Lessons learned: Design competition sponsorship benefits students, faculty, and businesses alike

Macfab is a platinum sponsor of 2017 Capstone Design Symposium at University of Waterloo Mechanical Engineering Department

Capstone Design Symposium - Macfab


 

For the more senior members of the Macfab team, it’s a bit of déjà vu all over again: By becoming a platinum sponsor for the University of Waterloo’s Mechanical Engineering Department’s Capstone Design Symposium, Macfab has come full circle – back to its academic roots (on a lab bench at the University of Toronto’s engineering department).

In truth, the company has never left its academic connections; the company works with several U of T departments (and spinoff firms) to this day. And now, says Macfab president Chris Macmorine, the company gets to look into the future. “As a Capstone sponsor, I feel we’ve got a front-row seat to see where the technologies are going and where tomorrow’s best talent and best ideas are coming from. Working with the University of Waterloo represents a very exciting relationship for us.”

Given its focus on innovative thinking and ingenuity, it should come as no surprise to see that a number of Capstone winners have gone on to lead successful startup companies.

Capstone award presentation by Macfab

Macfab director of R&D Charles Day presents a cheque for $2,000 to the winners of the Best Overall Project. Shown left to right: Steve Lambert, University of Waterloo, project partner Phillip Cooper, Charles Day, partner Michael Phillips, Jim Baleshta, University of Waterloo

Macfab sponsors Best Overall Project award

This year’s award for Best Overall Project, which was presented by Charles Day, Macfab’s director of R&D, went to a two-person team for their development of a vascular endoscope for minimally-invasive surgery. This device will use infrared light and real-time imaging to enable physicians to perform interventional procedures that are faster, easier and safer. While it’s still early in the development stage, plans are already underway for its commercialization. For a description of this and other projects in this year’s competition, click here.

For Charles, who represented Macfab as one of the judges, scoring the projects was no easy feat. “There was nothing marginal there. There can only be a certain number of winners selected, but I’d say that they should all be congratulated for their ingenuity, and the energy that they put into it. Very well done.”


University of Waterloo

The University of Waterloo’s Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering department, part of Canada’s largest engineering school, has nearly 1600 undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff.

It was the first Canadian university with a full undergraduate mechatronics program, and first in the country to offer interdisciplinary research and collaborative programs in nanotechnology engineering.

Steve Lambert, University of Waterloo

Steve Lambert addresses the Design Symposium audience

Capstone Design Symposium

Dinner time at the award presentation ceremony

Capstone Design Symposium

More than four hundred attended this year’s Capstone Design Symposium

Capstone - "Easy pint" demo

“Easy Pint,” an automated beer dispenser, was one of the most popular demonstrations, complete with samples

Capstone Design Symposium at a glance

Each year, final-year engineering students must complete an intensive project as a prerequisite to completing their degree. Working in teams of up to six, the students are free to choose any type of project relating to their discipline.

The competition’s process starts early in the summer or fall term and culminates the following spring at the Capstone event. The projects are on display for one long, busy day. Topping things off, the awards (and prizes) are announced that evening as part of a dinner ceremony. This year’s event included some 50 projects and attracted more than 400 visitors.

Judgement day: “Welcome to the real world”

Capstone’s emphasis on teamwork helps foster collaboration, project management, design and R&D skills. But there’s one further skill the students will still need to master: how to present their project to peers, faculty members, and the general public.

The technical merits of the projects are assessed and graded by the teams’ faculty advisors, however their communication skills, together with the quality of their demos or visual displays, are assessed by a panel of judges representing technical and non-technical volunteers drawn from a variety of industries.

“This is a crucial part of them becoming the well-rounded student that Waterloo produces,” says Christopher Pringle, Director, Industry and Government Relations for the Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering department.

“We want to see them communicating well with other engineers – to show their enthusiasm for their own project, to show their technical expertise. They should also be able to talk with business people about whether or not they see this as a commercial possibility. They gain a lot from that, because business people know what paths to take, what can be manufactured; they have a better grasp of all those factors.”

A “fascinating experience” for Macfab

Getting business leaders involved is critical to the success of the engineering department’s programs. To this end, Chris Pringle points not just to the benefits the students will reap, but also to what business people will get back in return.

“I think it’s the profile you get. You will meet industry people here, from small companies and big companies, so it’s a great way to raise the flag of Macfab. And of course you get to see these kids in action, and the tremendous resources they work with here. We have a lot of impressive facilities that don’t exist on other campuses.”

After his experience at the event, Charles Day agrees wholeheartedly: “For us it’s about future engineers that may come through our doors – potential future employees, future customers looking for the kinds of services that we offer. I think it’s good for us, too, to be aware of the types of industries that are sprouting up; there’s all kinds of new venues in the future as well. It’s pretty fascinating.”

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For more about the Capstone Design Symposium, click here.

* All photos courtesy of Angle Media Group