Division of Engineering Science Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering University of Toronto
Famous space travel to groundbreaking apps—EngScis are boldly leaping forward.
Issue Nine 2014/15 — Stellar Ingenuity
A Message from the Chair
Publisher Mark Kortschot (EngSci 8T4) Editor Sarah Steed Contributing Editors Gina John Christopher L. Jones Mark Kortschot Erin Macnab RJ Taylor Judy Stoffman Mark Witten Design Mark Neil Balson RGD Printing Andora Graphics
Engineering Science at the University of Toronto is both extremely consistent and yet constantly adapting to the changing world. Let me explain… Over the past 80 years, we have been consistent in our mission, vision and character. It is still the case that we take in excellent students and provide them with a deep and fundamental technical foundation, while exposing them to a breadth of topics quite unusual for an engineering program. Our reputation amongst prospective students is also consistent: we are known as the place to be if you want to surround yourself with bright, interesting classmates, and learn from respected, research-intensive faculty. Above all, we are known as the place to be if you want to challenge yourself. I don’t shy away from this in my recruiting presentations, and as a result, we get students that are smart, motivated and eager to learn. They are a pleasure to teach, and I am happy to report that this years cohort measures up with any class in our long history. We also adapt. One of the great things about drawing on the resources of the entire Faculty to deliver our program is that we can ramp up to deliver an education in emerging areas very quickly. So it was in 2001, when we launched the Nanoengineering Option, the first of its kind in the world. In the meantime however, nanoengineering as a subject has percolated and diffused through many disciplines, and we have made a decision to close this option (now called a major) and introduce the Nanoengineering
Minor, which may be taken in conjunction with studies in several programs, including Engineering Science. At the same time, I am extremely happy to announce a new Robotics Engineering Major, to commence in 2015. We will focus on autonomous robotics, and we have an incredible group of professors spread across four departments ready to educate our students in this expanding field. Many people have contributed to the development of the new curriculum, and the students are really excited by this field. I expect this major will become a distinguishing feature of Engineering Science within a few years. You can read more about the Robotics Major on page eight. In this issue we profile two of our wonderful and accomplished alumni, Brian Kernighan, a pioneer of computer science during his time at Bell Labs, and former Chair and Dean Ben Etkin, who sadly passed away in 2014. Their amazing accomplishments, and those of all of our alumni, continue to inspire our current students. I have every confidence that the class of 1T8 will live up to the high standards set by those who have gone before them.
Mark Kortschot (EngSci 8T4) Professor & Chair
NÎ¨ presents Professor Yu-Ling Cheng
Come back to NÎ¨ for the 15th Annual Engineering Science Alumni Dinner
Friday, March 27, 2015 Hart House, Great Hall 6 p.m. Reception, 7 p.m. Dinner
Purchase tickets my.alumni.utoronto.ca/ esdinner2015
Knitted Wool Cardigan
Polka Dot Short Sleeve Shirt
Blue Tweed Blazer
Peter Pan Collar Peplum Top
Red Chino Pants
Burgundy Faux Leather Leggings
Brown Dress Shoes
Co-founders of Blynk Fashion App help the style challenged check their outfits.
By Erin Macnab
As you read through this issue of Opt!ons, you will see
how hugely successful Engineering Science graduates have been across all spheres of achievement. EngSci has become an incubator for forward-thinking individuals investing their time and effort in developing mobile technologies. These applications respond to the needs of very different user groups, simplifying processes, taring away bureaucratic red-tape and, yes, even transforming daily life. Here we present three remarkable EngScis who have founded successful mobile applications, the first of which is SeamlessMD — a cutting edge platform for healthcare providers and organizations. Blynk, a social, mobile app geared towards fashion and self-expression. TouchBistro, software that’s geared towards restaurateurs, exemplifies how these apps can help businesses achieve new heights.
Phillip Chen (1T3 Mathematics, Statistics and Finance Option) is the co-founder and COO of SeamlessMD, a mobile/web platform for patient engagement, remote monitoring and analytics during a patient’s journey through surgery. How do healthcare providers and their organizations make use of your app? SeamlessMD transforms paper-based instructions into an interactive, personal navigator for patients on smart phones, tablets and the web. From pre-surgery preparation to post-surgery recovery, the app delivers timely reminders and interactive education, collects patient-generated health data and monitors for early warning signs of complications. SeamlessMD then leverages this data to help healthcare providers monitor patients remotely and measure and improve patient adherence, outcomes and satisfaction.
Can you tell us more about your current work on the app? How do you hope to grow and improve what you and your partners have created? Our technology is currently in hospitals in Canada and the US, and we aim to enter into larger US hospitals systems soon. With these hospitals, we hope to develop case studies that demonstrate ROI and cost savings for these hospitals. One of our early success stories comes from a local Toronto hospital where their Chief of Surgery had six surgery cancellations in a three month period pre-SeamlessMD, and zero cancellations since Dec 2013 after using SeamlessMD — a remarkable improvement since each cancellation costs the hospital valuable operating room, surgeon and admin time. Over time, our goal is to become the leading enterprise health-care platform for patient engagement, remote monitoring and analytics across all medical/research fields. In addition, as we collect larger data sets, we will enable Big Data analytics by combining our outside-hospital data with in-hospital Electronic Medical Records data. This would allow us to do more sophisticated predictive modeling/analytics, such as predicting a patient’s risk of readmission in real-time. You met your co-founders through the Next 36, Canada’s entrepreneurial leadership initiative for young innovators. Tell us more about how it led to the creation of SeamlessMD. Yes, I was fortunate enough to make it into the Next 36 and meet my co-founders Joshua Liu and Willie Kwok, who I am still working with today. The Next 36 were essentially the “matchmaker” that put us together, and they also helped launch SeamlessMD by providing us with seed capital and mentorship. Joshua is a physician who graduated with his medical degree from the University of Toronto and did research on hospital readmissions at Canada’s largest research hospital. He finished medical school, but has postponed his medical residency in order to build SeamlessMD full-time. Willie is a computer science and microbiology/immunology grad who previously worked in Vodafone’s mobile health venture capital division. The three of us are all incredibly ambitious, mission-driven and we have complimentary skill sets to build a technology company to improve healthcare. Coming together, we knew there was a huge opportunity in healthcare because healthcare spending is becoming incredibly unsustainable. We focused on ‘readmission rates’ — the 6
frequency with which patients who left the hospital came back because it was a very timely problem. Currently, there’s been a shift in healthcare funding models from fee-for-service to pay-for-performance (e.g. Obamacare in the US). This has resulted in healthcare providers/organizations looking to new technologies to help them deliver higher quality care at a lower cost, particularly mobile technology and cloud computing. Would you say that your experience as an EngSci student prepared you to work in the dynamic world of startups and mobile applications? I describe EngSci as an intellectual bootcamp and the EngSci students as the ‘Navy SEALs’. Through EngSci, I was exposed to a wide array topics resulting in a strong foundation of knowledge.We had to learn things quickly, which is an important asset in the entrepreneurial setting where every day you are learning something new.
Current student Shums Kassam (1T5 + PEY Electrical and Computer), much like Phillip, has gradutaed from the Next 36 Entrepreneurial Leadership Program. Alongside CEO Jaclyn Ling, Shums co-founded Blynk — a personal styling app. Shums is currently acting as CTO while completing his EngSci degree. How does Blynk work, and how does it replace a traditional personal stylist? Blynk is your digital personal stylist in your pocket. An average personal stylist costs over $100/hour; Blynk replicates this value for free, anytime and anywhere. Through a Tinder-like interface, users swipe through inspiration photos (left to dislike, right to like), and Blynk learns users’ style preferences based on what they like to recommend a full outfit that users can shop from. Blynk’s vision is to provide free and accessible fashion advice to everyone through a simple, fun, and addicting platform. That sounds like a lot more fun than wandering through the mall cluelessly! How do you see Blynk growing? Where would you like to take the technologies you have developed? Blynk is just as much a data company as a fashion company. We are collecting data around people’s fashion style preferences to drive our recommendation engine. I imagine that Blynk, in the future, takes recommendations to the next level — essentially becoming a search engine for what to wear — a personal stylist for everyone, anywhere.
“EngSci is a program that gave me exposure to all kinds of different technology and engineering. It encourages cross-disciplinary thinking.”
You were also involved in the Next 36 program. Tell us about that and how it contributed to your work on Blynk? The Next 36 had a phenomenal network and group of mentors that helped us connect to the right people to propel and accelerate our business forward. The program also helped by providing various amounts of support for our startup from legal services to classes in entrepreneurial finance. You are currently completing your EngSci degree, with a Professional Experience Year that you are spending at Blynk. How have these experiences contributed to the development of Blynk? My experience as an EngSci has helped me with the development of Blynk by giving me the confidence and ability to learn and pick up skills quickly. Prior to starting Blynk, I was very inexperienced in both native mobile development and web development. Considering that we only started working on the Blynk app in April, we have come a long way in a short amount of time. EngSci provides you with a work ethic that fits well with the life of an entrepreneur. What has been the most rewarding part of working with your partners to create Blynk? Do you hope to do more work on building apps in the future? The ability to create meaningful learning experiences not just for myself, but for the people around me. The part around solving problems and providing people with services while also allowing your own employees to get valuable job experience is what excites me about entrepreneurship in general. I do hope to do more work on building apps in the future. The world is moving increasingly mobile, and that doesn’t seem like a trend that is going to change.
Geordie Konrad (0T9 + PEY Manufacturing) founded TouchBistro, an iPad point-of-sale system for restaurants, with partner Alex Barrotti. In the past couple of years TouchBistro has raised approximately six million dollars in venture capital and is rapidly expanding its global customer base. Tell us more about TouchBistro. TouchBistro is an iPad point-of-sale system for restaurants. It is sixty per cent cheaper than traditional point-of-sale systems because it uses iPads instead of proprietary hardware. With TouchBistro, wait staff can bring the point-of-sale system right to the table, which increases efficiency and reduces errors.
The product integrates with all of the newest of consumer payment including PayPal and, soon, ApplePay. We are currently in thousands of restaurants worldwide and have raised approximately $6 million. This sounds like an app that will have a direct effect on the way business is done throughout the restaurant world. What has been the most rewarding part of working on this app, and why does this sort of development appeal to you? TouchBistro is rewarding because restaurants are such an integrated part of people’s lifestyles. In Toronto alone, TouchBistro is installed in over 500 restaurants. Every day, I walk past or eat at a restaurant using our software. A lot of software that gets built never gets ‘seen’ by people because it is part of an enterprise installation that doesn’t have any consumer-facing touch points. Restaurants are the opposite. Annually, there are close to $1 billion of transactions that run through TouchBistro, and each of those transactions touches a consumer. How do you see TouchBistro growing in the future? What coming innovations are you looking forward to being a part of? TouchBistro is the first step to building a real technology ecosystem for restaurants. Unlike traditional point-of-sale systems, TouchBistro has an open API and can communicate with ordering, payments and reservation platforms. In the next few years, TouchBistro will become a ‘hub’ that connects all kinds of technology inside restaurants. Right now, consumers can read information about restaurants on their phone, such as address, hours of operation or menu. In the future, consumers will be able to place orders, receive real-time promotions and make payments directly from their mobile devices. You founded TouchBistro shortly after graduation. How did your experiences in EngSci prepare you for these challenges? EngSci is a program that gave me exposure to all kinds of different technology and engineering. It encourages cross-disciplinary thinking. Back in 2010 when we created TouchBistro, mobile devices had never been leveraged by the restaurant industry. My education helped stimulate thinking about how new technologies could be used in industries where they hadn’t been in the past. Have you created an app of your own? Share your story with us through the Exclusive EngSci LinkedIn Group, or email firstname.lastname@example.org 7
By Mark Witten
Previous page Visual navigation of UTIAS’ ROC6 rover being tested on Devon Island in the Canadian High Arctic.
When Tim Barfoot (EngSci 9T7) was an undergrad in Engineering
Science, he had to improvise to pursue his interest in and passion for the emerging field of robotics. “A Robotics Option wasn’t available to me at the time, so I chose the Aerospace Option and tailored my curriculum to have a robotics flavour. Students have been trying to create their own robotics options ad hoc for a while and we’re responding to a growing demand,” says Barfoot, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS), and co-chair of the new Robotics Engineering Option that will be launched in the fall of 2015. As an innovator in developing autonomous mobile robots both for space and terrestrial applications, Professor Barfoot has observed and contributed to significant advances in robotics research and technologies over the past 15 years. That momentum is building and he sees the progress in robotics research now being translated and transformed into a broader range of real-world applications across different industries and sectors of society. So the time is right to serve up robotics as a full-course rather than a tasting menu for students, faculty and prospective employers. “Robotics technology has ramped up in a big way in the last few years. We’re coming to a tipping point where robotics applications are going to take off over the next decade and this area will need many more engineers to develop and design robotic systems for these applications. This is the perfect time to offer students a full-fledged Robotics Engineering Option. Engineering Science has a worldwide, fantastic reputation and we want to be the key place in Canada and one of the key places in the world for engineers to learn robotics,” says Professor Barfoot, who is also the Canada Research Chair in Autonomous Space Robotics. The new robotics program is uniquely suited to the needs of a rapidly evolving, interdisciplinary field. Rather than being concentrated within a traditional degree program, it will build upon the rigorous, multidisciplinary foundation curriculum
offered by Engineering Science. The Option will then include a well-rounded core of robotics-related courses from many different departments and disciplines, intertwining all these elements, and offering students an opportunity to learn about the design of various components of a robotic system, including circuitry, algorithms and control systems. A capstone design course in the fourth year, Mechatronics Systems: Design and Integration, to be taught by program co-chair Associate Professor Goldie Nejat, will give students hands-on experience designing integrated robotic systems for real-world applications through team-based projects. “The program offers a comprehensive, multidisciplinary engineering education in robotics that will prepare students to be future leaders in the field. U of T has some of the top robotics researchers in Canada and we’ll give students the best possible information from the best people. We’ve also created a number of new courses specific to the Option such as Computer Vision for Robotics, Mathematics of Robotics, and Introduction to Robotics, as well Introduction to Mobile Robotics, a new course I’m teaching this year,” says Professor Barfoot. In his own area of mobile robots, Professor Barfoot sees a growing number of current and future applications in the air, on land, below ground and underwater. Improvements in navigation technology being developed for autonomous Mars planetary rovers, for example, are being applied in the mining industry, where large unmanned vehicles can drive through passageways underground to deliver ore safely and efficiently. “Money is pouring into applications of mobile robotics and it’s a great time to get an education in this area,” he says, noting that the automotive industry is also pushing hard with some prodding from Google to make the self-driving car a reality in the not too distant future. Autonomous mobile robots can be deployed as well in other high-risk environments for exploration or to rescue disaster victims. “The ocean is one of the most unexplored places on 11
“This is the perfect time to offer students a full-fledged Robotics Engineering Option. Engineering Science has a worldwide, fantastic reputation and we want to be the key place in Canada and one of the key places in the world for engineers to learn robotics”
Earth and autonomous underwater vehicles were one of the tools used to search for the Franklin expedition. We’re seeing more natural disasters around the world as a result of climate change and robots could play a big role in search and rescue operations, using visual navigation strategies tailored to that application,” says Professor Barfoot. Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are now being used in journalism to capture the scale of the Hong Kong protests, for example; to give farmers better data about crops; and to monitor railways for potential safety problems. They could also be a valuable tool to help protect the environment. “Canada has a lot of land to cover and so much of our GDP depends how we handle resources from the environment. Satellites don’t always gather the information we need and drones can fly low to monitor the environment. There is a huge potential role for drones and other mobile robots to monitor the impact of industry on the environment in this country,” he says. Option co-chair Professor Nejat, who is also the Canada Research Chair in Robots for Society, is an innovator in humanrobot interactions and the development of new interactive applications, such as socially assistive robots. Her interactive robots, like Brian, Casper and Tangy, are designed to provide cognitive and social stimulation, help with activities of daily living like preparing meals, and lead group recreational activities to improve the quality of life for an aging Canadian and global population. She sees the next generation of interactive robots as more intelligent and flexible human helpers, being integrated into our daily lives both at home and on the job. “Robotics is a technology that will have an impact in many places and in different parts of our lives. There is a lot of excitement and there are a lot of challenges to address in how robotics technology can improve the quality of life for people at home and in the workplace. We can expect a growing number of applications in medicine and healthcare, manufacturing and other industries, rescue and exploration, education and
entertainment. There is a very strong demand from the market for robots and students are very interested in this area,” says Professor Nejat, who is also the Director of the Institute for Robotics and Mechatronics at the University, and the Director of the Autonomous Systems and Biomechatronics Lab in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. The Robotics Engineering Option will give students depth, breadth of knowledge, skills, and hands-on experience to address key challenges in robotics. This program will advance innovation through future careers in industry, academia, the public sector and other professions in Canada and internationally. “The Option will give students exposure to all the different areas of robotics. They will get hands-on experience designing systems for different applications and gain an appreciation of what innovations are needed to improve robotic use in the different applications. We want to graduate future leaders in this field. This education will prepare our graduates to take on positions that work towards addressing the current challenges in the field, and tackle these challenges with confidence,” says Professor Nejat. The benefits of new developments in robotics to the Canadian economy, and our society, will depend in part on the knowledge, skills and ingenuity of our engineers and their ability to translate promising ideas into viable real-world applications. Professor Barfoot regards the new program as an opportunity and catalyst for the next generation of engineers to make this happen. “The Robotics Engineering Option keeps us in pace with what the world is doing and where it’s going. It’s good for Engineering Science, good for students and also good for the country because we’ll be putting out engineers in a field where there will be a demand. Robotics will have a big impact on the world and it’s exciting to be involved in something that will change the way we are living in the world,” he says. 13
By Erin Macnab
When Brian Kernighan (6T4) encountered his first computer, a lumbering IBM 650, he was in his second year of Engineering Physics — a program that in his words was, “for kids who were good at math and thought they might be engineers but didn’t know what kind.” As a young man, working with one of the first ever (giant) computers would be a transformative experience for both him and the world of programming. Little did he realize that years later he would be known as a pioneer of programming languages (AWK & AMPL) central to our boundless technology driven generation.
Kernighan spent 30 years working at Bell Laboratories and
retired to teach at Princeton University in 2000. Recently he took the time to reflect back on his time at Skule, his EngSci connections through his career, and the many influences and experiences that have paved his path. Kernighan grew up in Toronto, and enrolled in the Engineering Physics program at the University of Toronto in 1960. He recalls Engineering Physics as a difficult, rewarding program that prepared him to meet the challenges of all future academic work. He describes EngPhys as, “four years of incredibly hard work, after which most things, at least academic, were a walk in the park… Nothing I’ve done since as a student, or now teaching, comes close.” In addition to the rigours of the program, Kernighan worked as an intern at Bell Labs during his graduate degree. He thrived in this environment and it was, in his opinion, “so much fun [it] set me on a career path.” He reflects: “summer jobs are a great way to find out what turns you on or off. It’s important to try for a variety of experience — large company, smaller one, start-up, government lab, academic, or whatever — to get a feel for what it would be like and whether it matches your own personality and interests. And of course, if you do well as an intern, it’s likely that you’ll get a permanent offer. That’s what happened to me after a couple of summers at Bell Labs.” Today, Kernighan notes that balancing professional and personal endeavors has been vital to his success, and encourages overachievers who push themselves hard to be equally dedicated to putting work aside and excel at having a fulfilling, happy and interesting personal life. He states, “work-life balance” is a trendy phrase, but one that I try to achieve. I’m not online 24 hours a day the way that a lot of people are. My cell phone is rarely turned on, I read newspapers on paper, I read old-fashioned paper books from a physical library, I walk three or four miles a day, I (usually) get enough sleep. Not perfect, but there’s some balance between work and the rest of life.” After stepping over the threshold of Convocation Hall, Kernighan attended Princeton University and received his PhD in Electrical Engineering, and had the opportunity to collaborate with fellow EngSci alumni along the way. Al Aho (EngPhys 6T3), co-creator of AWK and currently The Lawrence Gussman Chair of Computer Science at Columbia University, was a casual acquaintance in Toronto, and became a good friend of Kernighan’s after both men studied at Princeton and worked at Bell Labs. Kernighan reflects that “Al’s success at Princeton was one of the reasons I was accepted there in the first place, and he was a gracious host during my visit as a prospective student. Al was always helpful; I’ve leaned on him for all kinds of things over the years.” 16
“My closest undergraduate friend, Bill Kenyon (EngPhys 6T4) and I both wound up at Princeton’s Electrical Engineering department, and even shared an apartment for a couple of years along the way. In the early 1980s, Howard Trickey (EngSci 7T8) joined Bell Labs and became a good friend as well. He’s now at Google in New York City and I see him often there.” Kernighan enthuses that mentors, and the opportunity to work with dynamic and talented groups of people, has made a world of difference in his career: “There were any number of people at Bell Labs who helped — Shen Lin, with whom I worked on problems that eventually became my PhD thesis; Doug McIlroy, my first boss at Bell Labs, and the world’s best critic of technical writing; Dick Hamming, inventor of error correcting codes, who took me under his wing and incidentally got me started on writing books. I’ve also been incredibly fortunate in co-authors of books, like Al, Dennis Ritchie, and Rob Pike. It’s hard to over-state how big a difference these talented and selfless people have made in my life.” In this spirit of collaboration and support, Kernighan was able to implement his knowledge and interest in special purpose programming languages in two major projects. Together with Al Aho and Peter Weinberger he designed AWK, a programming language optimized for data extraction and reporting. The group published the AWK book in 1987, and Kernighan continues to maintain the language. AMPL, which Kernighan describes as acting as “a sort of compiler, converting a natural and convenient mathematical notation into whatever a particular solver program needs,” was created by Kernighan together with Bob Fourer of Northwestern University and David Gay, a former colleague of Kernighan’s at Bell Laboratories, with Kernighan responsible for the prototype implementation. Looking back on his experience in programming and language development, Kernighan remarks that: “programming is fun, and it turns out that creating a programming language that makes it easier for myself and (with luck) other people to get something done is also fun, and not too hard if one picks a modest target. So the languages that I have worked on have all been specialized, focused on narrow areas — the jargon is “domain specific” — and thus they’re smaller, simpler, and unconstrained. It was an enjoyable niche for quite a while”. Although smaller and simpler may be his preferred way of working, “unconstrained” seems to best describe the scope of Kernighan’s imagination when it comes to innovation in his field. Write to email@example.com and tell us about your relationships with fellow EngSci’s which have influenced and improved your life since graduation.
Bernard Etkin helped avert Apollo 13 tragedy by Judy Stoffman
Special to The Globe and Mail, first published July 23 2014
It was not supposed to happen. When Apollo 13, the third
manned mission intended to land on the moon, took off from the Kennedy Space Center on April 11, 1970, no one imagined that after minutely detailed planning, testing and preparation it would have to be aborted just two days later because of an exploding oxygen tank. The explosion had crippled the service module where water, food and oxygen were stored, but luckily some additional supplies were available in the lunar module, which became the crew’s life raft. The lunar module was needed as long as possible, but then had to be jettisoned. But how? The U.S. contractor Grumman Aerospace Corp., which had built the lunar module for NASA, put in a call for help to the University of Toronto, where they knew there was a wide range of engineering expertise. That a tragedy was averted was in large part due to a team of engineers at the university — led by Bernard Etkin as the senior scientist — who stepped in at the crucial moment with nothing more than their slide rules and powerful brains. 20
Prof. Etkin, usually called Ben, died at the Baycrest Centre in Toronto on June 26, at the age of 96. He had begun as a young lecturer in aeronautical engineering in 1942 at the University of Toronto and never really retired. “He was a giant in Canadian science and engineering,” said Gabriele d’Eleuterio, a professor at the U of T Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) and one of his former students. “Ben Etkin was one of the best scientists the university ever had,” said his colleague Rod Tennyson, who had been a member of the six-man team convened on April 16, 1970, to figure out how to push the lunar module off from the command module to which it was attached so that the command module could re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere unimpeded. If the moon landing had succeeded, the lunar module would have been left behind and no such problem would have arisen. Without the service module, the crew were suffering from carbon dioxide buildup and dropping temperatures, “but the big problem was ‘Okay, guys, how do we get rid of this lunar module prior to re-entry?’” recalled Prof. Tennyson. “That was
“They didn’t want the lunar module to come tumbling after them.”
the basis of the call. There was only a day left before they had to do something; there wasn’t much time.” A small tunnel connected the modules. “The tunnel had a hatch in it, and if they closed the hatch and pressurized the tunnel, they would explosively separate the lunar module, then blow it away from the command module just prior to re-entry,” explained Prof. Tennyson. “They didn’t want the lunar module to come tumbling after them.” The pressure required had to be precisely calculated. “Too high, and it might damage the hatch and the astronauts will burn up because they won’t be sealed in the spacecraft. Too low, and the lunar module would not get separated enough from the command module. “We had maybe six hours to make the calculations, and in those days we didn’t have numerical models or computers,” Prof. Tennyson remembered. The Toronto six (it included also professors Barry French, Philip Sullivan, Peter Hughes, a specialist in orbital mechanics, and another senior scientist, Irvine Glass, a specialist in shock waves) assumed that they
were not the only ones sweating over the slide rules. They believed that others were working on the same calculations, perhaps at MIT or Caltech. “The guy from Grumman never told us that we were the only ones he had asked. We found out later when he sent us a thank-you letter. It kind of shook us,” Prof. Tennyson said. The calculation they came up with was relayed by Grumman to NASA, and from there to the astronauts. It worked perfectly. You won’t find the U of T engineers in Apollo 13, the movie about this nail-biting event, starring Tom Hanks; perhaps the image of these six modest Canadians with their slide rules does not fit heroic American stereotypes. It took 40 years for their roles to be publicly recognized and for one of the astronauts, Fred Haise, to thank them personally. In 2010, the still-living members of the group were honoured with medals by the Canadian Air and Space Museum. Mr. Haise spoke at the presentation. Bernard Etkin was born May 7, 1918, one of five children and only son of poor Jewish immigrants from Belarus, a contested 21
land north of Ukraine. His parents Samuel and Mary Etkin (originally spelled Itkin) ran a small cleaning and tailoring business until they lost it during the Depression. Young Ben, a top student, had to drop out to go to work to support the family; he completed high school via night classes. His adoring sisters, by then out in the working world, helped pay for his tuition when he entered U of T and obtained an honours degree in engineering physics in 1941. A master’s degree in aeronautical engineering followed, then a doctorate from Carleton University in Ottawa. At 21, he was a counsellor at Camp Yungvelt, a summer camp in Pickering, when he met Maya Kasselman, then 16. “He was playing chess and my mother walked by and said, ‘Are you sure you want to make that move?’” said his son, David Etkin. They married five years later; a daughter, Carol, came along in 1946, followed by David in 1949. Bernard Etkin liked to build model airplanes and gliders with his children and pose science problems at the dinner table, challenging his kids to solve them by dinner the following day. 24
But it was Maya (a family therapist) who mainly raised the children, while Prof. Etkin’s academic career took off. He became a professor at UTIAS, chairman of Engineering Science (1967–72) and dean of the university’s Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, the largest in the country. Even as dean, he taught first-year students, who found him endlessly encouraging and kind. “My father exemplified the best qualities of a scholar. He had no ego,” recalls his son. “He was pre-eminent in his field but extremely humble. He was an enabler of other people, especially his students.” At UTIAS he designed and built a large wind tunnel where he tested the effects of air movement on buildings, among other things. In the 1960s, when the new Toronto City Hall was to be built, he was invited to provide input on how well the two wings of the boomerang-shaped structure would stand up to strong winds, and found that they needed to be more strongly anchored. Prof. Etkin held 11 patents, including one for a novel way to stabilize a satellite and another for a particle separator.
He wrote the standard textbook Dynamics of Flight, which has gone through four editions since 1959 and is still in use today in English and other languages. He produced a string of papers on aerodynamics for learned journals, consulted to industry on everything from the stability of airplanes, the design of heliports and the reduction of subway noise and vibration, to the most reliable windshieldwiper design. He was showered with honours, including an Order of Canada in 2003 and an honorary degree from Carleton University, and was made a member of the Royal Society of Canada. He was invited to lecture in Japan, China, Hong Kong and Israel, where he was on board of governors of Ben Gurion University and Technion university. Troubled by global warming, he published his last scientific article at the age of 92 in the Journal of Climate Change. According to his son, Prof. Etkin graphed CO2 concentrations in the upper atmosphere against global average temperatures over a span of 420,000 years (he used data derived from ice cores
taken from Antarctic glaciers) to demonstrate that the two are now out of whack in a way that is historically unprecedented. In their final years, Maya and Ben Etkin lived in a retirement home in Toronto. Prof. Etkin’s last patent, which he was working on not long before his death, was inspired by a friend who sat at his table there. This gentleman had Parkinson’s disease, which caused his arm to jerk upward uncontrollably. “My father thought there must a mechanical way to reduce the degrees of movement, and came up with a sleeve fitted with plates, and lined with stretch fabric,” recalled daughter Carol. He sent his design to be refined and patented by an engineer he knew in China. Bernard Etkin died after a short illness of mantle cell lymphoma, which chiefly affects men over 60. His wife had died in October. Mr. Etkin leaves his daughter, son and two grandchildren. Above Diagrams
Dr. Etkin’s Particle Classifier patent illustrations. 25
We would like to thank the Etkin Family, U of T Archives and NASA for these images of Dr. Etkin.
NÎ¨ Spring Reunion Luncheon Saturday, May 30, 2015 The EngSci Common Room, Bahen 2nd Floor Visit engsci.utoronto.ca in the new year for further details.
Dr. Bernard Etkin: An EngSci Icon
He graduated from our program in its earliest days, went on to co-found UTIAS, be Chair of EngSci and finally Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering. How did Professor Bernard Etkin affect your EngSci experience?
“I did not have the pleasure of meeting Professor Etkin during my studies at U of T, but he had a very big impact on my graduate research. While there are many ways of separating particles by size, I needed a way to separate mica flakes of a particular diameter by their thickness, or aspect ratio. Only the Etkin Particle Classifier could do this job, and without it, the basic premise of my thesis would not have been testable. Professor Etkin graciously allowed me to use the machine in his labs at UTIAS, and after a couple of hours of work, I came back with a year’s worth of perfectly classified mica particles. The results were fantastic.”
Mark Kortschot, Chair of EngSci. 8T4
“I was fortunate enough to meet Dean Etkin during the summer of 1977 & ‘78. At that time Dean Etkin had a pet project which was using small wind tunnels to separate out minerals. As I was working for Dr. Tony Haas in the Undergrad Aerospace Lab, Dean Etkin had me work on a number of designs for the unique tunnels. But the special gift he gave me in my third year of EngSci was to give me the courage to continue my studies (just before mid-terms) in October of 1978. Early in the month of October, my dad passed away and I no longer cared about school and did not want to study any more. Dean Etkin simply said that I should write the mid-terms — even without studying — and any one I failed — he would write a note to the professor — to indicate that I had a personal matter I was dealing with. Had I not known Dean Etkin that summer, I would not have been able to speak to him about my Dad, and he to give me this assurance. That conversation definitely changed my life. I ended up passing the mid-terms, completed my undergraduate degree and proceeded to complete my Masters in Biomed at U of T. This I owe to Dean Etkin. Dean Etkin — thank you for your kind words and taking the time to speak to a young adult experiencing one of life’s many challenges.”
Andy Basacchi, Director FM & Critical Services. 7T9
“…his written word, in the form of his books and papers, had a huge impact on my education in aerospace engineering. Both “Dynamics of Atmospheric Flight” and “Dynamics of Flight: Stability and Control” were invaluable resources to me during my own PhD research. I still remember the titles and can picture the textbook covers in my mind. He’ll forever be an intellectual giant in the field, and I envy the students who came before me who had him as their Professor.”
Sandeep Mulgund, Combat Scientist at MITRE. 8T9
“I started EngSci in 1968 when the US space program was reaching its apogee… Dr. Etkin was one of our professors. He was clearly an expert and willingly shared his expertise and enthusiasm…as Dean I found him to be able to listen, change his mind and accommodate. He made significant contributions to the school, the country, science and the world. His passing is our loss. R.I.P.”
Frank Palmay, Partner, National Co-chair Insurance-McMillan LLP. 7T2
Dr. Etkin made a provision in his estate to support the Engineering Science Chair’s Fund. Make a donation in Professor Etkin’s honor by visiting www.donate.utoronto.ca /engineering and then selecting Engineering Science. Alternatively call (416) 978-0811 and express your interest to support fund #400527 “Engineering Science Trust Fund”. We want to thank all of those who expressed their admiration for Bernard Etkin in our LinkedIn Group discussion. 29
N ’s: Exceptional Minds, Exceptional Opportunities
By Christopher L. Jones
In 1935, the University’s Academic Calendar introduced the new
program in Engineering Physics by saying, “It is believed that a wider and more thorough acquaintance with the basic sciences will bring the student to a readier appreciation of the nature of the technical problems with which he will later be confronted and a greater facility in the solution of them.” A lot has changed since the University of Toronto graduated its first class in Engineering Physics. The student is no longer simply “he,” but “he or she.” Physics is but one of eight options 30
students may choose from. The Division has moved from graduating 8 students in 1938 to a class of 161 — 97 of them with honours standing — in June 2014. One thing has not changed: Engineering Science graduates are on the cutting edge as graduate researchers, as industry leaders and as entrepreneurs. In the summer of 2014, thanks to the generosity of EngSci alumni, the Division of Engineering Science directly supported more than 50 students in research placements here at U of T, elsewhere in Canada, in the United States and around the world.
“...I quickly relearned the material I needed to and had all the tools to have a successful summer project.”
Japinder Nijjer (1T4 + PEY), a fourth-year student in the Engineering Physics Option, spent his summer in the United Kingdom at the University of Cambridge. There he worked in the lab of fellow Physics Option graduate Dr. Jerome Neufeld (0T1), a fellow of St. Catherine’s College who is currently University Lecturer in the BP Institute and the Departments of Earth Sciences and Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics. Under Dr. Neufeld’s supervision, Japinder worked on a project entitled Experimental and Theoretical Examination of Flow through Elastic Porous Media. “This research project tested my mathematical abilities and understanding of fluid mechanics especially seeing as I hadn’t done fluid mechanics in over 3 years,” said Japinder. “However, I quickly relearned the material I needed to and had all the tools to have a successful summer project.” Japinder learned much from his time in the lab, but his experience was more than just data sets and mathematical models. He was also able to interact with senior and junior faculty, as well as graduate students to share progress in ongoing projects. Japinder had access to seminars across the University, “so many that going to all the ones that interested me would have taken up the entire summer! It gave me exposure to some of the cool research happening outside of the bubble that I know.” Second-year student Grace Zhong (1T7) was not sure that EngSci was right for her. This summer, she received one of the Division’s Exceptional Opportunities Awards, which provide financial support for student-initiated research opportunities at top-rated institutions. Grace worked with Professor Hyuck Choo in Caltech’s Department of Electrical Engineering. Together with one other undergraduate student, Grace worked on a project investigating nanoscale diagnosis platforms using molecular fingerprinting platforms, wherein she performed experiments and analyzed results to determine reliable insulin peaks using the Raman system. “It was not a ‘follow a formula to get an answer’ type of problem,” she said, “and that’s why I loved it.” 32
Grace had the opportunity to put into practice some of the problem solving and design skills she has begun to acquire in the Engineering Science program. Reflecting upon her experience at Caltech this summer, Grace said, “I am happy that I chose EngSci, a road that provides a wide range of scenery, whether it is in the broad spectrum of foundational courses it offers or in the opportunities, like this one, that it helps make possible.” Grace plans to pursue either Biomedical Systems Engineering or the Electrical and Computer Option next year. Each summer, EngSci awards approximately 10 fellowships to first- and second-year students through the Engineering Science Research Opportunities Program (ESROP). This year, Liam MacKichan (1T7) followed his great interest in structural engineering and applied for an ESROP to work in the lab of Professors Michael Collins and Evan Bentz in U of T’s Department of Civil Engineering. Working with Giorgio Proestos (1T2), an Infrastructure Option graduate and current PhD student, Liam studied the shear response of reinforced concrete shells subjected to combined membrane and transverse shear stresses. “My work included machining and building the shell specimens… I challenged myself to create a solid model of the testing set up which involved teaching myself SolidWorks. Unexpectedly, I discovered a new passion in 3D modelling and happily, this model was selected to be 3D printed and will be used in explaining this research to clients.” Liam was also selected as runner-up in the poster competition at this year’s Undergraduate Engineering Research Day (UnERD) for his presentation of his work this summer. His summer experience has confirmed his desire to enter the Infrastructure Option next year, and has piqued his interest in pursuing a career in research. Read about recent EngSci summer research experiences at engsci.utoronto.ca/experience/research
By Sarah Steed
Do you work for or study at an institution that has recruited fellow EngScis? We want to hear about it. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org
NΨ Chapter @ Caltech NΨ grads have organically branched out to Pasadena forming a cluster of support and camaraderie amongst themselves at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Dan Siegal-Gaskins (0T1+PEY Physics) is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar in Biology and Bioengineering at Caltech, working in the field of synthetic biology. “I’ve been having a lot of fun with the group…for us older folks; it is particularly nice to feel a connection to a part of our past that was really foundational. Even though some of us are separated by many years, I think there’s a natural connection…for me, hanging out with the group feels a bit like home (also, we completely dominate at pub trivia!)” Mark Harfouche (1T1 ECE) is a graduate student at Caltech within their Electrical Engineering Department working with Professor Yariv. “I work with swept frequency lasers in order to increase the output power of high power amplifiers, as well to use them in high resolution 3D imaging an application… Our little group allows us to keep in touch with old friends and share stories about our past experiences at the University of Toronto, while relaxing after a long day’s work. Our group is also a channel to career advice from other technically minded individuals that have followed a similar path.” Ron Appel (0T6 Electrical) is a PhD student — “I do research in machine learning and computer vision. I was out and I overheard the table next to me talking about Toronto — my hometown! So I started chatting with them; lo and behold, they were also EngScis just like me!” Manan Arya (1T1 Aerospace) is a graduate student at Caltech working on the packaging of large, thin space structures such as solar sails and photovoltaic arrays. “Friends, roommates, colleagues, lab mates…
it’s nice to have our shared set of EngSci experiences (AER201, Dmitrevsky, purple dye, etc.) to draw upon, and an assumed body of knowledge to rely on…” Bassam Helou (1T1 Physics) is a graduate student in the applied physics department and a TA. “I work on quantum optomechanics and accurately measuring very weak forces. It is nice to meet up with a group of diverse and talented people with whom we shared a defining and rewarding four years. We bond over our AER201 experiences (for better or worse).”
NΨs @ Google “…Google is a great place to work, not only for the perks, but because of the huge breadth and depth of knowledge and projects here. When I started EngSci I thought I would major in Infrastructure but because we had such a variety of first and second year courses I found that I enjoyed and could succeed in Computer Science. Taking CSC 180/190 (studying C and C++ respectively) was the impetus for my career.” Emma Rapati (1T0+PEY Computer)
NΨ Chapter @ T.O. Nicolas Lee (0T5 Aerospace) is a Postdoctoral Researcher who focuses on deployable space structures such as membrane packaging and deployment and robotically assembled truss modules for telescope and power generation applications. Roger Mong (0T6 Physics) is a postdoctoral researcher in the Physics Department at Caltech, “…currently studying relations between phases of matter, quantum information, and quantum computing.” Lucy Yin (1T1+ PEY Infrastructure) is a graduate student in Civil Engineering at Caltech working on the field of Earthquake Engineering, focusing on Earthquake Early Warning. “Our unique experience at EngSci and Caltech has brought us closer. We never get tired of laughing and sharing the same story of the times at EngSci.” Brian Skinner (0T8) Alborz Mahdavi (0T4) Kevin Teh (0T7) Maria Sakovsky (1T3 Aerospace) Doug MacMartin (8T7 Aerospace) Research Professor in Department of Computing and Mathematical Sciences @ Caltech Colin Cook (1T0 Biomedical) Medical Engineering @ Caltech Monty Nandra (0T4 Nano) completed PhD in Electrical Engineering @ Caltech in Professor Tai’s Micromachining Lab
Isis Caulder (8T9) is connecting EngSci’s from a wide range of industries and grad years in meaningful ways. Dozens of our alumni have already re-engaged with each other through her downtown Toronto pub gatherings… Come one, come all!
NΨ Chapter @ Ottawa Steve Zan (8T4) hosted an EngSci gathering in May of 2014. We caught up with him recently to ask why he volunteered to host, to which he responded “…it was a chance to connect with old friends from my year and others with whom I have crossed paths in my 30-year career. I’m also fascinated to meet younger NΨ s that have very interesting careers — ones that didn’t exist when I started mine.”
Join in the fun and come out to the next EngSci pub night. Keen to gather with Skulemates where you live or work? Moving to a new town? Write to email@example.com — we are happy to help! 35
Opt!ons is the alumni magazine for the Division of Engineering Science. The magazine’s name refers not only to the eight different majors EngSci students may choose, but also the wide range of career paths available to our graduates. By showcasing the leadership and innovation of EngSci students and graduates, Opt!ons intends to engage with our community and the engineering world at large.
Bahen Centre for Information Technology 40 St. George Street Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 2E4 416.978.8634 firstname.lastname@example.org engsci.utoronto.ca
Published on Nov 27, 2014