IDEAs clinic secures $3 million for hands-on programs

Friday, October 27, 2017

Educating engineers at the University of Waterloo got a major boost today with the announcement of more than $3 million in funding over five years for a variety of immersive, hands-on programs.

Activities organized by the Engineering IDEAs Clinic will range from two-hour, in-class projects such as taking apart internal combustion engines, to two-day, open-ended problems requiring students to work in teams and draw on all of their academic lessons to find solutions.

“They see the relevance of each course as their skills grow and it feeds into what we at Waterloo pride ourselves on – innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Sanjeev Bedi, a mechanical and mechatronics professor who heads the clinic.

CIVE days large group photo

The federal government is contributing $1 million through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada to establish an NSERC Chair in Immersive Design Engineering Activities held by Bedi.

“NSERC’s Chairs in Design Engineering blend experience-based training with a rich curriculum to ensure that young engineers are equipped with the ingenuity to master the most difficult design engineering challenges,” said B. Mario Pinto, president of NSERC. “Dr. Bedi’s bold new initiative will provide students with multi-disciplinary, hands-on experience that they will put to use working with hundreds of companies across Canada.”

Five industry partners – SkyjackRockwell AutomationD2LANSYS and Quanser – and the University itself are jointly providing an additional $1 million. Industry partners are also contributing $1 million worth of equipment and other in-kind support.

Team project events are 'electric'

The goal of the clinic is to expand its existing Engineering Days program until all engineering undergraduate students take part in at least one intense team project every year. Lessons in teamwork will also be regularly stressed.

Bedi said that by actively doing, rather than just studying, students are empowered to learn on their own, gain confidence and hone tangible skills. That approach is also at the heart of mandatory co-op work terms for all engineering students at Waterloo.

“It’s thrilling to see how they think, how they develop, how they motivate each other, how they grow,” Bedi said of the team project events. “It’s electric, the whole atmosphere.”

The funding announcement came as second-year civil engineering students spent two days planning roads and designing bridges to go over a river. Built out of polystyrene foam, the bridges were to be tested by loading them with weights until they collapsed.

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