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Students work around the clock to tackle real problems in Summerside

Mike Thususka, director of economic development, stands under the shadow of a 103-year-old clock tower that sits atop City Hall in Summerside. Installing an automated clock winder to keep the time updated is one of the collaborative projects completed by second year students at UPEI and the City of Summerside.
Mike Thususka, the city's director of economic development, stands under the shadow of a 103-year-old clock tower that sits atop City Hall in Summerside. Installing an automated clock winder to keep the time updated is one of the collaborative projects completed by second year students at UPEI and the City of Summerside. - Desiree Anstey

Summerside gives students an opportunity gain practical experience on real world engineering challenges

Summerside, P.E.I. - High above the downtown area of Summerside, atop the City Hall, sits a 103-year-old clock tower.

The clock, which has its four original faces and clockworks, is one of the collaborative projects completed by second year students of the Junior Clinic at the University of Prince Edward Island, and the City of Summerside.

Mike Thususka, the city's director of economic development, said the City of Summerside has been working with the UPEI School of Sustainable Engineering since 2016 on their Junior and Senior projects, for their students to gain practical experience on real world engineering challenges.

“We (city staff) look at the partnership with UPEI as a way for us to tap into some really innovative knowledge, new energy, and collaboration with educational institutions. We think that’s a key pillar of growing our community, and that’s kind of why we tapped into the project,” he said.

“UPEI, through their industrialized partnerships, reach out to various organizations in the public and private sector. They then contact us and ask for a list of projects, so we have (internally) what we call ‘a little competition’ on who can come up with a project and engineering challenge.”

A university committee reviews the submissions from the city staff.

“We give them the problem, the challenge, and what we’re looking for in terms of a solution. The committee then set those projects to see how they fit in with their programming and with the students, and select one project to move forward on.”

Teams of four to five students work with the city to address the challenge with an engineering solution.

The solution will result in a positive environmental or social impact in the community.

There have been many projects submitted by city staff, which ranges from municipal infrastructure challenges to community awareness, including the automated clock winder of the City Hall Clock.

“In order to set the clock to the correct time we had employees go up every Friday to manually wind it. It’s quite a challenge to get up there, because you have to go through the attic and walk up these narrow and winding stairs to the tower,” explained Thususka.

But students came up with a device that automatically winds up the clock.

“It was quite a complicated process. They developed the solution and they gained the practical experience of dealing with mechanical systems and accuracy,. It seems to be working, and it saves us from having to find someone to climb up the clock tower every Friday.”

This year, a Senior Clinic project completed by students in their third or fourth year, is currently being developed.

“This year’s project is a Renewable Energy Interactive Display for the community. The engineers are designing a display booth to educate the community on what we’re doing with renewable energy.”

The interactive unit will show energy consumption and energy conservation in an interesting and educational way.

“It’s not only the engineering side that they have to focus on, but also the business side of engineering. There are business relationships that have to be developed, costing, networking, so that’s all part of the process,” added Thususka.

“But it’s a great opportunity for us to help young minds get real world experiences.”

He added, “Success is not measured with success or failure of the invention or service, it’s measured by our new relationships and our ability to embrace innovation with tomorrows engineers.”

The city has done other collaborative work with educational institutions. They include a Living Lab program and the floating manhole initiative with UPEI, as well as independent testing with Holland College to validate product claims of a local business.

Newsroom@journalpioneer.com

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