Posts Categorized: Alumni

Community Spotlight: Seif Elashry (IndE 1T9+PEY)

Seif Elashry at the Our Winning Shot vaccine clinic at Scotiabank Arena on June 27th, 2021.

On Sunday, June 27th, 2021 the city of Toronto administered 26,771 vaccines, breaking the North American record for the most COVID-19 vaccines administrated in one day at a single clinic. IndE alumn, Seif Elashry (IndE 1T9+PEY), an Improvement Analyst at Michael Garron Hospital, was part of the team that made this record-breaking clinic possible.

Seif joined the team at Michael Garron Hospital in September 2020. In his role he aims to help the hospital run as efficiently as possible from both a patient safety and care perspective. This involves identifying where improvements can be made and developing quality improvement plans to be put into action.

“I originally hoped to pursue a master’s degree in healthcare engineering after graduating, but knowing that in-person learning may not have been possible due to the pandemic I opted to gain some work experience instead,” Elashry explained. “Professor Michael Carter (MIE) really inspired me to pursue a career in healthcare after I spent the summer working on a project with him. I saw this position at Michael Garron Hospital where I would be able to put to use everything I learned in my undergrad and it all fell into place.”

As vaccines began to be distributed in Canada in December 2020, Seif reached out to his director to express his interest in assisting with the roll-out. He has been a part of the huge endeavor of getting vaccines into arms since mid-December.

Michael Garron Hospital first hit a vaccination milestone on May 16 when 10,471 vaccines were administered in a single day at the Thorncliffe Park Community Hub clinic which broke the Canadian record. As vaccine supply continues to increase, the plan to host another record-breaking clinic began to form.

In less than two weeks the City of Toronto, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), University Health Network and Michael Garron Hospital planned a mass vaccination clinic to take place at ScotiaBank Arena with the goal of vaccinating 25,000 people.

“We had 10 days to organize the clinic. While in many ways it was a natural progression from what we were already running at Thorncliffe Park, there were still a number of logistics to account for,” said Elashry, “My role mainly involved looking at the plans from a flow perspective and looking out for any red flags. I also worked with other analysts and another hospital to build a booking system that would automatically send out confirmations to those who registered.”

On the day of the clinic it was all-hands-on-deck as volunteers, vaccinators and support staff found their rhythm. Despite a slow start and some initial challenges in the process, the team were able to administer an average of 1,000 shots every 30 minutes and shatter the North American record. Elashry himself was pulling numbers from the COVAX system and watching the vaccination count go higher and higher throughout the day.

“It was truly an amazing day to be a part of. I really feel as though I have found my niche in healthcare engineering and at Michael Garron Hospital. I feel so inspired to continue on this path and help identify gaps in our system and bring greater equity, inclusivity and process improvements to the Canadian healthcare system.”

We want to get to know you! Do you have a story to share with the MIE community? Reach out to to be featured in the Community Spotlight.

-Published June 29, 2021 by Lynsey Mellon,

Community Spotlight: Zhenglin Liu (MechE 1T9+PEY)

Zhenglin Liu’s (MechE 1T9+PEY) plans after graduating were changed as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit travel and in-person learning opportunities. Instead of heading to Cambridge University to begin a master’s program last fall, Zhenglin found himself taking on the role of a legislative intern for MP Taylor Bachrach. As a 2020 recipient of a UTSLA (University of Toronto Student Leadership Award), we were excited to catch up with Zhenglin and hear what he’s been up to since graduating at last week’s virtual celebration for 2020 and 2021 award recipients.

You may already know Zhenglin from his time at MIE – he was involved in quite a few student groups, for example serving as co-president of U of T Environmental Action (UTEA), Sustainability Commissioner for the U of T Students’ Union, and editor of the Cannon newspaper. He was also responsible for re-starting the Skule Choir. As you can see, he doesn’t shy away from getting involved in the communities that interest him.

“I ended up deferring my plans for graduate school for a year because of the pandemic,” said Zhenglin, “so I was fortunate to learn about this internship coordinated by GreenPAC, a non-profit that works to elect environmental leaders at the federal and provincial levels.”

Through its Parliamentary Internship for the Environment program, GreenPAC places interns with environmentally focused MPs they endorse. Zhenglin was matched with MP Taylor Bachrach (Skeena-Bulkley Valley, BC), the NDP critic for Infrastructure, Communities, and Transport, because of his relevant technical background, and has been a part of the MP’s team since September 2020.

Zhenglin has a wide-range of responsibilities within the MP’s legislative team. He helps to research the experts and stakeholders who present to the House of Commons committees on Environment and Transport, conducts data analysis projects, advises on the science and technology aspects of climate policy issues, and much more.

“My training as an engineer has definitely been useful in this position. Skills from my engineering design courses have been helpful engaging with stakeholders, for example, while MIE507 and 515 both speak to high-profile avenues of climate action in the infrastructure sector,” he said, “and MIE258 played a big part in making me the excel power-user I am today, so don’t discount that class!”

Zhenglin’s internship position will wrap up in June and he will continue on with his graduate education at Cambridge in the Fall. He will begin the MPhil Environmental Policy program, which focuses on law and economics, at the university’s Clare College.

Afterwards, Zhenglin hopes to build on his experiences so far by working for the federal public service in a climate-related role, whether at Environment and Climate Change Canada or another relevant department such as Natural Resources Canada or Infrastructure Canada. He may even find himself back at U of T to begin law school (where he holds a deferred offer) in order to pursue public interest environmental law.

Zhenglin is happy to connect through LinkedIn in to talk to other students who are interested in policy or who might consider applying for the internship when they graduate.

We want to get to know you! Do you have a story to share with the MIE community? Reach out to to be featured in the Community Spotlight.

-Published May 4, 2021 by Lynsey Mellon,

This U of T Engineering Mech grad is pioneering a ‘Jetsons-style’ personal aircraft

Kristina Menton (MechE 1T4 + PEY) next to two prototypes of the BlackFly. As the Director of Operations – Flight Testing & Propulsion Lead at Opener, she is a key member of the team bringing this electric-powered personal aerial vehicle to market. (Photo: Opener LLC)

Kristina Menton (MechE 1T4 + PEY) loves airports. 

“I love sitting in the midst of all the people and chaos, watching the airplanes take off,” she says. “I love everything about their aerodynamics, the beauty of the physics that make them fly.” 

Lately, Menton has been experiencing those aerodynamics in a whole new way. As Director of Operations – Flight Testing & Propulsion Lead at Opener, Menton is a key member of the team behind the BlackFly, an all-electric, one-passenger aircraft capable of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL).  

“It’s not a flying car, because it doesn’t have wheels and it can’t go on the road,” she says. “It is a personal aerial vehicle. It takes someone from point A to point B, through the sky.” 

Menton didn’t apply for a job at Opener — the company came looking for her while she was still an undergraduate. She already had experience with jet engines, having interned with Pratt & Whitney Canada through U of T Engineering’s Institute for Multidisciplinary Design & Innovation. But her new job was something else entirely. 

“I loved working in aerospace, but generally speaking, it’s a slow-moving industry,” she says. “What made this exciting was the chance to be at the leading edge of something new, which is electric aviation. I’m not someone who generally says no to a challenge.”

Kristina Menton. (Photo: Opener LLC)

At first the company was operating in stealth mode; Menton couldn’t even tell her friends and family what she was working on. Within a year, she was made Head of Propulsion. Soon after that, she got her first chance to take a test flight. 

“I had seen the aircraft fly autonomously for thousands of kilometres, so I knew it was safe,” she says. “I also spent a lot of time in the simulator, so the controls felt quite natural. I just sat back to enjoy the ride, which was even smoother than I expected. Being able to see 180 degrees across the horizon, to just float there in the air — it was a very enjoyable experience.” 

In the summer of 2018, the company launched its website, enabling potential customers to see the BlackFly in action for the first time. If all goes according to schedule, the first batch of vehicles will be for sale by the end of this year. 

Menton says that there is “no such thing as a typical day of the office” at Opener, and that every one of the company’s 50 employees needs to wear multiple hats.  

For example, in addition to her work on Propulsion DesignMenton recently took on the role of Flight Testing Coordinator. Managing field safety protocols, personnel and service schedules, hardware availability, and changing weather conditions across three test sites has been a challenge, but Menton says that time management is one of her strengths. 

“I remember when I was in first year, I found for the first time that I couldn’t do everything I wanted to,” she says. “I was working on problem sets with my classmates until 2 a.m., and then I had to be up for varsity basketball practice at 6 a.m.. You learn how to function under pressure, and how to get everything filed into slots throughout the day.” 

During her undergrad, she also managed to carve out time to participate in high school outreach programs for young women who may be considering engineering careers. In part, she was giving back in return for the mentorship she received from female professors such as Dean Emerita Cristina Amon (MIE) and Professor Jean Zu (MIE, now Dean of the Schaefer School of Engineering and Science at Stevens Institute of Technology).  

 Most recently, Menton’s status as a role model was strengthened by an appearance in the Changemakers issue of The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business magazine. And she’s not short of answers when asked what advice she would give to those who would follow in her footsteps. 

 “Learn to deal with failure. It’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen unexpectedly, but the ability to deal with that failure is what matters,” she says. 

 As you climb the ranks, you’ll notice fewer and fewer women around you. At those times, it’s important to speak your mind, to not take no for an answer and to find other women who can support you. I’ve had those mentors and I continue to find them now. They can help you keep pushing for what you actually want.” 

– This story was originally published on the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering News Site on April 23, 2021 by Tyler Irving

New Grad Profile: IndE Alumna Tammi Hawa’s role in the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out

After completing her undergraduate degree in Industrial Engineering, Tammi Hawa (IndE 1T8+PEY, MASc 2T0) knew she wanted to further focus her expertise in healthcare engineering before entering the workforce. To meet this goal, Hawa went right from her undergraduate degree to begin working towards her MASc with Professor Michael Carter in the Centre for Healthcare Engineering. In fall 2020, fresh off a virtual graduation from her MASc, Hawa joined the University Health Network (UHN) Data and Implementation Science team. Her role as a Business Process & Data Analyst allows her to bring industrial engineering methodologies to a variety of projects, starting with supporting the roll-out of the UHN COVID-19 vaccination clinics.

“I’ve always been interested in working in healthcare, I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor or a nurse,” Hawa explained, “for me, healthcare engineering is the perfect fit.”

During her graduate studies, Hawa’s research focused on how industrial engineering can be applied to areas like patient flow and hospital logistics to help improve health services. Working with Professor Carter she examined operating room supply chains and determined where improvements could be made in supply ordering policies. In the summer of 2020 they began a new project with UHN to determine how best to manage the reopening of clinics during the pandemic.

Now, as part of the UHN Data and Implementation Science team, Hawa is helping to formulate best practices for the successful roll-out of the UHN COVID-19 vaccination clinics. While the idea of setting up a vaccination clinic isn’t new, and many of her team members have experience setting up flu vaccine clinics, there are new challenges to address with this project.

“We had to determine the flow of patients through the clinic and take into account things like vaccine dose preparation and the implications of the two-dose schedule,” Hawa explained. “We are using industrial engineering tools like process mapping and simulation to determine how to most efficiently distribute the available vaccine doses.”

There are a number of things to take into account in this project, such as standard vaccine clinic logistics like preparation of the vaccine to more pandemic-specific considerations such as door screening and patient registration, to scheduling second dose administration appointments. With the added complications of an uncertain supply and a short lead time, planning has been challenging.

“It’s a very iterative process,” said Hawa, “We are working off our best guess using expert knowledge and conducting time studies to refine our model. We’re aiming to know how many staff and stations we need to meet our vaccination goals and to define best practices than can hopefully be shared with other clinics as vaccination in Ontario ramps up.”

Hawa has found her niche in healthcare engineering, and is looking forward to the variety of projects she will encounter in her role. Her team at UHN takes on any number of analytical or process-oriented challenges within the hospital and their close ties to the Centre for Healthcare Engineering mean there are often studies to oversee or collaborate on. Future projects may include forecasting patient arrivals and flow or designing tools to help update the layout of the hospital to improve patient care.

-Published February 25, 2021 by Lynsey Mellon,

A side project for the community: How two recent IndE grads are helping restaurants adapt during the pandemic

A website created by two industrial engineering alumni who graduated in the midst of the pandemic hopes to bring some relief to restaurants by providing a way to create free, easy to manage QR code menus.

Toronto-area restaurants have been hit hard during the pandemic and have spent the better part of a year adapting to new public health guidelines to ensure customer safety. Many restaurants have put their menus online to minimize the number of touchpoints between servers and customers, however this can be difficult to do right. To help solve this problem Fawzi Ammache (IndE 1T9 +PEY) and Adham Zaki (IndE 1T9 +PEY) developed TurboMenu. TurboMenu is an online platform that allows restaurants to create a QR code menu quickly, easily, and perhaps most importantly, for free.

Comparison between a TurboMenu digital menu and uploaded PDF.

The online menu generated by TurboMenu is clear, easy to read, and loads quickly.

“Trying to zoom in on a PDF menu that takes forever to load or scrolling through a long menu on your phone can be frustrating, but not all restaurants have the resources or technical knowledge to give their customers a better experience,” Ammache said, “That’s why we wanted to create TurboMenu.”

TurboMenu allows restaurant owners to put their entire menu online and automatically generates a QR code that can be displayed for customers to scan. Owners create a free account and can immediately start building their menu. Changes to the menu go live instantly and do not affect the QR code. The menu link can even be personalized to the restaurant.

“We wanted to keep the site simple to use and totally free. It doesn’t cost us much to run and maintain TurboMenu and we really want to help out small businesses,” Ammache said.

Adham Zaki and Fawzi Ammache in their first year at U of T Engineering.

Ammache and Zaki met in their first year at U of T Engineering and immediately hit it off. They worked together on number of projects and quickly saw how well their skills complimented each other – Zaki excels on the technical side of things, like coding, while Ammache has a knack for design. When Ammache, currently a Junior Experience Designer at Publicis Sapient, approached Zaki with his idea he was eager to collaborate again.

“I’ve learned so many new techniques in my workplace, and I wanted to apply them to a personal project,” said Zaki, now an Associate Software developer at Konrad Group.

A franchise owner of multiple BeaverTails locations around the city started using TurboMenu soon after its launch and has already logged more than 200 scans. As the number of TurboMenu users continues to grow, Ammache and Zaki hope to add the option to include images on the online menu and will continue to help businesses who want to get set up on the platform.

“We’ve kept TurboMenu completely open source on GitHub. If people want to contribute to the TurboMenu project by fixing bugs or finding improvements, we’d love that! We are also happy for people to use our work to help build a new project,” Zaki said.

Engineers are problem-solvers, and as businesses continue to adapt and expand their offerings to survive the pandemic Ammache and Zaki, with their unique viewpoint as 2020 grads, are happy to play a part in creating the solutions.

-Published January 25, 2021 by Lynsey Mellon,

From Northwest China to Silicon Valley: MIE Alumnus Shumin Zhai’s extraordinary career 

Shumin Zhai (MIE PhD 9T5)

Shumin Zhai (MIE PhD 9T5) was recently honoured at the Engineering Alumni Network (EAN) Awards with a place in the Hall of Distinction. The Hall of Distinction recognizes Engineering alumni whose lifelong achievements ultimately define what is most exemplary in Engineering graduates and our profession. Zhai, now a Principal Scientist at Google, has had a remarkable career making huge contributions to theoretical understandings of human-computer interaction as well as broadly deployed user interface designs and product innovations.

Zhai grew up in Northwest China’s Gansu province. He has always been interested in building things and how they work, and with the support of his father who was also an engineer, he began making things like microphones, alarms, and radios from a young age. He went on to complete both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Xidian University, a rare accomplishment in the early 1980s China, since the Cultural Revolution had made higher education inaccessible from 1966 to 1976. This meant ten years of individuals seeking higher education were applying at the same time as Zhai. After graduating, he began his career as a teacher and researcher at that same university. After a few years, Zhai decided he was ready to expand his research at a world-class institution which led him to the University of Toronto.

Zhai joined what was then the Department of Industrial Engineering in 1989, where he completed his doctorate under the supervision of Professor Paul Milgram. During his time at U of T, he learned how to apply a scientific or mathematical/statistical approach to problem-solving which allowed him to bring his creative ideas to life. Zhai credits his time at U of T for providing him with the knowledge required (human factors principles in memory, learning, and motor skills) to come up with the hypothesis for “shape writing”, laying the basis for the gesturing typing technology that can now be found on almost every smartphone. The core problem-solving principles he learned at U of T now guide the work Zhai does every day at Google.

“In addition to the incontestable accolades about Shumin’s brilliance, industriousness, perspicacity and so forth, I would not want it to be forgotten that he is a truly superb human being, who cares very deeply about his fellow human beings and strives continually to make the world around him a better place,” Professor Paul Milgram said in response to Zhai being honoured with a place in the Hall of Distinction.

After moving on from U of T, Zhai joined the IBM Almaden Research Center where he stayed for 15 years. It was here Zhai developed the first iteration of “shape writing”. Today, as a Principal Scientist at Google, Zhai works on the invention, design, research, and production of user interfaces, particularly for modern smartphones. He also regularly publishes academic papers on his work in the scientific literature.

“The University of Toronto played a pivotal role in launching my research and innovation career. It is truly a place where great minds meet,” says Zhai, “I continue to draw strength from my Toronto roots. My advisors, professors, and fellow graduate students are among my dearest friends today.”

The U of T Engineering community is made up of many extraordinary alumni. Learn more about this year’s EAN Award Winners and listen to Shumin Zhai speak about his career in this short video.

MIE alumni among those honoured with 2020 Engineering Alumni Network Awards

Eleven outstanding members of the U of T Engineering community were recognized Nov. 5 at the 2020 Engineering Alumni Network (EAN) Awards.

The evening awards ceremony, held virtually this year, celebrated alumni and students for their accomplishments and their contributions to the Skule™ community

“The Faculty has just been amazing in its resilience, and tonight’s winners really embody that spirit,” said Dean Christopher Yip. “You illustrate the role that engineers can play in meeting the world’s most daunting challenges.”

“When I came to Toronto from Hong Kong in the late 1980s, I didn’t know that getting an engineering degree from U of T would set me up for a lifetime of success, but it has,” said Allen Lau (ElecE 9T1, ECE MASc 9T2), one of this year’s winners of the Engineering Alumni Hall of Distinction Award. “I call on my fellow engineering alumni to think about how the training and skills you’ve gained at U of T can improve business, society, diversity and equity in the city and country we call home.”

The recipients from the MIE community were:

Engineering Alumni Hall of Distinction Award

The Hall of Distinction is an assembly of extraordinary alumni, selected for membership by their peers for their exemplary accomplishments. These are graduates whose performances have ultimately defined what is most outstanding in our graduates and in our profession. The careers of the members stand as examples and add a sense of reality to the aspirations of successive generations of U of T Engineering students.

Shumin ZhaiShumin Zhai (MIE PhD 9T5) is a Principal Scientist at Google where he leads and directs research, design, and development of input systems, interaction methods, and mobile haptics. His past research career has contributed to theoretical models and understandings of human-computer interaction as well as broadly deployed practical user interface designs and product innovations.

He originated and led the SHARK/ShapeWriter project at IBM Research and a start-up company that pioneered the swipe typing keyboard paradigm. His academic publications have won the ACM UIST Lasting Impact Award and a IEEE Computer Society Best Paper Award, among others. He served as the 4th Editor-in-Chief of ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction. He received his Ph.D. degree at the University of Toronto in 1995. In 2006, he was selected as one of ACM’s inaugural class of Distinguished Scientists. In 2010 he was named Member of the CHI Academy and a Fellow of the ACM.

Learn more about Shumin Zhai (video)


Malcolm F. McGrath Alumni Achievement Award

Named in honour of Malcolm McGrath on his retirement as assistant dean — alumni liaison, this award recognizes contributions of personal service to the Faculty, the University or to the community. McGrath was the first assistant dean responsible for alumni affairs and development in the Faculty. Among his many accomplishments are the growth of the Annual Fund, the Engineering Open House, the introduction of the Skule™ Stage Band, and the establishment of the Graditude Campaign.

Eric Matusiak

Eric Matusiak (MechE 9T1) is an experienced consultant with a passion for retail and the broader consumer business sector. He has over 20 years of consulting to leading retailers in North America across multiple formats including department stores, specialty apparel, footwear and mass merchandise.  He has worked across all departments and functions from store to back office, enabling him to address client challenges and opportunities from multiple perspectives.

As the National Retail Industry Leader at BDO, Eric leads a group of retail and IT professionals who implement ERP, POS, BI and other retail technologies that enrich consumers’ experiences and improve retailers’ business results. Eric also advises retailers on technology strategy and helps organizations manage the process and organizational components of their business to ensure that technologies align to business strategy.

Based in Toronto, Eric is a member of the Retail Council of Canada, an alumni board and committee member at the University of Toronto and alumni mentor at the Richard Ivey School of Business.

Learn more about Eric Matusiak (video)

Honourary Member of the EAN

Acknowledges the exceptional contributions of an individual who is not a member of the EAN but has contributed in a very significant way to bettering the Faculty, the EAN and/or the lives of current or future members of the EAN.

Cristina Amon

Cristina Amon is Alumni Distinguished Professor in Bioengineering and Dean Emerita at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. Under her leadership, Canada’s #1 ranked engineering school has become a global hub for inter-disciplinary research and education known for its strategic Faculty-wide initiatives, cross-Faculty centres and institutes, and innovative undergraduate and graduate programming. Her commitment to outreach and diversity has set a new standard for Engineering schools worldwide: the number of women faculty members at U of T Engineering has doubled in the last decade and the Faculty celebrated an historic 40% women first-year undergraduate enrolment for its second consecutive year in 2017.

Prior to her deanship at U of T, Amon was the Raymond J. Lane Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Institute for Complex Engineered Systems at Carnegie Mellon (until 2006). She received her master’s and doctorate degrees from MIT in 1988. Her research pioneered multidisciplinary thermal designs and made ground-breaking innovations to transient thermal management, optimization algorithms for renewable energy, nanoscale transport in semiconductors and biological systems. Her scholarly contributions are published in 16 book chapters and over 350 articles in education and research literature.

She has been inducted into the Canadian Academy of Engineering, Hispanic Engineer Hall of Fame, National Academy of Engineering, Royal Academy of Spain and Royal Society of Canada, and elected fellow of all major professional societies in her fields. Additional accolades include the ASEE Westinghouse Medal, ASME Heat Transfer Memorial Award and SWE Achievement Award, the highest honour.

Professor Amon received the Engineers Canada Award for the Support of Women in 2010, was named one of the YWCA’s Women of Distinction in 2011 and one of Canada’s 25 Most Influential Women in 2012, and received the Ontario Professional Engineers Gold Medal in 2015 – the most prestigious honour for engineering public service, technical excellence and professional leadership.

Learn more about Cristina Amon (video)

View all of the award recipients in the full article published on the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering News Site.

– This story was originally published on the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering News Site on November 6, 2020 by Engineering Strategic Communications

U of T IndE & EngSci alumni collaborate to create platform to help teachers gauge student understanding in virtual classrooms

A new software platform, created by two U of T Engineering alumni, aims to make virtual classrooms more functional by providing real-time feedback and specific insights into how student understanding of mathematics is changing. 

Last March, Nived Kollanthara (IndE 1T7 + PEY) was living in New York City, where he volunteered part-time at a shelter, helping kids with their math homework. When the pandemic hit, he realized right away the impact it would have. 

“The kids I work with need extra, individual attention to help them succeed in the classroom,” he says. “I was worried about how they would be getting that in a remote environment.” 

 Kollanthara started talking with teachers he knew and learned that one of the first things that gets lost in virtual learning is real-time feedback on student understanding. 

 “Assessments and tests can tell you a bit about how a student is doing, but they’re not the whole picture,” he says. “A lot of it comes from seeing how kids are engaging with the content — who’s putting up their hand first, who’s slowing down when certain topics are coming up, things like that.” 

 Kollanthara started to wonder if it would be possible to build a piece of software that could leverage artificial intelligence and data mining to provide those insights. He contacted his former classmate, Aiden Carnegie (EngSci 1T7 +PEY) to see if he could help. 

“During my time at U of T, I worked with two startups to build a product from scratch,” says Carnegie. “This idea caught my interest because of the opportunity to help students learn, and to provide teachers with tools that can help not only during this pandemic, but afterward as well.” 

 Within a couple of months, the platform, called Kanak, was up and running. The team is currently testing it with a small group of teachers and their students, including some from both Canada and the U.S. 

 Students log on to Kanak to see a list of assignments provided by their teacher. The multiple choice questions are “gamified” — a correct answer generates fireworks and adds another notch to a student’s “winning streak.” 

 As students work their way through, Kanak collects information on their responses, such as how long they are taking to answer and what proportion of the questions they get right. Based on this data, Kanak can help the teachers zero on the areas that are causing challenges. 

There are a handful of platforms that provide teachers with real-time feedback,” says Kollanthara. “What differentiates Kanak is the use of deep learning to provide specific insights. For example, being able to determine that a give student takes longer to add fractions because of a lack of understanding of equivalent fractions.

“I think Kanak is a useful tool because of its ability to personalize the learning experience to meet the individual needs of each student,” says Marissa Sansalone, a teacher with the Toronto District School Board. 

Sansalone teaches Grades 1 to 4, with an especially strong focus on math. She heard about Kanak through a friend who shares her interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and the use of technology in the classroom. 

 “I have been using Kanak outside of the class currently as a practice tool with students,” she says. “I like the insight it provides, such as the warnings that a student is not ready yet to move on to the next concept. In today’s world, tools that enhance virtual learning are essential to student success.” 

 Over the next few months, Kanak will continue to refine the platform based on the feedback they are getting. By January, they hope to be able to expand their testing cohort to a group of about 20 teachers and their classrooms. 

 “Our top priority now is getting this into the hands of the teachers and students that need it,” he says. “If they see value in it, the next step will be to identify champions who can help bring this into school boards or other educational environments.”

-This story was originally published on the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering News Site on October 8, 2020 by Tyler Irving 

Giving Back & Strengthening a Connection: Ann Nguyen’s experience with the U of T Engineering Alumni Applicant Assessor Program

Ann Nguyen (IndE 8T6) has a special connection with U of T. Now an IT Expert at Loblaw Company Limited, Ann looks back on the start of her university career as a refugee and new Canadian and credits graduating from U of T for a great deal of her success. One of the ways she continues to stay involved is through the U of T Engineering Alumni Applicant Assessor Program. This program engages alumni in reviewing the written and video submissions that showcase an applicant’s extracurricular activities, communications skills, and future aspirations. By providing input on the diverse group of applicants, applicant assessors help shape the future of U of T Engineering. Ann will be starting her seventh year with the Alumni Applicant Assessor Program this fall.

In 1979, at the end of the Vietnam war, Ann and her family joined thousands of other refugees – known as the boat people –  in leaving Vietnam by boat to arrive at a refugee camp in Indonesia. In February of 1980 they arrived in Canada. Just two years later, Ann began studying engineering at U of T.

“I’ve always been so grateful for the opportunity U of T gave me as a newcomer to Canada. I did not speak or write perfect English and I may not have been the typical applicant on paper,” Nguyen recalls, “I had to work extra hard to succeed. Graduating from a prestigious university gave me both immense pride in myself and also opened the door to so many opportunities. ”

“Graduating from a prestigious university gave me both immense pride in myself and also opened the door to so many opportunities.”

When Ann returned to campus in 2011 for an Alumni Reunion she felt her connection to the University renew. As she wandered the campus and saw many of the buildings completely unchanged memories of herself as a student came rushing back. Shortly after, she saw that U of T Engineering Alumni were recruiting applicant assessors. She was inspired to apply in an effort to give back to the University that had given her so much.

Ann was selected to be a part of the program and began her orientation in the fall of 2014. “It felt just like going back to school!” Ann said, “It was really interesting to learn about the admissions process and to assess more than jus t grades. There is so much value in different experiences. It reminded me of my own anticipation and excitement of being admitted to U of T.”

For Ann, being a part of the process that led to the transformation of her own life is incredibly meaningful. Sifting through the applicants’ stories and experiences highlights the importance of looking beyond grades and searching for students with unique opportunities that fit the admission criteria.

Ann’s acceptance letter (L) and offer of admission (R).

“Not all students are afforded the same opportunities in life, but by looking at their unique stories and extracurricular activities, we may be able to give them the opportunity of a lifetime to study at U of T, regardless of what their background may be.” Ann said as she told me she still had her own acceptance letter.

Over the years Ann’s brother as well as two nephews also graduated from U of T Engineering and her connection to the University continued to deepen. One of her nephews, Davis Tien Doan (CivE 0T7), was well-known for his volunteer work in the Skule Community and was recognized posthumously with the Malcolm F. McGrath Alumni Achievement Award in 2011. Ann’s own commitment to volunteering with U of T Engineering in the Applicant Assessor Program is just one way she can continue to honour his memory.

“I encourage everyone to try out the Applicant Assessor Program at least once. You will absolutely get something out of it. Everyone’s journey is different, but I expect you will discover something new about yourself and have the experience of reflecting back on your roots and the starting point of your career.”

This year, the U of T Engineering Alumni Applicant Assessor Program will take place entirely online. Alumni from across Canada and around the world can apply to participate via the program website. The time commitment is a flexible 9-11 hours per month between November 2020 and May 2021. The deadline for application is July 31, 2020.

-Published July 13, 2020 by Lynsey Mellon,

Alumna Nazli Kaya wins Advancing Women in Transportation scholarship


Last month, recent graduate of the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering (MIE) Nazli Kaya (MIE MASc 1T9) was presented with the Advancing Women in Transportation scholarship by the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) Toronto chapter. The award was founded in 1977 by a group of women working in transportation to support the professional development of women in the industry.

During her time at MIE, Nazli conducted research as a member of the Human Factors and Applied Statistics Lab under the supervision of Professor Birsen Donmez. Her research focused on driver behaviour, attention allocation and how to improve road safety.

Read more about Nazli’s WTS award on the University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute website.

Nazli was also part of the team that won first place in the New Frontiers in Transportation student competition on November 14, 2019. Her team’s project “Reducing short-distance car trips in Toronto” took home the top prize at the event organized by U of T alumni working in the transportation field.

Read more about Nazli’s team’s winning project at the New Frontiers in Transportation student competition


-Published December 9, 2019 by Pam Walls,

© 2024 Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering