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Communications course projects inspire engineering students

Technical communications means more than just writing reports, says engineering professor Jill Urbanic. When she took over teaching a first-year course in the subject, she determined to give her students some interesting content to communicate.

“My perception of technical communications is based on my experience in industry,” she said Wednesday as her students presented their final projects in the Centre for Engineering Innovation’s Industrial Courtyard. “I set it up as a project-based course, because after these students graduate, they will typically be working on, or managing projects.”

The students worked in teams on projects involving either design, experimentation, or research and used those as the basis for the communications aspect of the class. Where possible, Dr. Urbanic had them consult with outside clients.

“They then had to figure out how to properly communicate these complex concepts,” she said.

Each group had to produce a technical report, a one-page summary, a video from 90 seconds to two minutes long, and a formal presentation. The students found it educational.

“I had never understood how many toxic wastes there are in computers,” said Josh Nemeth, part of a team exploring ways to reclaim dangerous and precious materials from electronics. “We worked on a process to recycle to keep them out of the environment.”

Sidra Anis worked on a project to shape the biodegradable corn starch-based material of Naturpack’s loose-fill puffs so it can be used as formed packing. She was excited by the thought the manufacturer might actually use the group’s research.

“It was very interesting to work on something so practical,” Anis said. “It gave me experience in a real-world application of our theoretical knowledge.”

Other projects included an innovative iPhone case, a solar-powered toy car, a bike locker designs for specialty bikes, an introduction to RFID tag tracking systems, and a three-dimensional scale model of the UWindsor campus the students hope to see displayed in the University’s Welcome Centre when the building—currently in the planning stages—opens to visitors.

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