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Wednesday, September 21, 2022 | Daily Bulletin | #computerhacking | #hacking | #hacking | #aihp

Events supporting Truth and Reconciliation at Waterloo

A Message from the Office of Indigenous Relations.  

Over the coming weeks the University of Waterloo will observe and participate in a number of meaningful and educational Indigenous events. The Indigenous Commitment Ceremony on September 22, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation series of event the week of September 30, and a Pow Wow celebrating Indigenous culture on September 24.  

To learn more about the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and events happening on campus to commemorate the day, please visit our events page. 

Understanding Indigenous history, developing an awareness of the damaging and intergenerational effects of the residential school system and learning how to be a part of the reconciliation process is important. The Indigenous Commitment Ceremony, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Community Walk, and Pow Wow are important events that will help the University community to show solidarity with Indigenous peoples.  

We look forward to your participation in these events and learning opportunities, which are critical to embracing and implementing Indigenous ways of knowing and doing, as we work collectively on strengthening the cords of reconciliation.  

Learn more about the Indigenous Commitment Ceremony. 

Hack the North 2022 was as much about learning as it was winning

Hack the North overhead image

By Kira Vermond. This article was originally published on Waterloo News.

When Pira Ravikumaran arrived at Hack the North on Friday night, he admits he felt a little nervous.

As a fourth-year Chemical Engineering student at Waterloo, he was new to coding and wasn’t sure if his lack of experience would be a problem. The 36-hour turbocharged (and highly caffeinated) event brings together over a thousand students, experts and sponsors from around the world to Waterloo’s campus each year to code, compete, learn and network.

How would Ravikumaran keep up at Canada’s largest hackathon?

He shouldn’t have worried. After joining a team with other hackers that night, he explained he still had a lot to learn about computer coding — but he was ready to try. To his relief, his new teammates were supportive, especially a professor from Barcelona who runs hackathons in Spain.

“She said, ‘Don’t worry. The whole point of you being here is so you can learn,’” says Ravikumaran on Saturday afternoon, standing beside a table of free powder-blue t-shirt swag. “So that’s why I’m here.”

His story is one of many that played out over the weekend from Sept. 16 to 18. Created by students for students, Hack the North is known as one of the world’s preeminent hackathons offering aspiring developers, analysts and software engineers opportunities to rub shoulders with experts, attend workshops and speaker panels, and even try out brand new software. All while competing to create the most unique software and hardware projects from scratch.

And yes, it’s normal for hackers to pull all-nighters near tables heaped with chips, goldfish crackers, bananas and drinks or slip into a sleeping bag for a few hours of shuteye near dawn.

A table full of snacks for hackathon participants.

Stephanie Mills (BASc in progress), CEO and founder of CodeGem, an early-stage start-up launched at Velocity that offers productivity, collaboration and engagement tracking software, remembers when she used to attend hackathons. But last weekend, she experienced a full-circle moment: serving on the panel of judges beside other tech superstars.

“It feels really weird to be on the other side!” Mills says. “I learned a lot from hackathons. When I talk about CodeGem, hackathons are totally a part of the company’s story. I think they are wonderful experiences, and I hope more students try them.”

She has advice for students who want to attend next year: brush up on your communication skills. Hacking is as much about the pitch as the technical side.

“The people who win the hackathons are generally the ones who can tell the best story,” she says. “The judges aren’t opening code and making sure your syntax is correct. We’re trying to understand if your project can translate into something useful.”

Other Waterloo alumni and Velocity entrepreneurs were speakers and judges on site too, including Moazam Khan, founder of Curiato; Danielle Rose, CEO of Ceragen; Myra Arshad, ALT TEX CEO; and Evelyn Allen, co-founder and CEO of Evercloak.

“Every Velocity founder was helped by those who came before them and pays it forward to the next group,” says John Dick, director of Velocity Campus, which sponsored the event along with the University of Waterloo’s math and engineering faculties. “When Velocity founders and advisors participate in events like Hack the North, it is simply another demonstration of a prodigious culture that provides students the opportunity to gain insights into the founder journey, receive mentorship and build connections.”

Xiao Zhang, a hacker and second-year Computer Engineering student at Waterloo, wouldn’t mind winning a prize for his app that helps manage long lines for students wanting to talk to professors or teaching assistants after class. But that’s not his main driver for being at Hack the North.

“I think learning new skills is more important than winning any prize,” he says, explaining he knew he couldn’t stay up all night working on the weekend anyway. He had seven hours of lectures on Monday to prepare for.

Organizers and volunteers were there for the learning experiences too, from Kaiden Lee, a local high school student eyeing Waterloo as a top pick for post-secondary school, to Jennifer Tsai a student organizer on the sponsorship team. As a Biomedical Engineering student who just finished her second year, she wanted to meet a community of people just as passionate as she is about helping other students learn.

Looking around the room in the Engineering 5 building, as students and presenters rush past, she admits the last six months of work on Hack the North were hard and chaotic at times, but so worth it.

“Honestly, it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences,” she says. “To put on this huge event for many hackers interested in technology and guide their career path? The reward is just priceless.”

How Waterloo donors are shaping the future

Report on Giving banner image featuring several donors and students who benefit from donations

By Beth Bohnert, Office of Advancement

Whether they are helping students discover their potential or supporting research that addresses the world’s most complex problems, donors across our campus community are making a difference.

Jocelyn Bonti-Akomah and Nathaneal Bergbusch.

For Jocelyn Bonti-Akomah, seeing women in pharmacy who looked like her inspired her to pursue a career in the industry. Now, after receiving a student award honouring her community service, she’s encouraging other women of colour to achieve their goals.

Nathaneal Bergbusch is working with First Nations communities to ensure that environmental assessment processes consider how Indigenous people use waterways. Donor support helped him build the relationships that underpin his doctoral research; the tools he’s developing in collaboration with these communities could help developers avoid triggering environmental catastrophes like the one at Grassy Narrows.

These are just two examples of how donors — including faculty, staff and retirees — empower our students and researchers to explore, create and thrive in Waterloo’s unique learning environment. Through gifts of all sizes, these generous people support teaching and academic excellence, experiential learning, world-changing research, and an incredible student experience.

Read more about students and donors who are shaping the future in the 2021-2022 Report on Giving.

Postdoc profile showcase

A message from Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA).

In honor of National Postdoc Appreciation Week (September 19-23), Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs is proud to share the stories of some of the amazing postdoctoral scholars that have joined our UWaterloo community over the last year.

Taru Malhotra is a postdoctoral fellow working with Engineering Teaching and Student Experience, and the Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business in the Faculty of Engineering. Her research focuses on technology use and integration in classrooms, educator beliefs, pedagogies, and practices. She has also taught courses in the Faculty of Education, and is excited to apply learning theories to concrete classroom practices within her courses. Learn more about Taru.

Sara Doody is a postdoc with Department of Knowledge Integration in the Faculty of the Environment. Her research explores how scholars in the sciences communicate, understanding how interdisciplinary teams of scientists (and social scientists) collaborate on and convey research both within their teams and to the public more generally. Learn more about Sara.

Postdoc fun fact of the day: Did you know that Graduate and Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs maintains a central showcase of postdoc profiles? Separate from departmental profiles, these are an opportunity for postdocs to introduce themselves to the wider community at UWaterloo, telling people a bit about their work, interests, and experiences. If you are interested in sharing your experience as a postdoctoral scholar at UWaterloo, use the postdoc profile submission form today.

E Co-op has the power to put students’ entrepreneurship dreams within their reach

The Tatham Centre in a fall setting.

By Clare Francis. This article was originally published on Waterloo News.

“It’s a life-changing experience!” says Orianna Min (BASc ’23). Her enthusiasm over the University of Waterloo’s Enterprise Co-op Program (E Co-op) is infectious.

Unique among university offerings in Ontario, E Co-op gives students the opportunity to spend a co-op term building their own businesses. A final year Mechanical Engineering student, Min is an E-Launch E Co-op pitch winner who has fully integrated her E Co-op experience into her studies. Her startup, Elpis, is now her Capstone Design project.

Min’s company got its start as an entry in the PRAXIS Ideation Challenge, a competition run by Waterloo in partnership with the Praxis Spinal Cord Institute.  Her experiences have helped her to develop Elpis’ core product — a device that uses biotechnology to assist people living with spinal cord injuries. She leads Elpis with Daniel Hu, a fellow Engineering student.

While in E Co-op, Min has been inspired to recognize her own potential. While previously, she may have ignored certain possibilities, these days, when observing a problem in the world she thinks, “Can I create something to change that circumstance or to improve that situation?”

Overall, the program has been an incredibly valuable experience, helping Min to gain a new perspective on life. Looking to the future, Min is interested in exploring possibilities beyond her specialty. She has been empowered, feeling like, “I can create something world-changing.”

Min’s E Co-op experience has also provided access to a host of resources. This includes expert faculty like Arash Arami, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering whose research interests include Rehabilitation Engineering and Wearable Systems — subjects that are directly associated with the work that Elpis aims to achieve.

Min cites the E Co-op program’s supportive community as a critical part of her experience. “The people I’ve met are all ambitious, but also inspired.” She speaks highly of her peers’ kindness and positive outlook, which has also influenced her perspective. Meanwhile, through E Co-op’s mentorship component, Min has gained valuable input from a diverse group of individuals, including Waterloo alumni.

As for the question of whether people ought to apply for E Co-op, Min is clear. “Do it!” She’s already recommended the program to friends among Engineering’s student body.

Ultimately, working on her startup via E Co-op has given Min a rewarding experience. “I can create something that will make the world a better place. I feel like that has always been what I want to do.” This program has the power to put students dreams within their reach.

It’s National Payroll Week and other notes

A calculator, pen and balance sheet.

Every September, the National Payroll Institute hosts National Payroll Week (September 19-23) to help celebrate payroll professionals in Canada and to highlight their roles and their impact,” says a message from Human Resources. “They play a crucial role in the oversight of accurate, timely payment of all workers. Employee satisfaction depends largely on the functions of the payroll professionals who keep the process smooth behind the scenes.” 

“The past two years have emphasized the tremendous impact that payroll professionals had during the global pandemic and continue to have every day. As our workforces at the University and around the world rapidly moved to different work arrangements, organizations needed to ensure their people were paid accurately, on time, for continued success and operation.”  

“Thank you to all our payroll employees and administrators across our University. Payroll is at the center of our working lives, is vital to our economy, and to the financial well-being of working Canadians. Learn more about National Payroll Week, explore events in your area, or how you can celebrate payroll administrators in your area or unit.” 

Speaking of payroll issues, for employees who are on the monthly payday cycle, Human Resources has sent an update about a change this month. “Friday, September 30 is the National Day for Truth & Reconciliation and is a statutory holiday for federally regulated workplaces, including Canadian banks which will be closed,” says the memo from HR. “Employees who are paid monthly will receive their pay one day early on Thursday, September 29 instead of the last Friday of month as is our standard practice.”

Employers hosting Virtual Employer Information Sessions (VEIS) this week include NimbleRx, Moody’s Analytics, Smart Density, MunichRe, PartnerRe, Overbond, MNP LLP, Nulogy, HOOPP (Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan), Perpetua, Blackberry, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo Canada, Wind River, The Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company, Kiewit, Quora, Solidigm, Sanofi, and Nasdaq. Make sure to register through WaterlooWorks and check the calendar for any updates.

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