Engineering change, and changing engineers

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Jared Baribeau presenting his Capstone Design project at "PeaceTech & Pizza"Last Tuesday evening, the Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement (CPA) was abuzz with University of Waterloo students who had come to hear about how startups in the CPA are using technology for good. At the event, titled “PeaceTech & Pizza: Capstone Design Projects Meet Incubator Start-ups,” these students were prompted to reflect on the vital role that technology can play in creating positive systemic change.

The evening featured the founders of EPOCH and Demine Robotics, two members of the CPA’s Epp Peace Incubator program, and their respective teams of fourth year Engineering students. To complete their degree at the University of Waterloo, Engineering students must complete a Capstone Design project in their final year. The project provides students the opportunity to apply knowledge and skills developed throughout their undergraduate experience to a final design challenge. This year, teams from Software Engineering and Systems Design Engineering focused their efforts on developing technology for peace start-ups.

The team working with Demine Robotics contributed to the development of Demine’s landmine excavator, which dramatically accelerates the process of removing unexploded landmines that remain buried long after armed conflicts have ended in countries such as Cambodia. They prototyped a semi-autonomous delivery system that increases the mobility of the excavator while keeping the operator far from danger.

EPOCH’s design team developed a platform that will enable them to connect employees with curated, local volunteering opportunities in partnership with nonprofit organizations. EPOCH is currently piloting this software with several businesses in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, including Kindred Credit Union. 

“PeaceTech & Pizza” highlighted practical ways young engineers can take their learning beyond the classroom. Neil Brubacher, a second year Systems Design Engineering student, noted the impact of this event:

“I had the chance to see how student teams from my field of study have contributed directly to building peace locally and internationally, in collaboration with companies that grew out of the CPA. Witnessing students who used the same technologies I'm learning about to leverage positive social change has strengthened the sense of purpose in my own education, and renewed my excitement for taking courses like Paul Heidebrecht's 'Engineering and Peace,' offered at Grebel.”

The CPA was excited to offer students a glimpse into how they can play an important role in advancing peace. Next Fall, CPA Director Paul Heidebrecht will continue to explore the relationship between peace and technology in his Engineering and Peace course, offered Wednesday evenings from 7:00pm-9:50pm.