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December 6, 2001 Multidisciplinary work is key: mechanical engineering conference



R. B. Bhat, Jack Lightstone

Professor R.B. Bhat and Provost Jack Lightstone celebrate a milestone for the Mechanical Engineering Department, its 100th doctoral thesis.

Photo by Marc Bourcier

Christopher Pin Harry

Christopher Pin Harry, winner of the CSME Gold Medal for professional merit and academic excellence. A spring 2001 graduate, he now works at Rolls Royce Canada.

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

by Sylvain Comeau

Concordia hosted the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering (CSME) International Conference on Multidisciplinary Design in Engineering, Nov. 21-22.

Dr. R.B. Bhat, conference co-chair and chair of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Concordia, said that multidisciplinary work is essential for training tomorrow’s engineers.

“We emphasize teamwork between students of different disciplines in the department and the whole Faculty, and the same is true of engineering faculties throughout Canada,” said Bhat, who is also the vice-president of CSME Quebec.

“The team approach to engineering research and projects is also vital to our own involvement with local industries, especially aeorospace. Last year, we created the Concordia Institute for Aerospace Design Innovation, in which 30 undergraduate students from various disciplines are working together on real-life projects for companies like Pratt & Whitney and Bombardier.”

Multidisciplinary design is not a recent trend, but is growing to accommodate the complexity of today’s engineering tasks.

“Design is interconnected, both from a components point of view and a disciplines point of view. An automobile or aircraft, for example, requires structural design, electrical design, noise reduction — many disciplines come together in the final design.”

Bhat said that the growing role of computers in the engineering field has made that kind of integration feasible and desirable.

“In the past, because of the lack of computer facilities, people would work on their designs separately, and then try to put them together.

“Each discipline has its own culture and language, in a sense; computers with specialized software translate from one to another and perform the rapid calculations necessary for an optimum design,” Bhat said.

The conference heard speakers from all over Canada and 15 other countries. In the first day, keynote speaker Ian Yellowley, chair of the Canadian Design Engineering Network, spoke about the objectives and activities of the Network and the research modules established at 34 engineering schools across the country. On the second day keynote speaker Fassi Kafyeke, of Bombardier, provided an industry perspective to the conference.

Dr. Kafyeke explained that the organizational structure in industry is built around multi-disciplinarity, and managers have to make sure that different departments are always aware of what each other is doing. “The days of each department working independent of each other are over; there is a growing interdependence.”

The conference also highlighted engineering students, including a student research paper competition. The Department of Mechanical Engineering celebrated the completion of the 100th doctoral thesis since the department was founded 30 years ago. “Given everything that is involved in guiding students through the complex research involved in a PhD thesis, we are proud of that milestone.”

The Quebec Ministry of Science and Technology, Pratt & Whitney Canada, the Concordia Faculty of Engineering, the Concordia Institute of Aerospace Design and Innovation, and the ASME-Quebec supported the conference with funds. Other co-sponsers included the National Research Council of Canada, IRSST and the Canadian Space Agency.