New home brings department together

Dr. Paul Fieguth, Chair Systems Design Engineering

Systems design engineering students are able to see professors, visit a computer lab and then head to class – all in a matter of steps. Once scattered through multiple buildings the department’s undergraduate classrooms, labs and administrative offices are now all located on the sixth floor of the new Engineering 5 building.

“Being close to the faculty members has improved my student-professor relationships and I receive guidance on a more regular basis,” says Mehrad Karamlou, a third-year student.

Proximity also has other benefits. “In between classes you can stop by a lab or check email. Before, it just wouldn’t have been practical,” says Paul Fieguth, the department’s new chair.

Besides convenience, there’s another reason to be enthusiastic about the Engineering 5 location. Professors have the facilities they need to teach design classes each year. Before the move, that wasn’t the case. “Now we have a curriculum that emphasizes design in every term and we have space that accommodates it,” says Fieguth. “This is a statement of commitment to excellence in undergraduate teaching.”


  • Paul Fieguth succeeded Glenn Heppler as chair of his department. His term runs until August 31, 2013.
  • Professor Keith Hipel was honoured with the Engineering Medal for Research and Development from Professional Engineers Ontario. He also received the Water 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award at the Water 2010: Hydrology, Hydraulics and Water Resources in an Uncertain Environment conference.

Creating a greener powertrain

Imagine driving down the highway in a vehicle that senses slower traffic two minutes ahead. Within moments, the data is transferred to the powertrain control unit and the predictive controller makes adjustments to maximize fuel economy and slash emissions.

That could be the reality on the road one day, says Nasser Azad, a new systems design engineering professor. Azad, who came to Waterloo in January 2010 after spending two years as a NSERC postdoctoral fellow at Berkeley, uses advanced control theories and applies them to real-world automotive issues.

“I’ve always been interested in using complex, sophisticated theoretical concepts to solve practical problems and make improvements,” he says.

Azad, currently working on a project with Michigan’s Toyota Technical Center, says changing hardware design and coming up with new technology is not only costly, but time consuming. Instead, Azad points out, there’s a faster, simpler solution: more effective control algorithms to change outputs. There are no expensive and difficult hardware modifications, just an improved computer program that manipulates anything from ignition timing to air-fuel ratio in order to reduce emissions and fuel consumption.

“If you can provide additional information about future driving conditions to the control unit, you can create a smarter, greener powertrain,” he says.