Posts Tagged: Philip Asare

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.


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.”


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