New Academic Readiness Bursary for students with COVID-19 related expenses
The new Academic Readiness Bursary (ARB) is available to all students who will be registered in the fall 2020 term. Expenses that will be considered for the bursary (up to $500) will be those that are particularly related to studying remotely in the fall term, as a result of COVID-19. These types of expenses could include:
- computer upgrades, e.g., monitor, webcam, headset;
- quarantine-related expenses (considered on a case by case basis);
- Internet access.
Students may also seek support for unanticipated expenses directly related to advancing their academic readiness and ability to engage meaningfully with the University remotely as a result of COVID-19. These expenses may include such things as study space set-up or childcare costs.
This bursary has been created with significant support from the University of Waterloo as well as the support of many donors who have contributed to the COVID Student Emergency Support Fund.
Going up: touchless elevator concept highlights accessibility-based solution to fighting COVID-19
By Marisa Benjamin. This article was originally published on Waterloo Stories.
Motivated by prior research that reports elevator buttons as a huge source of contamination, a new study co-authored by Waterloo Faculty of Math student presents a touchless elevator concept to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Prior research shows that elevator buttons produce the highest rate of bacterial contamination (97 per cent) and can house more germs than toilet stall surfaces. However, for many people (especially health-care and front line workers), elevators are a daily necessity.
This realization prompted undergraduate Computer Science student Tanay Singhal and his research partner Mahika Phutane, a PhD student at Cornell University doing research in Accessibility and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), to develop a touchless elevator concept that will slow the spread of COVID-19.
Their method will see elevator buttons replaced with haptic technology, which are touch sensations transmitted through the air. Mid-air haptics focus pressure on your hands (like pulses) using high sound frequencies called ultrasonic waves.
“With this technology, you can feel three-dimensional shapes in mid-air without actually touching anything,” Singhal says, a Research Intern for the Haptic Computing Lab at the Games Institute. “When you press an elevator button, you will feel touch sensations to indicate that you pressed it.”
The touchless elevator concept is designed for accessibility and inclusivity, with tactile braille touch sensations for the visually impaired, audio feedback, intuitive gestures for opening and closing doors and button magnifications for improved accuracy.
“When creating something as critical to people’s everyday lives as an elevator, we must absolutely design with usability and inclusivity in mind from the very start,” Singhal says.
The research pair were motivated after seeing how temporary solutions for containing contamination on elevators during COVID-19 interfere with accessibility.
“I used an elevator to get to a dentist appointment and saw that the control panel was covered with a thick transparent plastic sheet,” Phutane says. “How can braille be felt through this covering?”
Singhal and Phutane have created a YouTube video to tell the story behind their decisions, including why the authors believe this design is about more than just elevators. They hope the project will act as a catalyst beyond elevator innovations and an innovation to what virtual interfaces could look and feel like.
“This is not just about elevators,” Singhal says. “This is about a future of contactless public interfaces freed from the restraints of the physical world, designed with touch feedback and accessibility in mind.”
So others can benefit from their findings and research, the team has shared their source code for this concept, which is available on GitHub.
Updates to mandatory mask guidelines
This is a reminder that face coverings are required in common indoor spaces on campus.
"If you are approved to return to campus, you must wear a face covering in common areas of university buildings," says a memo from Kate Windsor, circulated to employees and graduate students on Friday.
"After listening to feedback from the campus community and discussing further with medical consultants, we have made some changes to our guidance on face coverings:
- In addition to corridors, lobbies, washrooms, elevators and meeting rooms, the common indoor areas where masks are required now also include classrooms and teaching labs.
- Research labs are considered employee-only spaces. Supervisors will set the expectation with their teams based on physical setup and lab activities.
- The exception concerning hearing impairments only applies to the person speaking to the person with the hearing impairment, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
A face covering can be a medical or non-medical mask or other covering, including a bandana, scarf or other fabric that covers the nose, mouth and chin to create a barrier to limit the transmission of respiratory droplets. Learn more on the face coverings webpage.
"If you are working from home, please continue to do so until you receive further direction from your manager or supervisor," writes Windsor. "The University’s Return to Campus working group has been reviewing faculty and unit proposals to manage more people in certain functions and roles returning to campus starting in August. Each department head is now finalizing these plans for their units and employees. We will soon share more details about these plans and how we are prepared to safely welcome back to campus the expanding numbers of students as well as faculty and staff who are approved to return."
If you have questions, please contact email@example.com.
Notes after a long weekend
Plant Operations has announced that the sidewalk between the Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre and the Student Life Centre will be closed for the next two weeks for sidewalk repair.
Are you interested in entrepreneurship and science? Do you have an idea? If so, come by (virtually, of course) and chat with the Science Innovation Hub (SIH) Advisory team to get some feedback. Monthly sessions are hosted on WebEx at 10:00 a.m. on the first Wednesday of the month. The next session is scheduled for Wednesday, August 5. Please RSVP.