OSPE Celebrates Canada 150

Recognizing past and future engineering innovations 

Throughout 2017, OSPE is highlighting how engineers have shaped Canada. We’ll be hosting events, spearheading initiatives and sharing stories focused on industries and projects that involve engineering across Ontario and how they’ve contributed to Canada’s past, present and future.

If you’d like to get involved, download our 2017 Sponsorship Kit or share your story with us by emailing stories@ospe.on.ca.

Upcoming events - check back regularly for details

National Engineering Month (NEM 2017)

March  |  Find out more

OSPE’s MPP Queen's Park Reception

April 25, 2017  |  Find out more
Toronto, Ontario

Ring of Fire & Northern Development Symposium

May 12, 2017  |  Find out more
North Bay, Ontario

Industry, government, First Nations and engineers will come together to discuss the sustainable economic development of the north, including the future of energy, infrastructure and mining in the region.

Social Advocacy

June 1, 2017
Toronto, Ontario

Exactly one year from Ontario's next provincial election, OSPE members can come together to preview OSPE's planned advocacy activities for the Fall of 2017, and discuss what engineers want out of the next government. How do we better organize and present ourselves as an important voting group?

Taking flight on the Canada 150 Global Odyssey (C150GO) and Member Appreciation

June 11, 2017  |  Find out more
Ottawa, Ontario

Join us at the Canadian Aviation Space Museum to network, learn about some of the unique features of the Bell 429 helicopter and to find out more about the C150GO's mission to raise awareness about Canadian engineering accomplishments and innovation.
Hors d'oeuvres and cash bar to follow.

150 Ways Engineering Has Shaped Canada

  • The world's first anti-gravity suit
    In 1940, the University of Toronto's Professor Wilbur R. Franks designed the world's first anti-gravity suit for air force pilots, who frequently blacked out from intense g-force pressures during flight. Franks noticed that when packed in water, his test tubes did not shatter during centrifugal testing, so he applied similar tactics to the human body when designing his rubber-based suit. Franks personally tested the anti-gravity suit at Camp Borden west of Barrie, Ontario, until it created enough hydrostatic pressure to safely counter centrifugal forces. Franks' suit has fundamentally influenced the design of the modern anti-gravity gear.

  • The first mass produced airplane in Canada
    First flown in 1917, the Curtiss JN-4 "Canuck" was the first aircraft to be mass produced in Canada. Canadian Aeroplanes Ltd. of Toronto built about 1,200 JN-4 Canucks—the standard training plane used by the British and American Air Forces during the First World War. Known for its stability and manoeuverability, the JN-4 Canuck became the go-to aircraft for stunt flights and achieved more "firsts" than any other Canadian aircraft. This model was the first to cross the Canadian Rockies and to deliver airmail in Canada.

  • First powered flight in Canada
    On February 23, 1909, aviation pioneer and engineer John Alexander Douglas McCurdy, made the first powered flight in Canada in a plane called the Silver Dart. Taking off from frozen Bras d'Or Lake at Baddeck on Cape Breton Island, the plane was constructed by the Aerial Experiment Association, which was founded by Alexander Graham Bell and several other prominent engineers. The plane was powered by a 40-horsepower Curtiss engine and was composed of steel tubing, bamboo, friction tape, wire, wood and rubberized silk balloon cloth. Unlike the Wright Brothers' plane, the Silver Dart had a three-wheel undercarriage that enabled it to take off without the use of a catapult aid. Learn more about the Silver Dart in this archived CBC interview with J.A.D. McCurdy.

  • Engineering graduates as ideal astronauts
    Travelling through space is a physically and psychologically demanding undertaking. Engineers are often particularly suited to participate in space missions because of their technical competence, analytical outlooks, problem-solving abilities and whole-systems thinking. Take a look at the remarkable profiles of the engineering graduates (many of whom were educated in Ontario) who are on the Canadian Space Agency's list of astronaut candidates.

  • Celebrating a historical female engineer
    Elizabeth Muriel Gregory "Elsie" MacGill, was the first woman to graduate with a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Toronto. She later became the first woman to earn a Master's degree in aeronautical engineering. During World War II, she became the chief aeronautical engineer heading the production of the Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft. MacGill is considered the first woman aircraft designer.

  • Creating the Canadarm
    The Canadarm is a remote-controlled robotic arm originally used on the NASA's Space Shuttle orbiters and currently aboard the International Space Station. The first arm was produced in 1981 by a team of Canadian engineers from Toronto and Montreal who applied their knowledge from previous work on a robotic arm used in the CANDU nuclear power system.
  • The Trans Canada Highway
    The Trans-Canada Highway, which officially opened in 1962, extends 7,821 kilometres from Victoria, British Columbia to St. John's, Newfoundland, making it the world's longest national highway. The Trans-Canada Highway links several provincial highways and includes Confederation Bridge, Canso Causeway and three ferry routes. Construction of the highway formally began in 1950 and required innovative construction and paving techniques to navigate sections of isolated wilderness, British Columbia's mountains, northern Ontario's swamps, and even Prince Edward Island's flat terrain, where rock had to be shipped across the Northumberland Straight to construct the highway's base.

  • Rides, rollercoasters and Canada's Wonderland
    Opening in 1981, Canada's Wonderland became the first major amusement park in Canada. Twelve Canadian engineering and architectural firms collaborated to design and construct the park. Structural, mechanical and electrical engineers, among others, continue to work on the design, build and maintenance of the park's rollercoasters and rides. Materials selection, track development and the inspection of mechanical parts from chain lifts to braking systems are only some of the responsibilities of amusement park engineers. Check out this video on the engineering behind a rollercoaster.

  • The earliest snow research
    Ontario-born mechanical engineering graduate George Klein was deemed "Canada's leading expert in snow cover physics and mechanics" in the 1930s. Klein helped create the international classification system for ground-cover snow, which guides research in construction, transportation and avalanche prevention. He was also a leading designer of aircraft skis, which he cleverly added to bush planes to promote the exploration of previously inaccessible areas of Canadian terrain. The mechanical instruments he developed for the military during WWII were later adapted to create the first military snow vehicle.

  • The Gordie Howe International Bridge
    Projected to open to traffic in 2022, the Gordie Howe International Bridge will connect Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan, fostering transportation improvements for international travellers and economic opportunities for the region. Though not yet built, the bridge was recently awarded the 2017 Engineering Project of the Year Award at the 10th Global Infrastructure Leadership Forum in Montreal for the planned incorporation of distinctive features, including customs plazas and a bike and pedestrian path. Proposed designs include a cable-stayed and a suspension cable bridge.

  • Creating connections through waterways
    The Rideau Canal–the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America–still runs along its original line and with most of its original structures intact. Lieutenant-Colonel John By of the Royal Engineers designed and supervised the construction of the 202-kilometre canal through tough rocky terrain and bush. The waterway played a pivotal role in the early development of Canada by transporting migrants and supplies.

  • Improving efficiency and safety
    Elijah McCoy was an African-Canadian mechanical engineer who patented over 50 inventions, including the portable ironing board and lawn sprinkler. McCoy is best known, for his self-regulating drip-cup lubricator, which drastically improved efficiency and safety aboard locomotives and in factories and mines in the early 1870s. "The Real McCoy"–a phrase still used today–was adopted by buyers to distinguish between the high-quality original and lower quality imitation devices. Learn more on the Society Notes blog.

  • Connecting Canada from coast to coast
    The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) or transcontinental railway was a feat of engineering that played an important role in the expansion of Confederation, promoting the settlement of Western Canada. The railway is marvelled not only because of its challenging construction through the rock and muskeg of the Canadian Shield, but over the years, the CPR has also helped spur new industries rich in engineering influence, including the development of new shipping lines, airlines, and the mining and telecommunications industries.

  • William Gordon Morison, P.Eng., and Canada's nuclear energy program
    William Gordon Morison, P.Eng., helped design the first CANDU reactor and is remembered as a pioneer of Canada's nuclear energy program. Morison was head of engineering at Ontario Hydro during the development of the nuclear power program in the late 1960s - early 1970s. He was Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.'s chief design engineer for both the Pickering and Bruce Nuclear Generating Stations. Morison also played an instrumental role in maintaining the highest safety and production standards during the construction of the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, despite Ontario hydro's many budgetary and scheduling setbacks.

  • The first Canadian nuclear reactor
    During his time at the Canadian National Research Council (NRC), George Klein was the chief engineer and mechanical designer of the Zero Energy Experimental Pile (ZEEP), located near Chalk River. ZEEP was the first nuclear reactor outside of the United States to sustain nuclear fission.

  • Inventing alkaline & lithium batteries
    Lewis Frederick Urry, an Ontario-born chemical engineering graduate and inventor, is credited with inventing both the alkaline and lithium battery. His revolutionary decision to create cells with acid-neutralizing materials and powdered zinc, extended the life span of the battery. Before his death in 2004, Urry achieved 51 patents. Read more in this article from The Globe and Mail.

  • Residential river turbine for green energy
    Two engineering graduates from Quebec have developed the Idénergie river turbine that converts the kinetic energy of river currents into electricity. The technology is intended to make renewable energy practical and affordable for homeowners. The turbine's subwater electric generator technology provides 24 hours of constant energy at a maximum capacity of 12 kWh. A bi-directional converter facilitates the transportation of electricity to the turbine's batteries over long distances without significant losses. The Darrieus-type turbines are shown to present no harm to the river ecosystem and aquatic fauna.

  • Nanoflotation technology for oil sands water treatment
    David Bromley, P.Eng., president of David Bromley Engineering, invented a cost effective "Nanoflotation" technology that reduces the energy required to filter water involved in oil sands mining operations by up to 65 per cent. The technology uses a concentrated ionically charged environment to separate colloidal solids from the fluid medium for removal. The process reduces carbon emissions during water treatment, and reduces the number of chemicals required to treat process water by 86 percent. Nanoflotation allows oil sands operators to reuse all process water, thereby reducing the size of tailings ponds and amount of offsite disposal from oil sands mining operations.

  • Embracing the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system
    The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system is recognized as the international mark of excellence for green building in over 140 countries. Outside of the US, Canada has the largest number of both LEED-certified and LEED-registered buildings in the world. As of March 2016, engineers have played a leading role in the creation of about 44 million m² of LEED New Construction (NC) buildings and about 24 million m² of existing building projects in Canada.

  • Developing community solutions in northern Ontario
    In July 2016, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada put out a request for proposals to study the economic sustainability of greenhouses in northern communities. The long distances that food must be transported, high rates of spoilage, limited availability and high cost of food products, has prompted engineers and engineering graduates, like Andreas Zailo to develop sustainable, hybrid solar/geothermal greenhouse models.

  • Specialized robot to defuse landmines
    Richard Yim, a University of Waterloo mechanical engineering graduate, started a company called The Landmine Boys to develop a robotic device for defusing landmines without human interaction. Based out of Velocity, Waterloo's startup incubator, the team has developed a portable excavator that safely digs up landmines while stabilizing the detonator to prevent an explosion. The robot then cuts the landmine open to steam out the TNT explosives inside.

  • Innovation in industrial measurement
    Founded in 1953 by George Kelk, P.Eng., KELK (now Vishay Precision Group Canada) is a Canadian company specializing in the design and manufacture of electronic measurement equipment used mainly in steel and aluminum rolling mills, paper mills and mining applications around the world. To create his custom-engineered sensors, Kelk applied the experience he acquired while working on strain gages for the stress testing of jet engine turbines in the Orenda jet engines division at AVRO Canada. To this day, Canada is known to produce the toughest and the most precise tension sensors for use in the harshest steel mill environments around the world.

  • Industrializing Canada's agricultural-based economy
    Civil engineer C.D. Howe relocated from Massachusetts to become Dalhousie University's first professor of civil engineering. Between 1916-1935, he designed grain elevators that were quicker and more economical to build than competitor models. His design for the Dominion-Howe unloader further increased efficiency by significantly reducing the amount of time required to empty a grain car.

  • The Distillery District
    Toronto's Distillery District, now a national historic site and restored tourist destination, was once the fully operational Gooderham and Worts Distillery. The entire district was primarily designed by David Roberts, Sr., a civil engineer, and his son David Roberts, Jr., an architect. In 1858, David Roberts, Sr. began constructing the Great Stone Distillery, which was considered the most ambitious industrial building erected in the city at the time. Roberts introduced novel infrastructural designs and materials, including the use of red-brick and panel-and-pier construction. He also managed the entire construction process, oversaw the distillery's steam-powered machinery and introduced new manufacturing and purification processes.

  • The Trans Canada Pipeline
    The TransCanada Pipeline is a system of natural gas pipelines that extend from Alberta to Quebec and into parts of the United States. Thanks to the influence of C.D. Howe, P.Eng., TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. began constructing the pipeline along an all-Canadian route in the early 1950s. Engineers built the pipeline through even the most arduous sections of terrain, including the 1,090-kilometre-long section through the Canadian Shield, which required precise blasting procedures. For two decades, the TransCanada Pipeline was considered the longest in the world. Today, pipeline engineers continue to maintain the integrity of the pipeline, managing re-coating processes, safety inspections, the evaluation of geotechnical hazards, ground stability, excavations and more.

  • The St. Lawrence Seaway
    The St. Lawrence Seaway links the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River with the Atlantic Ocean, making it the longest deep-draft navigation system in the world. Four of the canals on the northern shore of the St. Lawrence River were completed by The Royal Engineers as early as 1783. The seven locks built between Montreal and Lake Ontario, alone, are recognized as one of the most challenging feats of engineering in history. The engineering behind the St. Lawrence Seaway also includes the construction of bridges and tunnels; the creation of Lake St. Lawrence; and the relocation of highways and residential communities.

  • The first NRC wind tunnels
    During his time with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), mechanical engineering graduate George Klein conducted critical wind tunnel research and aeronautical studies that helped progress Canada's aviation manufacturing industry, as well as the construction of streamliner locomotives, bridges and buildings. Klein's contributions to the construction of the "nine-foot wind tunnel" improved the assessment of new products and processes. For instance, his closed-circuit Göttingen design reduced energy use and helped control the effects of external variables during testing.

  • The Union Station Train Shed Project
    Every day an average of 200,000 commuters pass through Toronto's Union Station, which is Canada's busiest passenger transportation hub. Metrolinx and The City of Toronto began the Union Station Revitalization Project in 2010 to optimize the station's operations capacity. Engineers, heritage architects and Parks Canada have collaborated to responsibly update this designated heritage structure, blending innovative design and historic structural features. Learn more about some of the engineering challenges that the team encountered in this OSPE blog post.

  • Restoring water security to Constance Lake First Nation
    Many First Nations across Ontario cope with boil water advisories, aging water treatment infrastructure and poor surface-based drinking water supplies. Engineers play an important role in establishing facilities like the Constance Lake Water Treatment Plant, which permit sustainable maintenance costs and operational requirements. The Constance Lake Water Treatment plant features innovative technologies like greensand filtration equipment that address unsafe levels of iron and manganese in the groundwater supply. OSPE member Wesley Bova, P.Eng., discusses his role in the development of the plant in this OSPE blog post.

  • Revolutionizing the steel-making industry
    Retired Canadian engineer Gerald Heffernan pioneered a more efficient and cost-effective process to produce steel. Referred to as mini-mill steel manufacturing, Heffernan's innovative process combines continuous casting with the use of enhanced electric arc furnaces. This self-contained practice allows mills to recycle scrap metal and does not require the use of coke ovens and blast furnaces, thereby mitigating harmful environmental effects. Heffernan was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1987 for his efforts.

  • Anchoring high rises into moving ground
    Glaciers that once stood where Toronto exists today pressed the Earth's crust into the soft mantle beneath it. Today, the mantle continues to rebound, causing Toronto's skyline to raise an amount roughly equivalent to the thickness of a nickel, every year. As a result, anchoring high rises into moving ground is a challenge for the city's engineers and required specialized building techniques to accommodate. Check out Strip the City's video clip: 5:15 - 9:00 minute mark.

  • Building protection during times of conflict
    The Fortress of Louisbourg marks a 1713 French settlement on Cape Breton Island that was fortified to protect against threat of British invasion. Parisian military engineer, Jean-Francois du Verger de Verville, originally designed this National Historic Site, including the citadel barracks, and drew the first plan of the town. Verville shrewdly selected the location so as to take advantage of its natural barriers within his design.

  • Creating the world's first underwater pedestrian tunnel
    The Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport Pedestrian Tunnel is the world's first underwater pedestrian tunnel to an airport. During the tunnel's construction, it was the first time that a seven-drift arch pre-support excavation technique was used in Canada. The use of seven smaller, concrete-filled tunnels that arch over the main tunnel allowed excavation to continue under the crown while enabling the tunnel to hold its shape. This feet of engineering rests 100 feet below Lake Ontario's Western Channel and is 260 metres in length.

  • Accommodating urban population growth
    Engineers, architects and developers are helping accommodate urban population growth, while reducing land usage, by supporting vertical development. Canada is currently ranked seventh in the world and second in North America based on the number of completed buildings standing at 150 metres tall and higher.

  • Building the tallest tower in the world (between 1976-2010!)
    Toronto's CN Tower held onto its title as the world's tallest tower, building and freestanding structure from 1976-2010. The 553.33-metre-tall phenomenon was built to last, harnessing innovative engineering techniques that include a hexagonal concrete core with embedded post-tension cables and a centre of gravity less than 61 metres from the ground.

  • Creating the world's first fully retractable roof
    The Rogers Centre or "Skydome" is recognized as the world's first fully retractable roof, and is made up of four panels–three of which open in a smooth, circular motion. Although the roof covers a whopping 8 acres and weighs 11,000 tonnes, this feat of engineering nonetheless opens and closes in only 20 minutes.

  • Conserving Canada's history
    A heritage preservation movement has developed in many Canadian cities. From national parks to historical forts and waterfront revitalizations, engineers work closely with multi-disciplinary teams of professionals like architects, archaeologists and historians to adhere to the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada. Engineers can help balance the conservation of various structures and materials, with the smooth integration of modern updates and sustainability interventions.

  • Health technologies for self-care of complex chronic conditions
    Biomedical Engineer Dr. Joseph Cafazzo, P.Eng., Director of the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, designs and evaluates self-care technologies for patients with complex chronic conditions. For instance, Dr. Cafazzo and his team have developed a mobile phone self-management system for adolescents with type 1 diabetes called bant. This application uses Bluetooth to automatically translate blood sugar readings to patients' iPhones, identifies trends and uses social media and games to incentivize young patients to take their readings regularly.

  • The design of new materials for tissue engineering, implants and medical devices
    Professor Paul Santerre of U of T's Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) and Faculty of Dentistry, has chemically engineered a novel polymer that prevents blood clots in patients fitted with medical tubing. Surface Modifying Macromolecules (referred by the trade name Endexo™) are added during the manufacture of PICC catheters and other medical devices, so that the molecules do not shed over time, thereby reducing incidents of clots by as much as 87% during lab trials.

  • The first microsurgical staple gun
    Mechanical engineering graduate George Klein, who was inducted into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame, was a co-inventor of the first microsurgical staple gun. This microsurgical suturing device helped envelope and reconnect severed blood vessels, arteries and veins. Though outdated by today's medical standards, the tool was used in hundreds of experimental surgeries in the 1960s and 1970s.

  • Spearheading pacemaker technology
    John Hopps, P.Eng., is considered the Father of Biomedical Engineering in Canada. Hopps produced an electrode that could stimulate the lining of the heart and shock irregular heart contractions into a normal rhythm, without opening a patient's chest. The early pacemaker was too large for implantation, but in 1958, the pacemaker was implanted into a human for the first time.

  • The Detour Lake Mine
    The Detour Lake mine, located in northeastern Ontario, is one of the largest gold-producing mines in Canada. Exploration continues on this large-scale open pit mine, which is estimated to contain a reserve of at least 16.4 million ounces of gold. The mine's facilities use state-of-the-art technology and masterfully engineered processes to minimize the environmental impacts of the operation and protect nearby wildlife. For example, the Detour Lake mining operation's conventional gravity, cyanidation and carbon-in-pulp processing facility recycles its cyanide solution to reduce operating costs and consequences.

  • Bringing the industrial Internet of Things to the mining industry
    Edmonton-based company Scanimetrics is bringing the industrial Internet of Things into the mining space by using wireless sensors that can be fitted to anything (a person, a vehicle, a tool) in the harshest of conditions to monitor operations from thousands of miles away. Sensor pods run off a battery that can last up to a year on one charge and transmit to a repeater, data capture unit or Internet gateway. Scanimetrics then analyzes the data and turns it into digestible visualizations.

  • The Role of Engineers in Policy Advocacy
    Manitoba-based Eric Hinton, P.Eng., is a driver of leading-edge #mining solutions and was the 2016 recipient of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum's Mining Engineering Outstanding Achievement Award. Hinton is the co-owner of three important patents concerning the operation of underground autonomous loading equipment, 3D mapping of rock faces, and analyses of rock fragmentation.

  • The modern-day zipper
    Swedish-born electrical engineer Gideon Sundbäck invented the modern-day zipper in 1913. Sundbäck's "Hookless No. 1" mounted facing teeth on a piece of tape, hooking them together using a slider. A year later, he improved his design by introducing interlocking teeth. Sundbäck then developed the manufacturing process required to make the zipper in St. Catherines, Ontario, where he also opened one of the first zipper factories.

  • The Storable Tubular Extendible Member (STEM) Antenna George Klein, a mechanical engineering graduate from U of T, developed the retractable Storable Tubular Extendible Member (STEM) radio antenna, which was incorporated into more than 100 innovations, including the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecrafts. The antenna, which could be reeled in and unrolled on command, extended up to 45 metres in length, greatly surpassing its 6-metre-long predecessor. Klein later worked on gear design for the first Canadarm.

  • George Klein and the First Electric Wheelchair
    Born in Hamilton, Ontario, George Klein was a mechanical engineering graduate from the University of Toronto who worked for the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) for 40 years. Throughout his career, Klein was a key player on multi-disciplinary teams that were responsible for more than 1,000 innovations, including the first electric wheelchair. Klein's electric wheelchair featured a joystick, tighter turning systems and separate wheel drives, which remain key components of modern electric wheelchairs.

  • Universal Standard Time
    Civil engineer Sir Sandford Fleming invented Universal Standard Time in 1885, introducing 24 global time zones, each 15 degrees of longitude in width and one hour of solar time apart. Given the expansion of the railway and rapid pace at which passengers could travel greater distances, Fleming realized the need for a standardized system of timekeeping. No longer would major centres need to set their own clocks based on local astronomical conditions.

  • The Pacific Cable Station
    In the 1870s, Canadian civil engineer Sir Sandford Fleming proposed the creation of a submarine cable that would facilitate direct communication between Britain and Australia via Britain's colonies, including Canada. The engineering firm Clarke, Ford and Taylor was responsible for carrying out the project, including drawing up the plans and specifications of the cable stations.

Southport Cable Hut side

  • Advancing the movie-going experience
    The IMAX film format and projection system was co-founded by a team of four Canadians, including Ontario's William Shaw, P.Eng. The IMAX system facilitated the recording and display of images of far greater size and resolution than conventional systems, and only required one powerful projector. IMAX technology was innovative in its use of specialized cameras, wide screens, and 70mm film stock—which is ten times the size of that used in a regular theatre.


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