R&D Dominates Recent College News


Pictured above, signing the Memorandum of Understanding to form the four-institution WE-SPARK Health Institute: Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj, St. Clair President Patti France, Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare CEO Janice Kaffer, and University of Windsor President Robert Gordon.

St. Clair is occasionally acronymed as “SCCAAT”: St. Clair College of Applied Arts and Technology. Judging by revelations during the past several days, that can now be expanded to “SCCAATRD”: St. Clair College of Applied Arts and Technology, and Research and Development.

On March 9, during a media conference at The Windsor Club, the college was unveiled as one of four founding partners in a new, local health-and-wellness research institute.

Joining St. Clair in the WE-SPARK Health Institute is the University of Windsor, Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, and Windsor Regional Hospital.

Those institutions will collaboratively conduct research on such matters as cancer, brain health and neuroscience, mental health and addiction, sexual health, rehabilitation and public health.

In her remarks at the media conference, St. Clair President Patti France reminded the audience of the college’s extensive health-care offerings, and its potential role in a wide range of research topics:


“St. Clair has, for the past decade, been one of the largest suppliers of employees to the health-care system – not just locally, but in all of Ontario. In addition to the Bachelor of Science-Nursing program operated in collaboration with the University of Windsor, our Anthony Toldo Centre for Applied Health Sciences turns out graduates in Dental Assisting and Hygiene, Cardiovascular Technology, Respiratory Therapy, Paramedic, Medical Laboratory Technician and Science, Sonography, Medical Esthetics, Personal Support Worker, Practical Nursing, and Pharmacy Technician. Our Chatham campus houses a few of those programs, and Occupational/Physiotherapy Assistant. In a related field, our School of Community Studies provides specialized training in Gerontology for Social Service Workers. And our School of Engineering Technology offers a program in Biomedical Engineering Technology–Equipment and Devices.

“For the purpose of our students’ work-experience placements, we’ve also had decades-long partnerships with all of the local hospitals, clinics, health-care agencies, seniors-care facilities, and individual medical practitioners.

“The opportunity, now, to foster health and wellness as a community-wide priority, to enable our faculty and staff to bring their expertise to bear on health and wellness issues, and to open up fascinating new topics of study and career-paths to our students will lead us to establish WE-SPARK connections in as many parts of our operation and our curriculum as possible.”

The idea of such an endeavour was born over ten years ago. The individual partner institutions have conducted research projects on their own in the past, so the innovative facet of WE-SPARK is the cooperative amalgamation of such efforts.

A hypothetical example ... An engineer at the UofW, for instance, might have an idea for a new piece of rehabilitation equipment. By securing a grant via WE-SPARK (either its own funding, or national funding secured by the new agency), that engineer could develop his plans, have it built and/or tested by St. Clair’s Biomedial Engineering Technology faculty and students, and then introduced for (trial) human use at Hotel-Dieu’s rehab hospital on Prince Road.

Dr. Lisa Porter, WE-SPEAK’s original advocate and now its Executive Director (and Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the UofW), pinpointed the new institute’s other functions in the fields of knowledge transfer, health-care employee (and student) training, infrastructure development, innovations in technology, “best practices”, solutions to arising trends in public health, and public information and awareness on health issues of local concern.

For more information about WE-SPARK, visit https://www.wesparkhealth.com/


Several days prior to the WE-SPARK announcement, the college unveiled another advancement in its technology and R&D role, by becoming the second postsecondary school in Canada to obtain 5-G-ready hardware.

A press release by the college’s administration explained:


St. Clair College’s Department of Applied Research and Development unveiled its emerging 5G technology at a gathering of industry partners and the media on March 6.

The college has been working with Telus to equipment the Ford Centre for Excellence in Manufacturing (FCEM) with the hardware that will eventually support a 5G network when it becomes available in Canada.

According to Telus, 5G technology will deliver connection speeds up to ten times faster, with lower latency, and the ability to connect numerous devices simultaneously. Augmented and virtual reality are also in the not-so-distant future.

St. Clair is just the second Canadian postsecondary institution to have 5G-ready technology.

But while telecommunication companies have the technology in place, Canada has not authorized them to allow devices to connect to it.

Peter Wawrow, St. Clair’s Director of Applied Research and Development, believes 5G technology is revolutionary. “When we look at 5G, we have speed, we have bandwidth, we have no latency, and we have a reliable network that allows us to now do all kinds of things that we never even dreamed up before,” he said. “Essentially, whatever you do, it's immediate.”

Apart from quicker upload and download speeds and being able to download movies in seconds, Wawrow added the network will allow for quicker data transformation, better cyber-security, advanced virtual reality, improvements to the health-care system, helping with artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Ben Cowan, Operations Manager for Telus’ Wireless Access Engineering team, said 5G will change the way we connect with each other. In the past 20 years, Telus has invested more than $75 million in the Windsor-Essex region preparing for the 5G. “5G is more transformational for the industry, for the consumer, for health-care and for agriculture than any other technology we've seen since the beginning of the cellular communications,” he said.


He also believes students at the college can help fill the need for people who are familiar with 5G, so they can support and leverage its capabilities. “The future leaders are working on tomorrow's technology today, right here at St. Clair College,” said Cowan.

He believes 5G technology will play a huge role in our day-to-day commuting when commercial autonomous vehicles hit the road in four or five years.

Students are at the forefront of the technology. Kevel Patel, a second-year student in data analytics helped program Boxer – a 5G-controlled robotic vehicle. “This is the best thing I’ve ever had,” said Patel about the new machine which can lift 200 kilograms. “I'm learning something new from this machine every day. I don’t think I could do this at any other institution.”