Saturday, February 27, 2010

Common Misconceptions About Engineering

My presentation from Go Eng Girl 2009:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Turf in POETS

Tricia and I were on our way to a Women in Engineering meeting when we saw that POETS had been turfed! POETS is an on-campus engineering bar full of couches. Movies are always showing during lunch hours, and there is a foosball table on the upper level.

We don't know who, but somebody covered POETS in grass. We took some pictures:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Society of Women Engineers: Choosing Engineering

The following videos are from the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Oral History Project. The women in these videos were some of the first women to pursue engineering as a profession.

You can find more of these videos on the SWE Website

Bonnie J. Dunbar, Mechanical Engineer & Former NASA Astronaut

Eleanor Baum, Electrical Engineer & Dean of Engineering

Lois Cooper, Transportation Engineer

Margaret Taber, Electrical Engineer

Quicktime is required to view these movies.

Monday, September 14, 2009

High School Co-op Opportunity: Kitchener-Waterloo Area

About a week ago, I received an email from a local business owner who saw our blog and has an opportunity for high school students interested in pursuing a career in computers or IT.

OnTech Computers is owned by Jess & Rob Green, a husband-wife team who jointly run their shop. Jess and Rob are both Microsoft Master Instructors with years of experience.

In the past, they have hired co-op students through local high schools as well as Conestoga College's Women in IT program. This year they were discouraged when all of their high school applicants were male.

I remember being the only female student in my high school computer engineering class and at times it was pretty lonely. This would be a great opportunity for a female high school student, interested in a career in computers, to have the chance to gain valuable experience and work with a female mentor with tones of experience.

If this sounds like an opportunity that would interest you, here some further details:

Who can apply? High school or college co-op students

How to apply? High school students: Through your high school co-op teacher
College students: By email, phone or in person or through your appropriate course leader. A resume is essential.

What are they looking for?
-Someone who is enthusiastic about technology and wants to learn.
-In depth knowledge is not crucial as this is meant to be a learning experience and we will train applicants
-Familiarity with basic computer use is a good place to be starting from.

What would you be doing?
-Everything you would expect a computer repair center to do including Windows installations, hardware/software upgrades and repairs, anti-virus work, cleaning, and testing.
-They sell all kinds of computers and parts.
-They build new PCs and custom designed computers (if you ever have a chance go and check out their aqua pc, keg-puter and encyclo-pc-dia!)
-How much you get to do while you're there depends upon how much and how fast they want to learn.

When to apply?
They are accepting applications right now, so if you are interested, you should apply as soon as possible. There are 3 positions available but one has already been filled.

Contact Info:
Address: 84 Queen St. South, Kitchener, ON
Website: OnTech Computers
Telephone: 519-585-3100

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Women at Google

A Google recruiting video targeting & featuring women.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

It’s gonna be EPIC!

In my four years in Engineering one thing has become very apparent to me, there are a lot of really interesting people doing some really cool things in technology. The problem is – it’s so hard to find out about this! My mission this summer was to try to find a way to change this. The solution – start an organization dedicated to connecting students with a passion for technology and informing them of some of the amazing things going on in tech.

The organization I helped found is called EPIC! EPIC is a student run not-for-profit organization dedicated to Educating, Promoting, Inspiring, and Connecting students with a passion for technology, in a fun and exciting way. EPIC is a platform for collaboration between industry, academia and the student body on topics relating to technology, innovation, ideas and action.

EPIC serves as a cross-platform medium where individuals from different institutes can collaborate and connect. Where ideas can be discussed and shared with an audience of students with a vested interest in technology.

EPIC reaches out to students in high school s, Colleges and Universities from across Canada to help inform students about some of the newest advancements in technology and spark discussion on where these advancements will take us in the future.

The EPIC team currently consists of about 20 Executives and 10 Campus Ambassadors from various schools including: University of Waterloo, University of Toronto, York University, Ryerson, Conestoga and UOIT. We also have a Board of Advisors with members from companies like Google and Rogers!

The first conference (or EpCon as we are calling it) will be taking place on January 15-16, 2010 in Waterloo, On. Check out our website: to find out more and join our mailing list to stay informed. We also have a facebook page that you can become a fan of to keep up on some of the cool things we are going to be doing!

We are always looking for people to join the team and help out so if you are interested please contact me at!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Lesson in What Not To Do

Being in Engineering definitely makes you view the world around you differently.

I have spent my last two work term designing the mechanical systems used in buildings (such as the heating and air conditioning systems). If I do my job right, you'll never notice all of the work that I've done (because you will always be a comfortable temperature and all of the ugly and noisy mechanical equipment will be hidden away).

On my bus ride home from work, I pass by this apartment building which is always a reminder to me of what not to do! Overall, this apartment building looks very well kept, out front there is lots of nice landscaping. However, when I look at this apartment building, all I can see is the TERRIBLE location of the mechanical roof top unit!

In the picture below, I've zoomed in on the penthouse patios which are supposed to open to a beautiful view of the sky. Unfortunately, some mechanical engineer located a roof top unit right behind the opening. Now all you can see when you look up is the mechanical equipment which completely destroys the view that the architect was aiming for!

This is a perfect example of why it is so important to see the bigger picture and to think a problem through from all angles. I'm sure this piece of equipment keeps the apartments the right temperature but because the engineer forgot to think about other implications of her/his mechanical system, the view has been destroyed.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wouldn't it be cool if you had a gigantic multi-touch computer screen (like the iPhone)? Well, we made one for our 4th year design project. The screen measures 48" diagonally, a nice size for a workspace or for multi-player games. Here's a video of our table in action, running on Windows 7.

How does it work? We used a physics phenomenon called frustrated total internal reflection. If you shine light into the side of a sheet of acrylic (Plexiglas), the light will be trapped inside due to total internal reflection (gr 12 physics). Now when you touch the surface, it "frustrates" the light at that spot and so light escapes. You use a camera to capture this image and figure out where the finger was pressed. You can see a picture of what our camera captures when a hand touches the table:

Clarification: The team consists of myself and 3 male classmates. Nonetheless, 25% is still several times higher than the percentage of female students in my class.

Friday, August 7, 2009

What I do at work:

Whenever people ask me exactly what I do at work, I find it very hard to describe. I usually give them a vague reply like “I design the mechanical systems in buildings”. Although, I know that this doesn’t really mean much to most people. So I thought I’d write a blog post where I try to actually explain what I do at work.

The mechanical systems that I design are the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and plumbing systems within buildings. This might sound straightforward but there are a lot of different variables involved.

The first thing that needs to be determined is which type of systems will be used and how heating and cooling will be provided. Most commonly, an air handling unit is used to heat and cool air which is then blown into the space that you are trying to heat or cool.

There are a few different options for how heating and cooling will be provided. Here are some examples of how the air can be heated within the air handler:

-Hot Water Coils: Hot water runs through metal coils and a fan blows the air over the coils so that the heat will transfer from the hot water to the air.
-Electric heat: Air is heated by being blown over electric heating coils.
-Gas heat: Gas is burned within the units to heat the air.

Every system has pros and cons. For example, hot water coils are very efficient but require a lot of space because a boiler is required to heat the hot water (and pumps to circulate the hot water).

Once you’ve figured out how you are going to provide heating and cooling, you need to figure out how you are going to keep all of the spaces that the air handler services comfortable at the same time. The air handler will service many different spaces and they won’t always need the same amount of heating and cooling. Here are a couple different options for that:

-Control Air Volume (CAV) Systems with terminal re-heat: Use your air handler to heat the air to the lowest temperature required by any of the spaces you are controlling. Then use a small re-heat unit in each space to increase the temperature for just that space to whatever it requires. (Now you have to go back and determine how you will provide this heat - hot water or electric?).
-Variable Air Volume (VAV) Systems: Use your air handler to heat the air to be really hot (or really cold) but control the amount of air which flows into each room. If a room is already a good temperature, don’t supply it with air. If a room is really cold, provide it will lots of air. Etc...

Each of these systems has their own pros and cons. A CAV system is great if your rooms will usually all need the same amount of heating and cooling but a VAV system is better if there is lots of variation between the rooms.

Next, you need to determine how much heating and cooling each space will likely require. This is done by determining where you will loose heat and where you will gain heat. For example, windows will make the space loose heat and people will make the space gain heat. This is important so that you can determine how much airflow each room will need and how large your air handling unit must be.

Once you’ve decided all of that, you need to determine how you will get the air to the space (i.e. with ductwork). This requires lots of coordination with the architect and structural engineer to make sure that ducts will fit within the ceiling space.

Once you’ve brought the air into each room, you need to select diffusers appropriate for the space. When selecting diffusers, it is important to consider noise and speed. You don’t want your diffusers to be sending out so much air that they make a whistling noise or that people feel drafts of hot (or cold) air blowing on them.

Ultimately, what I love about my job is that every day is different because every building is different. This means that I am constantly learning and everyday provides a new challenge.

The classes that most strongly relate to what I do at work are heat transfer and fluid mechanics.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


One of the unique challenges that women in engineering get to face (or rather one set of them) is that people just aren't used to things that women often do but men rarely do. Like changing their last name. It's not that there isn't a system in place for this, but when using it you tend to get the feeling that no one expects you to do so.

I recently got married, and I submitted my change of name papers to the university. There's an easy way to do this (one form), but it just feels really awkward, like I'm standing out more than I already do, when I have to tell my prof that "oh, by the way, the university is going to start referring to me by a different name". My mother had similiar problems. She got married after she had started her paperwork to become a professional engineer. She called up, and asked about if it was possible to get her stamp in a different name. The response was that "no, it's impossible. Oh, unless your name legally changed". There is a procedure - it's just that everyone forgets it.

However, I must say, that having what is almost a private washroom in the building where I have my new office, makes up for a lot.