Dalhousie keeps PACE with automotive advances

HALIFAX – Engineering students at Dalhousie University will have access to state-of-the-art technology thanks to a $61 million in kind donation from PACE, Partners for the Advancement of CAD/CAM/CAE Education.

PACE is a consortium of private sector companies – Sun Microsystems, EDS and General

Motors – whose mission is to integrate 3D solid modelling and other Unigraphics-related applications into the curricula of various academic institutions.

Tom Traves, Dalhousie’s president, welcomed the donation, noting a more integrated approach to education and applied research is necessary in today’s competitive manufacturing environment.

“”This is a great day for higher education in the province of Nova Scotia,”” he said.

Massive changes have taken place in automotive manufacturing as consumer demand higher quality products, according to Phil Taylor, president of EDS PLM Solutions Canada. Students, he added, need to train using the latest tools, or else risk bleak prospects once they graduate.

“”PACE provides a technology infrastructure the university would otherwise have a difficult time getting,”” said Taylor.

Engineering graduates typically don’t have enough experience with the design tools used in automotive manufacturing, said Michael Grimaldi, president of General Motors of Canada.

“”When we hired them on at GM post-graduation, they typically require another 26 weeks of training,”” he said.

Students will get hands-on experience applying design and engineering concepts as they work on real-world industry projects. Fourth-year students at Dalhousie, for example, are tweaking the design on an existing automobile with the aim of having the car reach speeds in excess of 1200 km/h.

Getting the right tools in the hands of students today, said Everett Anstey, chairman of Sun Microsystems of Canada, “”means innovation in our factories tomorrow. Canada must invest strategically in education to ensure our success in the global marketplace and PACE is a true catalyst for innovation.””

EDS’s piece of the contribution consists of Unigraphics software, the defacto design program used in automobile manufacturing. Sun, meanwhile, will donate high-performance workstations for a new computing lab which has already been established.

Universities are expected to be on the leading edge, but that has become virtually impossible without partnering with corporations, said Bill Caley, dean of engineering at Dalhousie.

“”Our engineering faculty overall will improve as we learn with our students how to use these new tools,”” he said.

To date, PACE has provided 26 academic institutions in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Europe and China participating in the PACE program with more than $2.16 billion in design tools. Three Ontario universities are also participating in the PACE program: The University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo and Queen’s University.

Switching gears, Sun Microsystems made a stop at the National Research Council’s Canadian Bioinformatics Resource to announce the centre will become the NRC Sun Centre of Excellence, or COE, for Distributed Bioinformatics.

Sun and NRC are collaborating to create a grid computing network – powered by Sun technology – for the Canadian bioinformatics research community.

The NRC-CBR infrastructure includes a central cluster of Sun Enterprise midrange, Sun Fire midframe and netra servers as well as Sun servers deployed at member nodes nationwide which are connected to CA*net 4, Canada’s research network.

Applications such as MAGPIE, a software system used to automate the analysis of large DNA and protein data sets stored on Sun storage systems, will be accessible to researchers on the NRC-CBR network.

Modern biological research often involves processing large amounts of data, and this process can be greatly improved using grid computing, said Simon Mercer, CBR manager.

“”There are biologists spread across Canada who can’t afford the infrastructure to complete their research,”” he said.

Other Sun COEs in Canada include the University of Alberta for e-learning, the University of Calgary for visual genomics and the High Performance Computing Virtual Laboratory (HPCVL) for secure grid and portal computing.

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