uOttawa Innovates builds bridges with Faculty of Engineering alumni

Nick Burgel, shares the importance of the CEED for students.
Nick Burgel, shares the importance of the CEED for students. (photo provided)

It’s been a priority for Dr. Ioan Nistor, Interim Dean, from the day he joined the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Engineering – break that old perception of academia as an ivory tower distant from the corporate world. 

Many Faculty of Engineering alumni, after all, have achieved great things through their careers as innovators, entrepreneurs and executives. They have a lot to offer. For students, they are mentors and potential employers. For professors and grad students, they are collaborators and partners who can help focus academic research on areas of value to local technology companies and specific industry sectors. 

“We have such a tremendous pool of talent that has come out of the university that we barely tapped into in previous decades,” said Dr. Nistor. “I think universities, as a whole, in Canada do a rather poor job at that.” 

Earlier this month, the Faculty held its first uOttawa Innovates event as part of a new strategy to address this gap. 

The uOttawa Innovates event series connects the Faculty of Engineering with its alumni, partners and friends from the technology and innovation sectors. Each uOttawa Innovates event will feature updates on the latest technologies and initiatives developed by the Faculty’s researchers, students and alumni. 

Dr. Ioan Nistor hands out the Alumni Award of Excellence to Mr. Jean-Michel Lemieux.
Dr. Ioan Nistor hands out the Alumni Award of Excellence to Mr. Jean-Michel Lemieux. (photo provided)

An inside look at CEED 

The inaugural event on Nov. 4 featured a Design Showcase that provided an inside look at the Faculty’s engineering design facilities that are part of the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Engineering Design (CEED). These include the Brunsfield Group Student Engineering Project and Entrepreneurship Centre, where students can design, fabricate and test complex prototypes; the Manufacturing Training Centre, where students get formal instruction on how to fabricate in a machine shop; and the Project Integration and Team Space, or “PITS.” 

Attendees could also network with the 2016 recipients of the Faculty of Engineering Alumni Awards of Excellence (see below). 

“As an alumnus, you always take pride and experience some sense of belonging when your school reaches out and values your achievements,” Dr. Nistor said of the Awards. “I want to ensure alumni feel that they belong to the Faculty and that there is something in this for them as well.” 

Taking it on the road 

The uOttawa Innovates event series will not be limited to the campus. Kyle Bournes, Alumni Relations Officer for the Faculty of Engineering, intends for this to be a roadshow, with open houses at host companies. Earlier this year, the Faculty held a successful pilot event at Pivotal Labs in Toronto, where alumnus Rahul Singh serves as VP of Engineering. The event featured an appearance by the Faculty’s Make Mobile. 

“We want to demonstrate that the Faculty is open for business and seeking collaboration,” Bournes said. “Not only with our alumni, but with the innovation and technology sector in general, whether that is here in Ottawa, or in other cities where we find many of our alumni, such as Toronto and Montreal.” 

In fact, uOttawa’s Faculty of Engineering is becoming a school of choice in Ontario. More of its first and second year undergrad students now hail from the GTA than from the National Capital Region. 

“It’s great to launch something and see such a positive impact from it,” Bournes said. “We want to engage with strong corporate partners to help us build out the tech innovation sector in Ottawa and elsewhere because each year we graduate so many people who go to work in the local industry, as well as other tech clusters between here and Silicon Valley.” 

A member of the uOttawa Supermileage team explains the efficient operation of the car.
A member of the uOttawa Supermileage team explains the efficient operation of the car. (photo provided)

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Winners of the uOttawa Faculty of Engineering’s Alumni Awards of Excellence: 

Alumni Award of Excellence  

  • Jean-Michel Lemieux (BSc ’96, Computer Science), SVP of Engineering at Shopify, Ottawa, ON 

Entrepreneur of the Year 

  • Mina Lux (BSc ’90 (BASc ’92, Chemical Engineering), Founder & CEO at Meelo Logic, New York, NY 

Young Alumni Award of Excellence 

  • Mike Cook (BASc ’03, Computer Engineering), President at Identos, Toronto, ON 
  • Alexandra Bissinger (BASc ’09, MEng ’13, Civil Engineering), Team Leader, Programs at Defence Construction Canada, Comox, BC 

 Learn more about uOttawa Innovates at engineering.uOttawa.ca