Applied Research & Innovation
2013 | 2014
Cover (left to right): Computer Systems Technology instructors, Shane McDonald, Grace Staples and Terry Peckham.
Applied Research & Innovation
Annual Review 2013 | 2014
Table of Contents President’s message 4 Director’s message 4 Peckham pens the write stuff
Applying research, naturally
Restaurants serve up lessons in energy efficiency
Big project, bite-sized pieces
Poise under pressure at polytechnics’ podium
Breaking barriers with 3D technology
BioScience centre scores success
Seed funding spurs app
A message from Dr. Larry Rosia SIAST President and CEO SIAST has long been valued for its expertise in developing and delivering programs that equip both employers and graduates to take advantage of economic opportunities. In recent years, we have expanded our focus on real-world learning to include applied research that supports the commercialization of innovation by employers. Through applied research, we partner with employers to seek solutions to practical problems and to test and pursue innovations that enable them to capture new opportunities. In doing so, employers access our faculty expertise and benefit from our ability to apply for research grants. Our students hone their critical thinking skills in
preparation for ever more demanding roles in today’s workplace. Applied research activities reached something of a tipping point at SIAST last year when we dedicated one FTE to pursuing opportunities in bioscience, which helped us secure almost $1 million in applied research funding – a tenfold increase in five years. This year, we dedicated one FTE to an applied research program in digital integration, and we’re on track to set another record. From building energy efficiency to 3D muscle movement tracking, this applied research report tells about some of the projects that our faculty and students have been working on with industry partners. This emphasis on applied learning and applied research are central to our commitment to be industry responsive and student focused. It’s what sets us apart as a polytechnic.
Annual Review A message from Cristina HolguinPando
Director of SIAST’s Office of Applied Research and Innovation What is applied research? I’ve been asked that question more than a few times. I tell people it’s about delivering innovative solutions to everyday problems or, as Wikipedia puts it, it’s “a form of systematic inquiry involving the practical application of science.” But applied research is so much more than that. At SIAST, it’s about dedicated faculty with deep curiosity in their field. It’s about their capable students who are eager to put into practice the skills that they’ve learned in the classroom or lab. And it’s about our
industry and community partners who value our expertise and assistance in testing a new product, solving a problem or assessing a need. We facilitate these partnerships—call us a matchmaker—in the Office of Applied Research and Innovation. And time and time again, we’ve secured external funding for our stakeholders, despite the stiff competition for these all-important grants. This review—a first for us—provides a snapshot of what applied research looks like at SIAST. Have a read and I think you’ll better understand the innovation that takes place here and why it makes sense for Saskatchewan in so many ways.
Peckham pens the write stuff
s a SIAST technology instructor, Terry Peckham is used to helping students grasp new concepts. But last fall the tables turned when he accepted a full-time writer/researcher position from SIAST’s Office of Applied Research and Innovation (OARI). It was he who was now on a learning curve. It’s not that he’s unaccustomed to rigorous research or writing. As a PhD student, he published several papers but, he says, “That was all theoretical research and a completely different style of writing.” In contrast, Peckham has been squirreled away in his office at SIAST Kelsey Campus largely writing grant proposals since last fall. He’s a recipient of an OARI grant that covers his salary and relieves him of his regular teaching duties for a year. Called an Applied Research Relief Time Stipend, the grant afforded him time to apply for federal funding to help outfit SIAST’s Digital Integration Research Group (DIReG) with new equipment. Putting together a compelling proposal was an exacting and imaginative process. First, Peckham had to envision the kinds of applied research projects the enhanced centre could undertake with equipment it had never had before. Then, he had to ensure these potential projects would qualify under government specifications and articulate them in a credible way. “It’s competitive,” he says. “There’s only so much money to go around.”
With his regular teaching duties on hold, technology instructor Terry Peckham helped land funding for new IT equipment.
Throughout, Peckham—like all faculty and industry partners who Continued on page 6
Continued from page 5 engage in applied research at SIAST—worked in conjunction with OARI staff, who are well versed in what goes into a winning grant proposal. “I look at proposals with the objective eye of an [external] reviewer,” says Samar Baker-Ismail, OARI’s applied research facilitator. “It’s not specifically the wording I focus on but does it make sense? Is it a solid claim? Is the core information there? Does the budget add up?” Sensible and solid, Peckham’s first proposal earned a home run. Western Economic Diversification Canada announced in March
that it was awarding $213,600 to SIAST, enabling DIReG to purchase key information technology equipment, including a highspeed fibre-optic network. “This is equipment we couldn’t have obtained in any other way,” says Peckham. The investment means that DIReG can pursue new technology development projects with small- and medium-sized enterprises as well as provide more IT process development and servicing projects.
SIAST shares its app-titude SIAST has partnered with businesses, industry and organizations on a variety of information technology projects over the years. Not surprisingly in today’s smartphone culture, there’s a growing demand for assistance in developing mobile apps. This year students and instructors in SIAST’s Computer Systems Technology program have been developing a cell phone app for the Saskatchewan division of the Canadian Ski Patrol. The app will provide volunteer patrollers with a quick and handy reference to first aid information when they’re on the slopes. For then student Vincent Shoulak, 34, working on the project was an education in itself. He was not only involved in the production and testing of the software and teleconferencing with the client, but was instrumental in creating a database for the app. Says Shoulak, “The chance to take something from an idea, which seemed so large and complicated, and then break it down into smaller pieces, analyze each bit and make it a reality, was an amazing experience.” The opportunity also highlighted for him the importance of working effectively as a group. “Everyone needed to be on the same page,” he says. “It was eye-opening, for sure. Input from multiple people brought out ideas some of us would not have considered.”
Recent grad Vincent Shoulak helped develop an app for the Saskatchewan division of the Canadian Ski Patrol.
Applying research, naturally
eanette Delisle can tell you a thing or two about dragonflies. They’re not as simple as you might think, says the recent SIAST grad, who has grown to appreciate the insect’s complex life cycle. She would know. Last year Delisle devoted many hours to collecting and identifying dragonflies and damselflies as part of a SIAST applied research team. The team wanted to assess whether the dragonflies could serve as ecological markers of wetland habitat as development expands north into Saskatchewan’s boreal forest. Delisle helped table, analyze and plot the data, drawing upon the mapping skills she had acquired in SIAST’s Geographic Information Science for Resource Management program. The project is part of the Boreal Watershed Initiative—a collaboration among government, post-secondary institutions and industry—and is just one example of how students and instructors in SIAST’s Natural Resources programs assist external partners in understanding the natural
strikes at the airport. “Gulls were feeding on insects on the runway, and we wanted to get a handle on where the insects were coming from,” says Halstead. So two SIAST students spent a summer sampling the airport’s ponds, and one of them delivered their findings to an SAA representative. In addition to helping solve a perplexing problem, the students “made great connections and expanded their professional network, which could lead to future employment,” says Halstead. He notes that students tend to exercise more caution when carrying out research for clients than they might when completing a class assignment. “It’s a much more realistic scenario,” he says. “They’re often doing the work on their own time and receiving a wage or an honorarium.” He also observes that students who are involved in applied research develop heightened awareness of quality assurance and quality control, and benefit from the opportunity to practise a disciplined approach to sampling, sorting and identification. That’s something Nicole Pillipow can relate to. The recent grad from two of SIAST’s Natural Resources programs not only participated in the Boreal Watershed Initiative, but also played a key role in a large project with Saskatchewan’s Water Security Agency. Last year the crown corporation started collaborating with SIAST to determine the baseline condition of the North Saskatchewan River prior to the start-up of a nearby pulp mill. Pillipow was responsible for sorting and identifying many of the benthic macroinvertebrates, such as mayfly and stonefly larvae, that Halstead and others had dredged from the river bottom during the summer.
From left: Natural Resources instructors David Halstead and Scott Lipsit.
environment. “Everybody benefits from these kinds of projects—industry, faculty, students, the program,” says David Halstead, a Natural Resources instructor at SIAST and a professional biologist.
The experience sharpened her technical skills, but also equipped her with knowledge that could just give her an edge in the job market. Says Pillipow, “I basically set my own schedule and had to manage my time. I definitely learned a lot more about myself— how I work, how I meet deadlines.”
Halstead and Natural Resources students have been involved in a number of applied research projects over the years, including one with the Saskatoon Airport Authority (SAA) that focused on reducing the risk of bird
hen entrepreneur Jami Manastyrski was looking to enhance the technology he could offer his customers, he turned to SIAST, his alma mater. The Electronics Communications grad had read online how SIAST assists small- and medium-sized businesses in developing and testing new technology.
program. They also assisted in securing a $25,000 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, which helped to cover the costs of providing and installing energy meters in eight buildings. Then, early this year, 15 students in the program performed observational assessments of the buildings—all restaurants in Regina and
Restaurants serve up lessons in energy efficiency
His Regina-based firm, Check-It Solutions, designs building monitoring and control services for commercial and residential clients. Manastyrski wanted to better understand how a building’s physical features—such as its floor and window area, envelope and overhangs and wind and sun exposure—can affect energy usage so that Check-It could integrate these variables into its monitoring software. To get the ball rolling, he consulted with staff in SIAST’s Office of Applied Research and Innovation (OARI), who saw an obvious fit with SIAST’s Architectural Technologies
instructor Troy Tilbury. “Buildings in use over time are often used in ways that are slightly different to the design intentions, providing unforeseen learning opportunities,” adds Stutt. Back in the classroom, the students assigned energy efficiency rankings to the buildings, making hypotheses about improvements and behavioural changes that could enhance each building’s performance. They then compared their rankings with the energy consumption data recorded by Check-It’s meters. “They asked a lot of questions we probably wouldn’t have thought of,” says Manastyrski. Check-It will take the project’s findings into consideration when it enhances its
Architectural Technologies students with instructor Troy Tilbury (far right) assessed the energy efficiency of Saskatoon and Regina restaurants for Check-It Solutions. Saskatoon—as part of their course work. Armed with laser measurers and digital cameras, the students recorded details such as the size and age of the buildings, whether each one had an open or closed kitchen, thermostat location and other factors that affect energy efficiency. “Any time our students have an opportunity to study actual buildings, rather than simply theory, it is beneficial,” says program head Rod Stutt, who supervised the students with
monitoring software to make it easier to benchmark and manage a building’s energy efficiency. “We’re hopefully going to expand the project,” says Manastyrski, noting that Check-It may decide to extend its enhancements into mechanical or refrigeration systems and partner with another program at SIAST.
Big project, bite-sized pieces
s a full-time faculty member in SIAST’s Nursing Division, Pamela Farthing knows how important it is to stay current with the latest research and developments in her field. She attends conferences but, she says, “I prefer not to just sit and listen to people talk. I’d rather be involved somehow.” That’s one of the reasons her ears pricked up when she heard about a sizeable applied research initiative that SIAST is collaborating on with the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) and six of Saskatchewan’s biggest mining companies: Agrium Inc., BHP Billiton, Mosaic, PotashCorp, K+S Potash Canada and Cameco. The project involves compiling data about the firms’ safety programs and best practices, with the goal of advancing employees’ engagement with safety on the job, at home and in their communities.
out by SIAST faculty, such as Farthing, who are contributing their time and talents to its success.
and people they may know, as well as to the Saskatchewan economy. They also really like the idea that we’re working in teams.”
Farthing completed a master’s degree in community health and epidemiology six years ago. The experience sharpened her research and writing skills and her work was published in a medical journal. As she sees it, participating in the safety study gives her the opportunity to flex those scholarship muscles again.
About 60 faculty from SIAST, the U of S and the University of Regina are participating in the inquiry on 11 teams. Farthing is leading a team that is examining community health and safety engagement, and she is also a member of another team that is exploring how simulation learning can enhance safety engagement.
“We’re giving faculty the opportunity to participate in a large research project,” says Dr. Lyle Grant, coordinator of SIAST’s Institute for Nursing Scholarship and a coprincipal investigator on the project. “They’ve been really receptive, in part because the project is highly connected to the community
It’s still early days, but Dr. Grant expects that there’ll be plenty of discussion and collegiality throughout the inquiry. “Faculty bring a variety of strengths and expertise to the project,” he says. “All have the opportunity to increase their capacity for scholarship and play a valuable role.”
In March, the International Minerals Innovation Institute (IMII), a public-private post-secondary partnership, announced that it was awarding SIAST and the U of S $786,000 over two years for the project. (At the same time, IMII announced that it would provide $500,000 in funding to establish a director position at SIAST’s new Centre for Minerals Innovation, Training and Leadership.) The applied research funds will go toward expenses such as coordination, data compilation, analysis and student research assistants. These assistants will visit the mine sites as part of their involvement in the research, while a significant part of the project is being carried
Poise under pressure at polytechnics’ podium
hen Emily Weekes and her SIAST classmates set out to raise money for hungry children in Moose Jaw, they had no idea their venture would grab the national spotlight. But a year later, in November 2013, Weekes found herself on a plane heading to Calgary to tell her class’s story to a gathering of students, instructors, industry partners and government officials. The event was the 8th annual Polytechnics Canada Student Applied Research Showcase, held at SAIT Polytechnic. It was a first for Weekes, who had never before participated in an applied research competition, and a first for SIAST, which joined Polytechnics Canada in December 2012. The showcase draws students and recent grads from the organization’s 11 member institutions who have worked with industry partners to solve R&D conundrums. Several of last year’s projects were rooted in technology or engineering. SIAST’s entry was decidedly different. Weekes and 15 other students from SIAST’s Business Marketing program had developed a multi-tiered campaign to raise $10,000 for Hunger in Moose Jaw, a non-profit charitable organization. The $10,000 was based on the cost of providing a daily lunch to 300 children for six weeks leading up to Christmas. The students created four donation packages ranging from $5 (the cost of lunch for one child for a week) to $1,500 (the cost of lunch for all 300 children for a week).
“The students specifically targeted several niches in the community,” says Chantelle Flanagan-Moore, a SIAST Business instructor. These included other students, SIAST staff, family members, small businesses, and corporations, and the students tailored their pitches accordingly. “Students drew upon several concepts from our Strategic Retail Management course such as entrepreneurship, teamwork, financial projections, sales strategy and distribution channels to complete the project,” says Flanagan-Moore, who taught Weekes’s class.
of three judges, à la Dragons’ Den, and did so with grace and poise, despite her inner nervousness. She had practised for this particularly challenging part of the competition, but in the end, she says, she just had to trust in what she knew. The showcase’s top prize went to Sean Emberley of Ottawa’s Algonquin College for his team’s voice-activated 3-D dental charting application. “It was very, very cool,” says Weekes. And while she doesn’t deny that she’s competitive, Weekes took satisfaction in representing SIAST as a polytechnic. “We got a lot of attention from the other teams and I think we got them thinking,” she says. “That was reward enough for me.”
When the students hit their fundraising midpoint, the Moose Jaw Businessmen’s Club donated $5,000. “The students not only achieved their goal, but they were able to position themselves with people who had success in the community,” says Flanagan-Moore. “They ultimately developed a strong sense of confidence.” Weekes exuded this confidence at the podium, where she was tasked with summarizing her class’s project in five minutes. “Instead of posting notes and facts in our slide show, we used photos from the project,” says Weekes, who is now a student recruitment officer at SIAST Wascana Campus. In comparison to other projects that were more science-based, SIAST’s had “a little bit more heart,” she says. Like the other presenters, Weekes also had to respond to questions from a panel
Business Marketing grads Josh Zimmer (left), Emily Weekes and Matt Dagert represent SIAST at the 8th annual Polytechnics Canada Student Applied Research Showcase.
Breaking barriers with
ake a tour of SIAST’s two high-fidelity Simulation Learning Centres and you’ll find patient mannequins who have pulses, dilating pupils and who seem to breathe. There’s even “Noelle,” who gives birth on demand. They’re impressive training tools, but now innovative technology is promising to take high-tech health-care education beyond these centres. Since March, students and faculty in SIAST’s Nursing Division have been collaborating on a research project with ISIS Health Informatics, a Canadian health information management company. ISIS is trying to determine how 3D muscle-movementtracking technology can be refined and customized to enhance the teaching of clinical skills. As research assistants, the students are testing hardware and software that track and analyze their body movements when they perform clinical tasks such as intravenous line insertion or an injection, which require psychomotor skills.
correct angle, applying suitable pressure and other important measures. “This portable technology will enable SIAST to offer higher-fidelity learning opportunities in a much more cost-effective manner, independent of a centralized lab,” says Dr. Lyle Grant, coordinator of SIAST’s Institute for Nursing Scholarship. “Its application ultimately enhances safety and comfort to patients by allowing students to practise ‘invasive skills’ on a lifelike device and receive very realistic feedback.”
SIAST’s Office of Applied Research and Innovation worked with the research team to secure a $25,000 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, enabling ISIS to access applied research expertise at SIAST for six months. Ultimately, ISIS expects that end-users of the muscle-movement-tracking device will not only include educational institutions, such as SIAST, but community-based clinics and health care delivery organizations as well. Health-care workers have some of the highest rates of musculoskeletal injuries of all Canadian workers due to repetitive on-thejob tasks and inadvertent body positioning while bending and lifting. Because the training device has the potential to monitor body mechanics in real-time settings, ISIS predicts that health-care authorities and workers’ compensation boards in Canada will show an interest in the technology.
“The students’ continual feedback during these tests will help us fine-tune the design and calibration of the technology,” says Dr. Vahid Anvari, ISIS’s director of research and development. The company plans to patent the technology and incorporate it in a highly sensitive training apparatus, such as a sensorembedded glove. SIAST students are accustomed to practising their injection skills on low-fidelity rubbery devices. Unlike these so-called “injection trainers,” the new sensory technology will be calibrated to provide feedback on whether or not students are turning their hands at a
SIAST’s Nursing Division is collaborating on research that could enhance the teaching of clinical skills. From left: Madeline Press, Nursing faculty member; Dr. Lyle Grant, coordinator of SIAST’s Institute for Nursing Scholarship; and Nursing students Meaghan Skwark and Jessica Gray.
BioScience centre scores
ersuasive proposals, innovative partnerships and robust federal fundingâ€”itâ€™s been a fruitful first year for the SIAST BioScience Applied Research Centre (SBARC). The centre helps business and industry test new products, techniques and technology, helping them to be market-ready faster.
Here are some of the ways SBARC has captured the spotlight since its launch in June 2013:
From left: Instructors Tarra McCannell and Debbie Mulenga-Woo; Blaine Chartrand, BioScience Technology program head; and instructor Lance Wall in the SIAST BioScience Applied Research Centre.
BioScience Technology students test dental compounds. Marei Therapeutics Inc. (MTI), a Saskatoon-based R&D firm, was one of the first industry partners to leverage SBARC’s research expertise and facilities. Under the supervision of SIAST instructor Lance Wall, BioScience Technology students adapted a methodology for testing whether natural compounds in MTI prototype products could
fight infections. SIAST’s Office of Applied Research and Innovation (OARI) helped secure a $25,000 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) prior to the research, which helped to cover the cost of a substitute instructor who relieved Wall of some of his regular teaching responsibilities so he could spend more time on the project. OARI dedicates a full-time position to bioscience applied research. By providing funding to hire a full-time temporary instructor, OARI lightened the teaching load of three instructors so they could focus on applied research projects. It also freed up time to apply for federal grants for future projects—an intensive, detailed task that has paid off. “The commitment of a full-time staff member was critical to the centre’s success,” says Blaine Chartrand, head of SIAST’s BioScience Technology program and SBARC’s principal investigator. (It has also benefited the program, he says, because the temporary instructor performed so well that she was hired on permanently, replacing a retiring employee. OARI has since provided SBARC with funding to hire another temporary instructor.) Federal government recognizes SBARC’s key role with $465,478 investment. “This was a huge boost,” says OARI director Cristina Holguin-Pando of the funding through the Western Diversification Program last June. The funds helped to cover the cost and installation of new lab furniture at SIAST Kelsey Campus as well as the purchase of instrumentation equipment that assists product development in four areas: agricultural biotechnology, bioproducts, the environment and biomedicine.
Confidencebooster For SIAST grad Megan Letkeman, the opportunity to test dental compounds for Marei Therapeutics Inc. not only gave her a chance to earn some significant cash for tuition and textbooks, it also added an enriching dimension to her education. “It helped reassure me that I could put what I’ve learned in the classroom into an actual setting,” says the 24-year-old. “It also gave me more confidence in talking to people and working independently.” Letkeman graduated from SIAST’s BioScience Technology program in May 2013 and spent the summer working as a pedigreed seed inspector for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Now a chemistry technician for the agency, she tests a variety of foods for chemical residues.
Partnership awarded $750,000 to test ecofriendly gas station cleanup. This NSERC grant, awarded last June for three years, recognizes SBARC’s innovative partnership with the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) and Federated Co-operatives Ltd. (FCL). The funds have enabled SIAST to hire a fulltime applied research technologist and 18 students (six each year) to develop and test soil remediation models developed by FCL in collaboration with U of S scientists. “The [U of S] PhD students are gaining practical knowledge from the SIAST students, who in turn are learning some of the fundamental science behind bioremediation technologies from the PhD students,” says Chartrand. BioScience Technology grad Megan Letkeman.
Seed funding spurs app “Y
ankauer suction,” “Castroviejo driver,” “DeBakey tissue forceps” are terms that don’t exactly roll off the tongue. But thanks to an innovative new mobile app, SIAST Nursing students specializing in surgery are having an easier time naming and identifying surgical instruments. Called the “InstruMentor™,” the app features high-resolution photos and descriptions of more than 70 instruments and audio
Last April, Ahlquist approached SIAST’s Office of Applied Research and Innovation (OARI) for funding to help cover the costs of developing the app for students in SIAST’s online Perioperative Nursing programs. His team was awarded $6,000 under SIAST’s Seed Applied Research Program (SARP), which helps SIAST faculty and staff develop their applied research ideas and scholarly activities. “The funds were a really big help in getting us rolling,” says Ahlquist.
patent to protect the intellectual property. Since August, students and instructors have been enthusiastically testing the prototype and have given it a big thumbsup. Students can study the instruments and quiz themselves—on their smartphones or tablets—whenever and wherever they wish, and no longer have to haul around a textbook. “This is the trend that we’re seeing in education,” says Ahlquist. “Students expect to be able to use mobile devices to enhance their learning.” And because the app features Canadian terminology, unlike the course’s American textbook, it’s particularly useful. Soon, the Perioperative Nursing programs will do away with the textbook in favour of InstruMentor™, which will cost students significantly less. Lynann Bedard, who recently graduated from the Perioperative Nursing/RN program, calls InstruMentor™ an “invaluable resource.” Students in SIAST’s Medical Reprocessing course are also experimenting with the app, as are physicians and medical students at the Regina General Hospital. Meanwhile, business and industry have approached Ahlquist’s team about developing similar resources for training purposes. In November, in recognition of their creativity and resourcefulness, Ahlquist, Houston and Lipp received SIAST’s Innovation Award.
From left: InstruMentor™ creators Dale Lipp, Carole Houston and Eli Ahlquist. pronunciation of their names—something no textbook can provide. “Many surgical instruments are named after the person who invented them, sometimes making pronunciation a challenge for students,” says Eli Ahlquist, head of SIAST’s Perioperative Nursing program.
Ahlquist had coordinated the project with Carole Houston, a Perioperative Nursing faculty member, and Dale Lipp, a graphic artist in SIAST’s Learning Technologies department. They had developed a prototype app, and the SARP funds enabled them to trademark the technology and apply for a
There’s still work to be done before InstruMentor™ is ready for market. The SARP funds, as well as grants from SIAST’s Nursing Division, have made it possible for Ahlquist’s team to hire a software firm to create 3-D rotatable images and an interface for faculty, and to ensure that the app is compatible on a variety of operating systems. Fingers crossed, Ahlquist expects that the final version of InstruMentor™ will be ready for downloading with this August’s intake of Perioperative Nursing students.
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