Tuesday, May 5, 2020

On Thursday, April 30th, Chemical Engineering’s faculty and staff came together online with students and their families for the Capstone Awards Ceremony, a unique celebration of the many accomplishments of our fourth-year students. After logging in from home, where they watched the proceedings on their own computer screen, guests enjoyed an awards show to rival the Oscars, with heartfelt speeches, humorous skits and a musical performance.

Capstone Design Symposium

The Capstone Design Symposium, with its posterboard presentations and congratulatory atmosphere, is an annual event. Normally, faculty join students and their families in E6 to honour fourth-year students’ accomplishments and begin the count-down to their graduation. This year, the online awards ceremony fulfilled that role.


Professor Valerie Ward was with one of her Capstone groups, working on contingency plans for finishing their project if the university closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, when the formal campus closure announcement arrived.

“They were disappointed, and I felt sad for them. Under normal circumstances, they would celebrate the end of classes and exams with their friends before they moved away to begin the next stage of their lives,” says Professor Ward.

She was not alone. Knowing the importance of the Capstone Design Symposium and the long-lasting memories associated with it, many instructors who had taught the students over their degree at Waterloo wanted to give them an opportunity to celebrate and have fun together – from a safe distance.

Close-knit community

Inspired by the 2020 Capstone groups to go the extra mile, professors Jason Grove and Valerie Ward quickly learned new software, recruited enthusiastic faculty and students, and, assisted by fourth-year student Allison Larocque, organized the online awards ceremony.

The entire Chemical Engineering community joined together online to show their support for and honour the accomplishments of our fourth-year students.


The event, emceed by Professor Jason Grove, was broadcast live, with appearances by many department representatives, dressed in their formal best, as befitted a celebration of this calibre.

After Department Chair Eric Croiset gave an official welcome, Professor Luis Ricardez Sandoval jump started the event by presenting the first of several awards.

Professor Sarah Meunier then attempted to acknowledge the unusual circumstances we are all facing – specifically the challenges of working and studying at home during a pandemic. Her talk, however, was interrupted when her cats strolled in front of her webcam. Once she regained her focus, the door behind her drifted open and ‘accidentally’ revealed her four young children tied together with yellow caution tape. Clearly, some of us are more creative than others at working around the distractions of home!

Professor Raj Pal, who taught the students many classes over their years at Waterloo, struck a more serious note, commending them on their efforts, noting the special circumstances around their graduation and assuring each of them that they “will shine” in their careers.

Bill Anderson, Marios Ioannidis and Jenn Moll each took a turn at the mic to present one of a series of awards to recognize the groups that went above and beyond in both their projects and their presentations. Professors Lena Ahmadi and Jeff Gostick shared some of their many talents with a puppet show comedy skit and a musical performance, respectively.

The graduates’ class representatives, Spencer Lester and Khristen Lowe, made cameo appearances. They reminisced on their experiences, congratulated their classmates on their achievements and, on their behalf, thanked the many people who supported them all through their studies. The ceremony concluded with a fabulous slideshow, put together by fourth-year student Jacquie Hutchings. Featuring memorable moments from the soon-to-be graduates’ experiences at Waterloo, it emphasized the bonds the classmates had formed over their years together.

Collectively, the presenters acknowledged the class’ successes, brought some laughs and reminded everyone that we’re in this together, coping in the best ways we know how.

Congratulations soon-to-be grads!

Congratulations, once again, to all of our fourth-year students for your many accomplishments and successes this past year. It was fun to celebrate with you remotely, and we look forward to the time when we can do it again in person.

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