher of the Year Award for Large Classes from the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, in recognition of his outstanding instruction in his home department. In 2016, he received the Faculty’s Sustained Excellence in Teaching Award, recognizing a faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in teaching over the course of their career. In 2018, Cluett garnered the President’s Teaching Award, U of T’s highest honour for teaching. He is also a member of the University’s Teaching Academy. 

Over the past 25 years Professor Cluett has played a leading role in developing many of the programs that make U of T Engineering one of the world’s best engineering schools,” said Dean Chris Yip, U of T Engineering. “On behalf of the Faculty, my warmest congratulations to him on this well-deserved honour.”

 

2019-2020 OCUFA Teaching and Academic Librarianship Award Recipients from OCUFA on Vimeo.


Two new faculty members join EngSci’s teaching team

Aug 28, 2020

Guerzhoy and Asare

Michael Guerzhoy and Philip Asare.

EngSci recently welcomed two new Assistant Professors in the Teaching Stream who bring with them a wealth of experience in engineering education.

Philip Asare (EngSci, ISTEP) and Michael Guerzhoy (EngSci, MIE) will teach some of the program’s key foundation courses as well as upper year classes.

Asare will be involved with the first and second year engineering design courses, Praxis I, II and III, and the capstone design course in the electrical & computer engineering major. He was previously an assistant professor at Bucknell University where he did research on cyber-physical systems and taught engineering design. He also taught a course called “Engineering: A Humanist Enterprise” that examined engineering as a human activity and the implications of this view for engineering education and practice.

“A question that guides my approach is ‘How can we educate engineers to help them serve the diverse communities in which they will operate?’,” says Asare. “I want to train the next generation of engineers to be attentive to issues of the human condition including social justice, equity, and inclusion.”

Philip Asare teaching

Philip Asare teaching model-based engineering of embedded systems at the University of Virginia (Photo courtesy Tom Cogill)

Guerzhoy will teach both of EngSci’s Year 1 computer programming courses with the aim of integrating more data science into the curriculum. In addition to his appointment to U of T Engineering, Guerzhoy is also an Affiliated Scientist at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. His research specializes in machine learning and statistics with applications in healthcare, computer vision, and data science. He has taught extensively in U of T’s Departments of Computer Science and Statistical Sciences and at Princeton University’s Center for Statistics and Machine Learning.

Michael Guerzhoy teaching

Michael Guerzhoy teaching a workshop on PyTorch at the Toronto Machine Learning Summit (TMLS) (Photo courtesy of TMLS)

After years of teaching engineering students, both Asare and Guerzhoy have come to view their roles as creating appropriate environments that help students learn and develop, rather than teaching from on high. “I strongly believe that most learning happens when students are actually doing something rather than just listening to lecture,” says Guerzhoy. To help students learn by doing, he designs his lectures around course assignments that make the connection between theory and application clear.

“Hiring new faculty is one of the most important jobs we have at the University,” says Professor Will Cluett, EngSci Interim Chair. “After many months of careful searching, I am extremely excited to welcome these two outstanding young professors. Despite being relatively early in their academic careers, they both already have a wealth of experience in teaching and related scholarship that I expect will be well-received by our students.”


EngSci Praxis instructor wins international teaching award

Professor Rob Irish (left) was recently awarded the Ronald S. Blicq Award for Distinction in Technical Communication Education from the IEEE Professional Communication Society. (Photo: Alan Chong)

EngSci’s first year engineering design courses, Praxis I and II, challenge Year 1 students to step outside their comfort zone to confront “real world” uncertainty and gain a deeper understanding of decision making.

Guiding them through this complex process are exceptional instructors like Professor Rob Irish (ISTEP), who recently received the Ronald S. Blicq Award for Distinction in Technical Communication Education from the IEEE Professional Communication Society. This international award recognizes innovative educators who have influenced the ways that technical communication is taught in university degree programs.

Learn how Professor Irish brings his teaching philosophy to Praxis.

“Over the many years that Professor Irish has taught in the Praxis courses, he has been a terrific support to our students in terms of their learning across the courses, in particular with regards to the development of their communication skills,” says EngSci’s Interim Chair, Professor Will Cluett.

The Praxis teaching team also includes Professor Jason Foster, who was recognized by the university for creating this community-focused course with the Joan E. Foley Quality of Student Experience Award in 2018.

Read about Praxis student projects from previous years: redesigning naloxone kits and a monitoring tool for firefighters during active fires.


Urban solutions – Praxis II design teams take on the city

Student-designed device to Improve firefighters’ navigation during active fires

 

Every year EngSci students in their first year of study face a special challenge: find ways to improve life in the city using engineering design principles. This task is part of the program’s unique Year 1 engineering design courses, Praxis I and II. Students identify diverse problems in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders from communities in the Greater Toronto Area, and work in teams to develop design solutions.

The course culminates in the annual Praxis II Showcase where projects and prototypes are presented to members of the public.

Read about Praxis II Showcase 2019 here.


Praxis teams take on diverse urban challenges

Toronto Star headline

From helping people with Parkinson’s disease to dance safely, to designing storage facilities for coffee beans, and even timing the throw in a knife throwing competition, this year’s Praxis design projects covered a diverse range of topics.

The Year 1 Praxis design course challenges EngSci students to apply their engineering know-how and improve the lived experience of a community within the Greater Toronto Area. Students explore the city in teams to find problems that can benefit from an engineering approach, and work with stakeholders to ensure their solutions match end-user needs. Members of the public are invited to see the results at the annual Praxis Showcase.

Read about one team’s efforts to make naloxone kits more effective.

Learn more about other Praxis projects from this year’s Praxis Showcase.


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