Patty Wellborn




artistic firebowl outside EME

An artistic fire bowl titled For Future Matriarchs was installed at UBCO last week. It will be lit each December 6 in memory of the 14 women killed in the École Polytechnique massacre. The piece was created by internationally recognized Syilx artist Krista-Belle Stewart and Secwépemc artist Tania Willard.

What: 14 Not Forgotten memorial ceremony
Who: UBCO students, faculty, staff, members of the public
When: Tuesday, December 6, 3:30 to 5 pm
Where: Outdoor EME amphitheatre, 1138 Alumni Avenue, UBC Okanagan

UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering is hosting its annual 14 Not Forgotten memorial ceremony on December 6 to remember the 14 women whose lives were lost in the École Polytechnique massacre.

“The ceremony is held each December not only as a way to remember the young victims but to also commit to action to end violence against women,” says School of Engineering Director Dr. Will Hughes.

On December 6, 1989, an armed man walked into an engineering class at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal. After forcing the men to leave, the gunman began shooting—killing 14 women and injuring ten more.

In response to this tragedy, Canada established December 6 as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women. This day serves as a reminder of the gender-based violence against women in Canada and around the world that persists today.

UBCO’s 14 Not Forgotten Memorial commemorates the École Polytechnique tragedy and also honours the lives and legacies of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, including LGBTQ and Two Spirit people.

This year as part of the ceremony, a new art installation will be unveiled as a permanent memorial outside the Engineering Management and Education (EME) building.

“The memorial will serve as a visible symbol of the School of Engineering and UBC’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” adds Dr. Hughes. This artwork accommodates a fire that will be lit during the annual 14 Not Forgotten ceremony, adding a highly impactful performative aspect to the installation.

The piece, titled For Future Matriarchs was created by an internationally recognized Syilx artist Krista-Belle Stewart and Secwépemc artist Tania Willard, who is an Assistant Professor of Visual Arts in the Creative Studies department.

This fire bowl uses symbolic design elements including the blue flag iris which is the floral emblem of Quebec, traditional plants for Syilx people and Interior Salish basketry aesthetics. The piece was funded by the School of Engineering and will become part of the UBC Okanagan Public Art Collection.

The ceremony will take place on Tuesday, December 6 from 3:30 to 5 pm at the outdoor amphitheatre behind the EME building. A self-guided memorial will be inside and there will be space for reflection and refreshments after the ceremony.

artist firebowl at dusk

The firebowl was funded by the School of Engineering and will become part of the UBC Okanagan Public Art Collection. Photo by Nasim Pirhadi.

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A photo of a researcher working with a thermal manikin.

UBCO researcher Dr. Farzan Gholamreza gets Newton, a thermal manikin, ready for a sweat test in his outdoor exercise gear.

Weekend joggers, competitive athletes and people keeping fit in the gym can say goodbye to sweaty armpits and clingy damp garments after a tough workout.

Thanks to a new collaboration with Lululemon, UBC Okanagan researchers and their partners are working to develop a next-generation fabric that will keep a person warm, dry and comfortable regardless of temperature and level of exertion.

Creating a functional material that can address thermophysiological comfort—maintaining thermal regulation by the exchange of heat and moisture from the skin to the environment—has long been a goal of activewear companies, explains Dr. Farzan Gholamreza, lead author and coordinator of UBCO’s Cluster of Research Excellence in Comfort Enhancing Technologies.

“Over the past few decades, significant advances have been made in the sportswear industry to develop athletic apparel that has numerous characteristics to enhance comfort,” Dr. Gholamreza adds. “Our latest research seeks to identify some key fabric properties that will bolster human comfort levels in active wear.”

Dr. Gholamreza and a team of researchers at the UBC Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute, along with researchers from the University of Alberta, University of Toronto and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, are investigating better ways to analyze how fabric systems react to body heat and moisture.

“Understanding how a material responds to the heat generated by the body is a vital component to developing fabrics that transfer sweat to the environment and cool the body,” says Dr. Abbas Milani, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and UBCO Principal’s Research Chair in Sustainable and Smart Manufacturing.

A physically active person generates heat that needs to be dissipated into the environment to maintain thermal balance. Perspiration also protects against overheating by dissipating heat from the skin through evaporation.

Failure to dissipate heat and moisture from the body may result in heat stress or heat exhaustion which can affect health and performance.

To take this research to the next level, testing devices such as sweating hot plates, cylinders and thermal manikins have been developed. Compared to human wear trials, these devices save time and money to calculate the thermophysiological comfort of textiles since the work is done in the lab, not on people.

With the help of a “sweating torso” UBCO researchers developed a numerical model to accurately measure heat and moisture transfer between the fabric and the user. This formula provides a basis to better understand how a fabric’s properties, environmental conditions and physiological parameters can work together to enhance overall comfort levels.

“Mathematical models combined with the simulation of the sweating torso have demonstrated that the model could help predict the comfort properties of fabrics including initial cooling, sustained cooling, cooling delay, moisture uptake and the drying time,” says Dr. Gholamreza. “Overall, the model is a helpful tool that can be widely used to predict how fabric systems protect the comfort of users under moderate to intensive physical activities.”

The research was published in the journal Materials and supported through the UBC Eminence Program.

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A photo of the Wilden net zero home

The newly constructed net zero home will be open for the public to explore Sunday, November 20 starting at noon. Built to the highest energy-efficient standards, once occupied this house will produce as much energy as it uses in a year.

A unique, made-in-Kelowna collaboration to create an energy-efficient, high-performance home is taking the goal to the next level. And that goal is zero.

UBC Okanagan, Okanagan College, the Wilden Group, AuthenTech Homes and FortisBC launched the Wilden Living Lab project in 2016 when two homes were constructed side by side in the Wilden community. One is called the Home of Today and was built to regular specifications and codes. The other, called the Home of Tomorrow, was constructed with advanced materials and systems that made it an energy-efficient home.

While the homes were built by AuthenTech Homes and the Wilden Group, with help from Okanagan College trades students, UBC Okanagan Professor Dr. Shahria Alam and his team conducted research to compare the energy use and costs of the two buildings once occupied. An extensive monitoring system consisting of temperature, humidity and power sensors, was utilized to collect, analyze and compare energy and cost variations in the two homes. After the initial three years, the comparative results show that the Home of Tomorrow used 67 per cent less energy and had 99.6 per cent fewer carbon emissions than its neighbour.

“Sustainable energy usage and homebuilding practices are important issues for our community,” says Dr. Alam. “UBC Okanagan is pleased to lend its research expertise to a project that will encourage sustainable development here at home and provide tools for others around the world to follow in our footsteps.”

Now, the collaboration is going further with the construction of a third next-generation home, built to the BC Energy Step Code’s highest level, Step 5. The house—with a high-tech building envelope that is airtight and is complete with an efficient solar photovoltaic system, top-notch energy recovery and storage systems and highly efficient mechanical systems—will achieve net zero energy, meaning it will produce as much, or more energy than it uses in a year.

The provincial government is requiring that by 2032 all new buildings will be constructed to Step 5 conditions. With only a few years to go, there is a major push to educate construction practitioners about the BC Energy Step Code, says Dr. Alam, who teaches in UBCO’s School of Engineering.

With this new code, the building industry must follow tactics to reduce the total energy requirements of new buildings, Dr. Alam explains. This is done by creating high insulation wall systems and airtight envelopes, installation of highly energy-efficient windows and mechanical systems, use of heat energy recovery systems and renewable energy systems.

However, with the exception of the appliances, the elements of a high-performance home are often invisible to the homebuyer, says Dr. Andrew Hay, Provost and Vice President Academic for Okanagan College.

“The Wilden Living Lab is a superb initiative that can help move us forward to understanding the best approaches for energy-efficient residential construction projects that considers conservation from a wide perspective,” says Dr. Hay. “By assessing how better buildings can function in the real world, we will continue to learn and adapt new design parameters. In time, with this information in the hands of those designing, constructing and purchasing new homes, we hope to continue to demonstrate the best of BC approaches to residential construction and create momentum in the industry for green construction at its best.”

That’s why the public is being encouraged to explore the home, which will be open for daily tours, complete with interactive displays, for the next six months.

“We’re excited to open this house to the community. We want people to come and walk through the home and experience the difference of a net zero house,” says Karin Eger-Blenk, CEO of the Wilden Group. “For us, the Wilden Living Lab is a place where we can make homeowners familiar with future-proof building practices and have new technologies tested out for them. The goal is to encourage everyone who’s building a home in Wilden or elsewhere to invest in energy efficiency.”

The project is a clear example of how industry and post-secondary schools can work together to make a difference for the future, says Carol Suhan, Manager, Community Programs, Conservation and Energy Management at FortisBC. The project combines academic research, experiential learning for trades and contractor training students, ongoing energy monitoring and the creation of an electronic contractor decision support tool led by UBCO.

“This project brings energy efficiency to life and is a great opportunity for the industry to demonstrate what a Step 5 and net zero home is all about,” says Suhan. “We want to invite the community to come to the home to see, touch, feel and hear the benefits of the materials and techniques that contribute to a Step 5 home. This is a great opportunity for people to learn how energy-efficient construction saves energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. It will help our customers make informed decisions when it comes to their home’s energy use, comfort and long-term affordability.”

Phase 2 of the Wilden Living Lab project is open to the public starting Sunday, November 20, at noon. The home will remain open to the public to explore weekly, Saturday through Thursday, noon to 5 pm until May 18, 2023.

Note: The media is invited to a private tour of the home on the morning of Nov. 16 and attend the experiential show home campaign kick-off starting at 1 pm. The home is located at 215 Echo Ridge Drive, Kelowna. To learn more, please visit:

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A photo of graduating students throwing their hats

UBCO is hosting a unique fall graduation ceremony Thursday. Students who graduated in 2020 and 2021 will now have the opportunity to toss their caps in celebration like these students did in 2018.

They’re baaack!

This week UBC Okanagan’s campus will be filled with students, now alumni, who graduated and were celebrated with a virtual ceremony during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 600 are returning to campus to take part in a special ceremony on November 10. The event will recognize the accomplishments of those who didn’t have the chance to experience that iconic opportunity of crossing the stage to receive their degree at a live graduation.

This will be the first time UBC Okanagan has hosted a fall graduation ceremony and it’s a special event for those who graduated in 2020 and 2021, says UBCO Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Dr. Lesley Cormack. Those graduates were surveyed and many indicated they were interested in coming back to campus for a make-up graduation ceremony.

“These are students who completed their studies during a particularly difficult and disconnected time,” Dr. Cormack says. “While UBC honoured our graduates during the height of the pandemic with virtual ceremonies, nothing can compare to the distinction of an in-person event, complete with student speakers and a gym full of proud family members.”

Each ceremony will be complete with speeches from students and special moments to recognize people who received honorary degrees during the pandemic.

Evangeline Saclamacis, who graduated with an applied sciences degree in 2021, is currently working with an international renewable power generation business in Vancouver. She says there are a lot of emotions flowing as she looks forward to returning to UBCO for the ceremony and connecting with former classmates.

“I’m excited to see how the campus has changed since I was last there, and also inspired to see how much I have changed since I first started as a student in 2016,” she says. “UBCO was a place that not only allowed me to grow as an individual, but also allowed me to connect with people with similar aspirations and goals. I’m really excited to return and walk the stage, closing the chapter on my bachelor’s degree.”

Aneesha Thouli, who graduated from UBC Okanagan’s Health and Exercise Sciences program in 2020, is now back at school and is currently a third-year medical student in the Southern Medical Program based at UBCO.

“While this ceremony will look different than any of us expected, I’m grateful we have the chance finally to celebrate,” she says. “I think having been alumni for a few years gives us a unique perspective on the ceremony overall and gives us an opportunity to celebrate our successes in a totally different way than previous classes.”

Three ceremonies will take place on November 10, the first starting at 8:30 am with School of Engineering graduates. Following that, graduates in the School of Education, Faculty of Management and Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science will cross the stage. The final ceremony takes place at 1:30 pm where graduates in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Health and Social Development and the Faculty of Creative and Critical studies will be celebrated.

Rain Inaba graduated with an undergraduate degree in microbiology and remained at UBCO to begin his master’s in biochemistry and molecular biology. Inaba is excited to reconnect with the many friends he made while living in residences and says Thursday’s ceremony will allow his fellow graduates to relive past moments and finally celebrate with their families, friends and faculty members.

“With these ceremonies, alumni from all faculties are welcomed back to the campus we all called home for many years,” he says. “This is a day of deserved festivities and a moment of recognition for our graduates. Let us make the ceremonies loud and memorable for each of our classmates as they cross the stage.”

As they have already technically been conferred as UBCO graduates and are officially UBC alumni, these ceremonies will be slightly different from spring convocation. However, Dr. Cormack says every student, especially those who persevered with their studies online, should enjoy the moments of being celebrated at their own graduation ceremony.

“While different, these ceremonies will include many of the traditions of graduation to honour the profound achievements and celebrate the resiliency of these students,” Dr. Cormack says. “We’re proud to have these incredibly engaged alumni who are going out of their way to come back for their graduation. I’m looking forward to congratulating each and every one of them in person.”

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Woman working from home during pandemic lockdown

UBCO research indicates working from home is costing employees more than they might think.

When people were sent home to work during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, no one could anticipate that option might permanently change the workforce for many people.

Those who could, stayed home for the bulk of the pandemic, with many still opting for remote or hybrid work options even today.

Researchers at UBC Okanagan have undertaken an extensive analysis of daily in-home activity to compare pre-pandemic and pandemic behaviour as a way to project residential energy consumption after the pandemic.

And they determined working from home is costing employees money.

“Anecdotally, we know that people were spending more time at home than ever during the pandemic,” explains Dr. Mahmudur Fatmi, Assistant Professor at the School of Engineering. “We wanted to examine what that could mean for residential energy and how this could help to plan and design communities in the future.”

Through an agent-based simulation powered by machine learning techniques, the researchers developed a modelling framework to integrate in-home and out-of-home activities in addition to the associated residential energy usage in the central Okanagan.

The simulation suggests a nearly 30 per cent increase in daily average residential energy consumption during the pandemic. The model—used to test a post-pandemic scenario based on a majority of activities returning to pre-pandemic levels—projected a 12 per cent increase in home energy consumption.

“These findings help us better understand the relationship between in-home activities and transportation demand and the associated residential energy consumption. This will also help us provide better insights on how communities should incorporate emerging transportation and land-use policies to adapt to residential energy needs,” says Dr. Fatmi, who is the principal investigator at UBC’s integrated Transportation Research Laboratory.

The report’s other author, doctoral student Mohamad Ali Khalil, says if work-from-home trends persist, it will reduce peak period congestions and emissions, but it will also result in a significant shift in energy cost burden from employer to employee.

“If consumption patterns continue to change, we all need to be conscious of what that means for our household costs and the way we live in general,” he says. “From the perspective of homeowners, they can reduce their consumption by updating and maintaining the heating and cooling systems of their homes, using efficient appliances and adjusting their thermostat setpoints.”

This study is part of a larger regional travel demand forecasting model initiative undertaken by Dr. Fatmi and his research group. The team intends to investigate transportation-related decisions such as residential location, vehicle ownership, and travel as well as in-home activities of each individual in the central Okanagan within a unified modelling framework. This model can then be used to assess the impacts on traffic congestion and the environment.

In the next phase of the research, Dr. Fatmi and his team will extend their modelling to include how demographics, residential choice and transportation have impacted emissions and energy consumption during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The research was funded by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Discovery Grant and published in Sustainable Cities and Society.

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View of sports car driving along bridge, over river

New research from UBCO has determined that as tires and roads wear down particles of that waste are spread across roadways and can eventually end up in rivers, streams and lakes.

Ever wonder what happens to the rubber tread that wears off a vehicle’s tires?

New modelling by UBC Okanagan researchers suggests an increasing amount of microplastics—fragments from tires and roadways—are ending up in lakes and streams.

The UBCO School of Engineering researchers developed a conceptual framework to examine the potential contamination originating from the regular use of vehicles on roads and highways. Their findings suggest that more than 50 tonnes of tire and road wear particles are released into waterways annually in an area like the Okanagan.

“The results are quite significant,” says Dr. Haroon Mian, a UBC Postdoctoral Research Associate and study lead author. “It’s especially alarming considering that this microscopic waste can contaminate our freshwater sources.”

Tires are critical for transportation and about 1.5 billion tires are produced annually to meet global demand—leading to almost six million tonnes of tire and road wear particles being generated around the world.

Both synthetic rubber and vulcanized natural rubber are considered forms of elastomeric polymers contributing to microplastics. It isn’t simply the rubber that causes contamination, says Dr. Mian.

“Over time, all of those materials begin to break down and can release chemical additives that affect aquatic species,” he explains.

While some of the materials end up in the atmosphere, the majority of the tire and road wear particles are spread across roadways and eventually end up in aquatic environments. The results of his study indicate that almost 15 tonnes of tire and road wear particles can be transmitted to lake surface water each year, he adds.

This is not only a global issue, but a local one, he points out. The research was done locally and he says lakes like Okanagan and Kalamalka are being unknowingly contaminated every day as thousands of people drive the highways connecting BC interior communities.

“This analysis focused on a small section of highway in the BC interior, but the findings suggest that other regions across Canada may experience the same challenges with this type of contamination,” says Mian. “A more uniform and comprehensive management and treatment strategy must be developed to limit the possible environmental ramifications.”

As part of his research, Mian also conducted a scenario-based assessment to estimate tire and road wear emissions by considering various real-time factors such as tire and roadway degradation in the environment and seasonal variations.

The report recommends implementing tire wear labels and standardization policies, adopting tire pressure monitoring systems, and applying wetlands or roadside swales as a secondary runoff treatment.

The research appeared in the latest edition of Science of the Total Environment and was supported by Kal Tire and Mitacs.

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A photo of a starfish and oil spill

UBCO researchers have come up with a strategy to deal with the waste created when an off shore oil spill is cleaned up.

Images of damaged coastlines, oily sheens, containment booms and endangered wildlife are part of every offshore oil spill.

And while a response team arrives and the clean up gets underway, UBC Okanagan researchers are now exploring how to effectively handle the waste created from that spill.

As part of a Multi-Partner Research Initiative sponsored by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, UBCO engineers are conducting new research to help the oil spill response industry and its regulators enhance response preparedness and efficiency in Canadian waters. A new research study, published recently in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, conducts a lifecycle assessment of oil spill waste mitigation and how to properly dispose of the refuse.

“We never want to experience any sort of spill, but when it happens we need to be prepared,” explains Dr. Guangji Hu, a School of Engineering postdoctoral fellow and report co-author. “If a spill is on land, contaminated soil can be removed and remediated off-site, but that simply isn’t feasible on the water.”

Using a lifecycle assessment approach, the researchers developed a framework to help decision-makers effectively manage the waste of an offshore oil spill cleanup. The lifecycle assessment quantifies the environmental impacts associated with products and services at different points of their life cycle.

The lifecycle assessment compared various strategies for treating wastes—including its collection, segregation and sorting, initial treatment, secure transportation of waste materials, resource recovery and the final disposal of all soiled materials—as well as the resulting environmental impacts, particularly on scenarios situated in Western Canada.

Addressing maritime oil spills is a complex process with many variables including type of oil, tides and water composition, explains Saba Saleem, an engineering master’s student with UBCO’s Lifecycle Management Lab.

“Every spill is unique, but with this new tool we can identify the barriers, gaps and bottlenecks in oily waste management during an offshore oil spill response and enable decision makers to make more informed choices,” says Saleem, who is also the study’s lead author.

Several techniques such as mechanical containment and recovery, use of chemical dispersants, and in-situ burning are commonly used depending on various factors, such as oil slick characteristics, environmental conditions and the spill location.

“The aspect of oil spill recovery waste is one part of a response, but the management of this waste is the most complex, expensive and time-consuming component of recovery,” says Dr. Hu.

The findings point to a strategy of combining centrifugation and landfilling as the most suitable remediation approach for low-impact offshore oil spill waste management, but also highlight the potential of other strategies based on the severity of the spill.

“Analyzing these challenging situations in a holistic manner through lifecycle assessment allows us to develop a framework that encompasses nearly every possible scenario of offshore oil waste management,” Dr. Hu adds. “As a result, stakeholders have one more tool to address these spills quickly and effectively.”

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A photo of two girls smiling and drinking water

UBCO engineers are teaming up with TELUS and the Regional District of North Okanagan to investigate how smart technology can help monitor drinking water quality.

Delivery of safe and high-quality drinking water is an essential public service, but it’s not easy to monitor water quality in real-time close to customers’ homes.

Thanks to a new research partnership with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, TELUS and the Regional District of North Okanagan, researchers at UBC’s Okanagan campus will begin to address this gap by leveraging new sensors to wirelessly monitor water quality in the distribution system.

This new smart monitoring solution aims to improve how municipalities monitor water and its quality at the tap for thousands of residents across the Okanagan.

“Our eventual goal is to improve drinking-water-system-management and enhance the safety of residents across British Columbia,” says Dr. Nicolas Peleato, Assistant Professor with UBCO’s School of Engineering. “Through the use of these sensors, water providers such as municipalities and regional districts will be able to identify water quality issues more accurately and faster than what is currently feasible.”

TELUS is currently working on the development of Smart City technologies in urban and rural applications to enhance the lives of residents through improved safety and better connectivity.

“Using technology for good and providing safe water and food is in TELUS’ DNA, and we are excited to be collaborating with UBCO on this project,” says Chief Technology Officer Ibrahim Gedeon. “Bringing together technology leaders, who have a genuine desire to improve the safety and wellbeing of Canadians, with some of UBCO’s excellent research expertise and knowledge will improve the lives of British Columbians, and support the region in becoming digitally enabled with smart technology solutions.”

The smart sensors will be configured in a system that will identify conductivity, oxidation reduction potential and water temperature using processing and communication hardware. The acquired data will then be sent through mobile networks to the TELUS Smart City products for interpretation and evaluation.

“A lack of adequate monitoring can have significant consequences,” adds Dr. Peleato. “Technology that offers real-time monitoring and evaluation, delivers an important safeguard for water providers and users to ensure their drinking water stays safe. Our municipal partner is excited about the immediate and positive impact this research will have on their water systems.”

An important part of the research will be developing models to help the software quickly and accurately respond to the data allowing for real-time responses. The researchers are working to develop a wireless low-cost sensor for water quality monitoring. The intended outcome, notes Dr. Peleato, is that connection level sensors help future products let users know their water quality with a simple interface that will visualize the data for consumers.

There are several advantages—for both the customer and the water utility—to monitoring chlorine residuals, turbidity and other relevant water quality indicators closer to the point of use. With access to water quality data from the distribution system, the water utility can better respond to quality issues before receiving a complaint. This will enable improved monitoring and management of the system.

“Connecting dispersed sensors with a 5G network like that of TELUS allows for real-time water quality monitoring, predicting water quality changes and taking proactive measures to correct for such changes in a timely manner,” says Dr. Anas Chaaban, UBCO Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and project co-investigator. “This new collaboration will provide greater customer assurance and confidence in their drinking water.”

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Two UBC alumni working on an aerospace project.

Connor Badowich and Pradeep Pugalendhi, both graduates of UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering, at work at KF Aerospace in Kelowna.

To address the increasing demand for aerospace engineers in Western Canada, UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering is launching an aerospace option.

The new option will be available to manufacturing and mechanical engineering students, explains Dr. Joshua Brinkerhoff, an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and coordinator of the aerospace option.

“Aerospace is a huge industry in British Columbia, and across Western Canada,” he says. “Our industry partners in the aerospace sector are seeking highly-qualified graduates with very specific skills. This option will provide a solid foundation for our students to meet those requirements.”

Kelowna’s KF Aerospace has been a significant partner in helping to guide and develop the new program. KF Aerospace is the city’s largest private sector employer and currently has 25 engineering graduates.

“KF Aerospace is very excited to have an aerospace engineering option at UBC Okanagan. This program will help support us with locally grown talent as we continue to expand Canada’s leading engineering services,” says Gregg Evjen, KF Chief Operating Officer. “We thank UBCO for its support in launching a program that will help grow the aerospace sector in Western Canada.”

The aerospace engineering option will equip students with state-of-the-art skills, competencies, theories and design methodologies to train engineers with specialized skill sets in aerospace engineering.

“Our students have a track record of excellence in a variety of disciplines and we are excited to expand our offerings so they can continue to explore what they’re passionate about,” says Dr. Will Hughes, Director of the School of Engineering.

The first intake for the aerospace engineering option begins this fall and before completing the program students will be required to do a fourth-year aerospace capstone project.

“It is a big undertaking to establish a new option in aerospace engineering, but based on feedback from students, faculty and industry, we are confident in this program’s future horizon,” says Dr. Hughes. “We can’t wait to get it off the ground, and we are excited to introduce this new option to our students.”

To learn more about the opportunities available to students who chose this option, visit:

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A lab tour of UBCO’s new battery prototyping facility

Dr. Jian Liu explains the type of research taking place in UBCO’s new battery prototyping facility, partially funded by an agreement with Fenix Advanced Materials. Michael & Suzanne Hintringer Photography.

With the current price of gasoline, it’s no wonder electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming more common on the road.

Despite their growing popularity, researchers are still working to develop a smaller, longer-lasting battery to power EVs. Current battery research at UBC Okanagan has led to additional funding from industry partner Fenix Advanced Materials to lead the charge when it comes to battery development.

Dr. Jian Liu, the UBC Okanagan Principal’s Research Chair in Energy Storage Technologies, is developing a solid-state lithium battery that will increase performance and stability specifically for powering EVs.

The new batteries, which could extend an EV’s driving range and safety, are made of raw and recycled materials procured by Fenix in Trail, BC.

“Our province has a wealth of these materials, and we need to solidify our research and development to ensure we put these materials to good use,” he adds, explaining the batteries use tellurium, a copper by-product, iron and other base-metal-rich ore bodies.”

This expanded partnership with Fenix is an important step toward building a battery supply chain locally while strengthening the Canadian company’s international position in the growing battery market, Dr. Liu explains.

“This research aims to develop a battery that doubles the energy density of today’s lithium-ion batteries while at the same making considerable improvements to its safety,” says Dr. Liu, an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering. “We replace flammable liquid electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries with air-stable solid electrolytes in the new battery chemistry, therefore avoiding the safety risks of current EV batteries”.

Integrating an all-solid-state configuration into EVs removes some of the drawbacks of existing liquid electrolytes-based batteries that are less efficient and diminish rapidly over time, he explains.

Tellurium has high electrical conductivity and a high volumetric capacity—meaning it can help create small, but powerful batteries. The collaboration with Fenix will ensure Dr. Liu and his team have the materials to conduct their research.

“This partnership with UBCO has played a key role in helping to uncover some exciting innovations in new battery technology and other clean technology solutions, and we are thrilled to take this next step,” says Fenix CEO Don Freschi.

Liu says once scientific and technical gaps in the design, fabrication and integration of these materials into solid-state batteries are addressed, these new batteries will have a huge impact on the EV industry.

Fenix is contributing an additional $1-million over the next year to establish a Pouch Cell Facility at UBCO. Pouch cells are wrapped in aluminum cases and differ from other battery formats including cylindrical or prism-shaped cells, both used in EVs, and coin cells which are commonly found in watches, explains Liu.

“We chose pouch cells because they are relatively easy to manufacture compared to cylindrical and prismatic cells,” he says. “The battery testing data obtained from pouch cells are recognized and accepted in the battery and EV industries. In contrast, battery testing data from coin cells are mainly for academic research and are insufficient to influence battery and EV companies.”

Freschi says Fenix and their investment group, NEXT Lithium, are thrilled to support these projects and are preparing to commercialize many of the products developed from these efforts.

Dr. Liu explains that currently, there is no university-based battery prototyping facility in western Canada. Building the pouch cell facility at UBCO will bridge the gap between fundamental academic research and applied research in battery technologies.

The research will result in a smaller, safer and less expensive battery to accelerate transportation electrification. It also helps the shift from a fossil fuel-based economy to decarbonized energy.

“For a long time, solid-state batteries were considered more demanding to produce, but research in this area is establishing new methods that are bringing these batteries closer to the market,” explains Liu. “We are excited to continue to partner with Fenix, Mitacs and other stakeholders, including the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and National Research Council, to make stronger, safer and more efficient batteries.”

A researcher holding up a pouch cell

UBCO master’s student Li Tao holds up an example of a pouch cell. Once up and running, the new pouch cell facility will bridge the gap between fundamental academic research and applied research in battery technologies. Michael & Suzanne Hintringer Photography.

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