Winner of the CCOM Writing Recognition Award

Christian Barker is the winner of the Communication in Engineering-Writing Recognition Award for the 2016 Winter and Summer semesters. The award comes with a $500 prize from the Faculty of Engineering.

Title: The Feasibility of Fibre Reinforced Polymers as an Alternative to Steel in Reinforced Concrete

 

Abstract: The corrosiveness of steel compromises the structural integrity of reinforced concrete (RC) structures and costs the infrastructure industry billions of dollars every year. In response to this, engineers have developed fibre reinforced polymers (FRPs) – non-metallic composite materials of superior strength to be used in place of steel. The three most commonly used FRPs in construction are carbon, glass, and aramid. This paper discusses the feasibility of each FRP as an alternative to steel in RC structures by comparing their mechanical properties, sustainable merits, and costs. Research reveals that while glass FRP is most sustainable, its poor strength and durability render it unusable for most RC applications. Aramid FRP’s strength and durability fell short of carbon’s and it is most expensive. Carbon FRP demonstrates the highest strength, greatest durability, and lowest final costs making it the most feasible FRP to replace steel in RC. Recommendations for future implementation include establishing building codes, improving recyclability and lowering initial costs.

The full text of the paper can be downloaded from the record in eScolarship@McGill, McGill’s institutional repository.

Congratulations to Christian Barker on a well deserved award!

Fall 2015 writing recognition award winner

Congratulations goes to William Bouchard, winner of the Communication in Engineering Writing Recognition Award! His paper was the best of those submitted in the 2015 fall semester of CCOM-206.

Here is the abstract of the winning paper, A Study of the Material Best Suited to Replace Silicon as the Principal Semiconductor In Computer Chips:

Transistors made from silicon are more ubiquitous than ever, but the technology itself is not optimal. Some physical properties of silicon may hinder future technological progress. Two alternative semiconductor materials – diamond and gallium nitride (GaN) – are studied and their properties compared in order to find a suitable replacement. Speed is evaluated by using cutoff frequency and electron mobility; resistance to voltage and heat is evaluated by using the breakdown electric field, melting point, and thermal conductivity. It is found that diamond possesses superior characteristics in nearly every category. Of particular import are the cutoff frequency, the breakdown electric field, and the thermal conductivity of each transistor. The cutoff frequency of a silicon transistor is 0.055 GHz. For both the diamond and GaN transistors, it is 2 GHz. The breakdown electric field of silicon is 0.22 V.cm-1; for diamond, it is 4.00 V.cm-1; for GaN, 9.50 V.cm-1. Finally, silicon’s thermal conductivity at 300 K is 1.48 W.cm-1.K-1. Diamond easily bests its competitors with a thermal conductivity of 32.2 W.cm-1.K-1, while GaN’s thermal conductivity is 2.53 W.cm-1.K-1. In light of these results, a diamond semiconductor has the potential to offer much faster and much more reliable transistors to many markets, ranging from professional applications to consumer-grade electronics.

The full paper is available in McGill’s institutional repository, eScholarship.

William Bouchard is the third undergraduate student to win the Writing Recognition Award, an award that comes with a monetary prize of $500 from the Faculty of Engineering. Read more about the award and the first and second recipients, posted in The Turret.

Another award-winning paper

The second winner of the Communication in Engineering (CCOM 206) Writing Recognition Award is, Elie Bou-Gharios. Thanks to the generosity of the Faculty of Engineering, this award now comes with a monetary prize of $500.

For the Winter 2015 term, the Writing Recognition Committee found that Elie Bou-Gharios’ paper, “Methods of Carbon Nanotube Production”, stood out from the rest.

Here is the abstract of the winning paper:

Carbon Nanotubes (CNTs) have shown the potential to change the engineering world with their unprecedented strength, stiffness and semiconductive capabilities. However, the production and alignment of masses of high quality nanotubes has proven challenging at an industrial scale. This paper assesses the effectiveness of the three leading methods of CNT production in terms of quality, yield, cost and scalability. Chemical Vapour Deposition was found to produce higher quality CNTs at greater yields and lower costs than Arc-discharge or Laser Ablation. By engaging catalysts at the gas stage of production and utilising well-developed technology, it also has shown the most potential for large-scale implementation.

Read the full paper in eScholarship, a digital repository which stores and showcases the publications and theses of McGill University faculty and students.

Congratulations, Elie!

If you missed the announcement of the first winner of the award, you can find it here.

When the Hourglass is Half-Full and Half-Empty

Wooden_hourglass_3How does one become a successful engineering student? By studying, I suppose, in order to get good grades in school, and joining clubs, and attending events and workshops. As well, thinking about the future, and making sure everything productive you do can be written into a cover letter or recommendation letter. Then there is learning to network and socialise, and present, and give elevator pitches. And, well, it doesn’t hurt to give good handshakes and own a blazer. Phew. Look at that list. You’ll need at least 72 hours in a day to get through all that.

There is a joke that people make a lot coming into university. “Sleep, social life, good grades. Welcome to university: pick two.” I’ll say this now: there is no guaranteed time-management routine that will help you do everything you want and have to do. There are literally not enough hours in a day. When I look at my agenda today, there are stars next to items that should have already been done. But when I try to set out a schedule that would involve omitting meals, washroom breaks, and sleeping, there are still not enough hours in a day.

So what can you do? You probably didn’t start reading this post to find out there’s no hope left for you. So here’s what I do. I write down all the tasks that I think of but not because I want to do them all. I just don’t want to have to use the brainpower and time I won’t have in order to recall them later. As well, I try to plan every hour of my day so I don’t have to make decisions at a time where I’m running short on energy. But this is not really one-size-fits-all advice.

Instead, I find that the most useful advice to everyone is to be adaptable. Whether that means just accepting that you’ve completely forgotten about an assignment due tomorrow, and you have to start now or else you lose 10% of your grade. Whether that means realising that if you keep up with your perfect routine, you’ll never have time for friends or hobbies or sleeping in. For now, just accept it and do what you think you have to do. If you’re struggling to complete everything, you haven’t necessarily messed up. It probably means you’ve been doing things that you want to do–that is, things that make you happy. And that’s not too bad a trade-off in the grand scheme of things.

Images from Wikimedia Commons (creative commons license)

Welcome Aleiah!

aleiah closeup picture

I would like to introduce a new student blogger to the Turret. Her name is Aleiah and she is a student in “CCOM 206 – Communication in Engineering” at McGill this semester. The course gives students an opportunity to develop their writing skills through various types of writing including a research paper, a cover letter, and a business proposal. She is a 3rd year student in Mechanical Engineering who is interested in aerospace and wants to works in aircraft design. She is originally from Winnipeg. Welcome to the Turret Aleiah! We look forward to having your perspective as a McGill engineering student added to the blog!

And the winning CCOM 206 paper is…

I could not be more excited to be a member of the CCOM 206: Communication in Engineering Writing Recognition Committee, alongside some of the fantastic course lecturers. One of the assignments in CCOM 206 is to write a research paper and the committee had the difficult task of awarding the best paper to one student in the fall term. There were 337 students enrolled in the course and 12 papers were shortlisted for the award by instructors. We carefully considered the originality and practicality of the research question and proposed solutions in each paper, along with the depth of research and academic sources referenced, argument coherency and consistency, and overall clarity and quality of the writing.

The best paper among all those excellent research papers chosen for consideration is “Recycling Carbon Fibre Reinforced Composites: A Market and Environmental Assessment” by Maxime Lauzé.

McGill Library is hosting the winning paper in eScholarship, a digital repository which stores and showcases the publications and theses of McGill University faculty and students. Maxime will also receive a formal certificate from the McGill Writing Centre and a $50 gift certificate for the McGill Bookstore.

Here is the abstract of the winning paper:

Both environmental and economic factors have driven the development of carbon fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) waste recycling processes. This paper will present the causes of increased use of carbon fibre composites as well as the consequences of such growth. As well, the advantages and disadvantages of three current recycling technologies available are discussed, focusing on fibre quality, commercial flexibility, and environmental impact. Chemical recycling produces best quality fibre with negative environmental impact while mechanical recycling produces bad quality fibre with good environmental impact. As a result, this paper argues that the best recycling method available today is a thermal process called conventional pyrolysis, because it produces good quality recyclate while being very energy efficient, tolerant to contamination and therefore also the best commercial candidate.

On behalf of the Writing Recognition Committee, congratulations to all those who were shortlisted for the award!

Yet Another Engineering Marvel

I am late on the bandwagon, but I recently read in greater detail about the new Maglev train technology, and I can safely say that I am simply marvelled.

Maglev (short for magnetic levitation) trains could truly revolutionise transportation of the 21st century, using the basic principles of magnets and electromagnetic propulsion. There are three components to the system: a large electrical power source, metal coils lining a track/guideway, and large guidance magnets attached to the underside of the train. The magnetic field created by the electrified coils in the walls and the track combine to propel the train. (Side note: Japanese engineers are actually developing a technology called an electrodynamic suspension system, which is based on the repelling force of superconducting magnets, therefore eliminating the need for a power supply. It remains expensive as of now, but looks promising.)

A huge advantage of these trains (apart from higher speeds and low maintenance costs)? The positive environmental impact. Indeed, they lack engines, thus eliminate the need/use of fossil fuels.

The first commercial maglev train made its test debut in Shanghai, China, in 2002. The Shanghai Transrapid line currently runs to and from the Longyang Road station at the city’s center and the Pudong airport. Traveling at an average speed of 430 km per hour, the 30 km journey takes less than 10 minutes on the train (as opposed to an hour-long taxi ride!).

Right now, the best maglev train reaches speeds exceeding 400 kilometres per hour. But Deng Zigang, a professor at Southwest Jiaotong University in China believes that these trains can go even faster (as if that wasn’t fast enough already!). Indeed, much of the energy used to propel the train is wasted battling air resistance. Thus, by placing a maglev train inside a vacuum tube, we could virtually eliminate speed’s worst enemy and allow the train to rocket along guideways at 3,000 km per hour.

Just when we feel like we’ve seen/invented it all, new engineering marvels arise. I am exited to see what the future holds for this train technology.

(Source: IEEE Spectrum July 2014 issue)

The Sinking Wonder of the World

Taj Mahal

When given the option to choose any engineering-related topic for my CCOM206 research paper, I was inclined to write about Taj Mahal—one of the Seven Wonders of the World—since it is located in my homeland, India. My trip to Taj Mahal a decade ago changed my life in ways more than I could have imagined. Though I may not be a desi by personal choice, I am still Indian at heart. I want future generations to also have their breath taken away by the beauty of Taj Mahal, just as mine was when I first saw it.

The first thought that crosses one’s mind when thinking of India is likely the well-known Taj Mahal. This marble-clad mausoleum is considered one of the finest example of Mughal architecture in India. It was built to mark the passionate love of Emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved queen Mumtaj Mahal, after her sudden and tragic death.There is perhaps no better monument which is solely dedicated to love. Every year, over 3 million people come to visit this sacred symbol of love in search of inspiration, and they leave with a warm feeling of awe and admiration.

“A teardrop on the cheek of time” were the words of the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore on Taj Mahal’s flawless symmetry and elegance. In 1983, Taj Mahal achieved the status of an UNESCO World Heritage Site. At that time, it was described as a “universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”; even so, proper care has not been taken to preserve this monument.

Taj Mahal is an engineering marvel of its own kind. The construction of Taj Mahal represented the biggest technical challenge to be overcome by the Mughal builders of that era. As Shah Jahan was adamant about building this monument on the banks of the river Yamuna, the architects and engineers came up with a novel strategy known as “well foundation”. In order to support the considerable load resulting from the mausoleum, the white stone monument was built on hundreds of masonry cylindrical columns sunk into the ground close together. These wells were filled with rubble, iron and mortar—so they essentially acted as augured piles—and were reinforced with ebony wheels at regular intervals along their lengths. Ebony was used, as it is dense enough to sink in water and also has an infinite life-time in water.

Recently, a startling discovery has taken over the front page of all newspapers in India—Taj Mahal, the famous epitome of love, is starting to sink. The news that Taj Mahal is going to collapse in the next five years came during its 350th anniversary celebration. Shah Jahan is not to be blamed because when he commissioned to build Taj Mahal, he got everything right: from the design, to its science. He neither stinted on the ebony which props up the Taj, nor did he anticipate the Yamuna going dry. But even the finest ebony in the world needs a steady stream of moisture to ensure it does not expand or contract, both of which pose a grave threat to the structure.

In the past decade or so, the ‘perennial’ river has been completely drying up in the summer months in Agra, posing a potent threat to India’s most famous monument. Experts say a dry Yamuna could play havoc with the Taj’s foundation, making a solid marble love story wobbly at the base. The pressure of the river flowing by Taj has kept the building erect. But the building is no longer getting enough support due to the evaporating Yamuna River, and cracks have started to appear on Taj’s veneering marble slabs. Also, research shows that the south-west minaret has tilted by about 8.5 inches—this is quite a lot!

Taj Mahal is part and parcel of India’s identity and as such, Taj must be preserved. River restoration projects such as the Yamuna Action Plan (YAP) have been implemented but not yet found to be effective. As the situation grows increasingly dire, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) should take immediate measures to intervene. Otherwise, we might as well say goodbye to this three–and-a-half centuries-old monument.

The Biggest Transition

Starting undergraduate studies is definitely one of the biggest transitions in anyone’s life. This gets even more significant when you come from a different country. As an international student, I faced a lot of changes as well. The biggest being to stay alone – away from your family. Change is life’s biggest truth, regardless of whether one accepts it or not. But one can only take a certain amount of change at a time.

Change is life’s biggest truth, regardless of whether one accepts it or not.

I arrived at Montreal two days after the beginning of the semester. As with many other international students, I had some delays in getting my visa. Luckily I had my uncle over here with whom I stayed for the first week. I was overwhelmed by the sight, when he dropped me off at the Roddick Gates for the first time. I could see the McGill flag flying at the top of the arts building. I had a feeling that I came to the right place.

Things started to move on pretty fast afterwards. Honestly, you don’t have much time to fit in at McGill. The professors go into full gear, assignments keep on piling up and exams start to knock on your door sooner than you even realize. It’s good in a way that you don’t have time to sit and feel bad for being away from your family. Well, I never did. Friends, in this case are a crucial element. It’s always nice to have people who are in your shoes. We supported each other in our bad times, shared our happiness and learned to overcome obstacles together. This really makes the transition much smoother than one can imagine.

It has been one semester now. In fact, it’s almost the end of my second semester. When I think of the first days, it feels like as if it was just yesterday! I can see myself to be quite a changed person. I can live independently. Never thought of that before; can’t believe it even now. It’s the beginning of a new life. And yes, I accepted the change.

A New Addition to the Blogging Team

I am pleased to introduce Mushfique, the Turret’s newest blogger.  He joins some of his fellow students from this semester’s Communication in Engineering course in contributing to the blog about his experiences as a new student at McGill.  Mushfique is an electrical engineering student from Dhaka, Bangladesh who will be staying on in Montreal this summer to take part in McGill’s Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering.  Welcome to the Turret Mushfique!  We look forward to hearing about your experiences as an international student in engineering. Mushfique_photo