Monday, 19 December 2011 14:34

News from University of Saskatchewan - Fall 2011

Fall Convocation at the University of Saskatchewan

Fall Convocation at the University of Saskatchewan was held on October 22, 2011 at TCU Place in downtown Saskatoon. Phani K. Adapa (Thesis: Densification of Selected Agricultural Crop Residues as Feedstock for the Biofuel Industry) and Eric E. Veikle (Thesis: Modeling the Power Requirements of a Rotary Feeding and Cutting System) were awarded Ph.D. degrees. Awarded M.Sc. degree were: 1) Alvin C. Alvarado (Thesis: Control of Hydrogen Sulphide, Amonia and Odour Emissions from Swine Barns using Zinc Oxide Nanoparticles; 2) Patricia D. Lung (Thesis: Anaerobic Digestion for Integrated Ethanol Production); and Crystal D. Rinas (Thesis: Simulated Plume Development and Decommissioning Using the Breakthrough Curves of Five Cations). During this convocation, Chelsey A. Bartlett received her Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree in Agricultural and Bioresource Engineering. Congratulations to all graduates!

Update from the University of Saskatchewan Biological Engineering Task Force

The Task Force has started meeting again with representation from within the department, the College of Engineering, and other units on campus. The committee will develop a proposed program based on desired graduate characteristics and attributes and the activities and learning experiences that can help produce those attributes. From there, potential courses will be listed and gaps determined between what is available on campus and what would be proposed. The proposed timeline is to have the "ideal" list of course topics by February, gap analysis between "ideal" and existing in March, and a proposal ready to be distributed to the College in April with a vote by Faculty Council in May.

The executive summary of the Task Force’s Phase One report is below. The recommendations have been received by the Dean, but have not been accepted nor widely discussed in the College at this time.

Ross Welford

Chair Biological Engineering Task Force

Executive Summary of Phase One Report by Task Force (May, 2011)

The Task Force was asked to determine if or how an undergraduate Biological Engineering (“BLE”) program could fit in the College of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan. BLE is a unique discipline that has a foundation in biology in addition to the core analytical tools that are common to all engineering disciplines. This foundation would prepare students to contribute to society in a wide range of applications. After seeking input from a number of sources including within the College, from other engineering programs, from alumni, and through a set of independent market research interviews, the committee recommends that a flexible BLE program with a base of Biology be developed to meet future needs.

With major research institutions and a unique suite of professional academic programs already in place, a BLE program would have a natural fit at the University of Saskatchewan. Within the College, a BLE program could complement all of the existing programs and serve as an effective pathway into post-graduate programs in Biomedical Engineering. Trends are recognized that our energy-based society will become increasingly reliant on bio-based solutions. With predictions that the bioeconomy will continue to grow, the College could be a leader in preparing engineers with a background in biology to benefit society. In order to develop and maintain a critical mass of expertise in BLE, the committee recommends that the Biology base be delivered via a program rather than as a collection of options in other programs.

The vision for an accredited engineering program is based on integrating biology into engineering to produce graduates that will lead in the emerging bio-economy and related fields. Guiding principles for the program have been outlined and intended learning outcomes are described based on the graduate attributes as required by accrediting bodies (Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board, 2010). A concept for the program is described that has Living Systems at its core which refers to the interactions within living systems and the interactions with living systems. The program would not have specific options or streams but would have a broad base that could prepare students to specialize with further study in areas such as Food Availability and Security, Animal and Human Health, Bioresource Production and Utilization, and Sustainable Development within Ecosystems.

In looking toward the future, the Task Force recommends that the College proceed in the development of a BLE program by further defining the curriculum for a BLE program, producing a resource budget for delivering the program, and to consider alternate processes for admitting students into BLE and its other programs to ensure full intake of students. By acting on these recommendations, the College could take a proactive role in preparing future leaders for the upcoming challenges to be solved for society.

The University of Saskatchewan Sled Dogs ¼ Scale Tractor Team is on a roll!

For a second consecutive year, the University of Saskatchewan Sled Dogs have come in 4th place at the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers International ¼ Scale Tractor Student Design Competition, held annually in Peoria, Illinois. Every year, the Sled Dogs design and build a ¼ scale pulling tractor, following rules outlined by the competition and building on past experiences. While at competition, the Sled Dogs compete against other student teams from across North America, in events ranging from manoeuvrability and sound testing, to static design judging and marketing presentation to the main event; the tractor pulls.

The University of Saskatchewan team, founded in 2002, is composed of students at the U of S in agricultural, mechanical and electrical engineering. All years and disciplines are welcome, and an agricultural background is not required. Senior members design and build a new model to compete with in the A-Team class. Junior members of the team compete with the X-Team tractor; the previous year’s model with at least three major modifications.


The 2011 University of Saskatchewan Sled Dog ¼ Scale Tractor Team with
A-team tractor (left) and X-Team tractor (right)

The 2011 tractor featured a single 31 hp Briggs and Stratton Big Block engine, CVT and transaxle from a John Deere Gator, reduced weight and a bold new look. Its most innovative features included data logging capabilities, which won the team the Campbell Scientific Award at competition, and a dynamic ballast system. The team was able to fine-tune some driveline components to finish 4th in the pulls, an improvement from 6th in 2010. The team also enhanced their writing skills to finish 3rd in the written design report.

The first ever X-team to come from the U of S competed in 2011, and finished 3rd place overall. They modified the 2010 tractor, adding a roll-over protection system (ROPS), electric assist steering and actually improved pulling performance by reducing the number of engines from three 16 hp Briggs and Stratton Vanguards to two. They also blew the competition away with their oral presentation to finish 1st in the category.

The 2012 season is now well underway. The A-Team has a preliminary design nailed down, with plans to start building in the new year. The 2012 tractor will have a lower profile with more stylized body work. Following in the 2011 tractor’s footsteps, power will be coming from a 31 hp Briggs and Stratton engine to feed a CVT/transaxle combination. The X-Team has run a fine-toothed comb over the 2011 tractor looking for ways to improve it and take it to the next level. They have plans to lower the operator platform and hood, relocate the exhaust and air intake, as well as creating the next generation of dynamic ballast.

The ASABE competition has been an annual event for 15 years. It was created by members of the equipment industry who realized that when students graduate, they are lacking many hands-on skills. The competition remains judged by representatives from major industry players including John Deere, Case-New Holland, Caterpillar, AGCO and Briggs and Stratton. The 2012 competition will again be held in Peoria, running form May 31 to June 3, 2012.

For more information on the U of S Sled Dogs, please visit www.quarterscale.usask.ca, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and for more information on the competition, please visit www.asabe.org and search “¼ scale tractor”.


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René Morissette

Research Engineer for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at Québec City research centre. Mainly working on forage harvesting and conservation, biomass combustion. CSBE webmaster since 2008. Part-time webdesigner.

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