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2020 News Archive

Banner year for engineering researchers nets millions in federal funding

Thirty-eight UWindsor faculty have been awarded more than $6.5 million in federal funding to advance research and innovation in science and engineering.

This funding, awarded through the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Discovery Grant and Research Tools and Instruments Grant programs, supports a broad range of topics, including large lake ecosystems, electric vehicle drive systems, big data and supercomputing, air pollution, and clean energy.

UWindsor exceeded the national success rate for the 2020 Discovery Grant competition with more than 63% of all applications receiving funding. In addition, all Discovery Grants awarded this year are for a five-year term.

Fourteen of the successful grant applications, submitted by early career researchers in the first five years of their academic appointment, each received a “launch supplement” of $12,500 in addition to their Discovery Grant.

Researchers invent flexible pressure sensors and elastomer that heals itself

UWindsor chemist Simon Rondeau-Gagné hits play and what follows looks like a magic trick

UWindsor chemist Simon Rondeau-Gagné hits play and what follows looks like a magic trick.

A video shows Master’s student Julia Pignanelli manipulating a rectangle of jelly-like material in her fingers, stretching it to eight times its normal length before letting it revert to its original form. She then puts it down and slices it in two with a utility knife. She positions the two pieces so they touch and, voilà, the material is whole again.

It’s no optical illusion or sleight of hand, Dr. Rondeau-Gagné assures: “It’s chemistry.”

The self-healing elastomer is the latest technology developed by Pignanelli, Rondeau-Gagné and engineering professor Jalal Ahamed. They recently obtained a provisional patent on the invention.

It’s similar to the silicone-based material used in contact lenses, but with special properties. It not only heals itself, but once cut, the material at the location of the damage is stronger than it was originally. The healing at first took 24 hours, but through further experimentation, the team has cut that time down to just two hours.

Prof seeking to harness power of gaming to fight pandemic

Eunsik Kim, an engineering professor posing

A UWindsor researcher is applying game elements to life in social isolation as a way of combating COVID-19.

Eunsik Kim, an engineering professor who specializes in gamification, is looking into ways of offering virtual rewards for things like social distancing, self-isolation, fitness, or even handwashing during the pandemic.

“We will use game elements in a non-game context to encourage people to maintain healthy practices, not just for entertainment, but to educate people,” Dr. Kim said.

“In addition, by connecting with others through gamification the loneliness epidemic associated with social distancing, quarantine, and isolation can be allayed.”

Gamification is the application of typical elements of game-playing — competition, scoring, and rules of play — to encourage participation. Gamification encourages participants to engage in desired behaviours by capitalizing on the human psychological predisposition to engage in gaming.

Engineering team partners with local manufacturer to combat spread of COVID-19

Face Shields

A local manufacturer has teamed with a group of researchers at UWindsor’s Faculty of Engineering to help combat the spread of COVID-19.

Valiant TMS is assisting Dr. Jill Urbanic’s research team with the production of brackets for 3D-printed face shields. The global company headquartered in Windsor has provided material, testing, building and assembly support. 

“We have no specific production targets. We are trying to meet requests and there have been several from a wide variety of front-line personnel,” Dr. Urbanic says. “This need is what is driving us forward.”

So far, shields have been delivered locally to three nursing departments at Windsor Regional Hospital, two nursing homes and an x-ray clinic and up Highway 401 to the intensive care unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital and St. Joseph's Family Medical and Dental Centre in Toronto. 

The shields are designed to be lightweight and adjustable in size. Urbanic says the designs have been optimized to leverage the most effective manufacturing processes. 

“The top cover and retainer can be laser cut or water jet cut. The materials should allow for reuse. We would like to pursue molding the flexi-band with local mold shops, if they are interested.” 

A message from Dean Saif

Dr. Mehrdad Saif posing in front of CEI

As I sit isolated in my home office running the business of the Faculty remotely, I would like to reflect on the events of the past few weeks and what lies ahead. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally touched all facets of daily lives. The world’s experience with COVID-19 is new and unprecedented in every way. The pandemic is rapidly evolving; there is a great deal of uncertainties associated with it and all around the globe, the response has been to pivot quickly and face a new set of challenges on a daily basis. 

I must say, I am so proud of UWindsor and the Faculty of Engineering community, which — in the face of monumental adversity and daunting challenges — have come together and stepped up to the plate! I am impressed and thankful to our students who have endured this rapidly changing set of circumstances with maturity, poise and calmness. This calamity has shown me how collaborative, resilient and compassionate the UWindsor community really is and that makes me proud to be a member of this tight-knit community.

Engineers are problem solvers and societal challenges provide them with opportunities to innovate and respond to people’s needs. A number of our Faculty and students have been working (and in certain cases with industrial partners), to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) or portable ventilators to our community health care workers or hospitals and I thank them for their efforts.

Windsor start-up shines on international stage

Secara lawn trimmer

It’s a hot summer day and your grass needs a trim. Sweat drips down your face as you lug your lawnmower out of the shed and yank on the starter rope until the sharp blades roar to life. 

There’s got to be a better way, you think, as exhaust fumes fills the air and the motor drowns out the chirping birds and children playing in their yards.

Nigel Christian and Zain Shaikh found one. 

Inspired by their humid, childhood summers in Southern Ontario, the two, now studying engineering at the University of Windsor, have created a lawnmower that is virtually silent, lightweight, emissions-free and safer than any product on the market. They call it Secara — derived from a Latin word for cut. 

“Lawnmower accidents are the leading cause of major amputations for children under 10,” Christian says. “Traditionally, lawnmowers use a heavy rotating blade, which can also cause debris such as rocks and sticks to become a dangerous flying projectile. Our patent-pending, reciprocating blade technology can prevent this from happening.”

Student enterprise producing face shield components

Parker Drouillard shows off the face shield parts he has been producing with 3D printers.

Tucked away in the Ed Lumley Centre for Engineering Innovation is a 3D print shop that has been quietly expanding its fleet.

In just a week, Parker Drouillard, the owner of Pep Corporation, has doubled the number of his self-made 3D printers to assist in the global fight against the spread of COVID-19.

“We normally print automotive parts, but our clients, mostly automotive manufacturers, are being asked to retool,” Drouillard says from his shop floor filled with the whirring sound of nearly 30 printers hard at work.

“As a result, quite of a few our partners have reached out to us.”

The fourth-year computer science student has been approached by clients and businesses from Windsor to Toronto that need parts to assemble ventilators and face shields. He’s now preparing for large orders that can take anywhere from 20 minutes to four hours to produce.

Drouillard has also joined forces with community partners WEtech-AllianceEPICentre UWindsor, and Windsor-Essex FIRST to donate 500 face shields to essential workers across Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent. He is producing the plastic components that hold the face shield in place based on a design created by Kelcom 3D Division.

Engineering team develops products to combat spread of COVID-19

improved face shield design adapts to the shape of the wearer’s forehead
The team’s improved face shield design adapts to the shape of the wearer’s forehead for a snugger fit.

A group of researchers at UWindsor’s Faculty of Engineering has designed face masks, hands-free attachments for door handles, and is making parts for face shields and ventilators to help combat the spread of COVID-19.

Master’s student Alireza Pasha and doctoral candidates Hamed Kalami and Morteza Alebooyeh have been brainstorming with engineering professor Jill Urbanic since the pandemic hit.

“This is our rapid response to the current situation,” Pasha said.

The group first began making brackets for face shields on the 3D printer in Dr. Urbanic’s lab, partnering with Kevin Taylor from Kelcom 3D. The bracket, which wraps around the wearer’s head, is an improvement on the many designs currently available in that it fits snugly to the forehead, better preventing exposure to pathogens.

Crop-dusting design earns recognition for engineering students

Engineering students placed third in Canadian Engineering Competition for design of a crop duster

A national competition has recognized the skills of four University of Windsor first-year students.

Connor Ajersch, John Thibert, Mathew Dunne, and Frank Guarasci placed third in the Canadian Engineering Competition for their design of a crop duster that travels on a zipline and drops various liquids onto specific plots along its path. The team had eight hours to build a prototype out of everyday household materials.

“The biggest challenge in making the crop duster was figuring out the timing for when we had to drop off the liquids on the zipline,” says Ajersch. “This was challenging for us as we weren't allowed to use any electronics and had to figure out how to mechanically time the dropping of the liquid.”

Engineering society honours local chapter

IEEE UWindsor chapter

A University of Windsor chapter of electrical and computer engineers has been recognized for its innovative programs and leadership.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) society for Systems, Man, and Cybernetics (SMC) presented its 2019 outstanding award to the Windsor chapter, composed of students and faculty.

The SMC chapter is chaired by Roozbeh Razavi-Far in the Faculty of Engineering.

The award recognizes exceptional administrative, managerial, and leadership achievement, and meritorious and significant service to any SMC society sponsored activity.