UWAFT Brings Exposure to Sustainability in Automotive Industry

It was a rainy afternoon on February 8th at the University of Waterloo, but that did not stop the University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT) from engaging the student body in a discussion surrounding the automotive industry and sustainability in the region. Leading the discussion was a panel of community leaders including local MPP Catherine Fife, directing manager of the Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research (WatCAR) Ross McKenzie, Powertrain Engineer for Green and Intelligent Automotive (GAIA) Stef Bruinsma, and of course UWAFT project manager Daniel Van Lanen. Each panel member brought their own perspective to a variety of topics such as sustainability in Kitchener/Waterloo, autonomous vehicles, diversity in STEM sectors (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education), and the impact of low gas prices on environmentally friendly vehicles. More details regarding this event are shared amongst the photos below.

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UWAFT System Safety Officer John Catton assists with setting up zap banners prior to the event. We were proud to have such a strong attendance from both the student population and team members.

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Upon arriving in the Student Design Centre for the panel discussion, guests were invited to pick up some branded UWAFT swag. At the table UWAFT members greeted the guests and provided them with more information on our team. Guests were also asked to participate in a short survey to learn more about their conceptions regarding environmentally friendly vehicles.

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Catherine Fife brought some great perspective to the discussion with her insights on how the Ontario government works alongside the automotive industry to promote sustainability. Fife made a point to mention that the province is a leader in clean energy and there is no reason why Ontario cannot become a leader for manufacturing the next generation of environmentally friendly vehicles. There is a role for the government to reward consumers for making sustainable decisions, and spark a culture shift towards green products.

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In addition to Catherine Fife’s contributions to the discussion, other panel members brought insights of their own to further the discussion. On the topic of diversity in STEM, all were in agreement that more needs to be done to promote women and minorities in these industries. Van Lanen made note that diversity is an important part of creating new ideas and furthering innovation in the sector. As a female in a male dominated industry, Bruinsma mentioned that she had to deal with gender based expectations and earn the respect of her colleagues. Finally, McKenzie advocated that outreach initiatives are very important to increase exposure to the industry.

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Also on hand for the event were members of General Motors recruitment team. Students in attendance were eager to talk to the recruiters regarding possible career opportunities, and to learn more about jobs at General Motors.

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Those in attendance gained not only the insights of community leaders but also their advice on what needs to be done to foster success within the next generation of the automotive industry.