Product development engineering perfectly matches the capabilities and passion that Dr. Al Spence shares as a Research Lead at the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre at the Welland Campus.
Al has degrees from the University of Waterloo in Applied Mathematics (BMath 1984) and Mechanical Engineering (MASc 1986), and a PhD in CAD-based machining simulation from the University of British Columbia (1992). His specialization in computer-aided design and manufacturing automation has led to work in the spacecraft, energy, textile, manufacturing, and medical device industries. He has also been a faculty member in Mechanical Engineering at McMaster University for 23 years, where he completed numerous government-funded research awards and industry contracts, and supervised over 30 graduate students.
He is a regular reviewer of NSERC and OCE grant applications, and has recently served on both the federal and provincial CFI-CITT expert review committees.
This broad influence with an established network of industry and academic collaborators is good fortune for both students and industry partners involved with the Research & Innovation division. As Al notes: “It’s so very difficult to gain this specific experience. The greatest thing that’s happening here at Niagara College is that the students are getting some experience outside the classroom because we actually have matched equipment and expertise.”
In addition to supervising research projects, Al is developing teaching Coordinate Metrology and Product Development notes to share with laboratory students, and soon hopefully a wider audience of college and industry colleagues.
In particular, he is a proponent of TRIZ style design approaches. “Here’s where the creativity comes in,” he explains, “… you take a specific problem, abstract it, and find a different way to look at it. There is a science to design approaches to this that can be taught.”