Research pays off

Mohawk students have plenty of job opportunities to work in college labs and innovation centres.

Deivy Munoz-AcostaDeivy Munoz-Acosta is among 40 students working on applied research projects at Mohawk College through the Campus Student Employment Program (CSEP), part-time contracts and co-op placements.

A second-year student in the Computer Systems Technician-Software Support program, Munoz-Acosta works in image processing analysis. He evaluates sensor data across a number of parameters to evaluate a blast furnace’s working performance.

He worked part-time as an international CSEP student in Sensor Systems and Internet of Things (IoT) Lab before being hired as a full-time research assistant last summer. Now, he’s doing a full-time co-op placement there.

Munoz-Acosta has been working on a project with a national steel manufacturer that uses vision systems employing specialized image processing to determine whether the steel company’s blast furnace is running optimally.

Other IoT projects have required him to use 3D modelling and coding skills. The lab, which includes seven research assistants, eight to 10 CSEP students and several full-time staff, takes on a great deal of industry work.

Munoz-Acosta was a research assistant and a professor in electronics and mechatronics in his native Colombia.

“I love research because you are changing projects and learning new things all the time.”

He chose to come to Canada to further his career, and after exploring his options, he felt Mohawk College offered the most complete program for him.

He learned about employment opportunities in applied research when he saw the on-campus applied research department in Mohawk College’s IDEAWORKS.

“This is a big project and it’s applied directly to industry. It will be an important part of my resumé. This has been a wonderful opportunity for me.”

Career path confirmed

David BrackDavid Brack, who is in his final year of Computer Engineering and Mechatronic Systems, also works in the IoT lab. During the time he worked on the project with a global leading steel manufacturer, he developed a computer vision algorithm based on thermal images. It automates a manual raking process to remove slag from molten steel in the steel manufacturer’s ladle metallurgy facility.

The system gives the operators real-time feedback and suggestions, with the hope that will increase quality and consistency, says Brack.

“This project has been a great challenge for me since a lot of the concepts needed, such as computer vision, are taught later in my program. I was also unfamiliar with thermal imaging, which meant I needed to review a large amount of research papers before starting to get familiar with the concepts.”

His applied research work has demonstrated to Brack that he wants to pursue a career in computer vision and AI.

“The project was a great opportunity for me to build on the skills I learned at Mohawk while challenging me to be creative and learn concepts outside my education and comfort zone. It forced me to think about what I want to do after I graduate and enabled me to make a plan to achieve those goals.”

Research in the sky

Mackenzie Van Vliet besides a droneMackenzie Van Vliet spent a week experiencing cold like she had never felt before while working in -50C weather in Churchill, Manitoba in January to conduct cold-weather testing of drones for Hamilton-based company Skygauge. She is a research assistant in the Unmanned & Remote Sensing Innovation Centre (URSIC).

Van Vliet, who is studying in the Digital Health degree program, had never considered working with drones, but when she happened upon a drone demonstration at a fair, she was immediately intrigued. Now she’s interested in how drones can be applied to health care.

Since landing a job in URSIC, she’s worked on a series of projects, including using drones to measure the volume of ponds and to support police operations, and has landed advanced drone pilot certificate in advanced operations, issued by Transport Canada.

“I am really excited to have it. I want to eventually become a flight reviewer after I get more flight time and knowledge.”

She will continue travelling for projects, including back to Manitoba and to Ottawa and St. John, and says her job has exposed her to advanced software and to being involved in project management.

“I’m part of weekly check-in meetings with clients. Everyone is so supportive in the lab and works really well together as a team,” she says.

“We are getting to do things that haven’t been done before. If you want to try something, you try it. If it doesn’t work, that’s OK. You try something else.” Mohawk College logo