Top Ten

June 1, 2017

An innovation economy needs those who can build next-generation infrastructure: opinion

“Canada’s economy is inextricably linked to our infrastructure—and it’s always been so,” write Polytechnics Canada CEO Nobina Robinson and NAIT President Glenn Feltham. The authors note that the Canadian government has signaled through its Innovation Agenda that it wants to support Canadians who innovate. Yet the authors add that it is just as important to support those who build the infrastructure necessary for Canada to fulfill its innovation goals. They add that much of the current focus on infrastructure centres on clean, green, and smart infrastructure, noting that much of the talent needed to build this kind of infrastructure is being produced at Canada’s polytechnics. “A 21st century economy requires the support of 21st century infrastructure, and it’s Canada’s polytechnics that are delivering the talent to build it,” the authors conclude. Edmonton Journal

UAlberta loses 9,000 fish, frogs after pump malfunction

A pump malfunction at the University of Alberta has resulted in the loss of thousands of fish and 75 frogs after chlorinated water entered the freshwater fish tanks. UAlberta states that an electrical switch that provided power to the pump responsible for dechlorinating the water failed due to corrosion. “The chlorine found in the domestic water supply is toxic to the fish and frogs and, without the dechlorination pump in service, levels became fatal within 30 minutes," the university said. “The University of Alberta regrets the loss of any animal in its care and is doing everything it can to ensure this does not happen again.” Lorne Babiuk, UAlberta vice-president of research, noted that the incident has cost the institution thousands of dollars worth of time and research conducted by graduate students and institutional staff. UAlberta | CBC | Edmonton Sun

Professors say that four Sudbury universities is too many

Professors in Sudbury say that having four universities in the city costs money that would be better spent in the classroom. Laurentian University, Thorneloe University, Huntington University, and the University of Sudbury all have their own buildings, professors, administrators, and budgets, but their federated framework means that students of the schools all receive Laurentian degrees. Huntington Board Chair Mary-Liz Warwick notes that while the federated model may cost more, this cost also brings advantages such as smaller class sizes and a more intimate community feel. Laurentian President Dominic Giroux notes that he is not interested in changing the federated model at this time, adding that “quite frankly I think any changes to the federation would be a distraction.” CBC

SFU students create the “Airbnb of parking”

Two students from Simon Fraser University have created an app that they have dubbed the “Airbnb of parking.” The OpenSpot app allows users who are not currently using their parking spots to rent them out online to other drivers. CBC notes, however, that as with Airbnb or Uber, the app is raising questions about the safety and legality of what it is providing. One property management corporation has already issued a statement to condo owners strongly discouraging them from using the app. The City of Vancouver, however, is reportedly in favour of the idea, as it may reduce the greenhouse gas emissions produced by cars while drivers are searching for parking spaces. “We are looking at unlocking unused parking throughout the West End,” says City Communications Manager Amanda McCuaig. “But we're not really there yet.” In the meantime, the city says, using an app to rent your spot is not legal without the proper permits and licenses. CBC

UManitoba, Bell MTS launch IoT in agriculture initiative

The University of Manitoba received a $500K contribution to its Front and Centre campaign from Bell MTS for the purpose of launching the Bell MTS Innovations in Agriculture Program. The program would see students develop Internet of Things technologies for use in the agricultural and food services industries. “Working on IoT solutions within the agriculture, food and nutrition sectors not only offers our students a unique skills development opportunity that will support their future career opportunities,” said Karin Wittenberg, Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, “it is critical to the advancement of our agriculture and food economy.” UManitoba

SaskPolytech to create state-of-the-art manufacturing technology lab

Saskatchewan Polytechnic has announced that it will “take a giant step” in supporting Saskatchewan’s manufacturing sector with the creation of the Gene Haas Manufacturing Technology Lab. Made possible by the support of a $453K donation from the Gene Haas Foundation, the lab will provide students with hands-on training with the most current equipment and technology, and will also support applied research projects with industry partners. “The state-of-the-art facility will provide industry with access to innovative manufacturing technologies,” says SaskPolytech President Larry Rosia. “It will be home to cutting-edge equipment and processes enabling our faculty, students and partners to discover new solutions to the manufacturing challenges faced by industry.” SaskPolytech

Preparing deans to deal with institutional dysfunction

“If we could ‘fix’ the problems we see going on in academe, particularly at universities, at whom would we aim attention and money?” ask David English and Rob Kramer for the Chronicle of Higher Education. The authors note that of all the figures in the present-day university, the most powerful at bringing about transformation are deans. In addition to facing pressures from many different sides, the authors add, deans “also handle the dicey personnel issues that fall under the category of ‘you can’t make this s**t up!’” In order to better support deans in their transformative roles, the authors describe a program they launched at their school, and which elements of it were most effective when it came to making sure their deans were prepared for their roles. The authors close with a discussion of how different schools can adapt the same program to their institutions and their unique goals. Chronicle of Higher Education

WLU officially opens Lazaridis School of Business and Economics

Wilfrid Laurier University celebrated the official opening of the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics last week in a ceremony that featured the school’s namesake, Mike Lazaridis. “I don’t need to point out to this audience the value of preparing business students, managers and leaders with the skills necessary to better understand the vast potential of high technology,” said Lazaridis. “Tech savvy graduates, leaders and managers that appreciate how advanced technology, research and development can help shape strategy, improve competitiveness, create new products enhance innovation and productivity and open new markets.” The Waterloo Region Record reports that Lazaridis donated $20M to support the school. Waterloo Region Record

Student evaluations remain valuable despite growing skepticism: Gooblar

“If you've been teaching in higher education for any amount of time, you've probably encountered more than a few instances of what I like to call EESS — Extreme Evaluation Skepticism Syndrome,” writes David Gooblar for Chronicle Vitae. Gooblar notes that every year, more academics deem student teaching evaluations to be “worthless” examples of the “Yelpification” of education, just as media outlets are quick to cover any new studies that suggest that students are not qualified to judge teaching quality. Gooblar cites research showing that while it is true that student evaluations are an imperfect tool, there is currently no alternative measure of teaching effectiveness that correlates as strongly with student learning. Gooblar concludes by offering tips on how instructors can better use student evaluations to improve their teaching moving forward. Chronicle Vitae

Humber partners with Kenyan polytechnics

Humber College has announced that it has been chosen as the lead institution to support three national polytechnic schools in western Kenya. The effort will be part of the Kenya Education for Employment Program (KEFEP), a three-year, $1.6M initiative of Colleges and Institutes Canada supported by funding from Global Affairs Canada. As lead institution, Humber will work with Durham College, Vancouver Island University, and Selkirk College to support three Kenyan National Polytechnics in the development of their training in mechanical engineering, renewable energy, and building technology. “This is an excellent opportunity to leverage our high quality programming and faculty to make a difference in Kenya,” says Asha Gervan, manager of Humber’s International Development Institute. Humber