Thursday, September 5, 2019

Velocity Fund Pitch Competition finalists named

Poster for the Velocity pitch competition with a picture of the CN Tower in the background

Velocity has announced the top 10 finalists for the September 2019 edition of the Velocity Fund Pitch Competition. Each early-stage startup will have a chance to win a $50,000 investment from the Velocity Fund on Thursday, September 19. The event will be held in downtown Toronto and is now sold out.

The finalists are:

  • Audesse, which has built a 5G-compatible ECU called “The Aetherbox” that reduces greenhouse gas and operating costs through limiting idling for bus fleets;
  • Caravan, which helps people find their perfect online reading buddies and book clubs;
  • NXT Farm, which provides key satellite imagery, data, and industry-first algorithms to help growers maximize yields and minimize inputs;
  • IntelliCulture, whose mission is to make farming more profitable through intelligent data analytics;
  • Maple Precision, which is building an online mapping platform, similar to Google Earth, but with millions of geographic data sets that city builders rely on;
  • SquidBio, which is building a benchtop enzymatic DNA synthesis device that allows researchers to eliminate current wait times associated with ordering synthesized DNA;
  • Stacktronic, which is developing a rapidly scalable, modular battery platform that simplifies and expedites the design process for electric powertrains, allowing vehicles to be battery-powered in an instant;
  • Trajekt Sports, which is revolutionizing baseball batter training;
  • Watermine Innovation, which uses a proprietary machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithm to design better drugs more efficiently; and
  • Watfly, which provides urban air commuting.

Be sure to follow Velocity on social media or bookmark this page to live stream the Velocity Fund Pitch Competition on Thursday, September 19 at 6:00 p.m. and watch these high-potential startups pitch for their first investments.

Waterloo partners with new overseas travel safety provider

A message from Waterloo International.

Beginning September 4, 2019, one of the resources available to University of Waterloo members as they prepare for, and execute, international travel, will change. 

Every year, more than 4,000 international trips are taken by University of Waterloo students, staff, and faculty. To help to ensure the success of these trips, Waterloo International’s Safety Abroad Team has in place a process of evaluation, training, monitoring, and support, which can be found at the Safety Abroad website

As part of these resources, the University has had a contract with a third-party international travel safety and security provider in order to provide real-time safety and security information and, when necessary, support.

To select the University’s provider for the coming five years, a multi-stakeholder Request for Proposal process (RfP) was recently completed.  Launched in January 2019, the RfP built upon the findings of the 2017-2018 Working Group on International Travel issues.  As of September 4, 2019, the University’s third-party international travel safety and security provider will be the Anvil Group (Anvil). Our association with our previous provider – International SOS – ends on that day.

The Anvil system will continue to be rolled out during an eight-week implementation period, and full details will be made available on the Safety Abroad website.

We are excited to partner with one of the world’s leading travel safety and security organizations as we work with University of Waterloo travellers to help to ensure that their international trips are successful.  If you have any questions, please reach out to the Safety Abroad Team at

Citizen Hacks: privacy power to the people

Citizen Hacks banner, in an 80s vaporwave aesthetic.

by Benn McGregor on behalf of the Citizen Hacks Team.

This weekend in Toronto, a group of Software Engineering students will be running Citizen Hacks, a new hackathon about privacy and socially beneficial technology. The event encourages youth to tackle the challenge of privacy in technology and begin to develop a design orientation that considers technology’s broader social impacts.

Waterloo is part of many aspects of Citizen Hacks. Besides the significant Waterloo student contingent registered as hackers, the event involves many experts from Waterloo. Ian Goldberg will be giving a talk on privacy-enhancing technologies, while Scott Campbell and Paul Heidebrecht will both be participating in a panel discussion on education for ethical design thinking. Among the judges is Derek Rayside.

Citizen Hacks has also attracted significant interest from the wider privacy community. The keynote speaker is Dr. Ann Cavoukian, the former privacy commissioner of Ontario. A representative from Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, Mariel García Montes, will be running a workshop. Corporate sponsors include encrypted messaging platform Keybase, AI startup Ada, and Fastmail, a privacy-oriented email service.

As society becomes increasingly data-driven, how we use and collect data has profound impacts on people’s lives, both online and offline. It affects not only the rights and opportunities of individuals, but also the functioning of our democracies and the ordering of society at structural levels. 

Citizen Hacks comes at a time when citizens and leaders in the business community and broader society are increasingly calling for privacy protections to be embedded in the design of technology. For example, over 200 CEOs of leading companies that are part of Business Roundtable recently put forth a framework for national privacy legislation in the US. Also, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation calls for "Data protection by design and by default".

In organizing and participating in Citizen Hacks, Waterloo students are joining students at other leading schools such as Harvard and MIT who have the opportunity to systematically integrate ethical issues into their studies of engineering and computer science. Citizen Hacks is part of this emerging trend of educational opportunities that encourage innovation in privacy-protecting technology. As Canada’s most innovative university, let’s lead change in this new frontier.

Thursday's notes

The University of Waterloo Department of Music at Conrad Grebel University College invites all students, staff, and faculty to join most of the eight ensembles that it sponsors and organizes. Auditions for instrumental and choral ensembles run from September 4 to September 20.

The University of Waterloo Staff Association (UWSA) is making a last call for shoppers to join the 15th Annual UWSA Shopping Weekend in Erie, Pennsylvania. The trip runs from Friday, November 8 to Sunday, November 10. "Make a shopping list and have fun with your friends or family members," says a note from UWSA. "Shopping south of the border offers incredible bargains as there is no sales tax on clothing, children’s products and many other items in Pennsylvania and only 4 percent on everything else." The trip includes round-trip bus transportation on a deluxe bus and two nights' accommodation at the Country Inn & Suites.

UWSA also reminds us that summer is not over yet and is inviting members to join your friends, family and peers for a Family Picnic at Canada’s Wonderland on Saturday, September 14. The price includes park admission and an all you can eat buffet.

Women in Mathematics is hosting a Chocolate Fountain Welcome Event for new graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members. Build your connections over drinks, fruit, games, and the aforementioned chocolate fountain. Grad students, postdocs, and faculty who identify as female or any under-represented gender in math/CS, are welcome, according to a note from WiM.

Link of the day

Dominic Barton named Canada's next ambassador to China

When and Where

Fall 2019 Orientation schedule, Thursday, August 29 to Saturday, September 7.

Music Department Ensemble Auditions for Fall  2019: Instrumental and Choral, Wednesday, September 4 to September 20, Conrad Grebel University College. 

Getting Started in LEARN, Thursday, September 5.

WUSA First-Year Fair, Thursday, September 5, 10:30 a.m., Student Life Centre Great Hall.

Applications for Green Residence Ambassadors dueFriday, September 6.

Balinese Gamelan Ensemble public performance, Friday, September 6, 12:00 p.m., Peter Russell Rock Garden. (weather permitting)

Communication for the Workplace, Friday, September 6, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., SCH 228F.

Graduate student orientationSaturday, September 7.

Black and Gold Day Men’s Rugby vs. Guelph, Saturday, September 7, 1:00 p.m., Warrior Field.

Fall Welcome Week, Monday, September 9 to Thursday, September 12.

Free Fitness Week, Monday, September 9 to Sunday, September 15.

Fall Welcome Week: Warrior Breakfast, Monday, September 9, 8:00 a.m., Student Life Centre.

Fall Welcome Week: Sex Toy Bingo, Monday, September 9, 7:00 p.m.

NEW - Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation (WICI)’s Fall 2019 Open House, Tuesday, September 10, 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon, EV3 atrium.

Legal and Immigration Services Brown Bag Lunch & Learn, "Hiring Foreign Nationals – faculty and spousal/partner hiring," Tuesday, September 10, 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m., NH 3407.

NEW - Mental health and return-to-work coordination: a workshop on strategy, Tuesday, September 10, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Oakham Lounge, 63 Gould Street, Toronto.

Chemistry Seminar, “Soft nanoparticles, hard science & the path from discovery to commercialization,” John R. Dutcher, Canada Research Chair in Soft Matter & Biological Physics, Department of Physics, University of Guelph, Tuesday, September 10, 2:30 p.m., C2-361 reading room.

Women in Math Fall Welcome Party, Tuesday, September 10, 4:30 p.m., MC 5501. Complimentary snacks will be provided. RSVP.

Fall Welcome Week: Tinder Tales, Tuesday, September 10, 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Humanities Theatre.

Warriors Athletics and Recreation Open House, Wednesday, September 11, 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., SLC Great Hall.

Chemistry Seminar, “Switchable Dopants on Percolation Networks of 2D Materials for Chemiresistive Sensing Applications in Aqueous Environments,” Peter Kruse, Department of Chemistry, McMaster University, Wednesday, September 11, 10:30 a.m., C2-278.

Brown Bag Lunch: HREI Training Offerings, Wednesday, September 11, 12:00 p.m., HH 373.

Chemistry Seminar, “All-Solid-State Li (Na) Batteries: Opportunities and Challenges,” Venkataraman Thangadurai, Department of Chemistry, University of Calgary, Thursday, September 12, 10:00 a.m., C2-361 reading room.

Grammar Studio I: The most common grammar trouble spots, Thursday, September 12, 1:00 p.m., SCH 228F.

The Games Institute and IMMERSe present "Superheroes and Sexuality" with Anna Peppard, Thursday, September 12, 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Games Institute, EC1.

Sustainability at Waterloo BYOLunch & Learn: Transportation Updates on Campus, Friday, September 13, 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m., EIT 3142.

Conditioning Classes Registration Deadline, Friday, September 13, 1:00 p.m.

UWSA Family Picnic at Canada’s Wonderland, Saturday, September 14.

NEW - Warriors Football vs Guelph Staff and Faculty Day, Residence Day, Donor Day, Saturday, September 14, 1:00 p.m., Warrior Field. Staff and Faculty- email for free ticket details sponsored by Campus Dentist.

PhD oral defences

Chemical Engineering.  Amir Mowla, “On the Prediction of Gas Hold-up in Ebullated Bed Reactors.” Supervisor, Marios Ioannidis. On display in the Engineering graduate office, E7 7402. Oral defence Friday, September 6, 1:00 p.m., E6 2022.

Systems Design Engineering. Mingyu Zhang, “Self-Powered Infrared Detection in Low-Dimensional Carbon Assemblies.” Supervisor, Tze Yeow. On display in the Engineering graduate office, E7 7402. Oral defence Friday, September 6, 2:00 p.m., EC4 2101A.

Applied Mathematics. Janelle Resch, “Physical Modelling and the Associated Acoustic Behaviour of Trumpet and Trombones.” Supervisors, Lilia Krivodonova and John Vanderkooy. Thesis available from MGO – Oral defence Friday, September 6, 1:00 p.m., MC 6460.

Mechanical & Mechatronics Engineering. Raed Alharbi, “The Role of Gold-Graphene Hybrid Nanostructure on Promoting Localized Surface Plasmonic Resonance Sensor Performance.” Supervisor, Mustafa Yavuz. On display in the Engineering graduate office, E7 7402. Oral defence Monday, September 9, 3:00 p.m., E5 3006.