Posts by Applied Research

Manitoba’s most promising startups get ready to Lift’Off for $100,000 on Wednesday

June 12, 2014 • Written by

Screen shot 2012-11-22 at 11.02.54 AMThis Wednesday, June 18th the most dynamic business event of the year takes place at Winnipeg’s Fort Gary Hotel.

It’s called Lift’Off and it is being hosted by Innovate Manitoba, Manitoba’s innovation accelerator.

The three-part, all-day event will help launch startups in the morning via the VentureChallenge, celebrate entrepreneurship at the Entrepreneur Power Lunch, and share best practices at the afternoon’s Entrepreneur IQ Forum.

The full schedule goes as follows:

8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. VC_LiftOff_-300x74

Six companies selected through the Launchpad Startup Skills Bootcamp compete in an investor pitch competition in front of a panel of expert judges and the VentureChallenge audience for over $100,000 in cash and in-kind prizes, including opportunities to present and expense-paid trips to some of the the most renown angel and venture capital events in North America.

The VentureChallenge competitors are:

  • Element Life Science: A medical device company specializing in patented RF coil technology for 2nd generation MRI use.
  • Exigence Technologies: A platform antimicrobial technology that can be applied to new and used textiles and polymer-based medical devices, to protect them for the lifetime of the product against antibiotic resistant bacteria.
  • Kindoma: Makes video chat services that let families do things like read and draw, even when apart.
  • Konex Wake Parks: A manufacturer and international supplier of cable wakeboarding systems and obstacles.
  • PermissionClick: A platform that allows educators to collect web-based permission slips and fees from parents in a timely and transparent way.
  • Shut Ur Pie Hole: Shut Ur Pie Hole sells made from-scratch pies made with fresh, local ingredients served in full-size and single-serving jars.

12:00 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.

LiftOff_EPL_RGB-2-e1402331894985Break bread with innovators and investors at the Entrepreneur Power Lunch Hear short pitches from the six VentureChallenge competitors, discover the award-winners and get smart advice from our keynote speaker, Wade Barnes.

Wade is a globally recognized expert on the impact of technology on agribusiness, a TedX speaker, and Founder of Manitoba’s Farmers Edge Inc.. He will share the company’s journey from a two-person operation in 2006 to a global business with over $10 million in revenues and more than 80 employees worldwide. Wade will speak about the roller coaster ride that is the life of a high-growth startup, including raising capital from Canadian and US venture capital firms.

2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

EIF_LiftOff_-300x61Tap into the brain trust of entrepreneurs, angel investors, and guest speakers. The Entrepreneur IQ Forum features two Expert Panels (listed bellow) followed by a networking reception.

From The Trenches – Raising Capital For Early Stage Businesses
Some of Manitoba’s early stage companies have raised millions in risk capital, but it has not been easy. Is this challenge unique to Manitoba or is it a problem all Canadian startups face? Join this interactive panel for lots of insights, and ask your own questions of the panelists.

Startup Sales – A Hard Nut to Crack
The lifeblood of any new business is sales, yet entrepreneurs often fail in their initial sales attempts. Founders may avoid sales and give away equity to find that person who will magically bring sales in the door. But Founders need to learn how to sell. These entrepreneurs figured it out. Hear their perspectives on sales, building a sales methodology and a sales team. Come. Ask questions. Gain some pointers.

You can register here while for additional information, including if you would like to become a sponsor, you can contact Brent Wennekes.

New app promotes safety zones and exercise around schools while providing data to city planners

June 11, 2014 • Written by
Steve Lawrence, Business Technology Instructor, student project leader David Kratochvil and Dan Greenberg, BIT project Coordinator.

Steve Lawrence, Business Technology Instructor, student project leader David Kratochvil and Dan Greenberg, BIT project Coordinator have spent the last 16 weeks developing the CounterPoint app.

There’s a new app on the block that will make Winnipeg’s kids more active, while also mapping out safety zones and routes around schools.

It’s called CounterPoint and students in Red River College’s Business Information Technology program having been working hard for the past two years to help bring it to fruition for the Green Action Centre and the Manitoba Active and Safe Route to School Program (ASRTS).

“The Green Action Centre approached us with an idea to basically capture how kids were getting to school by looking at their routes and their mode of transportation,” said Steve Lawrence, Business Information Technology (BIT) instructor at RRC.

“The main reason they wanted to do this was to find ways to get kids more active. So one way was to have contests between schools; to see which school had more kids walking, or biking, or skateboarding to school.”

In simplistic terms, the app functions like a straightforward counting device, although there is much more to it.

Detail of the tracking screen

Detail of the tracking screen

It involves a volunteer standing on a street corner, establishing a line through the road, then counting the number of vehicles or human powered travellers who cross that line in the street.

By simply clicking the 16 modes of transportation icons, a person can plot all the transportation activity in a designated area, refining the data by also plotting the time, duration of the count, and the weather – which can be a factor in to how students are getting around.

Once the data is plugged in, the app generates the totals and graphs them, painting an instantaneous picture of all the activity in the area.

“That data could be sent to the school, or the school division, and also the City of Winnipeg for future tracking and planning,” said Lawrence.

“For instance, you have a lot of kids biking to school, but in doing so they are having to go on a heavy traffic route. Well, maybe this serves as an indicator that now is time to put in a bike path for them.”

The app is the brainchild of Anders Swanson, the Winnipeg-based active transport guru, policy analyst and project manager, who for years has been advocating pedal power. He approached the College on behalf of the Green Action Centre with federal and provincial funding to develop a computer program that would make it fun and easy to count traffic. Anders brother Torin was also instrumental in its creation, working frequently with the students.

“We were eager to get the students working on this due to the complexity of what he [Anders] had done,” said Dan Greenberg, BIT project coordinator.

“We evaluate based on the learning possibilities for the students and we knew this was going to use technology that would be outside their comfort level to do. On top of that, there is a finite time frame of 16 weeks that the students have to develop whatever it is they can get done for the client.”

Once a count has been completed CounterPoint quickly generates a portrait of traffic in the area

Once a count has been completed CounterPoint quickly generates a portrait of traffic in the area

Two sets of students had a kick at it, working independently at the College while gaining real world experience in consulting and meeting with the client. The first group developed it as a computer program, while this past semester’s students — which include Daniel Craigen, Preston Ross-Sutherland, Qixuan Hong, Lindsay Donogh and David Kratochvil — converted it into an Android app.

“My favourite part of this project is that it I now know that if I have to learn something new to help my client, then I can train myself to do that,” said David Kratochvil, the student leader on the project, who taught himself how to write code for Android for the project. “It gave me a boost of confidence because I feel like I accomplished a real thing – it wasn’t just course work laid out.”

The app is just being released to the public (you can download it here) and Swanson has been shopping it around the globe from Europe, to Australia to the US this past year.

And while the primary focus in developing the app was to promote exercise while defining safe zones around schools, its other applications are quite endless.

“Both existing, and new businesses could also use this,” said Graham Thomson, Dean of Business and Applied Arts.

“When teaching entrepreneurship years ago I used to say ‘look, if you are thinking of opening a location in a strip mall, you’d better go see what the traffic is like.’ This would be ideal for calculating that; it makes it so easy to keep tabs on all the traffic in an area.”

Former rocket man lands at RRC and wades into clean water testing

June 5, 2014 • Written by
Chemist Michael Judge beside one of the College's high-performance liquid chromatographs

Chemist Michael Judge beside one of the College’s high-performance liquid chromatographs

Welcome to the second edition of Red River College’s Inventory of College Applied Research Expertise Researcher Spotlight where we share stories about the researchers that are available to help you solve problems and innovate.

You don’t meet too many chemists who went from propelling rockets to performing applied research on water, but such has been the trajectory of Red River College’s Michael Judge.

Before becoming an instructor at the College six years ago, Judge was the senior chemist for a decade at Manitoba’s Bristol Aerospace Rockwood Propellant Plant. This post saw him formulating the propellant for the Black Brant Rocket, whose incarnations since its inception in the 1960s have been hallmarks of Canadian aerospace technology – NASA and the Canadian Space Agency have constantly had them in their employ.

While you could say that Judge’s current work in chemistry is a bit more grounded (pun intended), it is arguably more important as his past two applied research projects are concerned with earth’s most vital resource: water.

Removing pharmaceuticals from water

For the past year at the College, Judge has been performing applied research that could potentially reduce insidious pollutants entering Manitoba’s lakes and rivers.

“There are a lot of concerns right now with nano-pollutants that end up in our waterways,” said Judge.

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RRC FACULTY: Tell us about your expertise and help us grow with iCARE

Michael Judge has already completed his iCARE survey, now his skills and resources can be found — along with our applied research experts at the College — in our iCARE database.
Complete your iCARE survey today and let us know your areas of expertise!

FOR INDUSTRY: Did you know?

  • 58% of iCARE respondents hold at least a Master’s level degree
  • 35% of respondents have over 20 years of industry experience

“The idea is that someone takes an anti-depressant or birth control pill or any number other pharmaceutical whose active ingredients eventually get excreted from the body. These chemical substances are not fully metabolized by the body, so a lot of those ingredients go right into the sewer system and end up in our wastewater treatment processes.

And while wastewater treatments are designed to remove certain things that we don’t want going into the river, they aren’t designed to remove these nano-pollutants,” Judge continued.

Research done in this field, like those at Northwestern Ontario’s Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), have indicated that nano-pollutants, including surfactants found in detergents, antibacterials in hand soaps, psychoactive ingredients from pharmaceuticals, and estrogen from “the pill”, can bioaccumulate over time in species that live in these waters – and thereby make their way up the food chain.

“One of the main problems is that a lot of these compounds are what are known as endocrine disruptors; they mimic the actions of natural hormones and you tend to get odd things happening to various amphibians and fish like increased rates of cancer and changes in fertility and so forth,” said Judge.

“So there are concerns about long-term environmental consequences and about scenarios where this water may get repurposed as drinking water.”

To address this wastewater problem from our water treatment plants, Judge came up with a study to see if these nano-pollutants could be detected and removed.

After thoroughly exploring the literature on the subject, Judge and a summer student from the Chemical and Biosciences Technology diploma program decided on utilizing activated carbon (or charcoal) – which has a very high affinity for organic molecules – in lab-scale tests.

Using acetaminophen as a model nano-pollutant, Judge was able to confirm that finely powdered activated carbon could remove the compound. This was an encouraging start to the study and serves as an indication that the College has the ability to assess nano-pollutant removal on a lab-scale; an important first step in optimizing the process.

Detecting nano-pollutants

To further detect nano-pollutants in wastewater on a more precise scale, work was contracted out to the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals to utilize their advanced high-performance liquid chromatograph (HPLC). HPLCs are common in labs around the world, being an essential piece of instrumentation used to separate components in a chemical mixture.

Judge at work in the College’s pharmaceutical training lab

Judge at work in the College’s pharmaceutical training lab

“In general, HPLCs use a solvent (a liquid chemical) that is pumped at high pressures through a column filled with a specially-designed packing,” said Judge. “As the mixture of chemicals moves through the column, certain chemicals will have more affinity – or more bonding strength – with the packing and so they are slowed down and, as they come out the other end, the chemicals are going to be separated.”

While Judge uses the College’s HPLCs on a regular basis, the ones at the Richardson Centre are more advanced, having been interfaced with mass spectrometers – an analytic device essential for detecting the minutest trace of chemicals.

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a method for testing for these compounds that uses a very advanced analytical instrument, where you have one of these liquid chromatographs interfaced with what is know as a mass spectrometer,” said Judge.

“The mass spectrometer essentially uses a stream of electrons to break molecules into little fragments, and then it looks at those fragments – so it can tell you exactly what chemical you have, and it can look at very low levels.

So through the Richardson Centre we were able to screen a variety of pollutants at very low levels, to establish that the technology exists in Winnipeg to do more advanced screening.”

Having now established the ability to detect trace amounts of nano-polluntants in wastewater, along with the utilization of active carbon in holding tanks as a successful filter, Judge is hopeful that more advanced research along these lines may be able to secure external funding in future; possibly from the City or Province, based on past expressions of interest in this topic regarding both Winnipeg’s wastewater and the state of Lake Winnipeg.

“What we concluded is there is a need here in Winnipeg and Manitoba to look at nanopollutants – there is a knowledge gap in that we are a little bit behind Europe and the United States where there is more of a concern and at the very least they are tracking things,” said Judge.

“So we’ve identified a gap. We’ve also identified the technology and the knowledge to screen for these substances, and we’ve demonstrated some lab-scale analysis of the most efficient removal methods.”

This applied research project was made possible due to funding from the College Applied Research Development (CARD) fund.

Making laboratory testing greener

Prior to this study, Judge had done another CARD funded project at the College that could very well make the world’s chemistry labs more environmentally friendly.

While HPLCs are excellent analytical instruments for chemical testing, they themselves produce a discharge that must be safely removed by a waste management company, due to the toxicity of the chemical solvents used to separate mixtures.

“One of the problems with HPLCs is that they need a constant flow of liquid solvent – and that solvent is usually something that is pretty toxic,” said Judge. “It’s common to use methanol, acetonitrile, and a number of other solvents. And what happens is this comes out the other end and you get a bunch of waste.

These solvents are basically a necessity to get good results from this kind of test, so the problem is we are creating this enormous waste stream; we have all these labs all over the world merrily pumping away and creating this, and you also have issues with vapors escaping and employees being exposed, so it would be beneficial if we could us a less-toxic solvent for that purpose.”

In 2010, Judge had been reading about the chemical ethyl lactate (EL), which a company was producing in a cost effective manner. Composed of lactic acid and ethanol, the chemical is fairly non-toxic, with a history of being used in food products and cosmetic formulations.

“Because ethyl lactate is formed from a combination of two non-toxic compounds, when it goes out into the environment there are lots of microorganisms out there that can use this as a food substance or degrade it. So it’s highly biodegradable, it’s non-toxic, and it’s easy to make from natural substances,” said Judge.

“So it occurred to me that it might be a useful solvent in HPLC work – I reviewed the literature and as far as I could tell nobody had done that, even though it is a relatively simple idea.”

Working in the College’s pharmaceutical training lab, Judge, along with pharmaceutical manufacturing instructor Curtis Aab (who was able to use the study’s results as a part of his BSc thesis), began to use the EL – which, as well as being biodegradable, is now potentially cheaper to purchase – and were pleasantly surprised with the results.

“Well, it worked,” said Judge. “We found that we could replace more toxic solvents with this and we got very good results for some common pharmaceuticals we separated.”

Solvatochromism uses the colour of a dye to compare the relative polarities of solvents. These coloured solvents were used to establish how similar ethyl lactate was to common solvents

Solvatochromism uses the colour of a dye to compare the relative polarities of solvents. These coloured solvents were used to establish how similar ethyl lactate was to common solvents

Students in Judge’s Organic Chemistry course also had a chance to participate in this project by using some lab time to investigate the polarity of ethyl lactate based on solvatochromism, a technique that relates properties of a solvent to the colour imparted to a special dye dissolved in the solvent.

Judge and Aab’s resulting data was then published in the Canadian Journal of Chemistry, a prestigious publication which has helped put their applied research on members of the scientific community’s radar. Since its publication, Judge has been approached by research facilities in France and Brazil, along with a couple others, who wanted to know more about their findings.

Judge believes that applications for EL can also go well beyond making labs around the world more environmentally friendly. Indeed, there’s a great deal of other instances where EL could replace other harsher chemicals in many products that people use on a daily basis.

“Moving forward, we’ve established that we have some comfort with this particular chemical, and that there could be some interesting applications for it,” said Judge.

“For instance, from an applied research standpoint there could be some possible patents; I thought it could be interesting to look at other things you could do with this, even something as simple as windshield washer fluid.

When you buy windshield washer fluid it’s often methanol based for low temperature conditions, which again is not all that healthy for the environment. So, it certainly has some future practical applications.”

AR&C turns 10 years old today!

June 4, 2014 • Written by

10th Anniversary Applied Researchv2Red River College’s Applied Research & Commercialization (AR&C) officially celebrates its 10th anniversary today!

We are proud of what the growing AR&C team has accomplished over the last 10 years, and we are celebrating accordingly in 2014!

Here is what we have done so far in recognition of this special occasion, and a little of what you can look forward to later this year:

A Decade of Innovation
10 Years of Partnerships

To celebrate 10 years of applied research at Red River College and recognize many of the relationships that have made it all possible, we created this professionally designed publication with the support of our partners and distributed in the Winnipeg Free Press on Feb. 22, 2014. Click below to read about some of our more engaging and important initiatives that are happening now.

Decade of Innovation shot for 10 year post 632x396

Applied Research Videos

Zero Emissions Electric Transit Bus

This video shares information about North America’s first all-electric transit bus prototype and rapid charging system, which recently passed the the test of phase one: real-world in-transit testing and demonstration in the coldest winter that Manitoba has seen in over a century.  Learn more about the project and its international consortium of partners by checking out this professional video (produced with the support of NSERC).

The Sustainable Infrastructure Technologies Research Group (SITRG)

Over the last five years, SITRG has been assisting local businesses in conducting applied research towards enhancing the performance of large commercial and institutional buildings, while engaging RRC faculty, staff, and students in the process.  Hear about it from a few of our partners in the video (produced with the support of NSERC):

Technology Access Centre for Aerospace & Manufacturing

This video highlights the technology, capabilities, focus areas, and resources offered by Red River College to industry via the Technology Access Centre for Aerspace & Manufacturing.  Check out the video (created with the support of NSERC) to learn all about it:


Last year, JOE JUSTICE of Team WIKISPEED came to Winnipeg to lead 200 participants in the building of a car during the first workshop of its kind ever held in Canada: WINNISPEED. The 100+ mile-per-gallon prototype car that Team WIKISPEED created in just three months was built from scratch during the workshop. Here are two of the videos that were made as a result:


Happening Today

AR&C Director, Ray Hoemsen is in Normandy, France as part of Manitoba Trade and Investment’s Manitoba Mission to Normandy, where he will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with ESITC Caen to conduct collaborative applied research on building materials and initiate student exchanges with Red River College.

Looking Ahead

Later this year, among other workshops in development, Red River College will host its inaugural Applied Research Day, where we highlight student applied research projects happening at the College.  We plan on bringing industry in to witness what RRC students are capable of.  As part of this event, we will celebrate a decade of applied research at RRC by recruiting an exciting international keynote as well as a local industry leader.  Stay tuned for more info on this!

Winnipeg’s first electric vehicle charging station, and new website

June 2, 2014 • Written by
Tim Scott, VP Marketing and Sales with CAA consults with Red River College Research Manager, Jose Delos Reyes.

Tim Scott, VP Marketing and Sales with CAA consults with Red River College Research Manager, Jose Delos Reyes.

Winnipeg has taken a key step towards encouraging its citizens to drive lower emissions electric vehicles (EVs) with the installation of the city’s first EV charging at The Forks.

“We’re thrilled to be the first public EV station in the city. With the number of visitors we welcome and our own target zero initiatives, it makes perfect sense,” said Jim August, CEO of The Forks.

The new charging station is installed at a dedicated EV-only parking space located near The Forks Market main entrance by the Pancake House restaurant.bOnpN

“As electric vehicles gain acceptance and popularity, our province’s low-priced electricity will help make this option more affordable and an attractive alternative to fossil-fuelled vehicles,” said Municipal Government Minister Stan Struthers.

Minister Struthers also announced the launch of a new website at that provides information on available services for electric vehicles. The website was prepared jointly by the province, the Canadian Auto Association (CAA) Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro, Manitoba Public Insurance and Red River College.

Learn more:

Winnipeg Free Press: Forks gets first public PCC9Acharging station for electric cars


iCARE Researcher Spotlight: Neil Cooke

May 20, 2014 • Written by

Welcome to the first edition of Red River College’s Inventory of College Applied Research Expertise Researcher Spotlight. Check back on a regular basis to learn more about the researchers that are available to help you solve problems and innovate.

Neil headshot 300x500

Neil Cooke, chair of transportation heavy apprenticeship trades at Red River College

Neil Cooke is the chair of transportation heavy apprenticeship trades at Red River College’s Notre Dame Campus, a position he has held since 2006.

At this post he oversees a combined staff of 60 employees situated around Red River College campuses, including the Heavy Equipment Training Centre (HETC) and  building “M” at the Notre Dame Campus, Bannister Avenue heavy trades building, and the CN Transcona rail training facility. Enrolment in the apprenticeship trades hovers around 2,000 students annually, making Cooke a key figure for the future of Manitoba’s skilled trades workers in the heavy transportation sector.

Cooke holds his interprovincial certification as a heavy-duty technician, a masters degree in education (M. Ed. Post Secondary Administration) from the University of Manitoba and a bachelor of science (B.Sc. Tech Ed) from Ferris State University. With a diverse educational and experiential history behind him, he is acutely aware that our future workforce is key to the province’s continued success.

“From a research perspective, what we are now doing is embedding our applied research in the curriculum we deliver. This is done so we are preparing our students to think a little differently about the technological changes that they are going to face within the motive power industry,” said Cooke.

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RRC FACULTY: Tell us about your expertise and help us grow with iCARE

Neil Cooke has already completed his iCARE survey, now his skills and resources can be found — along with our applied research experts at the College — in our iCARE database.
Complete your iCARE survey today and let us know your areas of expertise!

FOR INDUSTRY: Did you know?

  • 55% of iCARE respondents hold at least a Master’s level degree
  • 35% of respondents have over 20 years of industry experience

“We might not even recognize our transportation industry in five, ten, fifteen years from now, and these students are going to have to become adaptable to change. That’s what we are hoping we are doing by inserting applied research into our basic curriculum.”

At HETC, the majority of applied research work that is done concerns the future of motive power, namely zero emissions electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, and the utilization and creation of biodiesel.

On the electric vehicle front, HETC was instrumental in getting the wheels turning on Winnipeg’s first all-electric, zero emissions transit bus which the College developed along with industry partners New Flyer Industries, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Manitoba Hydro and the Province of Manitoba.

While Mitsubishi supplied the lithium ion batteries, it was up to HTEC to take the raw battery components and configure them to perform optimally in New Flyer’s Xcelsior bus.

“On the first run [at configuring the battery packs] Mitsubishi’s engineers came here and oversaw the assembly of the units,” said Cooke.

“For the second run they wanted to change the configurations of the battery packs – some of which are located in the regular engine compartment in a diesel bus configuration in the Xcelsior series, while the secondary pack goes on the roof. So they wanted a different engine bay configuration.

HETC vast interior shot 300

At nearly 60,000 square feet, HETC offers ample room for training and construction. It houses nine classrooms and provides enough floor space to work on nine large vehicles simultaneously.

One of our manufacturing technologists here on staff – along with some students – put together a new design, did the testing and put it all in a package which New Flyer Industries then installed.”

This new configuration saw the all-electric bus through rigorous, real world tests on Winnipeg’s roads this past winter (which was the coldest winter on record in over a century) as the bus was used to transport Manitoba Hydro employees from their Taylor Avenue office to their downtown headquarters.

It was the first time an all-electric transit bus and rapid charging station were demonstrated in such conditions, and the applied research project has now entered its next phase with four new buses being rolled out in the near future – all of which HETC staff and students will have a hand in.

Regarding biodiesel, applied research at HETC has been instrumental in both lessening the College’s Notre Dame campus’ carbon footprint, while laying solid groundwork for making biodiesel production more efficient. In fact, HETC is one of only three licensed biodiesel producing facilities in Manitoba.

biodiesel reactor 300x250

Red River College has been producing its own biodiesel since 2010.

“We originally purchased a small biodiesel reactor and, from the used vegetable oil out of RRC kitchens, we can produce about 150 litres per cycle in a four and a half hour period,” said Cooke. “But we weren’t happy with the design and the capacity of the unit as our demand increased, so we modified it and made it bigger.”

“Mike Myrowich, our lead instructor on the project, then got a second small grant from the College Applied Research Development (CARD) Fund and built a biodiesel reactor with our boilermakers, our ironworkers and our welding department, along with some of the tech people from our electrical department.

We now have one that produces 450 litres in the same cycle time. And the residual material we get out of that is biodegradable – it is about a handful of waste that you can throw out while the rest we can make cleaning products out. So we’ve repurposed something you would normally have to pay to take away and then we use it in our grounds equipment here, they burn the fuel.”

HETC also had the ability to produce their own hydrogen, which they use for applied research projects on a hydrogen-hybrid equipped vehicle. The College leased a hydrogen electrolyser to produce hydrogen for the project with industry partner Manitoba Hydro and the Sun/Ice bus that involved studying a converted bus with a Ford Triton V-10 engine designed to run on hydrogen.

In short, if there is a project that involves making heavy-duty vehicles more energy efficient, cost effective, and better for the environment, then HETC is looking in to it. Because of this, along with their ability to produce expert technicians and mechanics, HETC has become beacon for generous donations from national, Winnipeg-based trucking companies like Maxim Truck and Trailer and Bison Transport.

Before embarking into the pedagogical field, Cooke had demonstrated over 30 years of industry experience working in Manitoba’s transportation sector, where he still keeps close contacts. He’s worked extensively in the heavy truck industry as a technician, mechanic and consultant, while he currently sits as the chair of the Canadian Association of Motive Power Educators and as an executive member of the Canadian National Accreditation Board for motive power programming. In early 2014, Cooke was also appointed by the federal government to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC); a major distinction considering there are only 12 council members from across Canada.

Notre Dame Campus' Heavy Equipment Transportation Centre (HETC)

Exterior of Notre Dame Campus’ HETC

While Cooke has been the chair of transportation heavy apprenticeship trades at Red River College for the past eight years, he will admit he does still long for the classroom, as his first foray into the College was as an instructor and academic coordinator for transportation math and science.

“For thirteen years I was an instructor here and I still miss that,” said Cooke. “The most interesting part is interacting with the students then seeing them come back as apprentices, or seeing them come back for product service training and seeing how they have developed and seeing how their career is doing.

I find that very interesting, especially when you go out to visit a carrier’s office and you see a former student – especially now that a lot of them are now supervisors or managers. They’ve really moved through the system and it is rewarding, and a lot of that can be attributed to the hands on experience they get here assisting with our applied research projects.”

Golfers could face better greens due to applied research at Red River College

May 6, 2014 • Written by
Greenskeeper removing tarp to see how green faired over the winter (Jayne Geisel)

Greenskeeper removing tarp to see how green faired over the winter (Jayne Geisel)

While we’d like to think that the grass is always greener here at Red River College (RRC), that literally could be the case for Manitoba’s future golf greens due to Jayne M. Geisel’s current applied research.

Last year Geisel was awarded with $9,125 through the 2013 College Applied Research Development (CARD) Fund for a joint project with the Manitoba Golf Superintendent Association (MGSA) on the evaluation of over-wintering systems of putting greens.

For Geisel, a horticulturist who is an instructor in the Greenspace Management program at RRC, working on golf greens provided a unique opportunity.

“It’s interesting for me because I’m not a turf person; I don’t golf at all, I think I maybe have once in my life,” said Geisel.

“The Manitoba Golf Superintendents’ Association asked me If I could assist because I have a background in applied research; I worked 10 years for a company that mainly did research on potatoes and other vegetable crops, and it was applied field research rather than pure research at a university.”

The MGSA pitched in nearly $12 thousand for the study, bringing the project’s total to $21,510 over the course of several years.  

The study involves observing three of the in-play greens at five Manitoba golf courses – those being Boissevain, Elmhurst, St. Charles, Pinawa, and Bel Acres – under three different environments. Some of the greens have wintered under a semi permeable plastic mesh cover that allows water and air to travel through; another set have been housed under a sandwich-like design, featuring a semi permeable cover with about 18 inches of flax straw with an impermeable tarp on top; while the remaining greens were the control, featuring just a sand base over the greens.

Patches of snow mould surround the SMT sensor

Patches of snow mould surround the SMT sensor (Jayne Geisel)

Under the tarps Geisel set up sensors from Canadian company Structure Monitoring Technology (SMT) – whose equipment has frequently been utilized by AR&C at our Centre for Applied Research in Sustainable Infrastructure to test air leakage of buildings and fenestration materials.

On the greens, the SMT sensors monitored the conditions faced by the grasses over fall and winter, chiefly measuring temperature and carbon dioxide levels.

“One of the big problems that grass has is it’s physiologically active all the time. Unlike trees that lose their leaves and are dormant, grass isn’t. If you move the snow, grass is still green, and when plants are green, they are doing something,” said Geisel.

“They use oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. So we are reading carbon dioxide to say ‘if they use up all the available oxygen and then have to switch their respiration into anaerobic respiration – using carbon dioxide instead – then basically they’re fermenting under these covers,’ and there will be all sorts of problems.”

These problems range from grass disease to mechanical damage from shifting snow and ice which the covers themselves mitigate through the limiting of freeze/thaw cycles.

“Putting greens are a really challenging environment for those plants because they are kept so short – like turf normally would be tall – and these plants are cut at 1/8 inch and they have tiny little root systems so they are very stressed plants all the time,” said Geisel.

“What these guys (the MGSA) are trying to do is get these plants – that are close to death all the time – through our really harsh winter. And of course, they are the most important part of a golf course.”

This is the first such study of its kind in Manitoba, while previous over-wintering golf green studies in Alberta, in Ontario at the University of Guelph, and in the Northeastern US and Finland have all been performed in labs or controlled environments.

The greens that are part of the study are now being played, as all five courses are now open for the season.

And despite the severity of cold during this past winter — where average temperatures were colder than they have been for over a century — Geisel said the SMT sensors held up in collecting data as deep snow insulated the surface of the greens, allowing them to hover around -5 C even while temperatures above ground regularly dropped below -20 C.

With the first phase of this multiyear study now completed, Geisel admits there remains a learning curve as to what this first winter’s data can reveal.

Geisel and the superintendents have found both fungal disease and mechanical damage, but it is too early to tell if/how the SMT sensors can pinpoint the root causes and how those can be addressed in the fall and over the winter.

“We are not so much monitoring our good conditions, we are trying to say, ‘have they got into a bad condition?’ and trying to figure out when and how that happens,” said Geisel.

The findings of this project could benefit both the project partner as well as golf courses residing in Northern climates. Golf courses might be able to better maintain greens despite winter conditions — saving them from having to offer discounted green fees in the spring as well as avoiding costly renovations to damaged/dead greens.

Geisel’s main partner in the study is Greg Mitchell, the president of the MGSA, who she credits with showing a great deal of trust. (If the study was on tee boxes that would be one thing, but we all know you ‘drive for show’ and ‘putt for dough’).

“These superintendents are handing their putting greens basically over to us and we are telling them how they have to manage them going into the fall, and when the covers are coming off in the spring. And they are willing to partner with me to do that,” said Geisel.

“So it is significant from their side too. Golfers aren’t necessarily the most forgiving.”

Manitoba’s new electric bus and charging system – revolutionizing clean energy public transportation systems

May 2, 2014 • Written by

The future of Manitoba’s all-electric, zero emissions public transit system is on track.

After a year of shuttling Manitoba Hydro employees from their Taylor Avenue office building to the new downtown location, the all-electric bus and its corresponding rapid battery charging station has passed the real world test of operating in Winnipeg’s winter conditions.

“We are pleased with the performance of the electric bus and charging station over the course of this harsh, especially cold, winter,” said Ray Hoemsen, Director of Applied Research and Commercialization at Red River College. “It has shown that an innovative and environmentally friendly electric transit bus can operate in climate that can be as trying as ours.”

The prototype electric bus was developed and tested through a partnership between the Manitoba government, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), New Flyer Industries, Manitoba Hydro and Red River College.

“This partnership and the resultant prototype Zero Emissions Transit Bus proves how integral college-based applied research can be for companies, industry partners, the environment and the public at large,” said Hoemsen.

The Province of Manitoba, MHI and Manitoba Hydro each contributed $1 million toward developing the prototype electric bus.

In partnership with the City of Winnipeg, four more electric buses are being produced that will be added to the Winnipeg Transit fleet and used on regular transit routes. The prototype bus will remain on loan to Winnipeg Transit until all four new electric buses have completed the testing phase..

“The return of electrically-powered public transportation to the streets of Winnipeg is an exciting development for Manitobans and Manitoba Hydro,” said Manitoba Hydro president and CEO Scott Thomson.

“During this initiative we were part of a team that developed a high capacity charging system which is the first of its size in Canada. At Manitoba Hydro, we have to ensure that our electrical distribution system will be able to economically and safely handle the impacts of more electrical vehicles. This new bus is helping us assess that impact,” Thomson continued.

Red River College’s research staff, students and instructors worked on this project through the College’s Electric Vehicle Technology & Education Centre. Specifically, they helped develop the electric charging system, assemble and monitor the electric bus battery for the original prototypes, modify and integrate the battery packs for the two new prototypes now being developed, and assisted in the demonstration phase of this project.

The charging system is activated when the bus drives up and a bar on top of the bus automatically lifts to connect to the charger. The speed and efficiency of this charging system, which can replenish the energy used during one hour of operation in under four minutes, will benefit transit schedules and rider convenience.

“Red River College has a history of innovating, promoting and performing applied research in the sustainable transportation sector,” said Stephanie Forsyth, president & CEO of Red River College. “We are a leader in applied research in this country and we are proud that we could offer our deep technical expertise to this project.”

With the realization of a greener public transportation future now in view for Winnipeg, it would appear that these electric powered wheels are only gaining momentum.

“The City of Winnipeg is proud to partner with the Province of Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro, New Flyer, and Red River College on this progressive and innovative project,” said Mayor Sam Katz.

“City Council is committed to supporting opportunities that provide economic growth in our community, and that showcase the leadership found in our City. We’re eager to share Winnipeg Transit’s expertise with our project partners during the testing phase of this project and look forward to further testing four state-of-the-art electric buses later this year.”

Innovative Manitoba food products fight it out this weekend at Jane’s Restaurant

May 2, 2014 • Written by

Food fight photo

While we hope none of the competitors actually drop their gloves, we’re certain that your taste buds will take some tasty punches at this year’s Great Manitoba Food Fight (GMFF).

The 8th annual event, which Red River College (RRC) will host at Jane’s Restaurant on Saturday, May 3, will feature 10 entrepreneurial culinary competitors whose new food products will duke it out for $25,500 to help commercialize their enterprise.

RRC’s Culinary Arts students will also be getting in on the action with ten of our aspiring chefs competing for the Best New Recipe Award with signature dishes featuring the competitor’s products.

“Cooking is all about creativity and innovation and the functional food of tomorrow is the innovation of today,” said Keith Muller, Dean, RRC School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts. “Companies are always looking for new products that can be commercialized and taken to market. Entrepreneurs have the business expertise but chefs have the creative ideas. Combining the two parties through the Great Manitoba Food Fight is a natural fit.”

Over its eight year history the GMFF — which is put on by the province’s Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MARFI) — has shown just how diverse and innovative Manitoba’s agriculture and epicurean section can be; past participants include a range of products from fireweed honey sourced in the north, to birch syrup from the Interlake, to prosciutto made from heritage hogs in Pilot Mound.

This year features a crop of ten budding food-based businesses from across the province whose artisanal, locally sourced products have been chosen based on their applications and business plan scores.

You’ll see and taste what Manitoba has to offer, from whole grain beer bread, to fish sausage, to ultra-creamy ice cream, while a panel of expert judges will decide who takes home gold ($13,000), silver ($8,500) and bronze ($4,000).

For the RRC School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts, which is housed in the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute, working with the GMFF this year was a perfect fit, as the partnership can only amplify Manitoba’s food production scene.

“The use of local and sustainable products is the philosophy of the School,” said Muller. “It is a major focus of our business plan to support local business and fuel Manitoba’s economy.”

The GMFF runs all day starting at 9:15 a.m.; while at the reception from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., attendees (for $20) will be able to sample the products and student dishes.


Colleges & Applied Research

April 29, 2014 • Written by
Ray New Headshot for web

Written by Ray Hoemsen, Director of Applied Research and Commercialization at Red River College.

As originally published in the Canadian Association of University Research Administrators Newsletter.

This article is the first of a series which will, from the college point-of-view, address topics such as:

  • applied research
  • intellectual property management
  • community/industry engagement and partnering models
  • faculty/student engagement and curriculum integration

Over the last decade, colleges and polytechnics have become an integral part of Canada’s innovation environment; with a growing number of supports for college-specific applied research at the federal and/or provincial level – as well as by the colleges themselves.

Targetted investments by the Tri-Councils through the College and Community Innovation program in college-based applied research programs have grown from ~$3M in 2004 to ~$48M in 2014. These investments are intended to increase community and/or regional level innovation by building capacity within the college sector to work with local companies, especially Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs); as well as to support applied research and collaborations that facilitate commercialization,  technology transfer, adaptation and adoption of new technologies”. Concurrently, Tri-Council investment in university-based research partnerships have grown. For example, NSERC’s university-focussed partnerships program have grown from ~$180M in 2004 to ~$300M for 2014.

At the same time, the number of NSERC-eligible colleges has expanded from literally a handful to nearly 100 institutions from sea to sea to sea.

Community-based economic development is a key driver of applied research in the college system, which supports industry innovation, productivity, and competitiveness.

“Applied Research” is generally considered to be the application of knowledge, focussed on the resolution of a problem or need (usually identified by industry or other organizations within the community) with the objective of delivering a satisfactory resolution or result. This is distinct from the “basic” or “discovery” research (and related timelines) associated with the university sector. In Colleges, the focus is more on the “how” than the “why”.

Applied research is carried out on a group basis, with students often playing a key role since applied research (especially in the polytechnic model of education) is an integral component of the applied learning experience.

Commercial rights to research results are routinely assigned to industry partners, while the College retains rights for further research and education purposes. Most colleges do not typically engage in the traditional academic “patent and license” model.

Technology “diffusion” (adoption and adaption of technology) is of greater relevance than technology “commercialization” – since college-based applied research is often responding to an industry-specific product, process or service need.

In Canadian colleges, the role of the “applied research” office encompasses those which would normally be found in the typical university research services, technology transfer and industry liaison offices. Partnership and relationship development and maintenance are integral aspects of the job for applied research office personnel.

With the ever-increasing expectation of public investments in research to create impact, not just benefit; the colleges and universities have a complementary and, more often, a collaborative role to play supporting local and regional economic development.

Stay tuned for future articles.

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