Ways our students are learning this summer

Claire Remington writes calculations with a neon marker on a glass pane with a black background.

Because our faculty provides a full course offering each summer, we’re bustling all year round – and summer 2020 has been no exception.

With classes online, our instructors have been finding creative and effective ways to teach students in a virtual environment, including: a glass lightboard that enables instructors to face students during lectures while working on calculations; close-up video tutorials; remote access to some lab equipment; simultaneous videos and slideshows that create a rich learning experience; and a lineup of international experts in a course on Human-Computer Interaction.

Take a look at how students of UVic Engineering and Computer Science have been learning and collaborating. Read more

Message from the Dean

Acting Dean Peter Wild stands outdoors, with trees and a fence in the background.
Peter Wild, Acting Dean,
UVic Faculty of Engineering

With a new academic year just around the corner, our faculty is well-positioned both to conduct high-impact research and to continue providing an outstanding education to students in UVic Engineering and Computer Science.

As the previous story illustrates, our faculty and instructors have worked throughout the summer term to make their virtual teaching as engaging and effective as possible. During the transition to mostly online learning, our students have impressed us with their initiative, perseverance and passion.

At the same time, our researchers are stepping up to the COVID-19 challenge, with several faculty-led projects aimed directly at tackling the virus. Two of these initiatives are highlighted in this newsletter. Read more

Watching wastewater for COVID-19

Heather Buckley holds a small cooler box outside a building on the UVic campus.

When confronting a public health challenge like COVID-19, any tool that can act as a kind of viral early-warning system is a boon. A team of UVic researchers and a local tech firm are partnering to develop a system to do just that – analyzing BC sewage to help detect and track future outbreaks of COVID-19.

Since the genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19 has been found in the stools of infected people, analyzing a community’s wastewater is expected to be a much faster way to collect data about a city’s or region’s infection levels compared to just testing individuals.

“Having this predictive tool will be a real game changer, both in terms of responding to a second wave of COVID-19, as well as to other pathogen outbreaks over the longer term,” said Heather Buckley, a civil engineering researcher and head of the Green Safe Water Lab. Read more

Engineering project promotes safer, more prevalent hand washing

Rishi Gupta, wearing a lab coat and protective eyewear, looks into a large microscope inside a laboratory.

Wash basins made with COVID-19-resistant material may be popping up in malls and other crowded places, once the work of a UVic researcher and BC manufacturer is complete.

Civil Engineer Rishi Gupta and Valley Acrylic Bath have teamed up on a two-pronged project that involves developing an acrylic-based coating that repels the coronavirus, and then installing compact wash basin prototypes at the front doors of high-traffic public locations in Victoria and Vancouver. The longer-term aim is to manufacture hundreds of anti-viral basins that would be deployed strategically throughout BC and beyond.

Ultimately, the new coating could be used on a wide range of surfaces, for example door handles, shopping carts and high-use countertops in schools, hospitals and recreation facilities. Read more

Multi-talented engineering student team responds to pandemic

Two engineering students, wearing protective face masks, sit at a long table in a UVic Engineering lab, where they sand and assemble the plastic components of face shields.

Kim Arklie hadn’t intended to do a co-op term this summer. But when the fourth-year student heard about the creation of the UVic Engineering COVID-19 Response Team, she knew she had to try to be part of it.

“I was just finishing up another co-op and expecting to go back to classes when I heard about this new group that would be responding to COVID challenges,” says Arklie. “I’m so glad I got the opportunity because the wide variety of projects we’ve all been working on and the impact they’re having has been amazing.”

Arklie is one of 14 engineering co-op students who are part of the unique team, which has been working with faculty, staff and the wider community to produce equipment for health workers and address other COVID-19-related challenges.

The students, who have backgrounds in biomedical, mechanical or electrical engineering, have each been working on three or four different projects during the summer. Read more

Capstone team embraces transition online

Screenshot of a Zoom meeting showing the five members of the team.

A meticulous analysis developed by five UVic students will be “extremely beneficial” to a local municipality’s long-term goal of zero emissions.

Last term, the team of fourth-year mechanical engineering students submitted their capstone project – called “District of Saanich: Electric Fleet Conversion” – which details what it will take for Saanich to convert all its municipal vehicles to electric by 2050. The project was part of MECH 400, a course that all mechanical engineering students take before graduating.

“They have done some excellent work that will be extremely beneficial for Saanich as we move towards a 100-per-cent electric fleet,” Steven Wiebe, Manager of Fleet and Solid Waste Services at Saanich and a UVic mechanical engineering alumnus of 2009.

During a Zoom chat, the students said they quickly adapted to the transition online in March and were lucky that their project focused largely on project management and written analysis. Read more

Developing a passion for cybersecurity

Kodituwakku stands in front a rack of computer servers, which glow with colourful lights.

Chandula Kodituwakku is passionate about cybersecurity and is always looking for hands-on experience in the area. Fortunately, he’s found plenty of opportunities during his time in UVic Computer Science.

For his first co-op, Kodituwakku was hired by UVic Systems as part of its Help Desk. After the co-op, he continued to work there part-time, presenting training sessions on the importance of online security. Another co-op involved working for Royal Bank and this summer, for his final co-op, he’s working as a Junior Security Analyst for BC Pension Corporation.

“When I first came to Canada I was pretty shy, but working with UVic Systems was a turning point for me,” says the fourth-year student, who moved to Victoria from Sri Lanka in 2016. “UVic Systems recognized my interest in security and gave me a lot of opportunities to pursue it. It’s really helped improve my communication skills and confidence.” Read more

Engineering through diversity

Anna Stukas and her daughter, Jura, sit together on a bench overlooking the fountain in the UVic Quad near the libarary.

Anna Stukas is convinced that the most innovative, meaningful and successful work being done in engineering today is by teams that are characterized by diversity.

She’s so certain of the importance of including people with different perspectives and backgrounds in the field that she’s leading the creation of a fund designed to promote diversity within UVic’s Faculty of Engineering.

“I very firmly believe that diversity is one of the core pieces for innovation – you need different perspectives to get breakthroughs,” says Stukas, who graduated from UVic’s Mechanical Engineering program in 2004. Read more