Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 28, No.6

November 20, 2003


CIADI gives students chance to soar

by Angie Gaddy

Photo of CIADI class

The 2003 class of CIADI
Photo by Marc Bourcier

From the time Marie-Pierre Vaillancourt could take apart televisions and radios, she knew she wanted to work in engineering.

As a teenager growing up in Laval, she worked on cars, attended space camp and became so enthralled with flight that she became a camp counsellor. Her goal: aerospace engineering.

This year, the Concordia undergraduate is realizing her dreams.

As part of Concordia’s Institute for Aerospace Design and Innovation (CIADI), Vaillancourt is conducting research for aerospace companies normally reserved for master’s students.

“We would never have an opportunity like this without CIADI,” she said.

Vaillancourt joins 44 other CIADI students working in partnership with industries like Pratt & Whitney Canada, Bombardier Aerospace, Bell Helicopters and CAE.

The goal, says John Holding, vice-president of Bombardier’s engineering and product development, is to give students real-world experience.

“That’s what engineering is all about. It’s not just knowledge, but applying it,” he said. “It also gives us an exposure. They’re people we might employ.”

CIADI student projects range from working with flight controls simulators and helicopter blade repair to material analysis and micro-electro-mechanical systems, or MEMS.

Vaillancourt’s MEMS project involves researching and making devices on the micro-level. Her work with the Consortium de recherché et d’innovation en aérospatiale au Québec, or CRIAQ, involves reducing a cooling system normally the size of a cubic foot into something the size of a dime.

“CIADI’s great,” Vaillancourt said at the institute’s annual recognition ceremony Monday night. “It’s all A plus.”

Students receive funding from industries and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, who handed out $135,000 this year, said CIADI director Hany Moustapha.

This year, the Développement économique et régional du Québec (DERQ) gave more than $300,000 to CIADI, and 30 of the 45 students received NSERC undergraduate scholarship awards.

The institute, now in its third year, began when Moustapha, an adjunct professor and senior fellow and Manager of Technology, Technical Education & Collaboration Programs at Pratt & Whitney Canada, saw lots of research projects go by the wayside because they didn’t qualify for PhD-level work. In its short lifespan, CIADI, which has grown to 45 students, is almost at its maximum level.

Because Montreal is home to huge aerospace giants like Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney Canada and others, he predicts the area will soon have a Montreal Aerospace Institute. “This concept, it works here,” he said.

Students agree.

CIADI’s success has prompted other universities to establish similar institutes. CIADI will collaborate with the l’Institut de conception et d’innovation aérospatiale (ICIA) à l’École de technologie supérieure (ETS) and the Ryerson Institute for Aerospace Design and Innovation (RIADI).

CIADI alumni like Panagiota Tsifourdaris, who earned both her BEng and PhD from Concordia, snagged her dream job at Pratt & Whitney Canada only eight months after beginning her CIADI project.

“That was the opportunity of my life,” she said.