Advanced Manufacturing Scientist – Production Innovation and Manufacturing Research
Applications are invited for the position of Advanced Manufacturing Scientist, Product Innovation and Manufacturing Research in the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) at Niagara College, located at our Welland Campus. This position is part of the Research and Innovation Division.
The incumbent is responsible for providing internal technical lead for all 3D Printing, 3D Scanning, 3D Design activities, and other technical services and/or applied research activities, as assigned. Working in collaboration with the Centre Manager, the Research Project Manager, and the Research Laboratory Technologist, the Advanced Manufacturing Scientist will provide the technical service lead in advanced manufacturing technical service and applied research activities, including, but not limited to, disseminating pre-sales technical expertise to industry partners; executing customer visits; recommending solutions; following up with potential customers; and achieving deadlines/completion of deliverables.
The Mechanical Engineering Research Assistant will have a comprehensive skill set to work with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre team, Faculty Leads and Industry Partners on a variety of time-sensitive projects. The successful candidate may work on research projects or technical services in Additive manufacturing, Product Design & Development, Product Testing, Reverse Engineering and Lean Manufacturing Assessment. Hours completed during this work term may be used toward your co-operative placement hours.
Seek first to understand and then to be understood is a truism popularized by the late leadership guru Stephen R. Covey.
Ask Allan Spence, PhD, however, and he’ll tell you this mantra was published even earlier in the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.
Knowing that makes Spence, a research scientist at Niagara College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC), a candidate for ringer on any trivia team.
But trying to live and work by those words makes Spence well-suited for the job of helping industry partners bring ideas to life.
“Many industry partners come to the College with novel ideas. A typical first step is to understand the idea and what the partner would like to achieve,” Spence said.
“You get ingrained in a usual way of solving something, but then [the students] suggest something different, and you think ‘That might actually work.’”
He came to Niagara College after 23 years at McMaster University where he taught engineering, collaborated with industry, and supervised student researchers. Spence still does the latter at Niagara, too, applying that same open-minded way of being to his protégés as he does with industry partners.
“(Students) have an inventive point of view,” Spence said. “You get ingrained in a usual way of solving something, but then they suggest something different, and you think ‘That might actually work.’”
That makes working with students — and WAMIC staff — one of his favourite parts of the job because with them, Spence explained, he’s always learning.
“Every project within the college applied research environment is a new rodeo,” he said. “Together we work through the technical aspects and how to best present alternatives to the industry collaborator.”
Spence’s technical background is in computer-aided design, product design and development, and dimensional metrology. That lends well to the purview of WAMIC, which specializes in engineering design, 3D technologies, lean manufacturing processes and additive manufacturing.
His is a lengthy resume of experience that stretches back to growing up on a farm in south-western Ontario, where Spence’s curiosity was piqued about the way the world works and later satisfied while studying applied mathematics and mechanical engineering at the University of Waterloo and the University of British Columbia.
“You’d see this is how it is (on the farm) and then go to school and get the theory of why it’s that way,” he said.
Later, he would apply that theory during a co-op placement with a spacecraft company working on communications satellites. Spence would do simulations before launches and found that his calculations were in near exact agreement with the real thing.
“Scientific laws work and that is why our physical world is predictable,” he said. “If none of this worked, where would we be? There would be no order.”
“Every project within the college applied research environment is a new rodeo.”
Spence has helped keep things working — and growing — at WAMIC as a research scientist. He has contributed to successful grant applications for critical tools, including a co-ordinate measuring machine and a 3D printer. He has also participated on Canada Foundation for Innovation and Ontario Research Fund expert review committees.
His favourite projects have been developing 3D-printed vacuum fixtures to allow for efficient robotic trimming for Airbus Helicopters Canada, and creating an industrial fixture/jig for a robotic welding cell, used by Hamill Machine Company, to keep up with demand for its lightweight aluminum racks that can be stacked to hold wine barrels.
Still, for all the pragmatism honed over his career, there is another tenet Spence applies to his work that further contributes to WAMIC’s success helping industry partners find solutions to their challenges.
“If you don’t believe,” he said, “it’ll never get done.”
Basketball coaches Serge Langis and Michael MacDougall noticed something about the players they worked with in their home province of New Brunswick; there were major gaps in the development of those playing at the university level.
That is, when athletes went home for the summer between their school seasons, they were on their own with training, and experienced the athletic equivalent of the summer slide in their skills.
That led to Langis and MacDougall founding Sweat Academy, an off-season, elite basketball player development program with locations throughout New Brunswick.
There, players could work closely with coaches. In some cases, they could also use assistive technology to become better players.
But that technology had its limitations, compelling Langis, MacDougall and another business partner, Leon Martin, to start an off-shoot business called Sweat Tech. Together, the three are working to develop and improve upon existing training devices intended to help players practise independently and hone specific skills for the court.
They started with the kick-out, a machine that helps players work on their shots, feeding the ball back to them after they shoot. Problem is, without a coach or helper on hand for assistance, players need to stop the machine to retrieve the balls every time the machine fails to capture them. Kick-out devices currently on the market also have one-size-fits-all programming, which doesn’t really fit every player’s needs or abilities.
“It’s all about making training more efficient,” Langis said about Sweat Tech’s efforts. “We want to help our clients get better faster. There’s nothing more frustrating for a player to pause the machine and go around to collect the balls.”
Enter the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) and Niagara College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC).
“The college has been awesome. We haven’t had to jump through hoops. We’re blessed to have the people we do pushing us and helping us.”
– Serge Langis, Sweat Academy
Through the IRAP Interactive Visit program, Sweat Tech and the WAMIC team of Al Spence, Research Scientist, and Liliana McIntosh, research assistant, are refining an existing kick-out prototype to capture more missed shots, allowing players to practise uninterrupted.
More than that, Langis envisions Sweat Tech’s kick-out having customizable training programs that could be used by sidelined players, for example, during games or while their coaches and teammates are involved in a scrimmage.
Sweat Tech’s innovation is also about capturing the Canadian market with technology designed and built on this side of the border. Canadian teams currently rely on machines from the United States, which come with hefty duties when purchased.
“WAMIC and Allan Spence have been really amazing and aggressive with ideas,” Langis said. “The college has been awesome. We haven’t had to jump through hoops. We’re blessed to have the people we do pushing us and helping us.”
Once the Sweat Tech kick-out is perfected, with manufacturing ideally starting later this year, Langis hopes to continue work with Spence and team on other much-needed basketball training technology.
“We’re really happy with this relationship and hope this can be a long-term thing for multiple projects,” he said.
When it comes to Ontario spirit and leadership, Niagara College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) shines in the spotlight.
Niagara College staff members have won two Awards of Excellence from the Minister of Colleges and Universities, including a team from the College’s Research & Innovation division, who was presented with an award in the Everyday Heroes category, for making a difference during the pandemic.
“Faculty, staff and graduate students across Ontario’s postsecondary sector rose to the challenge of helping students during these truly unprecedented times,” said Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill Dunlop. “The real winners are Ontario’s students and communities who truly benefit from the incredible work being done at our institutions across the province.”
Niagara College’s two awards were among 30 selected for the second annual Minister’s Awards of Excellence, out of approximately 675 nominations received.
Everyday Heroes: Amal Driouich and Gordon Maretzki
(Research & Innovation PPE Team)
During the onset of the pandemic, when frontline workers were facing a critical shortage and an urgent need for PPE, a team of staff, co-op students and alumni volunteers from the College’s Research & Innovation division responded with their own made-in-Niagara solution. They began to design and produce face shields at the College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC), located at NC’s Welland Campus.
From March to September 2020, the PPE team – led by WAMIC Centre Manager Gordon Maretzki and Research Program Manager Amal Driouich – produced 36,500 COVID-19 face shields. More than 17,000 were donated to Niagara area hospitals and emergency responders during the first six months of the pandemic alone.
“At the time, the PPE supply chain was greatly disrupted, so even the relatively simple project of designing, licensing and manufacturing basic face shields made a difference to front-line workers and their patients,” said Marc Nantel, NC’s Vice President, Research and External Relations, who nominated the PPE team for the award.
“We have resources – expertise, equipment, funding – so it was incumbent on us to chip in any way we could. The community needed us to step up, and we’re glad to have been able to do so.”
Almost 10,000 face shields were also donated to long-term care homes in the Niagara region.
“We have resources – expertise, equipment, funding – so it was incumbent on us to chip in any way we could.”
– Marc Nantel, PhD, vice-president, Research & External Relations
The initiative was supported by Niagara College-led Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI) through FedDev Ontario contributions.
The WAMIC team received approval for a Medical Device Establishment Licence (MDEL Class 1) to produce Health Canada-classified face shields. In addition to responding to local healthcare organizations, about 20,000 units assembled at the WAMIC were donated outside of the Niagara region.
Maretzki worked with Niagara Health System to develop a face shield that was quick and inexpensive to manufacture, and sourced raw materials from suppliers. Shields were fabricated in the College labs and lenses were laser cut. As they scaled up production, he worked with a supplier to develop die cut tooling that accelerated the cutting of the lenses, allowing the team to make more than 350 shields per day at peak production.
“We are grateful that the talents and resources of the R&I team could be quickly leveraged to mitigate the supply chain crisis of PPE and help those at the frontlines do their work safely,” said Maretzki, who was delighted and surprised to receive the Award of Excellence. “Responding to the pandemic and the needs of the community was simply a natural response by our team in the battle against COVID-19.”
The daily production of face shields was managed by Driouich, who was also responsible for licensing and regulatory compliance to ensure they were manufactured and distributed per applicable codes and standards.
“I am immensely thankful and truly honoured to receive the Minister’s Award of Excellence,” said Driouich. “It is a great pleasure to see the team’s effort being recognized by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities – that memorable team of co-op students, grad students and staff from Niagara College’s Research & Innovation Division who stepped up and worked tirelessly to support Ontario’s front-line workers in their fight against COVID-19 when access to PPE was challenging and almost impossible.”
The PPE team included Research Associates Brock Husak, Tyler Winger, Rafael Almeida and Brian Klassen (NC alumni); Research Assistants Liliana McIntosh, Scott Leuty and Dat Do (NC students), and staff volunteers Elizabeth Best, Rachel Brown, Janice Rowe and Andrea Campbell.
The NC team’s Award of Excellence in the Everyday Heroes category was among eight presented to recipients from postsecondary institutions across Ontario.
Innovation and Entrepreneurship:
Jon Downing (Brewmaster)
It’s been almost 12 years since Niagara College launched its trailblazing Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program, which made history as the first in Canada. The program responded to an identified need for education and higher quality product in Ontario’s brewing industry, and the impact it has had on the growing industry for more than the past decade has been unrivalled.
College Brewmaster Jon Downing has been a part of it from the very beginning. In recognition of his key role in developing the program, and its major impact on helping to grow the industry, he was presented with a Minister’s Award in Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
“Our brewing program at Niagara College has been instrumental in supporting the incredible growth of craft brewing in Ontario. Our Brewmaster Jon Downing has been at the lead of our NC Teaching Brewery since its inception over a decade ago and we are proud of his mentorship and support for the future brewers of Canada,” said Craig Youdale, Dean of NC’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute who nominated Downing for the award.
“Our entire division is proud to have Jon on our team and we look forward to his direction to many more future brewers to come.”
Under Downing’s leadership, NC Brewmaster students have been gaining extensive hands-on training preparing them for employment in the expanding brewery, microbrewery and brewpub industries since 2010. The College’s Teaching Brewery has won numerous provincial, national and international awards for its student-crafted brews.
Receiving a provincial award for his efforts was “totally unexpected” for Downing.
“I am honoured and deeply humbled that people think this much about what we have done to put me forward for the award, let alone to be chosen as the recipient,” he said.
For Downing, being selected for the award validates the faith that College leaders had in him when he first met with them almost 15 years ago about launching the program.
“Their support and that of many others at the College, and in industry, is what has led to our success,” he said.
Downing’s Award of Excellence in Innovation and Entrepreneurship was among seven presented to faculty and staff from postsecondary institutions across Ontario.
Software Programmer Research Assistant, Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre
The successful candidate will be a current student of Niagara College Computer Programmer (Co-op) or Computer Programmer – Analyst programs and will work with the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre team (Welland Campus). Working closely with the WAMIC team to develop or upgrade projects, work will include: programming, testing and troubleshooting of software applications and solutions as required by the industry partner.