As technological innovations flourish in all corners of the industry, opportunities for Canada’s engineers have, arguably, never been greater or more diverse than they are today.

With Ontario, and specifically the national capital region, quickly emerging as proving grounds for new technologies such as autonomous vehicles and 5G wireless networks, it’s not hard to spot the technical revolution currently taking place.

With that in mind, Dr. Fred Afagh, Interim Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Design at Carleton University in Ottawa, recognizes that today’s students will have an increasingly important role to play as technology becomes even more integrated into our daily lives.

“An influx of talent from a wide variety of engineering and design disciplines will be needed to support society as we travel down new roads,” explains  Dr. Afagh. “Our goal is to equip students with real-world understanding and skills that will help them adapt to emerging technologies and trends throughout their careers.”

By integrating experiential learning and offering a wide array of opportunities for co-op work placements, Carleton’s engineering and design programs bridge the gap between theory and application. In working with regional, national, and international employers, Carleton undergrads have shown a knack for generating real-world impacts.

As part of their co-op placement with Kanata-based technology leader DRS Technologies Canada, Software Engineering student Shasthra Ranasinghe and Computer Science major Kevin Guy helped to develop key software for an all-new deployable flight recorder, which is set to debut worldwide on Airbus A350 XWB jet airliners in 2019.

“It’s been incredible having the chance to work on a project that’s so far-reaching,” says Ranasinghe. “I never expected to put something like this on my resume before I graduated.”

Carleton also integrates hands-on learning projects throughout its engineering and design programming, culminating with a final year team-based project, formally known as Capstone, in which students must produce an original design innovation. While real-world application has always been a key focus of Capstone, the school’s undergrads are encouraged to focus their designs on improving personal well-being or filling a social need.

Recent projects have included technologies such as biomedical sensors, an integrated concussion assessment system, and web-based medical image processing software. Additional innovations have focused on serving the community on a broader level, such as developing storm water management strategies, designing printable radiation detection devices, and creating a smart home energy system capable of monitoring and adjusting power usage.

Other initiatives have looked beyond Canada, including a multi-year, interdisciplinary project known as From Buckets to Rain Barrels, which aims to improve chronic water shortage issues in Longido, Tanzania. Over the past several years, students have developed unique prototypes such as small-scale solar stills before travelling to Tanzania to test and integrate their designs within the rural community.

“In Canada, we often take for granted that most materials we need are just one store or click away,” explains environmental engineering professor Dr. Onita Basu, one of the project’s co-leaders. “Working in a low-technology setting and facing the challenges associated with finances, cultural differences, and language barriers helps students discover how engineers and designers can make a difference in the world.”

Carleton also looks to engage the innovators of tomorrow before they reach university through its not-for-profit youth outreach organization, Virtual Ventures. Through its nationally-recognized programming, Virtual Ventures provides children and youth ranging from senior kindergarten to grade 11 with introductory experiences to various aspects of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), helping them to develop essential skills in areas such as coding, computer programming, and animation.