Concordia Student Union News

Engineering students show up en masse at CSU meeting

In support of clubs ranging from Space Concordia to UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) Concordia, dozens of students from Concordia University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science attended Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) on Sept. 18.

The meeting was largely focused on allocating funds for a variety of on-campus initiatives and organizations. Engineering students from a variety of clubs presented funding requests to the CSU.

Space Concordia is an on-campus organization dedicated to building the first student-designed rocket capable of entering outer space. According to Space Concordia’s website, the group’s rocketry division has never had a launch failure in the last four years. The organization’s President, Hannah Halcro, presented to CSU and secured funding for another year. Halcro said she did not expect the CSU’s overwhelmingly positive reaction.

“I’m floored and surprised and so so so happy,” Halcro wrote in a statement to The Concordian. “The CSU’s support means so much, to not just me – I think I can speak for all of us involved in technical projects at Concordia.”

There are eight seats allocated to the School of Engineering and Computer Sciences on CSU’s Council of Representatives. Six of the seats remain vacant with only two councillors serving.

Désirée Blizzard, CSU finance coordinator, and fourth-year engineering student, said in previous years she was not involved with on-campus politics because of work. Although Blizzard was unable to partake, she said she has friends who are involved in clubs and need more funding. “I was always kind of jealous at the intensity they go at their projects,” said Blizzard in an interview with The Concordian. “I also know how much in engineering you need to rely on technology.”

UAV Concordia is a student club that competes internationally with UAV technology, such as drones. They requested newer computers. According to representatives from the club presenters, members often have to camp while travelling due to budgetary constraints.

This year, UAV Concordia received funding to continue operating and upgrade its existing technology.

Blizzard said that supporting on-campus clubs like Space Concordia or UAV Concordia assists the clubs financially and also symbolically. She said providing funds to engineering clubs shows students in those programs that CSU values them.

“Breathing life into these relationships between CSU and engineering, if anything, would encourage some engineering students to run for council,” said Blizzard.

After the engineering presentations finished, many of the students left the meeting. Following the CSU’s approval of the Space Concordia budget, Halcro said she felt encouraged by CSU listening to engineering student’s concerns.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Making an investment in legal recognition

The Engineering and Computer Science Association is officially heading into its second week of campaigning in hopes of being officially recognized as a legally accredited student association in the province of Quebec — at an expense of more than $13,000.

The campaign period lasts from Jan. 14 to Jan. 28, with executives from the faculty association visiting around 20 classrooms a day to garner support for the vote. The polling itself will span from Jan. 28 to Feb. 14 where students can choose to endorse the move for accreditation or vote against it.

The entire procedure for the ECA in its effort to achieve official autonomy from Concordia and legal certification from the provincial government cost the student association over $13,000. VP finance Chuck Wilson explained that while accreditation is expensive, it is necessary to spend the money.

“The risk of failure is greatly decreased with an increase in money spent,” said Wilson. “If we have more polling days, we have more turnout and paying our elections staff is pretty much necessary.”

Melanie Hotchkiss, who is co-ordinating the campaign, explained that the university and the student organization have a “good relationship” since it is provided with office space and the fee-levy it collects, something that the administration is not obligated to provide.

“More than anything else, accreditation would be more like an insurance policy,” said Hotchkiss.

The issue is to attract as many students as possible since the provincial government requires 25 per cent of the ECA’s membership to support the motion. Therefore, the faculty association requires a minimum of approximately 900 students to vote ‘yes.’

The ECA is reaching out to students through flyers and information booths located in the mezzanine in the Hall building and on the eighth floor.

In order to ensure that the vote is as accessible as possible to undergraduate students, the ECA invested in having roaming polls with clerks visiting classrooms so individuals can vote before and after courses.

With four clerks, the roaming polls alone are costing the ECA close to $5,600 and the stationary polls amount to more than $3,000.

“We have to hedge our bets and make sure our students get out and vote,” said Wilson.

Overall, the ECA is allotting more than $10,000 to the polling to guarantee a two-week vote provides students with enough time to cast their ballots.


Using science to feed a nation

Scientist Matthew Harsh explored the human side of agricultural engineering on Tuesday in the first Engineering and Computer Science lecture of the year entitled “Biotechnology in Africa: surveying systems of innovation for development.”

An expert in the field of innovation and governance of biotechnology and biosafety, Harsh spoke to a small audience in the EV building about his time spent in Kenya working as part of a research team trying to create a tissue culture banana that would spur the growth of bananas for farmers in Kenya.

The goal was to use technology as a solution to the insecure food situation in Kenya. However, some problems did arise during their research.

“We hadn’t really thought about what we were going to do with this excess amount of bananas,” said Harsh, explaining that the Kenyan markets in proximity to these banana farmers are too small to deal with extra crops. “And it wasn’t easy to convince the farmers because they also didn’t want this many bananas.”

Eschewing the more technical scientific aspects, Harsh focused instead on the innovation of his research in Kenya and the sociology revolving around it. The process of securing funding for projects like this and getting non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved are all critical steps when conducting research of this nature, according to Harsh.

In his case, it was the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) that played an important role in making Harsh’s team’s project possible.

Banana surpluses aside, Harsh said that the real success of their research was the links he and his team managed to make within the Kenyan society.

“This project was a success in linkage, meaning we got a lot of people to work together to make something happen,” said Harsh. “It’s hard work to get everyone to agree to interact and also agree on a project.”

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