These student papers are the best

Excellence in

Written Communication

I am delighted to present to you three of our Communication in Engineering, Excellence in Written Communication Award winners! These are the best student papers from past terms of CCOM 206. They have been added to eScholarship@McGill and they are well worth a read.

Nathan Robbins – Performance of Nose Cone Geometries on Sounding Rockets

Read the full paper on eScholarship

This investigation compares the performances of several nose cone geometries and their suitability for flight on a high-altitude sounding rocket. Many geometries have been proposed to mitigate the extreme aerodynamic forces and phenomena encountered during such high energy ascents. The geometries in question include the conic section, Haack Series nose cone, and the aerospike nose cone; all of which are evaluated according to their coefficients of drag, heating characteristics, and several outstanding factors such as wall shear stress, pressure distributions, and useful internal volume. The investigation concludes that the aerospike nose cone is well suited for high-altitude sounding rockets because of its capacity to reduce drag, its exceptional ability to reduce heating, and its larger useful internal volume. Through this unique combination of performance and volume, the aerospike nose cone is a likely candidate for the forebody of high-altitude sounding rockets for future missions.

Katia Rosenflanz – Biodiesel Production: Advancing Lipid Extraction to Fuel our Future

Read the full paper on eScholarship

The use of diesel and fossil fuels to power the globe’s increasing energy demands have caused large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, negatively impacting the environment. This has led researchers to investigate alternative energy sources. Biodiesel, a renewable, biodegradable, and environmentally-friendly resource, shows promise; microalgae, which consume large amounts of carbon dioxide, one of the most harmful greenhouse gases, has been introduced as a potential supply for the necessary oils. Because of algal cells’ strength and chemical properties, however, the physical extraction of lipids is difficult. This paper compares three methods to improve lipid extraction: microwave radiation, osmotic shock, and bead beating. They are assessed based on dry weight lipid output, efficiency, and scalability. Based on research, bead beating has high energy consumption and relatively low lipid production; thus, it is unadvisable for mass production. Osmotic shock has high output and no energy consumption, but is fairly inefficient due to a large time requirement. Microwave radiation performs fairly well in terms of lipid output, efficiency, and scalability, making it the most viable option, but microalgal biodiesel is only now entering the picture as an alternative energy source. Further research and resources must be invested in order to introduce these techniques into the global energy market.

Allan Reuben – Nanomagnetic Logic Circuits as an Alternative to Silicon CMOS-based Circuits for use in Extreme Environments

Read the full paper in eScholarship

As hardware and software technology improves, sending robots to do research in extreme environments is increasingly frequent. This shift creates a need for computer chips optimally designed for those environments. Computers that operate in extreme environments must account for limitations and requirements not present in consumer or corporate uses such as: extreme power management, high radiation exposure, and high computation reliability. Silicon-based computers have become the accepted standard in computing for every environment due to their high speed and ease of manufacturing. Nanomagnetic logic circuits are a promising new technology that may help engineers optimize computers for use in extreme environments. These two systems are compared based on their durability from radiation, power utilization, and clock speed. For mission-critical computer operation in extreme environments, nanomagnetic logic circuits offer many advantages over traditional silicon-based computers.

Student recommendation for the NHL

Congratulations goes out to Mark Kumhyr, winner of the Winter/Summer 2018 Communication in Engineering (CCOM 206) Excellence in Written Communication Award!

Alternate Refrigeration Systems for Improving Ice Quality in NHL Arenas

The National Hockey League is a multibillion-dollar industry, and yet suffers from a recent uptick in complaints over sub-par ice quality, largely due to a warming climate and higher average ice rink temperatures. The objective of this paper is to demonstrate the superiority of an indirect ammonia/CO2 refrigeration system over a direct CO2 system, all in relation to the current indirect ammonia/brinewater system. The comparison will be made based on three criteria: efficiency, represented by the coefficient of performance value; cost, taking into account short- and long-term investments; and environmental effect, presented as a Global Warming Potential value. The results show that the indirect ammonia/CO2 system is 56% more efficient than the current system, and 20% more than the direct CO2 system, and is less costly in the long-term. The environmental effects of each refrigerant systems were shown to be negligible. It is recommended that the NHL implement an indirect ammonia/CO2 system in order to negate the warming arena temperatures, and ensure that the NHL remains a powerhouse in the sports industry.

Read the full paper in eScholarship, McGill’s open access repository.

Comparative Analysis of Interference-Free Alternatives to Wi-Fi

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Once again I have the pleasure of announcing the next Communication in Engineering (CCOM 206) Excellence in Written Communication Award. Alexandre Tessier is the Fall 2017 winner for ‘Comparative Analysis of Interference-Free Alternatives to Wi-Fi’ (yay!).


Current Wi-Fi technologies occupy oversaturated 2.4 GHz and 5GHz frequency bands. In areas with high router density, this results in poor Wi-Fi performances, and, especially, slow data transfer rates at a time when demand for high-speed networks is rising. To minimize these effects, new technologies taking advantage of the availability of higher frequencies have been developed.In particular, Li-Fi and WiGig aim to transfer data wirelessly at rates faster than Wi-Fi and, more importantly, without interference. This paper assesses the viability of these two technologies as interference-free alternatives to Wi-Fi based on 3 standard networking attributes: data transmission capabilities, security, and vulnerability to interference. The analysis concludes that Li-Fi can transfer data at higher rates than WiGig, can be used to implement location-based security levels, and, unlike WiGig, is impervious to interference from neighbouring cells. For the aforementioned reasons, Li-Fi is the most promising candidate for an alternative to Wi-Fi, vastly outperforming current implementations of WiGig.

Download the full paper from the University’s open access repository.

Congratulations, Alexandre!

Alternatives to Lithium-Ion Batteries for Electric Vehicles

The Communication in Engineering (CCOM 206) Excellence in Written Communication Award winner has been announced for the combined Winter/Summer 2017 terms (insert drum roll): Albert Kragl!

Alternatives to Lithium-Ion Batteries for Electric Vehicles

With man-made climate change becoming increasingly severe every year, the need for vehicles powered by alternative energy sources is now greater than ever. Although there are electric vehicles commercially available today, their limited driving range and high price makes them unappealing to many consumers. In order to move past these limitations, researchers have begun investigating different types of batteries with the goal of finding a battery that can reliably store more energy than a traditional lithium-ion battery. This paper analyzes the feasibility of two battery types—lithium-sulfur and lithium-air—as potential replacements for lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles. Although both batteries demonstrate high theoretical energy densities, the lithium-air battery has a much higher practical energy density when compared to lithium-sulfur, as well as a lower environmental impact and a greater number of charge cycles. The lithium-air battery also demonstrates a higher energy density and lower environmental impact when compared to lithium-ion. These results make lithium-air technology the best candidate to replace lithium-ion batteries in the near future.

The full article PDF is available from McGill’s open access institutional repository, eScholarship.

Congratulations, Albert!

Another winning paper!

The Fall 2016 Excellence in Written Communication Award goes to Brittany Stott for “Controlling myoelectric-prosthetics through the use of nerves and muscles.”

The accomplishment comes with a monetary prize of $500 from the Faculty of Engineering.

The CCOM 206: Communication in Engineering Writing Recognition Committee found the paper to be very clearly written and well organized, and noted the exemplary use of figures and a table.

The abstract is pasted below but you can download the full paper from the record in eScholarship, McGill’s digital repository.

People who are fitted with prosthetics due to the loss of a limb may have difficulty performing simple daily tasks that may be taken for granted, such as tying shoe laces or opening a jar. The prosthetics used today are often rigid, inflexible, bulky molds that are standardized and have minimal degrees of freedom. The development of myoelectric-controlled prosthetics has greatly facilitated the performance of daily tasks by the user, although the best method for controlling these prosthetics is still to be determined. This paper compares and discusses three major advancements in prosthetic control electrode arrays, osseointegration, and targeted muscle reinnervation by examining stability, accuracy, and movability of the user controlling the prosthetic. It is determined that the most beneficial solution for the user would be the implementation of osseointegration and targeted muscle reinnervation combined. This combination would allow the creation of a prosthetic that would increase the accuracy and stability of the artificial limb, and that would provide a more permanent and long-term solution. In addition, the creation of a myoelectric-controlled prosthetic that incorporates these two methods would allow for further research and would increase the stability, accuracy, and movability of the user.

Stay tuned for the winner of the Winter and Summer 2017 Excellence in Written Communication Award…

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; for diamond, it is 4.00; for GaN, 9.50 Finally, silicon’s thermal conductivity at 300 K is 1.48 Diamond easily bests its competitors with a thermal conductivity of 32.2, while GaN’s thermal conductivity is 2.53 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!