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Applied Research at Mohawk

Applied research driving learning, productivity and innovation

Applied research at Mohawk College driving learning, productivity and innovation

The quest for knowledge, searching for solutions to challenges, and exploring opportunities to improve products and practices all fuel applied research and innovation.

Mohawk College is a leader in Canada, recognized as the nation’s most industry research intensive college in 2018.

Applied research partnerships provide experiential learning to students that lead to career success, and discover solutions that increase productivity, revenue, and market-share for industry partners.

The Hamilton area’s position at the forefront of advanced manufacturing, digital health, technology, energy and transportation is supported by Mohawk’s student and faculty expertise, cutting-edge resources, and deep industry connections.

The College’s research hub IDEAWORKS catalyzes, funds and supports research across the college, and operates three centres of excellence: the mHealth and eHealth Development and Innovation Centre (MEDIC), the Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC) and the Energy & Power Innovation Centre (EPIC).

Here are four examples of applied research at Mohawk among dozens of recent projects.

‘Paving the way for an energy paradigm shift’

iLLUMA-Drive, a Burlington digital electricity company, creates products to transform high-voltage AC power coming into homes or businesses to low-voltage DC power. That lowers capital costs, while increasing efficiency, safety and efficacy.

iLLUMA-Drive was ready for production on its new CENSE (Centralized Engine for Sustainable Energy) LM1, a DC digital electrical platform for LED lighting systems, but needed third-party testing to prove its benefit over traditional AC systems, says company founder Derek Hopkins.

Energy & Power Innovation Centre students and faculty designed and built test beds to calibrate and demonstrate the efficiency, efficacy and light flickering advantage of the iLLUMA-Drive system. A second project with Mohawk proved that the CENSE LM1 complies with California’s Title 24 building efficiency standards, says Hopkins.

“It’s a super validation and proof of concept through independent lab study. It’s all paving the way for a new energy paradigm shift,” said Hopkins.

“There is creativity and innovation in what Mohawk can offer. Where there are problems, they know how to solve them.”

EPIC’s facilities include a fully built smart house, a decommissioned substation and design and test labs with the latest simulation technology. Industry projects range from preliminary design to prototyping, testing and data analysis.

“Students were exposed to a lot of industry standards, which they had to research, study and implement during the performance testing,” said Rubaid Khan, a professor in Mohawk’sElectrical and Computer Engineering Technology program, who led the iLLUMA-Drive project team.

“They also had to spec out components, work with product vendors, order parts, build and integrate electronic systems, develop test procedures, log data and produce technical reports.”

This project will lead to more research in this area, says Khan, and is an example of the kind of work Mohawk can do in transforming industries.

“Through my experience, it is evident that many industries are unaware of the untapped potential of college students and faculty, where the focus is on hands-on practical problem solving.”

Research aims to tackle sedentary lifestyles through outdoor play

Structured and intentional outdoor play for children has repeatedly been linked to positive physical, mental, social and emotional benefits.

But amid a troubling, multi-decade shift to sedentary, indoor lifestyles, and risk-averse playground design, today’s early childhood education students often don’t have the experience and competence to help kids engage in outdoor play.

In their Co-Constructing the Pedagogy of Outdoor Play project, Mohawk researchers aimed to better understand how to embed the pedagogy of outdoor play into Mohawk's Early Childhood Education (ECE) program.

Erin Cameron, a former faculty member in Mohawk’s Early Childhood Education program and now a curriculum development specialist in the College’s Centre for Teaching and Learning, was inspired to do research into building outdoor play into the College’s curriculum by her experience on an outdoor play tour in Scotland.

At the same time, Dawn Danko, a curriculum design specialist in the CTL, was interested in creating a model of a faculty-student applied research partnership that goes beyond the traditional evaluation approach.

The two discovered their research interests were synergistic and thank to an IDEAWORKS grant, they were able to dedicate the time to collaborate, hire two students for a field placement, and complete their project.

The result is a hands-on practical guide to embedding outdoor play in the training of early childhood educators. The ultimate vision is to combat indoor, screen-focused, sedentary lifestyles one early childhood educator at a time.

“The goal is to share it forward,” said Cameron. “We want Mohawk students to feel comfortable advocating for outdoor play with their own employers and parents of their students.”

Cameron and Danko hope to see their model replicated by other colleges.

A second product of this project is a framework report to guide and inform other faculty-student co-construction partnerships.

“One of our first concerns was the power imbalance that can result with students on a research team with faculty and staff,” said Danko. “From the beginning, the students were part of the goal-setting on the project to generate a sense of partnership.”

Mohawk expertise helps sports apparel maker score lucrative deal

Hamilton sportswear company Niko Apparel Systems was trying to land a contract with a large multinational client that required a web-based tracking software to view and edit orders. Niko owner Joe Camillo tried to license a system built by a competitor, but the deal fell through.

Fearing he would lose a lucrative contract that would build U.S. market share, Camillo was commiserating with a neighbour who is an instructor at Mohawk College. That neighbour suggested Mohawk could solve Niko’s challenge.

Camillo, a former instructor at Mohawk himself, connected with Chris Spraakman, a professor of Business Analysis and Analytics, and Andrea Johnson, project manager for the Centre for Student Enterprise and Business Solutions.

Along with students Andrea Paine and Anand Saraf, the Mohawk team investigated and tested a range of existing software solutions before finding one they were able to customize to Niko’s client’s satisfaction. The solution does not require significant support and is scalable as Niko adds more clients to the system.

“The people at Mohawk did analytics research, talked to us and our client, and offered the best solution for us,” said Camillo.

“This is an account worth hundreds of thousands of dollars we wouldn’t have had without this help. The client is happy and we are happy.”

This project – funded by the Ontario Centres of Excellence – was the first collaboration between Niko and Mohawk, but it won’t be the last, says Camillo. Niko was founded in 1996 and designs and manufactures its line of technical sporting apparel all in Hamilton.

“You have to adapt to be competitive. This isn’t an easy industry, but we’ve put a lot into people and equipment to make us better.”

Mohawk helps steel company visualize VR in its operations

Under Mohawk College’s guidance, Hamilton’s Walters Inc. was able to explore the use of virtual reality to design connections for structural steel components.

“Virtual reality helps us understand if a connection can be constructed and if installers can actually build it,” said Tim Verhey, vice-president of engineering and operations.

“These are early days, but we see definitely in a few years some very good potential for us.”

The learning curve is steep and intimidating, says Richard Borger, a Building and Construction Sciences professor. Mohawk was able to accelerate the progress Walters had made on exploring VR by determining approximate costs and making recommendations for devices, software, and training. Mohawk ultimately provided Walters a streamlined step-by-step process to integrate VR into its workflow.

“There has to be a return on investment in business,” said Borger. “The engineers want to see what the system costs and what it brings back in terms on return on investment. We were able to demonstrate how it makes sense for Walters.”

A new office building in Hamilton for Walters and its 350 employees was entirely designed in virtual reality in conjunction with Mohawk. The building includes a VR room to review designs.

“There is a tremendous amount of talent and technical knowledge within Richard’s group at Mohawk,” said Verhey. “They have so much experience and they are a sounding board when it comes to technology. They enabled us to narrow the field of study when it came to virtual reality so that we could focus on what would work for us.”

This project is one of many between Walters and Mohawk over a more than 25-year partnership. Walters employs about 80 Mohawk graduates.

“We will pull up alongside any partnering company, no matter where they are on the cycle of innovation or whether they are inexperienced in technology or leaders in their fields,” said Borger.

“The goal is to drive technology forward for anyone and everyone. We are creating demand for knowledge while also educating the students who will fill that need.”

IDEAWORKS is Mohawk’s hub for applied research and innovation. Learn more about how you can get involved in research through IDEAWORKS at www.mohawkcollege.ca/ideaworks