Neat Engineering Competition

Neat Engineering Competition

Working at the University of Waterloo affords me some pretty neat opportunities. One of them is being able to occasionally view student project competitions for the Faculty of Engineering. This one I was interested in because I replied to a late-night plea for an ultrasound sensor that went out to the Kwartzlab mailing list. I guess a student group making a self-navigating boat damaged their ultrasound sensor and needed a spare for a competition the following day, and I happened to have one I could spare. After hearing the details of the competition, I decided to go have a look: Read more

North Campus of uWaterloo and its secret swings

As a lifetime local, I can remember when there was very little to the Kitchener-Waterloo area relative to today. My parent’s first house was near the corner of Queen and Fischer Hallman, backing onto Fischer Hallman road, when it was only a two-lane street. Across the street from our backyard was an abandoned farm field, which is now the Real Canadian Superstore. When I was a kid, there wasn’t much beyond Fischer Hallman; the Forest Heights neighborhood was just starting out, and construction was everywhere. Growing up, I spent countless hours in the farm field, watching ducks in the pond, picking the “wild” daffodils that grew by the pine tree stand, and building forts with construction materials that were seemingly abandoned everywhere.

It’s sad to think that there aren’t too many places left like that around here. Construction is booming, and wild areas are all quickly filled in with homes. New parks are built everywhere, and there is very little reason for kids nowadays to wander off into the woods in search of adventure. There is still some space left like that, wild and free, but you just have to look harder, and one spot is hidden in the University of Waterloo’s North Campus. Slowly construction is filling it in with the business park, but there is still the stream and wild area surrounding it.

The area has changed considerably since when I was a kid. There used to be a golf course up there, and Columbia Lake looks nothing like it did a decade ago due to its recent re-engineering.  North Campus was pretty far to bike to when I was younger, but I still made the trip once in a while. During lunch the other day I went for a walk through the woods along the stream, just off the bicycle path, part reliving the memories of my youth, part for the sake of adventure, only to be pleasantly surprised.

I counted at least three swings installed on trees along the stream through North Campus.

The one pictured above is tried to a cedar tree growing beside the stream.

Immediately upon finding the first swing I was transported back to my childhood. I felt that same sense of wonder and magic that comes from venturing off the beaten path and making new discoveries. Finding the first one was pretty cool; subsequent discoveries of more swings turned it into an adventure. How many would I find? Who put them there? Why? From my childhood adventures I knew there was a foundation that the stream ran through further back into the forest, possibly it was an old mill, and it was a target I wanted to find again. So, I trudged further back into the woods, to find the best swing of all was installed looking over the little “waterfall” that ran through it:

Here’s a closer look at the swing:

It was a rare treat to find something like this. If you are feeling adventurous too, I recommend you go look for them in the near future. I only wish I’d thought of doing this first.


New job – the best part

I have a new job. Sort of.

The University of Waterloo has a pretty awesome secondment policy. Basically, when a job is a secondment opportunity, it means you can work it for a predefined time period and when that time period is done, you go back to your old job.

I now work for the Institute for Quantum Computing, a research institute at the University of Waterloo, on the communications team doing web stuff, and trying oh so hard not to immediately break anything and redo everything.

The best part of it all is that it is a clean slate, a field of freshly fallen snow just waiting for me to create something with it. This position is a new one, and as far as I know it never has existed before, and it affords me the opportunity to look at how I’ve created web sites in the past and look for more advanced/easier ways to do the same jobs again.

But now is the time to put my head down and get some more work done.