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Success Stories - Dalhousie Tour of Industries

Exploring the Electrical Engineering Profession in Nova Scotia in 2003 (EEEPINS) tour can only be considered a huge success. The professionalism of the tour and scope of the tour met all of the project goals, and of the participants had positive feedback about the tour.

The EEEPINS tour was and continues to be an effort to keep highly educated Nova Scotian engineering students in the province after graduation. By giving the opportunity for fourteen third and fourth year students to tour Nova Scotian industrial sites related to electrical engineering, the Dalhousie IEEE Student Branch set out to accomplish three major goals, these being:

  • To create links and contacts between Nova Scotia industry and the technical student body and faculty at Dalhousie University.
  • To educate electrical engineering students about the existence of high tech industry within the province of Nova Scotia.
  • To promote the IEEE to the Dalhousie technical student body, faculty and industry professionals.
It can be said with great satisfaction that the student branch has certainly accomplished these goals and more through the EEEPINS initiative.

The following report will outline how these goals were accomplished. It will also give a detailed breakdown of the costs incurred, accommodations and transportation, site overviews, participant feedback and suggestions for future EEEPINS tours.

Site Overview
One of the goals of the EEEPINS tour was to visit a diverse sampling of Nova Scotia companies. The companies chosen for the 2003 tour were Trihedral, a software engineering firm; Niell & Gunter, a consulting company; NS Power's Point Aconi Generation Plant, a power facility; Stora-Enso, a paper mill; and Nautel, a radio communications transmitter design company.

Trihedral is a small software engineering firm located on the Bedford Highway, overlooking the Bedford Basin. Staffed mostly by electrical engineers and computer scientists, the company produces and supports industrial software for controlling processes. While at Trihedral the tour group was shown several presentations on the nature of the company and its product and was given a guided tour of the office. The list of customers using VTS, the company's main software package, was long and filled with many of the world's largest industrial firms. Some customers purchase, install and use the software on their own, while others (like Ontario Hydro), rely on Trihedral to install and design the system, as well as provide on going technical support.

Niell & Gunter
Niell & Gunter is a consulting Engineering firm who's expertise has shifted towards the growing offshore oil and gas industry in Nova Scotia. The tour consisted of a series of lectures given in the various meeting rooms of the office building describing different aspects of the company. There are over 80 Engineers working in the Dartmouth office, at least 20 of which specialize in electrical Engineering. The tour concluded with an overview of the company's involvement in the offshore oil platform design, and the new company, Accent Engineering, created with several other consulting firms specifically for the offshore industry.

NS Power The Nova Scotia Power Point Aconi Generation plant is the largest single boiler and turbine in use by Nova Scotia power. The plant produces approximately 190MW of electricity at peak operation. The facility is located near Sydney Nova Scotia in a former coal mining area, and burns a combination of coal and limestone. Point Aconi produced 80% less damaging chemicals through coal combustion then a normal coal fired plant. During the tour participants were shown were the limestone and coal are mixed, and how the limestone absorbs the toxic chemicals.

Stora Enso
The Stora Enso facility is located in Port Hawkesbury Nova Scotia, and produces huge amounts of high quality "super-calender" paper. The plant consumes between 150-250MW of electricity mostly for its Thermo-Mechanical-Pulp (TMP) making process. Tour participants were shown the hundreds of separate motors that control the paper making process, and the huge motors for making environmentally friendly TMP. The tour also included a brief examination of the rich history of the two Scandinavian companies Stora and Enso that merged to create one of the largest paper companies in the world.

Nautel is a small company located 30 minutes outside of Halifax. There are only 150 employees at the facility but the company has sold its radio transmitters in over 160 countries since 1969. The tour of Nautel included several examinations of radio transmission equipment and in many cases it was related directly to courses taken. The assembly area where individual transmitters are assembled and then tested was also toured.

Financial Report
Financially, the EEEPINS tour was very well planned; the original budget was closely followed and proved to be an accurate description of the actual tour costs. Significant savings were made on Van Rentals; hotels and food, which allowed for additional spending on relevant tour activities and items. The next segment will attempt to describe the total expenditures related to the tour.

Hotel rooms, van rentals and food were the biggest expenses on the tour. By staying in relatively modest accommodations some savings were made. Four People stayed in each room. The total cost of accommodations fell below the projected budget and totalled $575. Significant savings was made on the rental of two mini vans, through a special on van rentals at Enterprise we were able to secure the vehicles with insurance for only $435. Savings was also made on food, this can be largely attributed to the generosity of the companies on the tour who provided us with lunch on two of the three tour days.

EEEPINS 2002 Cost Breakdown
$435       Rental of two vans for two days + insurance
$215       Gas for two vans for two days
$575       Three hotel rooms for two nights (one in Sydney and one in New Glasgow)
$250       T-shirts
$360       Meals
$130       Gifts for tour presenters
$1965     Total expenses

Money raised for the tour includes:
$1500     ICF
$500       APENS
$250       E&CE Department
$2250     Total income
The budgeting for the tour allowed us to provide the service free of charge to participants.

The following was compiled from feedback forms that were filled out by the participants in the EEEPINS tour. When the feedback forms were created there were three main sections the organisers had in mind. They were as follows:
  • How were the tours?
  • How did the extraneous parts of EEEPINS stack up?
  • How did this change your opinion of Nova Scotia Industry
The results of these forms showed that, as suspected by the organisers, the tour was a huge success. The students were wholly impressed with the tours given by each company. The amount that these companies let us see and experience first hand was regarded as impressive by most of the tour participants. Also all the participants found the time put in by engineers and human resources at these facilities to prepare for us was very welcoming and encouraging.

The tour provided many opportunities for the participants to become familiar with the technical interests that lured them to engineering in the first place, but the organisers hoped that the participants would be entertained in their time away from touring facilities. The response from the participants indicates that they were comfortable and relaxed at all times during the trip. The transportation was regarded as sufficient but most participants indicated they would have preferred a bus. The hotel accommodations were considered ample and the dinning was considered to be very good.

It is fair to say that everyone who participated has had a change of opinion regarding Nova Scotia industry. All participants indicated shock at the scope and magnitude of the companies within Nova Scotia. The list of international clientele and operations left everyone amazed and let participants know that working in Nova Scotia does not mean that you cannot get a worldly flavour to a career.

Students who were previously thinking of moving out of Nova Scotia, due to the lack of opportunities, are now considering it a part of their future, partially due to this tour and partially due to the great effort put forward by the companies involved.

Future Plans
Though the EEEPINS tour 2003 is officially over, the EEEPINS initiative continues. As part of this initiative, the student branch is planning more events promoting the profession within the province that will span over the next two academic terms. The EEEPINS experience will be shared with fellow students through PowerPoint presentations and a promotional kiosk.

When this tour was first conceived there were three primary goals. These goals remain the cornerstone to what we hope will become an annual event for the IEEE and electrical engineering students in Nova Scotia for years to come.

Every decision made in the organization of EEEPINS was made with these goals in mind. The goal to create links between Nova Scotia High Tech Industry and the technical student body and faculty at Dalhousie University was partially met by simply organizing and holding the tour, but there were further decisions that helped enhance the extent to which we accomplished the goal. By having 14 people from the University in and around each of the five tour sites, connections were made between students and professionals that will surely last longer than the three days and two nights we spent on the road. It would be an understatement to say merely that there were contacts made. Strong connections were made between Dalhousie University, the IEEE Student Branch and Nova Scotia Industry. Several students are now pursuing the companies visited in an effort to obtain future employment after graduation.

The goals to educate students and promote the IEEE were also achieved instantaneously when the tours commenced, but the decision was made to extend the reach of the tour past the 14 lucky participants. Several avenues have been pursued for reaching as many people as possible. An "all-purpose" presentation was created that can be used by any EEEPINS executive member to use at social gatherings, EE information sessions, and other highly visible events. This presentation was performed to a warm welcome at the annual Electrical and Computer Engineering Banquet. Though the goal of educating people about industry in Nova Scotia has been met, the continued diligence of the tour organizers and the fact that this will be an annual event promises to spread awareness in years to come. It should be noted that whenever the tour is mentioned, in any capacity, it is inherently related to the IEEE Student Branch. This means that all of the promotion for the tour serves to promote our student branch to the high-tech industry and general public as well. As well at least two student memberships were created as a direct result of the tour and it is hoped that through continued involvement these students with both gain from the IEEE and perhaps further the IEEE message themselves.

The tour far exceeded the expectations of organizers and continues to work for the cause of keeping talent in Nova Scotia. By keeping a strong core of organizers involved next year, we hope the third annual Exploring the Electrical Engineering Profession in Nova Scotia tour will be as big of a success as the first and second.

April 2nd, 2003
Prepared by:
IEEE Student Branch Executive
Dalhousie University
Halifax, NS

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