NSBE Inspires the Next Generation of Black Engineers

Learn about the U of T Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers and how group members are inspiring future generations.

Read the story now!

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Engineering Excellence: Female Students Thrive in the Mineral Sector

Kristin Foster

The demand for mineral and mining engineering is  growing—but how do female engineers fit into the picture? Kristin Foster (MinE1T3) shares her story.

What did you want to be when you grew up? For Kristin Foster (MinE1T3) the answer was always clear—she wanted to be a civil engineer. But that all changed when it came time to apply to university. Foster, who was determined to study civil engineering at a university outside of Toronto, decided to apply to the Lassonde Mineral Engineering program at the University of Toronto after much encouragement from her mother, who found the program intriguing.

Now in her third year, Foster is happy she made that decision. “I became interested in mining because there weren’t a lot of people into it. I’ve always been like that—doing things that are outside of the box”.  Foster also enjoys the technologically advanced nature of the program. “A lot of people think of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves when they think about mineral engineering. It’s not like that at all—it involves very high-tech tools,” says Foster. “As mineral engineers, we design the mines that contain all the material needed for everything we do. Buildings, chairs, the floor, they all need metal. Without mineral engineering, you wouldn’t have anything.”

Mineral engineering is a highly versatile and interdisciplinary field. Graduates have the opportunity to work all around the world or transition into the financial sector. Toronto is regarded as the mining finance capital of the world thanks to the Toronto Stock Exchange, which means students have countless career opportunities available to them right in the city.

Made up of a close-knit group, the Lassonde Mineral Engineering program has 91 students across all four years, with 25 of the current students being female. Statistics have been fairly consistent over the past few years, with women making up 20-30% of the overall program.  Foster feels that there needs to be a strong female perspective in engineering. “It’s important for us (women) to have a say in how things are built and how technology advances because we make up half of society.  It’s important that we develop our own way of explaining things.”

When it comes to career development, the female students in the program have the opportunity to join Women in Mining  (WIM) Canada, a not-for-profit organization that works towards advancing the interests of women in the mineral and mining sectors.  WIM hosts various networking events that are a great way for students to meet successful female engineers.

The ambitious and driven Foster kick-started her career when she did a Professional Experience Year (PEY) at North American Palladium. Stationed on a small mine an hour and a half north of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Foster participated in everything from production blasting, surveying and ventilation to designing mine plants with project managers. “(At first) I was like ‘why am I here? I don’t know anything about mining. I’ve only just finished second year.’ But then I realized you just have to suck it up and push through it. I was there to learn,” she said about her initial days on the job.

Foster and another female PEY student had a two-weeks-on and two-weeks-off schedule, which meant Foster was the only female engineer on-site when it was her turn to work. Although seemingly intimidating, Foster says that she had a supportive and enriching environment where she gained very valuable experience that supplemented her in-class education.  Her cross-shift schedule also allowed her to travel to Disney World, Winnipeg and France during her time off.

Like Foster, many of the female students in the program land PEY and summer jobs in mining companies all over the world. According to Lassonde Administrative Assistant, Teresa Miniaci, the demand for mining engineers is very high, with more jobs available than students graduating. “Get your passport updated,” says Miniaci. “If you want to travel and see the world, then it (mineral engineering) is for you.” She says many graduates will jet-set and work all over the place for a couple of years before settling down in one place.  “You’re not stuck doing one thing—you can really do what you want anywhere because there are opportunities available globally,” says Foster.

PEY has really made Foster think about her future career trajectory.  She hopes to work overseas after graduation and then come back to Canada. Her ultimate dream job? “I want to work in the Arctic,” she says.

Currently, Foster is focused on completing her degree. In her spare time, she volunteers for various outreach initiatives, including Girls’ Science and Engineering Saturdays. She was an instructor during the Fall session, which wrapped up on November 5th.  Foster and her follow instructor, Rezwana Sharmin,  developed and taught engaging activities that were in line with the program’s weekly themes. The young girls in their grade seven and eight level class made spaghetti bridges, learned about biomedical engineering and studied heart valves. “I like having the younger generation teach me things,” says Foster about the experience.

To learn more about the Lassonde Mineral Engineering Program, please visit the department’s website: www.discover.engineering.utoronto.ca/programs/academic-programs/mineral.htm

To learn more about the Professional Experience Year (PEY) Internship Program, please visit:
222 College Street, Suite 106
Telephone: 416-978-3881

Learn more about the Girls’ Science and Engineering Saturdays and other outreach activities.

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NSBE ENGages Toronto Youth

Read the entire story, written by NSBE International Committee Chair Richelle Thomas.

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Girls Get New Understanding of Engineering at Go ENG Girl

Rezwana Sharmin (EngSci 1T0 + PEY) has wanted to encourage young girls to explore the world of engineering ever since she began her undergraduate journey here at U of T.

Sharmin and eight other students, along with Faculty, staff and alum,  had the opportunity to do just that and inspire the next generation of female engineers at this year’s Go ENG Girl event.

Read all about this exciting event.

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Summer Program ENGages Black Youth in Engineering

From working with hydraulic arms to dissecting perches, black youth had the opportunity to learn more about the world of engineering during ENGage, a week-long day camp from students in grade seven and eight.  Participants conducted hands-on activities that demonstrated engineering principles and practices.

Resulting from a partnership between the U of T Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, the initiative aimed to address the under-representation of students from African and Caribbean backgrounds in engineering programs.

To learn more about the initiative, please read the full article.

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New Award Program to Support Up-and-Coming Youth in Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial government announced the creation of a new awards program yesterday that will send top high school students to prestigious enrichment programs in the US and Canada.

Established through the Research and Development Corporation (RDC), the Research Inspired Student Enrichment Awards (RISE) are meant to highlight career paths in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics prior to post-secondary education.

Recipients of the award will attend the Research Science Institute (RSI), located in Boston, Massachusetts, in the summer of 2012. Other successful applicants will have the opportunity to attend similar programs in Canada such as the University of Toronto’s Da Vinci Engineering Enrichment Program (DEEP) and Shad Valley.

Read the full press release

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Andrew Goldenberg on Why We Make Human Robots

Event date: Wednesday, April 20, 2011, from 12:00 AM to 11:59 PM
For an upcoming episode of Spark, Nora spoke to Dr. Andrew Goldenberg, an engineering professor spearheading the Robotics and Automation Lab at the University of Toronto.Dr. Goldenberg sheds some light on why researchers are obsessed with replicating the human form. You can hear the full, uncut interview please click here.

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March Mathness

March 14, 2011

Darlee Gerrard CropIf you’re scrambling to find a fun and interactive activity for your teen this March break, U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering may have just the ticket. A three-day math intensive program is being offered for the first time to students in grades 7 to 12. The program will have fun team activities and interactive lectures to introduce students to meaningful research in engineering and mathematics and help them explore careers in these two areas. The Bulletin’s Anjum Nayyar sat down with Darlee Gerrard, Engineering Outreach Office Coordinator to talk about the program.

Listen to Darlee’s interview at U of T’s The Bulletin

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Hey Kids, How About a Vocation

March 4, 2011
For Jennifer Porat, summer camp isn’t about s’mores and canoe trips. It’s about creating a runway collection and learning about the fashion industry.

This August, Jennifer, 13, and her younger sister are returning to a two-week day camp called CraftyCouture in Thornhill, Ont. Last summer, one of Jennifer’s favourite projects was creating a clothing collection inspired by a fashion icon.

“We came up with a new fashion revolution: Harry Potter fashions, stylish Quidditch trends and a completely new take on the classic robe, skirt and button-down that makes up the Hogwarts uniform,” the Thornhill teen says in an e-mail.

CraftyCouture, which ran its first camp in 2005, is one of a growing number of specialty camps tapping into children’s increasingly sophisticated aspirations. The past five years have seen a spike in camps that offer a glimpse of a future career.

“Kids are really excited by them,” says Agnes Stawicki, the managing editor of Our Kids Go to Camp magazine. And if they haven’t already committed to a summer camp, this is the month to make a selection.

Parents can choose from camps where kids can watch veterinary surgery, make a claymation movie, program their own video game, or milk a cow.

If a summer camp in the woods isn’t your kid’s thing this year, here are a few programs that will let him or her try on a day job for size.

So you wanna be an…

DEEP (Da Vinci Engineering Enrichment Program), University of Toronto

Click here to read the full article at The Globe and Mail.

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