THE CANNON SERVING UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO ENGINEERING STUDENTS SINCE 1978
NOVEMBER 2016, VOLUME XXXIX
Engineering Career Centre Shakeup LU CHEN Cannon Editor-in-Chief NAMYA SYAL Cannon Marketing Head The Engineering Career Centre (ECC) has long since been a source of discontent for students. “The ECC is a cruel joke played on students,” stated a student response from the 2015 Skule Census. “I booked an appointment with an ECC counselor to look over my cover letter, hoping for
Credit: Lu Chen
comments about how to target it towards my specific job. Instead, they just told me it was fine and sent me on my way,” stated another response. “I got better advice from YNCN’s Resume Hacks.” Their professional development services aren’t the only areas that students are dissatisfied with; there have also been complaints about the exorbitant fees that the ECC charges for PEY and eSIP, and the lack of transparency on where these fees
go. “I had to pay $110 to access the eSIP portal, whose jobs are either already listed on the university-wide portal,” proclaimed Davis Wu, an ECE1T8. “After I did find a job, I had to pay another $250 placement fee. What are these fees going towards?” PEY students not only have to pay $110 for access to the PEY portal, but also have to pay an additional $925 upon placement. ECC continued on page 3
A Primer on Mark Adjustment at Skule ZHENGLIN LIU Cannon Editor As term test and assignment marks start rolling out and finals loom on the horizon, the issue of mark adjustment gets brought up more and more often. Given the range of student experiences and instructor practices, mark adjustment can be a very confusing part of the undergraduate experience in Engineering at the University of Toronto. The confusion perhaps starts from the term “bell curving,” frequently used to
refer to any form of mark adjustment despite the (true) claim that bell curving is forbidden. Now this does not mean that instructors are violating university policy by adjusting course marks: “bell curving” refers only to assigning grades based on students’ performance relative to one another so that the final marks form a Gaussian distribution with desired properties, such as a certain average or only a certain percentage of the class having a certain letter grade. This specific type of mark
Interview with Prof. Foster page 6
adjustment is prohibited by the Governing Council’s University Assessment and Grading Practices Policy, which states that the “distribution of grades in any course, examination[,] or other academic assessment must not be predetermined by any system of quotas that specifies the number or percentage of grades allowable at any grade level.” Other than this, however, adjustment is permitted by the policy even if it is based on reference to past statistics such as averages (as long as this is not the only
factor considered). This can be done by instructors before they “recommend” final grades to the department Chair and the Dean or Dean’s designate for approval, but the Chair, Dean, and Dean’s designate can also adjust the final grades in consultation with the instructor if they feel that the current grades are “injurious to the standards of the University, or […] not in keeping with divisional grading guidelines.” The Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering’s policies in its Information
Affordable eats near campus page 12
for Undergraduate Instructors booklet is not much more detailed. It mainly quotes the Calendar in suggesting that grades are “an expression of the instructor’s best judgment of each student’s overall performance,” reiterates the prohibition of limiting the number of students that can get a given grade, and discourages instructors who “are calibrating or adjusting marks” from referring to the practice as “‘belling’ or ‘curving.’” Marks continued on page 10
Should we hang up hotel towels? page 14
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THE CANNON EDITOR-IN CHIEF Lu Chen PRODUCTION EDITOR Polly Lin SENIOR EDITORS Dale Gottlieb Bob Kong Zhenglin Liu Andrew Uderian Linda Yu MARKETING/DISTRIBUTION HEAD Namya Syal PHOTOGRAPHY HEAD Sayuri Guruge LAYOUT HEAD Minh-Tam Nguyen GRAPHICS HEAD Rick Liu WEBMASTER Wibisha Balendran WRITERS & CONTRIBUTORS Robert Baker Hannah Bendig Herman Chandi Crystal Marie D’Souza Adham Husseini Sam Penner Samantha Stuart WISE UofT
CLAIMER The Cannon is the official (serious) newspaper of the University of Toronto Engineering Society. Established in 1978, it serves the undergraduate students of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, with a circulation of up to 3000. Submissions are welcome; e-mail email@example.com. Advertising and subscription information is available from the Engineering Society at 416-978-2917. DISCLAIMER The views expressed in this newspaper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Engineering Society unless so indicated. The editors reserve the right to modify submissions to comply with the newspaper’s and the Engineering Society’s policies.
10 King’s College Road Sandford Fleming Building Room B740 Toronto, ON M5S 3G4 firstname.lastname@example.org cannon.skule.ca
Letter from the Editor Hi friends, The past few months have been rife with change, both within Skule and beyond. Change is scary, because it’s uncertain. But change is also hopeful for that exact same reason. We have a few articles this issue that address this topic of change, from the upcoming reforms to the Engineering Career Centre to EngSoc’s new SpeakUp initiative. We also have a few articles that address the exact opposite, from the stagnation of TTC projects to the outdated expectations that are still placed on women. In times of uncertainty, it’s easy to get into an us vs. them mentality, and it’s easy to forget that the so-called ‘enemy’ is human as well. But let us not forget that we are all people, with the flaws that come with being human. Lu Chen Editor-in-Chief PS: Huge thanks to the editorial team for finding writers, coming up with article ideas, taking photos, creating graphics, maintaining the website, and editing the articles.
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A Case for Nuclear in Canada SAM PENNER Cannon Contributor Low carbon footprint solutions for the world’s power needs are in high demand, and the push for renewable energy has become a social movement as much as an engineering problem. Despite that, the mention of nuclear power has almost become taboo in modern conversations about energy. Three of many major benefits that the nuclear industry provides are the following: i) a good safety record; ii) a low carbon footprint; and iii) advances in scientific and medical research. Safety The risk-averse say that nuclear power poses a threat which cannot be averted because of human error and bad planning. Those who have read ‘The Human Factor’ by Kim Vicente will be familiar with the need for design oriented around the user, a lack of which led to the Chernobyl disaster. The lack of planning which allowed a tsunami to knock
ECC continued from page 1 The ECC has also gotten flack for the company outreach (or lack thereof) they’ve done. One student’s response from the 2015 Skule Census states: “The ECC does not reach out to enough companies and all the jobs that we get on the Career portal seem to be cheap labour type jobs for the companies.” An anonymous review from a startup gives some insight from the employer side: “The ECC portal is difficult to navigate on the employer’s side, and on top of the technical difficulties they faced, the ECC was also difficult to deal with.” The Faculty seems to have finally responded to student
out the Fukushima Daiichi power station in Japan is a recent example. According to Bob Herbert in the New York Times, “catastrophe happens.” The infamous disasters mentioned here are scary and, out of context, paint a picture of how the dangers of nuclear energy should bar it from even being considered in providing the world’s power requirements into the future. However, if the risk of losing human life is what matters most to us, then we need to look at the relative mortality rates of different energy sources. The following are global estimates of deaths per trillion kWh according to an article published in Forbes from 2012. The deaths attributed to power generated by coal, hydro, solar, and nuclear respectively are: 100,000 (coal), 1,400 (hydro), 440 (solar), and 90 (nuclear) per trillion kWh. It should be noted that the 90 deaths per trillion kWh attributed to nuclear energy includes the Chernobyl and Fukushima incidents.
Carbon Footprint On top of nuclear power’s excellent safety record, it prevented the release of an equivalent 64 gigatonnes (109 tonnes) of CO2 in greenhouse gases between 1971 and 2009, according to a report published by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. They claim that nuclear power should be expanded in order to minimize the impacts of climate change caused by human activities. There is renewed interest in new nuclear technologies worldwide. The Department of Energy in the US is planning to enter a 10 year collaboration with China to build new experimental reactors, while India sees nuclear energy as the future workhorse of its energy needs. According to Natural Resources Canada, nuclear energy provides close to 60% of Ontario’s electricity, provides 30,000 direct jobs, and is an industry that generates over $6 billion per year in revenue.
Science and Medicine In 2015 the federal government announced that the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor, at Chalk River Ont., was going to be shut down by 2018. As a world leader in nuclear science, this has a huge and detrimental impact on medical research and clinical applications worldwide. Canada is an important global supplier of medical isotopes. According to Natural Resources Canada, approximately 75% of Cobalt-60 used to sterilize 45% of single-use medical supplies globally is produced in Canada. Canada’s Diminished Role Canada could lose its place as a leader in this vital field of research and innovation. As of October 2016, according to the Globe and Mail, doctors specializing in nuclear medicine are concerned there might be shortages of molybdenum-99. Canada supplies 10% of the world’s supply of isotopes used for imaging for cancer, heart disease,
and other illnesses. Despite plans for the NRU reactor to be shut down by 2018, it is scheduled to stop making molybdenum-99 by November 1st, 2016. The supply chain of medical isotopes is very susceptible to disruption. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences released a report in September of 2016 assessing that there was a greater than 50% likelihood of molybdenum-99 shortages once the NRU reactor shuts down production. Canadian engineers are in a unique position to take advantage of the world’s interest in nuclear energy. The benefits of nuclear technologies are not often emphasized in an age where misinformation on the internet is commonplace. A new generation of engineers is needed to ensure that Canada’s future as a leader in safe, green, and innovative energy technologies is secure. Students at the University of Toronto have the opportunity to engage and be a part of that new generation.
feedback; according to Dean Cristina Amon at the most recent Town Hall, “The Faculty is making changes to ECC’s structure. There will be one academic director (Prof. Brenda McCabe) and one executive director, and we’ll provide more professional development to the ECC through organizations like ILead.” Vice Dean Tom Coyle elaborates: “All activities of the ECC/PEY office are being considered for change, as informed by input from students, alumni, faculty, and staff.” This includes potential changes to the current staffing structure, budget model (which currently consists of ECC staff salaries being paid off by student fees), and training for ECC staff.
A Working Group, led by the Vice Dean and Prof. McCabe, has already been established to engage in consultation with relevant stakeholders. They are currently gathering data and starting preliminary discussions, which will inform the Working Group of what needs to be changed/what next steps should be taken. According to Vice Dean Coyle, “a particular focus will be in the area of professional development, which would include things like resumes, interview skills, job search strategies, and career planning.” Vice Dean Coyle has also stated that the ECC will be “more outward-looking, more connected with other groups and activities
in the Faculty.” He has already had preliminary conversations with groups such as the Engineering Communication Program, ILead, UofT Career Centre, and You’re Next Career Network, but the Working Group would consult more extensively “regarding the nature of these relationships” going forward. Professor McCabe envisions “a very collaborative network between organizations that takes advantage of their strengths and allows them all to flourish.” Over the next few months, the Working Group will develop the vision for the evolution of the ECC and define the traits desired in the new leadership. A search will then be started
to engage a new Executive Director for the ECC; the goal is to find a new director by 2017. “This is an exciting time and finding the right person is pivotal to ensuring [the ECC’s] future success,” writes Professor McCabe. Over the short term, the Faculty expects no changes in the operations that will be evident to students. “These changes will not happen overnight, but I believe everyone has the best interests of the students in mind,” states Professor McCabe. If you’d like to make your opinions heard about the ECC, or would like to help structure these upcoming changes, please fill out the surveys that the Academic Advocacy Committee have posted.
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Prof. Wong’s Wise Words on Surviving Second Year ECE
Clean Energy with Prof. Bazylak ZHENGLIN LIU Cannon Editor Prof. Aimy Bazylak (MIE) was always interested in clean energy. One of her earliest memories was receiving a neon yellow flier in the mail as a child, and being intrigued by its slogan, “beware of nuclear energy”. This got her thinking about the issue of the environment and what we needed to do to protect it. From then on, she became an environmentalist, and thus began her path towards her current position as the director of the University’s Centre for Sustainable Energy and the chair of Engineering Science’s Energy Systems option. At first, she simply took eco-friendly actions in her daily life, composting and recycling, but a family background of engineers and a love for tinkering led her to study Engineering Physics at the University of Saskatchewan, where she developed an interested in sustainable energy. “I didn’t know where I could make my mark in clean energy, in renewable energy,” said Prof. Bazylak, until one of her professors invited her to do research with him. “Look, if you want to work on something that you can
see work in your lifetime,” he told her, “then you need to look outside the topic I’m working on,” which was fusion energy. “I was kind of impatient,” Prof. Bazylak recounts, “I needed something that I could build with my bare hands, and see work for people right away,” and this led to her interest in fuel cells, which remains one of her research areas today. After a PhD with MIE’s own Prof. David Sinton, Prof. Bazylak came to direct the Thermofluids for Energy and Advanced Materials (TEAM) Laboratory, which researches porous materials for clean energy applications such as fuel cells and electrolyzers, which store energy as hydrogen. Armed with such techniques as X-ray based visualization, synchrotron-based visualization, and the opensource modelling package OpenPNM, developed collaboratively with a researcher at McGill, the TEAM Lab investigates the flow of liquids, gases, heat, and electrons to inform material design, operation strategies, and water management for clean energy technology and carbon sequestration. Thus, Prof. Bazylak hopes to help address society’s need for reliable and clean renewable
LINDA YU Cannon Editor Everyone has heard that second year ECE is death. To quell some of the fear and to understand the method behind the madness that is second year ECE, I’ve decided to interview Prof. Willy Wong to get his thoughts and advice about how to survive “hell year” (and beyond).
Professor Bazylak (far left) and her research students Credit: Sayuri Guruge energy both in Canada and worldwide, helping the environment and in particular combatting the problem of air pollution in urban areas. “Clean energy [...] is such an emerging thing that, in order to make impact, you have to oftentimes be at the forefront of doing research,” Prof. Bazylak says, and indeed the TEAM Lab is making quite an impact in industry. Currently, the lab is working closely with partners such as Nissan, Volkswagen, and Hyundai to improve their fuel cell technologies to create less expensive, longer-lasting engines that run on renewable power, and thus more affordable eco-friendly cars. Even the more theoretical work done in the lab feed into the lab’s understanding of engineered problems.
Professor Bazylak and her research students Credit: Sayuri Guruge
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“The challenge, oftentimes, is to move from what we’re doing in the lab, in a very isolated system, into something like an automotive engine, which is much bigger, much more complex, and has to go on Canadian roads,” Prof. Bazylak explains. The TEAM Lab welcomes undergraduate students to join in all this work, as Prof. Bazylak believes the next few years will be “a great time to work in clean energy.” While the lab is heavily mechanical-based, backgrounds in physics, chemical engineering, or MSE could also be relevant. Recent projects for undergrad students have included analyzing imaging results of fuel cells under a transient energy load (which occurs, for example, when
a car is accelerating after a red light), and studying the behaviour of fuel cells under particularly dry and wet conditions and after long periods of use. The former was done by an EngSci student, while the latter was done by a Mech. Beyond just an interest in porous media, Prof. Bazylak looks especially for a passion to learn and discover, a drive to work in a team environment, and the ability to think independently and creatively in research students. Since the TEAM lab works at a “running pace,” she wants even undergraduate students to contribute to research advancements. “If I’m there to say, do A, B, C, D, then I’m not really tapping into your potential,” she explains.
The Cannon: Do you think that the second year course material is too hard? Professor Willy Wong: In my opinion, there’s a lot of content covered in 2nd year which means quite a bit of overlap between the courses. In second semester, particularly in circuits, students struggle with vector calculus and I’m really surprised that the students are happy to be taught the material again. As an instructor it’s hard to teach Maxwell’s equations while students still have trouble with math
taught previously, but we have to move on, which might be why the students think the material is hard. Although we feel sorry for the students struggling to catch up, there are certain expectations for each course. We need to get to many more interesting things with boundary problems past the fundamental material and mathematics. There’s always so much knowledge to begin with for building fundamentals, which is problematic for students to properly absorb and apply correctly. This is why I feel conflicted sometimes; I need to teach the knowledge to build to the next level, but I have to slow down because it’s hard for students to absorb it all without understanding the basics. It’s hard for the instructor to keep the balance. However, once you’ve overcome the struggle and understand the concepts, you can start to look at why things are put together this way, in an engineer’s
perspective. I would say that mastering fundamental knowledge is crucial; all the things we are learning now are derived from previous knowledge you have learned in high school or other courses. I would say that once you can master the basic concepts, you are in the right position to win a Nobel prize! TC: What advice would you give on dealing with negative feedback (both in class and in general)? WW: It’s very hard. I was like that too; I remember coming out of my first class with an insignificant quiz that threw me off. But four years is actually a long time and if you do poorly this time, you have a long way to go. Don’t fuss over small things. If you do well in school, same advice: don’t only focus on marks so that you can get to the next station (whether that’s a job or grad school). It’s likely that you will all get a job, and it’s important to realize that learning doesn’t stop after you get out of school. We are teaching you ways to learn, rather than how to get a good mark just to get to the next day. I took a long time to learn about EM (electromagnetism) and
Second year ECE students working on their morning hardware lab Credit: Sayuri Guruge
I still didn’t understand it fully until I started teaching the material. Even now, I still need to talk to my colleagues to understand more concepts. Learning doesn’t stop. Time management is also very important. It’s hard to motivate yourself, but spreading the task out can make it easier. A lot of students are fixated on finding the right answers, but you should focus on getting the right process; that’s how you’ll get to the right answers. From that perspective, if you take your solution manual, it looks easy because you never went through the process. Even if it’s painful, go to a help session and understand the process. Practice is key, and engineering is about finding solutions to the problem. TC: Is it harder for international students to get graduate student positions? If so, how would they approach this issue? WW: There’s an astronomical difference in international student versus domestic student fees for graduate studies, therefore professors are more likely to hire domestic students. However, don’t be discouraged if you are an undergraduate international student and want to do your graduate studies at UofT; there’s an equal chance of talking and getting to
know the professors you are interested in working with. Try talking to them after class if you know a little bit about what they’re doing. After all, no professor may say that they are tired of talking about their research! However, it’s not like all domestic undergraduate students are going to stay in Canada, so this can be a problem for anyone to consider. There are merits for both leaving or staying at the your undergrad university for graduate studies for everyone. Engineers are generally very mobile people, and you need to choose based on your plans. TC: How does it feel to stand in front of so many people and teach? WW: I thought about that during my first lecture as a professor. It was daunting as I had around a hundred students in front of me. But the material is so fascinating to me that I want to share it with my students. Teaching draws a lot of brain power; you need to write on the board and you need to explain the concept. Since you are doing so many things at once, the nervous feeling fades after a few seconds while you focus on writing and teaching. It’s a pleasure to teach, and it may be nerve-wracking for a few people, but once you start enjoying it, that’s all that matters.
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A Casual Afternoon Chat with Prof. Foster ANDREW UDERIAN Cannon Editor Officially, Prof. Jason Foster is the “Associate Professor of Engineering Design, Teaching Stream,” but to most engineering students (Engineering Science in particular), he’s known as the cheerful, long-winded professor who teaches Praxis. When asked for an interview, he responded positively to the idea, and greeted me in his pleasantly cluttered office on one Friday afternoon. The Cannon: According to the EngSci website, the Praxis courses are designed to develop students’ understanding of engineering design while improving their communication skills. At the same time, the word Praxis means “doing” or “to do” in ancient Greek. How would you describe Praxis? Professor Jason Foster: To be slightly facetious, Praxis tries to bring balance to The Force, because we have students who come in being very theoretical, and other students that come in being very practical. Engineering has to balance “I know how this works” with “I have to get it done without fully understanding it,” and the places where an engineer in their career really needs to balance that is when they’re doing design work or when they’re trying to communicate. Praxis is a course which helps students rebalance from where their high school and admissions prompted them to be. When they come to us they know calculus, but where is the design, the communication?
you’re committing to having a designation which you want to take on, which is a great thing, because then what your education is supporting you in is making you the best Mech, the best Comp, the best Elec, and so on, that you can be. On the other hand, EngSci is more of “I don’t really have a path and I don’t really have anything that’s calling to me, but I still really want to be an engineer, I still want to be really good at what I do.” So no, I think it isn’t an innate skill or talent, but rather the desire to be amazing at something that people already recognize versus wanting to be recognized for being amazing.
TC: Praxis is different from ESP though. Would you say there’s some sort of fundamental difference beTC: Stepping back and tween Core 8s and EngScis? evaluating the situation sounds like a very “engiJF: By going into Core 8, neering” thing to do, but
in the extremely favorable exchange rate between Canadian and US dollars, For those interested in it’s no surprise people’s eyes the world of technology, no light up at the financial posland is arguably more sacred sibilities of Silicon Valley. than Silicon Valley. Some All of this comes at a cost may have had the privilege to Canada itself. For one, edto experience “The Valley” ucation in Canada is largely firsthand, while others are subsidized. Those subsidies limited to dreaming on the are provided under the asmyths that surround the sumption that the young area. people who go through Silicon Valley is almost the university system will unanimously regarded as the mecca for technology. This pocket in the San Francisco Bay Area is highly concentrated with technology companies ranging from giants like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Tesla to startups looking to disrupt their respective spaces. With beautiful weather year round, media attention that has led to the creation of an entire TV show (appropriately named Silicon Valley), contribute to the country and a feeling in the air that economically and become anyone there has the po- a long-term taxpayer themtential to change the world selves. This reciprocity with a click of a button, the crumbles when fresh graduValley is the most desirable ates flee the country as soon location for those interested as they walk out of conin software. People from all vocation. Canadian firms across the world are drawn trying to compete with the to the Valley’s promises of big players in the world also grandeur and riches (and the suffer, as they lose out on networking opportunities!). acquiring the top talent necBut that’s just the prob- essary to make an impact in lem. Although this works great for the startup and technology ecosystem of the Valley, the countries and regions of those who flock to the Valley suffer. Canada is no exception. Some estimates say that there are currently over 350,000 former Canadians working in Silicon Valley. Why are so many young, talented Canadian engineers leaving? The higher salaries south of the border are the key factor, as a young grad in the Valley can make much more money. Startups in the Bay Area are also much more likely to give generous benefits and stock options, which could pay huge dividends down the line. Once you throw HERMAN CHANDI Cannon Contributor
an increasingly competitive market. Some technology leaders in Canada have attempted to take a stand against this. For instance, Carl Rodrigues, the CEO of SOTI Inc, a Canadian mobile software company, decried this “brain drain” of Canadian talent and accused Silicon Valley of abusing the subsidized education in Canada. He claims that these companies
force those who are educated in Canada only to immediate leave to higher salaries in the States to reimburse Canadians. The argument is that people who immediately leave the country are wasted investments; these reimbursements would presumably be used to bolster the Canadian tech scene in hopes of incentivizing young, talented graduates to stay.
People from all across the world are drawn to the Valley’s promises of grandeur and riches [...].
Professor Jason Foster Credit: Kevin Zhang
and backgrounds. If you do that people will care, and that caring is what makes amazing projects happen. Last year, we had students that were working with the epilepsy classroom at Sick Kids. My students were in there with these kids, sitting with them, working with them, and instead of bringing a design they brought prototyping materials, and they were working with the child to design the thing. I was there that day, and it was incredible watching how they went about it, how professional and how caring really feel that they’re in- and on the ball they were. terested in the project. But When a team gets involved, if you understand what they can go out and make that person is interested in, it better, not just for themthere’s almost always a way selves, but because they acto bring someone’s intrinsic tually care. interests into a project. I would say the most importTC: Seeing the people ant thing is understanding you taught do something your teammates as people, like that must’ve been reand being willing, given that warding as a professor. I’m they are people, to be flexi- sure it’s not all fun though, ble around everyone’s differ- so what do you think is the ent lifestyles, expectations, hardest part about being
Take a step back, take a deep breath, and take a second look.
you’re studying, switch from ‘Go go go, let’s get the 90%’ to ‘OK, hold on a sec, can I think it through a little differently, can I play with the idea a little differently, and can I use that to get things done a little quicker, a little better, and get more sleep?’
The Great Canadian Brain Drain
you mentioned this can be applied to students’ health. Do you think students should apply this everywhere in their lives?
JF: Oh yeah, for better or for worse, people say in 15 minutes of conversation you can tell the engineer from the non-engineer. It becomes a part of you, and so our role, our job, why your instructors are here, is because we think there’s value in you thinking like an engineer. There are limits; in interpersonal relationships you might not want to treat the other person like a point mass, but I think the engineering mentality is one that has a lot of benefit across the board, if applied appropriTC: So then what would ately and judiciously. be your number one piece of advice for engineering TC: You said there’s a students as a whole? lot more to interpersonal relationships than treating JF: The number one piece the other person like a point of advice I have is to learn mass, so what would you to take a step back, take say is the key to successfully a deep breath, and take a working on a team? second look. The key thing you want to do is become a JF: I’d say that for me and conscious individual: con- my teaching team the big scious about your learning, one for us is trust, and unyour health, your career derstanding the other perpath, and about the way son as a person. What makes you’re interpreting and un- teams fail is when someone derstanding things. When isn’t feeling engaged, doesn’t
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a professor that students don’t know about? JF: One of the challenges of being a professor is that it will take over your life as easily as your undergraduate education took over your life. As an engineering prof, you’re always on. You never know when you’re walking down the street and you meet a student that has a good question, or you see something you want to use in class. Especially if you live locally, you always have to be on. You don’t want to have a bad day and be grumpy to a student, but we have lives, and lives come with bad days. One thing students don’t necessarily realize is that faculty members are human too, and the anonymous comments on Reddit and RateMyProf do sting a bit. Your profs are humans too, with all of the insecurities and oversecurities that normal human beings have.
But that’s just the problem. should go as far as reimbursing the Canadian government for luring away the country’s talent. The Council of Canadian Innovators, a group of Canadian technology CEOs founded by former Blackberry head, Jim Balsillie, decided to take it one step further. The group recently called for new government policy that would
Although some have dismissed this sort of proposition as insulting to Canadian core values of freedom, there seems to be some mutual agreement from all parties that something needs to be done to make things fairer. As it currently stands, taxpayers aren’t getting a fair deal and the economy is suffering for it. Moving forward, Canada
needs to bolster the startup and technology ecosystem right here at home. With the right incentives and environment in place, there’s no reason why Canadian companies can’t compete for our very own top talent. Things appear to already be looking up. The Silicon Valley Competitiveness and Innovation Project has reported that more people have left the Valley in recent years than have entered. The Canadian technology scene in hot spots like TorontoWaterloo and Vancouver, and the economy at large, could greatly benefit from returning Canadians who have gained experience elsewhere. For this to happen, it is essential that Government works with private industry in this sector to ensure that effective policy is in place to successfully keep young engineers in Canada. On November 2nd, PrO hosted an informative panel discussion on how policy can be crafted to help Canadian startups. If you’re interested in how public policy can influence various facets of industry, check out Professional Outreach’s future Policy Hives.
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TTC Updates: What’s Happening (and What’s Not) RICK LIU Cannon Graphics Head I’ve definitely heard many of my fellow classmates complaining about their commutes; one Min was ranting animatedly to me about how the TTC stretched his 90 minute commute to 2 hours because of a delay. My friend shakes his head at me every time I tell him I can wake up at 8:50AM, while he has to be up at 5AM so he doesn’t miss his bus. While Toronto transit is leagues better than that of my hometown (Calgary), there is room for improvement for anyone who doesn’t live south of St. Clair, east of Bathurst, or west of Broadview. During the Ford years, transit projects got delayed, then cancelled, and then reworked and put back on the table in their original form. John Tory was elected partially on promises of major improvements to Toronto transit, and with these promises I felt optimistic for the TTC’s direction. To keep track of Tory’s progress, I created a map of all current transit projects (see below). The Eglinton Line from Mount Dennis to Kennedy and the Finch Line will be the first to come online in 2021. The Eglinton line will not only replace the busiest bus routes in the city and improves service in York and East York, but will also increase connectivity in the system, with both the subway and Go Transit. The Finch, Sheppard, and outer
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NOVEMBER 2016 Eglinton Line, the Vaughan Extension of the University Line and the Finch Line. It’s also highly likely that those 2 lines are only being built because they’re already under construction (and therefore too late to cancel). While we are getting new lines with this revised subway map (see below), it looks pretty bleak compared to what could have been. All of the transit shenanigans happening right now (and back in the Ford era) reminds me of the words
of my professors. While we were debriefing a problem in class, Professor Alan Chong said that sometimes the underlying issue to what seems to be a typical (math and science centric) engineering problem can be unrelated to engineering. It can be economic, social, or in the case of the TTC, political. Professor Bill Vanderburg said that society has members too specialized in their own knowledge in our modern system. Normal citizens and politicians are often
Map of revisions that are actually being made to the TTC
The current Toronto subway map sections of the Eglinton lines will put service where there was none before, and connect key destinations, like UTSC and the Airport, to the network. The Don Mills Line will relieve the massive overcrowding on the Yonge-University subway (as I unfortunately found out after waiting for four trains to pass by), which will allow the Yonge-University line to extend to York Region. Therefore, students in Vaughan and Richmond Hill won’t have to be bound by Go Train schedules and
Map of all promised transit projects
can commute without worrying about missing a train. However, the last few months have turned my optimism to pessimism. The mayor has downplayed the importance of the Don Mills line in order to support his pet project of SmartTrack, which essentially means the city will pay Go Transit for projects Go Transit is already funding and building themselves. Without the Don Mills Line, it’s unlikely that a subway to Richmond Hill will get the go-ahead, as there’s no other way to
relieve overcrowding on the Yonge Line. The Mayor has also said he plans to use increased property values from building transit to fund the Mount Dennis to Pearson section of Line 5. However, this system has never been done at such a large scale before, and many economists have said it will not raise enough money. Meanwhile, the Mayor is also heavily pushing for a $3 billion 1 stop extension of the Bloor line to Scarborough Centre. That kind of money alone can
fund the entirety of the Sheppard and Finch Lines; however, his insistence on the 1 stop extension risks the cancellation of the Kennedy to UTSC portion of the Eglinton line. The province is also at fault. They’re trying to quietly cancel the Sheppard line without anyone noticing, mostly by endlessly delaying the opening date from 2013, to 2021, to 2024 (and probably to indefinitely). When all is said and done, the only new lines we’ll get are the central part of the
unaware of what civil servants are planning or doing and don’t have the expertise to make decisions. These two statements really got me thinking about the root cause of this transit mess. It’s not the planners’ fault for proposing what appears to be reasonable solutions, at least not in the traditional sense. It’s not the TTC’s fault for continuously being sent back to the drawing board, also at least not in the traditional sense. It’s up to us to find out
more about transit proposals that benefit us. It’s up to us to tell our representatives in various levels of government that these proposals are useful, and that they’ll help us by not forcing us to sit in crowded buses, or waiting half an hour for a GO train. It’s up to us to be more involved in the planning process and to help planners come up with good proposals. As future engineers we are particularly responsible, since in many cases we may be the ones
working on transit proposals in the future. It’s up to the TTC and planners to sell us transit and advocate for it, to better inform the public about what we’re really getting in transit proposals, instead of politicians trumpeting their own proposals. Maybe in the future, we can all be more optimistic in the future of Toronto transit, and avoid the proposing and cancelling, the political jockeying, and the pessimism that we all associate with Toronto transit today.
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Marks continued from page 1 However, it also outlines the way the Faculty applies the two-stage process for mark adjustment laid out by the Governing Council. Instructors first submit provisional marks that they may have adjusted to the Examinations Committee through the Registrar’s office. This Committee includes six instructors, two undergraduate students chosen through EngSoc VP Academic, and four ex officio administrators: Dean Cristina Amon, Vice-Dean Undergraduate Thomas Coyle, First Year Chair Micah Stickel, and Registrar Don MacMillan. Its mandate involves ensuring “that students in all undergraduate academic programs and courses are fairly evaluated,” and it is the body that approves the marks. It can request that the instructor adjust the marks, though it “has the final responsibility for assigning the official course grade.” Grades are only posted as official on ACORN when approved by the committee. The Academic Regulations in the Calendar notes that chairs of departments or the Division of Engineering Science may also convene departmental marks review committees to make recommendations to the Examinations Committee for courses offered by the department/division. In practice, this framework plays out with a number of moving parts. Prof. Jun Nogami, chair of MSE, explains that “most instructors would prefer not to adjust the grades at all” in his experience, but would check if the grade distribution is reasonable and take steps if the grades are affected by “a particular difficult exam” or some other issue before submitting it. As well, instructors are provided with a chart containing historical mark data based on all the courses at each year level,
NOVEMBER 2016 without any mention of individual courses, as a guideline. This chart includes the mean average, the mean percentage of students with As, Bs, Cs, and “below” over all courses, the range of averages covered by “80% of courses with 10 or more students,” and the range of percentages of students with each letter grade category covered by the same 80% of courses. In general, the later years tend to have higher grades overall.
This all means that instructors do not really have a sense of the adjustment that would be needed until the course is done: ESP II, for example, had marks adjusted so that more students would get As in 2016 but not 2015, since the raw marks in 2016 would have produced an unusually low number of As. This situation explained why some instructors said before the end of the 2016 offering of the course that there would
he would multiply all grades by the same factor for situations like an excessively long exam, which impacts students proportionally to their ability, but add the same number of marks to all students if there were too few easy questions. Many other adjustment techniques exist: Lu Chen (Indy1T8) mentions having encountered both bonus questions and bonus marks she describes as “karma points,” while Susanna
This is mostly so that no cohort is advantaged or disadvantaged [...]
According to this chart, provided to The Cannon by Prof. Jim Davis (UTIAS), Chair of the Examinations Committee, the committee is “particularly interested in the percentage of students at or above the honours level in a course because of its relevance in competitions for scholarships and graduate fellowships.” As well, Prof. Davis explained that “there is some expectation” that the mean and distribution of grades in a course do not “vary significantly” from year to year. According to Phuong Huynh, Course Administrator for Engineering Strategies and Practice (ESP), this is mostly so that no cohort is advantaged or disadvantaged by fluctuations in assignment difficulty and marking practices between years. Thus, according to Prof. Davis, there are “some cases” where the committee asks the instructor for justification, and a “small number of cases each term” where the committee requests changes to the grades, either up or down. Prof. Nogami notes, however, that “all grade adjustments are done with the agreement of the instructor,” while Prof. Davis emphasized that the committee only “rarely requests that an instructor alter submitted grades” and that “it is only done after careful review.”
be no adjustment. Similarly, grades were adjusted upwards for the first time in APS104 in its final offering in 2016, when “the final exam was judged to be too difficult.” Prof. Nogami explains that when adjusting the APS104 marks, he “paid attention to the percentage of students who failed, and made sure that both the course average, and the grade distribution was not too far from historical averages.” This is but one example of the many factors instructors consider when adjusting grades. Prof. Guerzhoy tries to “give every student the appropriate grade” by using descriptions of each letter grade from the Academic Calendar, and does not aim for a particular average. While this has led to small deviations from preceding years, the Faculty accepted the grades he submitted when he was able to justify it. In addition to calibrating marking schemes so that exams that show understanding characteristic of “A students” would get A range marks, exams that show understanding roughly deserving of a pass would get low passing grades, and so on, Prof. Guerzhoy tries to choose adjustment techniques that reflect the situation at hand. For example,
Rumsey (EngSci1T4+PEY, ECE MEng 1T6, MASc 1T8) recalls an instructor who made the adjusted mark a fractional exponent of the original mark multiplied by a constant so that those with 100% stayed at 100% and those who had 0% stayed at 0%, but everyone else gained some marks. Other practices attested include the reweighting of assessments so that tests students struggled on counted for less, approaches such as boosting marks until at least one student reached 100% or purposefully making exams difficult and planning for adjustments, as well as flat-out refusal to adjust marks. Several upper year
students felt that the curving they received decreased as they went up in year: Chris Rockx (EngSci1T7+PEY) suggested that in Engineering Science this could be due to students transferring out. Dale Gottlieb (MSE1T8), who spent a year in EngSci, also thought that there was more adjustment in EngSci in general (compared to MSE), possibly due to the smaller class size in MSE, which seems to allow professors to “have a better idea of the level of the class” so that the tests met the single-section class’s needs better. Overall, Lu also suggested that “there is a general expectation that courses are going to be adjusted,” and felt that her marks reflect her “knowledge of the material relative to everyone else’s knowledge” rather than purely her own knowledge. Of course, all these are individual anecdotes, and, as Prof. Leslie Sinclair (MIE) says, “studying and practice will ensure better results than relying on mark adjustments.” Nonetheless, the petition and academic appeals process is an option in situations where courses don’t seem to have been assessed fairly. As well, class reps, discipline clubs, EngSoc, and relevant faculty offices are all resources in the case of questions, concerns, or suggestions.
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Pro-Tip! Public Transit Hacks 3. Do your homework while commuting Next time you’re on a particularly long and uneventful train ride, try pulling out your homework to kill time. Chances are you will finish a significant chunk of your schoolwork, especially when there are so few distractions. However, if you do get a headache from the movement of the vehicle, try using your commute as a way to destress, unplug, and take a much needed break from the world. You either get a few moments to breathe, or you get to feel more productive. Sounds like a win-win to me!
there, where space and seats are plentiful. Also, the TTC provides comfortable working environments for their operators – who just so happen to be situated in the first and last car of every TTC subway train. As a result, the front and back of the train are always more airconditioned or heated than the other cars. Essentially, riding in the front or the back of a subway train is the equivalent of flying first class – except without the price of first class.
scientists, quirky engineers, The portrayal of women this year’s incoming class to and bold historians. in this film is new and ex- UofT Engineering is nearly Ghostbusters is, to be citing. They get dirty, they 40% women, we all know clear, a reboot of the original do physical work, and they what it feels like to have in only the broadest sense do heavy lifting - things you male professors, male TAs, of the term. From cameos rarely see on the big screen and a lot of male classmates. to small inside jokes to the when it comes to women’s This movie gives us a break classic fire hall and slime, roles. Not only that, but from that world and lets us this movie gives the old fan these characters are experts be in our element with other everything they loved about in their fields which are usu- women who enjoy science the originals but with bigger ally dominated by men; they just as much as we do - not to and better special effects. are engineers, professors, mention the amazing effect The only difference is that and scientists. Although it’s having on young girls all the cast is now comprised of four hilarious and smart women. This movie unapologetically combines ghosts, guns, gags, and girl power. Not only do women see a more accurate representation of themselves in a major movie franchise as actors and comedians, but we now have educated and tough women to look up to. Ghostbusters’ Ecto-1 spotted in Toronto! Credit: Lu Chen
over the world. Ghostbusters gives little girls who want to grow up and design marvelous machines a variety of role models to choose from and has hopefully started a trend towards more diverse casting in these large scale movies, and to more diverse classes (gender ratio-wise) in engineering.
CRYSTAL MARIE D’SOUZA Cannon Contributor Let’s face it, commuting during the school year is not a particularly pleasant experience. Some commuters spend over two hours a day in buses, trains and streetcars – and that’s on a good day without delays. At the end of the day, both you and your wallet are drained. However, despite long wait times, ridiculous rate jumps, and always being packed into a train like a sardine, there are still Presto tap payment device some things you can do to Credit: Aly Khan Panjwani get the most out of your daily commute. cheaper than paying a cash fare every time you take the 1. Get a Presto card or a subway. Plus, it only takes TTC Metropass a second to tap or swipe The reloadable Presto a transit card instead of card and the TTC Metropass fumbling around in your are both cheaper and more wallet for spare change. convenient alternatives to To pay the fare even more the cash fare. Using a Presto quickly, some commuters card can reduce the cost of a using Presto keep their cards fare by as much as 45 cents in the outer pockets of their depending on your age, and jackets and bags so that the buying a TTC Metropass machine can read the cards at the start of the year is without them having to pull
them out. It may increase the chances of the turnstile machine failing to read your card, but it’s worth it if you get to look like a badass getting on the subway every day. 2. Know which platform your GO train departs from to get a seat At any GO Station, several monitors display updated train and bus departure information, including the platform from which the train will leave. Some inexperienced commuters wait until a platform number appears next to their respective route to try and find their train. However, if you take the train a few times, you’ll notice that most trains with a common destination use the same platform every time. Once you are familiar with which platform your train uses, you can proceed towards it before the platform is announced and grab a guaranteed seat everyday.
5. Use the TTC or GO app No one likes waiting for a train. Or a bus. Or anything, for that matter. So 4. Sit at the front or the why should you? With new back of the subway train smartphone apps that can During rush hour, the calculate the fastest route last thing you want to be home, tell you about delays doing is rubbing shoulders and cancellations, and even with a stranger in a subway track your motion en route car. If you want to ride using your phone’s GPS, in something a little less you will never have to worry reminiscent of a pack of about being late for class sardines, then walk to the again. Just make sure you front or the back of the wake up on time. platform and enter the train
Ghostbusters (2016) HANNAH BENDIG Cannon Contributor As a woman in the 21st century who is interested in the STEM fields, I can’t even begin to explain how exciting the new Ghostbusters movie was. A movie suggesting that women can also be professional paranormal investigators and eliminators opens dreams of opportunities, not just for the media and movie casts, but also for women anywhere working in a male dominated field. We now see women on the big screen in major roles, and who aren’t boxed into the “classic” stereotypes that women usually portray. These women also succeed in their roles with a variety of character traits: the curious
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Affordable, Yet Unique Eats for the NAMYA SYAL Cannon Marketing Head While a more exciting article would probably have been where to get free pizza on campus every day of the week, sometimes you need a respite from Veda Curry Bowls and Hard Hat Cafe Pizza without breaking the bank. Here are some of our picks for affordable places to eat around campus.
Vietnamese subs, or Banh Mi, have been taking the world by storm. Banh Mi Nguyen Huong is known for their basic sub, which is similar to your typical cold cut sub with lettuce, but with a lot more flavor and ingredients. The sandwich is large, very filling, and the cheapest option on the menu at $3. Their ingredients aren’t always the freshest, but service is fast and the sandwich is delicious. There is no seating, and the place is a bit further from campus than most places on this list. However, it’s hard to find a cheaper lunch than this in downtown Toronto, so I’d recommend it as the go-to place for a cheap and quick lunch.
Broke University Student 4. Light Cafe 23 Baldwin Street - Floor Unit, Toronto, ON M5T 1L1
ADHAM HUSSEINI Cannon Contributor
1. Banh Mi Nguyen Huong 322 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T
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2. Fika Credit: Fika 2. Fika 28 Kensington Ave, Toronto, ON M5T 2J9 Fika is a Swedish word which translates to “Let’s go for coffee.” Their coffee ($2.85-$4.40) is excellent, as are the baked goods ($1.50$4). Not only are these delicious treats baked fresh daily, but come in gluten-free and lactose-free variations. The cafe itself is cozy, with a wall of books that makes for a lovely Instagram shot, and a couple of couches next to a fireplace. They also have a nice long work table, and a cute backyard for when the weather is good. They have excellent Wi-Fi, though they require you to “check in” to their Facebook page. For food, they have a lunch menu for $12.50, which includes a sandwich and a side, and salads for $8. Their sandwiches are delicious and very filling. Come here if you want good cafe food and a place to do some casual work (or catch up with friends)!
1. Banh Mi Nguyen Huong Credit: Namya Syal 3. Crimson Teas 415 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T 2G6 This is a lovely restaurant that used to be near Steins, but recently moved to a bigger location. The aesthetic of the store is the first thing that catches you off guard. Instead of a regular restaurant set-up, this place has a long, beautiful wood table that makes up most of the dining area, with logshaped seats that perfectly complement the aesthetic of the table. The walls are filled with art by the owner, who started the business with the goal of delivering
top quality teas with health benefits to Torontonians. He asks customers to stick out their tongues or checks their hand to see what tea would suit them. Having little knowledge of this practice, I won’t question it, but I do know he’s never wrong. After looking through multiple reviews, I haven’t managed to find a single person who wasn’t satisfied with their tea and their experience at the place. The restaurant carries a wide variety of teas (from $2.5- $5)
and claims to be the only restaurant in Toronto that serves moonlight white tea. Aside from tea he also serves tea noodles ($8), which he makes in-house daily and are offered with a variety of different options (tofu, chicken, vegetables, eggs). The place also has free internet and is a great spot to get work done. If you’re a tea lover, come here, and if not, come anyway and let the owner find the perfect tea for you.
The Light Cafe is a Taiwanese inspired cafe that serves affordable gourmet food with a contemporary twist. The place is cute, clean, and cozy, with a beautiful wall of plants. However, better than the food is the cafe’s internet service, which, unlike many cafes, is uninterrupted and easy to use. Their most famous concoction is their cotton candy coffee ($4.95) (pictured below), which is a cute concept, but I found it to be too dark. The food, on the other hand, is what you would expect to get at a fancy restaurant at a quarter of the price. Their waffles ($8.75) and truffle mushroom croissant ($10.25) keep me going back to this place at least once a week. Pair any dish with one of their monstrous shakes ($5.25) or a cup of hot chocolate ($3.25), and you’ve got a particularly satisfying experience. This is one of the few places that checks all the boxes of a great lunch place: cheap(ish), delicious, close to campus, and free Wi-Fi to work on problem sets (or browse Facebook, we don’t judge). Unfortunately, they only accept cash or Ritual, but they do have an ATM on site if you don’t have carry cash on you. This a great place for group/individual study or a date!
5. Seven Lives 69 Kensington Ave, Toronto, ON M5T 2K2 Their description on Facebook is “We make tasty Baja-style Mexican food,” which is pretty accurate. Seven Lives is a small, no frills taco restaurant in the middle of Kensington. Tacos cost $5, but they’re large, filling, and worth it. Their Gobernador is extremely popular, but they also have vegetarian options. I tried their cactus taco, and surprisingly enjoyed it! Their ingredients are fresh and well cooked, which already beats the restaurants in front of Wallberg. They also use actual corn tortillas, which I found refreshing and delicious! They have sangria and lemonade ($2 each) to go with their tacos; I found that the drinks and food complement each other perfectly, especially since even their “medium” salsa is quite spicy. Seven Lives isn’t without its faults. The lines can be long, and during rush hour you might have to wait about 20 minutes to get your food. They prioritize food over everything else, and it shows. There isn’t a lot of seating, and there is no washroom, so bring some napkins with you or bring your taco back to school and eat it there. Overall, this is a great place if you’re craving excellent food, but don’t want to sit down to eat.
(From top to bottom) 3. Crimson Teas Credit: Crimson Teas 4. Light Cafe Credit: Namya Syal 5. Seven Lives Credit: Namya Syal
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A Graduate Student’s Thoughts on Graduate School ROBERT BAKER Cannon Contributor After years of grueling labs and hopeless exams, the iron ring is on the horizon and the end is finally in sight. Industry beckons and the wide world awaits. Or maybe you’re thinking about graduate school? Your reasons for pursuing a graduate degree may be varied. The most obvious is a passion for advanced research in your field of study. Other reasons may include an interest in taking more courses in a specific area or simply improving your job prospects. In most Canadian engineering schools, there are three types of graduate degrees: course-based and thesis-based Master’s (MEng and MASc, respectively) and Doctorate (PhD) degrees. Typically, both Master’s are
about two years, while a PhD is about four years. All three degrees require candidates to complete courses, but the thesis-based programs also require candidates to write and defend a thesis. Candidates in thesis-based degrees are also fully funded. It is possible to go straight from a Bachelor’s degree into a PhD, although this usually only happens in extraordinary cases. As well, research is very different from undergraduate work. Choosing to pursue a PhD is a big decision, and I would advise candidates to complete an MASc first—as a professor once said to me, “A Master’s is like a taste of research.” So which degree should you choose? Ultimately, the decision is up to you and may depend on the type of engineering you study. But
if you are interested in research, I advise you to pursue a thesis-based Master’s as opposed to a coursebased one; personally, I have never met a PhD candidate who completed an MEng first. Once you decide on the type of degree you want to study, you next have to decide where you want to pursue it. The University of Toronto is an excellent research institution, as are many other Ontario universities. But it is important to choose a school not just for its reputation but, in the case of a thesis-based degree, the supervisor you want to work with. Your supervisor will be the professor who advises you on your research, similar in many ways to a manager at work. As well, your supervisor is the person who actually funds you. This means that you
will have to interview with supervisors—much like you would for a job—to be accepted into the program. There are also many great universities in the United States; however, the application process is quite different from Canadian schools and you will have to brave the dreaded GRE. A major part of academia is funding. If you are even considering graduate school, you should also consider applying to some of the major scholarships, such as NSERC and OGS. As well, you will have to apply to some of these scholarships in advance of your graduate degree. For example, NSERC’s application deadline is December 1st of the year before your start your MASc or PhD. Choosing to pursue graduate work is a difficult decision. You need to weigh
it against your potential earnings from a full-time job and even consider the lifestyle it brings. In many cases, a graduate degree will improve your earning potential, and for some people this may be a good reason to pursue a Master’s. However, I would never advise you to pursue a PhD simply to earn more money. It is a tough degree that requires self-motivation and genuine interest in the research area, but it also allows students to study and learn in an unfettered environment. This is the real value of a PhD and a good reason to pursue the degree. In fact, a major benefit of all graduate work is the continued opportunity to explore your interests, but this time from a different perspective than in your undergraduate degree. In my opinion, this is the most valuable benefit of all.
WHAT GRINDS MY GEARS
What Grinds My Gears: Hotel Towels DALE GOTTLIEB Cannon Editor I’m sure every person reading this has stayed at a hotel with a sign in the washroom proudly proclaiming “Join your fellow citizens in helping to save the environment, hang up your towels for reuse.” At first glance, it seems like the hotel cares about the environment and is simply reminding its customers that everyone is responsible for its preservation. However, this sign has had tons of research put into it and is carefully designed to minimize the hotel’s costs. This simple sign is an interesting, but aggravating, case study in industrial engineering. It is actually extremely manipulative to a human’s natural group mentality and has nothing to do with the
environment. I should start by saying that the laundry bill for hotels is astronomical. According to National Geographic, hotel laundry costs about $2 per 1000 liters of water. When Caesars Palace began reducing its water consumption through upgrading its tunnel washers, it saw a decrease of 30 million gallons per year. That’s nearly $230,000 in annual savings. If that’s just the savings, imagine what the total cost of laundry is. If a hotel chain is able to reduce its costs on laundry by even a percent, it could have millions in savings in the long run. For a standard-sized hotel, over 9 million liters of water is consumed annually just for laundry, and for a hotel chain like Best Western with 4100 hotels globally, that’s almost 3.7
billion liters of water a year, which is around $74 million in costs. That sounds like a lot, but it’s actually only 17% of the hotel’s water consumption. Simply running a pool at a hotel uses more water annually, if you include locker room showers. So what are possible ways for a hotel to combat these costs? The simplest is to just buy a new laundry machine. By doing this, a hotel can save almost 3 million liters of water a year. So why isn’t every hotel doing this? Because it costs them money. A much simpler solution is to pass the trouble onto the consumer. And this is where the interesting case study in industrial engineering begins. You’re given a challenge to reduce water consumption at a hotel, but it needs to cost absolutely nothing.
Your first attempt is to just make a sign telling the truth: “Help the hotel save energy, please hang up your towel.” I appreciate the hotel’s honesty. However, when the organization Clean Energy Resource Teams did a study on the effectiveness of this sign, it found that only 16% of hotel guests were hanging up their towels. As an industrial engineer, you know you can get better results than this. But how? According to Wesley Schultz of California State University, by using “normative social influence to promote conservation among hotel guests” you can get up to 48% of hotel guests to reuse their towels. An example of normative social influences is the message at the beginning of this article, “Join your fellow citizens in helping to save the
environment, hang up your towels for reuse.” Now you no longer appeal to the single person, but you compare them to their peers in the hotel. Such a simple change in wording is capable of making 32% more of hotel guests reuse their towels. An industrial engineer wouldn’t stop there, since there must be more benefits to having the sign. Eun Yeon Kang of the University of Texas found that 60% of people thought that taking care of the environment was a hotel’s responsibility, and 71% of guests on TripAdvisor selected hotels based on their level of sustainability. By simply implementing a sign with different wording, the engineer has effectively reduced the water bill of the hotel, thereby increasing its profits. What hotel would ever buy
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NOVEMBER 2016 a new laundry machine? There’s one more thing I want to point out to the readers who still think they are helping the environment by hanging up their towels. Green Hotelier found that guest rooms consume more than double the water than laundry does. The largest consumer of water in a hotel is not the towel that you choose to get washed, but the person that it dried off. Moreover, any hotel with a kitchen uses more than 1 million more liters of water to cook annually than for
laundry. There’s a multitude of tasks throughout the hotel that use more water than washing towels, but solutions to those problems are more difficult to implement. Upgrading the kitchen is much more expensive than printing out a few signs. I know a lot of readers are thinking that I’m thinking of this all wrong. I think it’s fair to say Caesars Palace didn’t mean to save $230,000, it meant to save 30 million gallons of water, and that all other hotel chains are trying to follow suit by using linen
reuse programs. However, there’s clear evidence that there’s no environmental consideration with these signs. Jill Pellettieri found a press release on the reduction of greenhouse gases on Marriott’s own website: “The Linen Reuse Program… saved an average of 11 to 17 percent on hot water and sewer costs involved in laundering operations.” There was never any mention of the environmental benefits of this program. Moreover, the first sentence on Green Hotels Association’s website,
the supplier of these signs says, “Haven’t you heard? Being green goes directly to your bottom line.” And that is the beauty behind these signs, and the research that goes into it. An industrial engineer has effectively made a market based off of simple social norms. By writing about what other guests are doing, a hotel chain like Best Western has effectively saved $1 million every year. What bothers me about this sign is that you’d never know the science behind it.
Whenever I tell people that it’s wrong to change your behaviour to obey the sign, they think I’m the one who doesn’t care about the environment. The motivation behind the environmental activism of hotels is clearly to make a profit, and we shouldn’t let them use our emotions for cost savings while offering nothing back to the consumer. The next time you go to a hotel, read the sign and see if you still agree with hanging up your towel.
WISE: Why We Exist, and Why We Matter WISE UOFT Cannon Contributor It’s no surprise that the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields have been looking to recruit more women into its ranks in recent years. However, as with many movements that serve a particular subset of people, there exists pushback and criticism. Below we share the struggles that women face, how WISE does their part to mitigate these struggles, and the reason why WISE works to empower and inspire other young women. The road to success can be rocky. Syeda Anjum, Chem1T7+PEY and Conference Chair of WISE UofT, expands on some difficulties that women face when looking to pursue a career in the STEM fields. She remembers, with an unsettling feeling, how young girls interested in STEM could never cite a female role model already active in the STEM community: “When the only success stories you hear of are about people who you cannot relate to or identify with, it becomes easy to give into the notion that ‘success’ is distant,” noting that it’s easy to limit yourself if you’re unaware that people similar to you
WISE Executive Team at the 2016 National Conference Credit: WISE UofT have achieved success. “This is why we need to bring visibility to the amazing women who are defying stereotypes and give them a platform to share their stories. They’re not glorified; they’re stories of people, like you and me.” Along the vein of stereotypes, it is common for people to place expectations on women, such as eventually having a family and settling down. While expectations of both men and women have been evolving through the years, some people still believe that they must act on these outdated stereotypes and gender roles, which is why you’ll see a large disparity in the gender ratio between undergrad and doctorate degrees. Women still struggle with balancing the
sometimes conflicting goals of pursuing their careers and settling down. WISE looks to face these societal norms and expectations and turn them on their heads by creating a space that’s both safe and empowering to women who are beginning to face such issues. Even though to many, the existence of this group needs no explanation, there are always challenges associated by being a group that caters to women. To those who may oppose WISE and other female-centric groups, take a minute to think about why they’re necessary. The aim of WISE is to encourage female STEM professionals to develop their leadership skills and confidence, which is done by showcasing the
stories and achievements of women. This world is currently not one of equal opportunity, and until it is, WISE will work to even the playing field. WISE and all their events are open to everyone, so there is no true segregation. Time and time again women have been told that if they want STEM jobs, management positions, or credit for an invention, they need to go out into the real world and work for it. WISE is the definition of working for it; it is for women who are taking steps to succeed and who would like some guidance. Every year, WISE holds a National Conference to help young women rise above preconceived notions and
challenges, where women in STEM are able to share their stories, struggles, and achievements with the next generation. Last year’s conference featured the story of Dr. Jacqueline Shan, co-creator of COLD-FX. She shared her experiences of starting from the bottom when she moved from a village in China to Canada, and gave advice on smoothing the transition from scientist to entrepreneur. The WISE National Conference 2017 (WISENC2017) will feature speakers including Dr. Eve Tsai, neurosurgeon and one of the Top 25 Women of Influence, and Heather Payne, entrepreneur and founder of Ladies Learning Code and HackerYou. These women and many other industry leaders will congregate with students to participate in panels, workshops, networking events and competitions over a weekend. There is something available for everyone. While no one group can tip the scales, WISE works to bring opportunities (whether it be for internships or for inspiration) to young women across UofT and to act as a support network for those who wish to succeed in their respective fields.
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WHAT’S GOING ON IN SKULE?
SpeakUp, Skule! SAMANTHA STUART VP Academic and Cannon Contributor At the end of each semester, students are given the option to review courses and offer recommendations for changes that could be made. This feedback is conducted by the Faculty and sent directly to the professors to review. Although this has been shown to work, and courses in all departments have been improving based on this feedback, it leaves a limited window for students to offer suggestions. Additionally, some professors choose not to read the feedback as it requires a significant time commitment. Students often have to review a course after they’ve finished it and aren’t able to offer continual suggestions while it’s still relevant to them. This is why the Engineering Society has started the initiative “SpeakUp,” a tool that allows students to provide feedback whenever they want throughout the term. This even includes providing test feedback, right after it happens. The hope is that professors will be able to adjust their courses and tailor their classes for the learning styles of the students based on this feedback. This new initiative allows students to SpeakUp about their course experiences whenever they want throughout the semester. The platform is currently live at SpeakUp.skule. ca, and has been designed based on current student and Faculty input. It collects casual student dialogue about course components online, organizes it, and offers professors the opportunity of engaging with
it via discussion with class representatives. Data is collected anonymously, and is stored in a database only accessible by disciplinary class representatives and academic directors. They will amalgamate the comments by the students and present the main feedback to professors throughout their department. Since the academic directors are the only ones with the raw data, the professors only need to hear about the common complaints amongst all students in their classes. The professors can then use the data to decide if there are any major issues or learning gaps in their courses, and adjust accordingly. The interface of SpeakUp includes six emojis (two positive, two neutral, and two negative) and a corresponding “SpeakUp” text box. Students will then be walked through “flash cards” for their given course (e.g. Tutorial, Lecture, Office Hours, Exams) and associate a given emoji with each card. They are also given the option to provide additional rationale or suggestions for improvement with the SpeakUp button. This will enable class academic representatives to improve the efficacy of their advocacy, reduce the amount of time students spend filling out forms, and help increase response rates. SpeakUp is open throughout the term, and we hope that students start giving their feedback immediately. We plan to overcome the idea that undergrads have no say in the way classes are conducted, and to start making changes as soon as possible. So remember to SpeakUp!
Published on Nov 22, 2016