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Tech support: RRC Entrepreneurs-in-residence find innovative ways to help communities during COVID-19

May 22, 2020

Innovation is their business, so it’s no surprise some of Red River College’s past and present partners have found innovative ways to help their communities cope with the COVID-19 outbreak.

The partners in question have all served as Entrepreneurs-in-residence (EiR), startup creators who team with RRC students, instructors and staff and work at the College’s ACE Project Space to bring business ideas to life.

GO OIL CANADA

John Sparrow, for instance, recently made headlines when his business, Go Oil Canada, began offering free mobile oil changes to those working on the frontlines in the battle against COVID-19, including health-care workers.

“The idea started with one of our franchisees, and we adopted the offer across the company as a way to take positive action and give back to those who are working so hard to keep us safe,” says Sparrow.

Go Oil provides on-demand mobile oil changes to customers — including corporate fleets — across 14 Canadian cities. Since its services were already contact-free for the most part, the company didn’t have far to pivot to adapt to social distancing restrictions. In fact, Go Oil has witnessed a surge in bookings over the past couple months.

Sparrow served as an EiR in 2019, when students in RRC’s Business Information Technology (BIT) program helped develop and build Go Oil’s online scheduling and booking system.

“It’s not just about being profitable, it’s about being relevant, about showing people what a new world can look like and how even an oil change can be part of that.” Read More →

Instructors partner with local makers and hobbyists to fight COVID-19

May 8, 2020

Faculty at Red River College have stepped up to help produce ‘ear savers’ for Manitoba’s frontline workers.

Rob Ataman, Serge Broeska, Jesse Jamison and Nino Caldarola — all instructors in RRC’s Mechanical Engineering Technology and Manufacturing Technician programs — each volunteered to bring home one of the College’s four 3D printers, which are capable of producing the pieces. Ear savers are plastic adapters worn at the back of the head to hold medical masks in place and eliminate strain, irritation and blisters caused by elastic straps.

“When I got the call to make these ear savers, I jumped at the opportunity,” says Broeska, whose wife works as a physician at Health Sciences Centre. “As a technical college with a stellar reputation in the community, RRC is ideally suited to do its part and is contributing in so many ways. I felt this project was a no-brainer — a way to contribute while having to stay at home during this period of social isolation.”

The College has partnered with Winnipeg Fighting Covid, a group of local hobbyists and makers who are using their personal 3D printers to create, sanitize and deliver the ear savers, and other protective equipment (PPE). The group has received approval and guidelines from Shared Health Manitoba to create and distribute the ear savers, and currently has 121 printers signed on to help with the cause.

“We are Manitobans and when there is a need, Manitobans jump in to help,” says Marc Hache, a Winnipeg Fighting Covid volunteer. “Prior to our group’s formation, individual makers had — on their own initiative — sought out those in need, and printed and delivered well over 10,000 units.”

Hache says every partner approached has responded enthusiastically, and he is proud to be part of the worldwide maker community’s response to the crisis.

The RRC crew estimated they would be able to produce approximately 800 units per week, but wound up making more than 1,200 in the first seven days with the help of some friendly competition.

“There’s actually a bit of a competition going on among the instructors to print as many ear savers as possible,” Broeska says. “This project has really brought us together, where we can share ideas and have a bit of fun while we fight this pandemic.” Read More →

More supports needed for RRC students impacted by COVID-19

April 21, 2020

Red River College is appealing to its donor community, alumni and partners to help provide additional funding for students who have been financially impacted by COVID-19.

The RRC COVID-19 Emergency Student Support Fund, launched April 9 and nearing $140,000 in donations, has received an overwhelming number of applicants and can’t meet the needs of all those who have applied.

“Since opening up this fund to our students last week, we’ve seen numerous applications come in showcasing how dire the need is to support our students through this pandemic,” says Dr. Christine Watson, the College’s interim President and CEO.

“The recent support we’ve received from the RRC Students’ Association and from our staff and donors will allow us to transfer vital funds to the deserving many who need our help.”

The Students’ Association (RRCSA) pitched in $20,000 to help fellow students struggling with financial hardships.

“Supporting our students is our highest priority and this a tangible way we can do that,” says Josh Roopchand, Students’ Association president (shown above, second from left, with other members of the RRCSA executive last November). “We are pleased to join this effort and thank all the partners for responding so quickly to students in need.”​

The donation is just one example of the RRCSA’s commitment to supporting students. A long-time partner of the College, the groups funds a number of bursaries and awards. In recent years, they also contributed $200,000 to the student-run coffee shop at RRC’s Skilled Trades and Technology Centre, as well as $50,000 to the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute at the College’s Exchange District Campus. Read More →

CreComm grad goes viral with Lego makeover for Prime Minister’s speech

April 15, 2020

In the midst of a global pandemic, ‘going viral’ has some iffy connotations. But for Red River College grad Tyler Walsh, the digital equivalent has proven a pretty cool experience.

On March 22, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed Canadian children in a customized press briefing, Walsh and his two sons decided to do something fun: refresh the PM’s speech with Lego.

The result? A stop-motion video that resonated with people around the world and garnered hundreds of thousands of views on social media.

“The reaction from parents and educators has been the best part of this,” says Walsh. “Having them tell me that it’s opened up new doors for them to talk with kids about this unprecedented time is heartening.”

A journalism major while enrolled in RRC’s Creative Communications program, Walsh’s work experience at Global News Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Free Press gave him the freedom to explore fresh approaches to storytelling, including two previous stop-motion Lego projects.

“Throughout my entire career, I’ve always sought out ways to tell a story differently — to take a look at what’s been done and try to build on that or find a new way to put the information out there,” says Walsh.

“I got to ‘play’ with technology and figure out ways push our stories further.” Read More →

College to continue alternative delivery of programs and services; on-campus classes remain suspended until fall

April 3, 2020

Red River College will continue providing alternative delivery models for programs and services for the upcoming spring and summer terms, which means there will be no on-campus classes or public events until September.

Work integrated learning (practicums, clinical, work experience) will continue to be suspended except for those instances that can be completed using online or alternative approaches. Co-op/industry placements will continue at the discretion of the workplace employer.

Today’s announcement extends the timeframe that students, faculty and staff are expected to work off-campus in order to meet increasingly stringent public health directives aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Manitoba.

“We know this is a challenging time for students, faculty and staff,” says Dr. Christine Watson, interim president and CEO of RRC. “With public health advice changing regularly, we felt that it was important to make a decision that allows for planning certainty throughout the rest of spring and summer.”

Watson lauded the hard work, commitment and creativity of faculty and staff in making the transition to alternative delivery over the past few weeks.

“We have seen our faculty and staff re-imagine their work via technology in a way — and at a pace — that we never thought possible. I also know that we have students who are struggling to adapt to this new reality. We are thankful for all of those who are working together to find a way through this unprecedented situation.

“We would love to be able to re-open our doors and go back to the hustle and bustle of our vibrant campuses. But that simply isn’t an option. We also know that when we begin to rebuild our economy, Manitoba will need Red River College — students will need training to get jobs and launch their careers, and industry will depend upon our grads to fill their workforce needs. Read More →

Jordin Tootoo shares story of hope, hockey and mental health at RRC

February 6, 2020

“I owe my life to this game.”

That’s how Jordin Tootoo summed up his 15-year NHL hockey career when he retired in 2018. Thanks to teammates who helped him grieve the loss of a brother to suicide, Tootoo went on to thrive on the ice for the Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils and Chicago Blackhawks.

On Wednesday, he shared the story of his journey with Red River College students, instructors and staff.

Tootoo’s visit is part of RRC’s college-wide mental health strategy, Healthy Minds Healthy College, which was established five years ago to foster mental health and enhance mental health literacy at the College.

Jordin Tootoo talks to RRC studentThe need for more mental health resources is urgent, says Tootoo:

“It’s part of Canada that a lot of people struggle with mental health and addiction, suicide. These issues are a national epidemic.”

Of Inuit and Ukrainian descent, Tootoo is the NHL’s first Inuk player. As an Indigenous athletic leader, he says he has long understood his responsibility as a role model. He spoke openly and honestly to an audience of more than 300 RRC students and staff about the growing need for mental health resources, and the importance of fighting taboos around discussing mental illness.

Following his retirement from hockey, Tootoo devoted his time to charity and community outreach, especially in northern communities. He was awarded a Meritorious Service Medal for his work in Nunavut promoting healthy living and encouraging conversations about difficult topics such as addiction and suicide. Read More →

True North to debut new jerseys featuring logos designed by RRC grad

January 16, 2020

The Winnipeg Jets and the Manitoba Moose will take to the ice this weekend in jerseys bearing Indigenous-inspired logos designed by a Red River College graduate.

Leticia Spence, who completed RRC’s Graphic Design program last year, created the logos while on a work placement with True North Sports + Entertainment.

They’ll be featured on warm-up jerseys worn by the Jets during their pre-game skate on Friday, Jan. 17, and on game jerseys worn by the Moose on Saturday, Jan. 18. Friday’s game coincides with the second annual Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre (WASAC) Night hosted by the Jets, and Saturday’s game with the Moose’s Follow Your Dreams Day.

Leticia Spence (centre) with WASAC participants“It’s pretty surreal to me,” Spence told CBC News last week, when the teams’ new gear was unveiled at the Neeginan Centre as part of the NHL’s “This Is Hockey” initiative, which aims to promote diversity and inclusiveness in hockey.

When Spence first designed the logos, she wanted to avoid resorting to feathers or circles with four points, symbols she felt were overused in representing Indigenous culture. Instead, she reviewed artifacts, researched the work of modern Indigenous artists, and turned to members of her family and home community — Pimicikamak First Nation — for inspiration.

“Each tribe has a visual language to express their views of the world,” she said at the time. “I wanted to show that we’re united by including motifs, symbols and patterns from many different Indigenous cultures and tribes in the logos.”

Funds raised from last year’s WASAC Night and Follow Your Dream Day went to support WASAC events taking place this weekend, when 60 students from northern First Nations will travel to Winnipeg to take part in tours and activities, including a group skate with Indigenous role models such as Olympian Brigette Lacquette.

When the new logos were first unveiled last year, WASAC co-founder Kevin Chief said his initial response was amazement and pride.

“I felt proud of being Indigenous, proud of the mentorship and support from RRC, proud of the partnership between Leticia and the team at True North, and proud to be able to showcase her work on this scale,” he said.

Inset photo credit: Gary Solilak, CBC News Winnipeg

RRC research chair among latest Order of Canada appointees

January 13, 2020

Portrait of Jan SandersonA Red River College research chair has been named a member of the Order of Canada, in recognition of her lifelong commitment to the health and well-being of young children.

Jan Sanderson, a research chair with the College’s School of Health Sciences and Community Services, was among 120 new companions, officers and members of the order announced by the Governor General in December.

Sanderson was recognized “for her leadership within Manitoba’s pubic service by promoting improved quality of life and health for children.” She was one of only three Manitobans to receive the designation, along with physician and researcher Cheryl Rockman-Greenberg and TV and film producer Louis-Frederic Paquin.

Sanderson says she grateful to those who nominated her for the honour, but noted the irony of being singled out for work in the field of early child development, where “every success depends on partnerships and collaboration.”

“I have been incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to work with amazing, committed people across multiple sectors — government, non-profit, academia, health and education — to support children and their families,” she says.

“And now the opportunity with the research team at RRC seems like the icing on the cake. The work that is done by this quiet but mighty team is impacting on children’s well-being locally, nationally and around the world.” Read More →

TACAM harnesses aerospace manufacturing technology in fight against cancer

November 20, 2019

Close-up of carbon fibre panelIt may not look like much, but the panel pictured at left — built by staff at Red River College’s Technology Access Centre for Aerospace and Manufacturing (TACAM) — is a powerful weapon in CancerCare Manitoba’s fight to save lives.

Dave Austin, a program facilitator for TACAM, says the panels are fabricated by hand using the same materials, equipment and processes that students in RRC’s Aerospace Manufacturing program use to create aircraft paneling.

“The process is simply a matter of getting the materials (graphite and aluminum) cut into the size they need, and pressing them together to create a solid piece.”

The compressed sheet is heated in an oven for 90 minutes and then cooled, removing the air to ensure the plies bond. The result is a quarter-inch, 30-ply aerospace-grade sheet of carbon fibre.

From each panel, CancerCare fabricates indexing bars designed to help cancer patients maintain the same body position across multiple radiation treatments.

Chad Harris, a member of the Department of Medical Devices at CCMB, says the carbon fibre has unique properties that make it especially useful for radiation treatment.

“When you’re firing a beam of radiation at a tumour, it’s critical to maintain an exact distance between the beam and the tumour each time you do it.” Read More →

Opportunities await: Students help streamline operations for employment aid organization

November 4, 2019

Red River College’s ACE Project Space is opening new doors for Equal Opportunities West.

An initiative of RRC’s Applied Computer Education (ACE) department, the ACE Project Space plays host to students working in conjunction with corporations, entrepreneurs and non-profits to bring business and project ideas to reality.

Students in the interactive workshop recently created an application for Equal Opportunities West (EOW) to automate its scheduling system. The organization provides support services to people with work barriers — such as physical and intellectual disabilities or mental health issues — to help secure competitive employment or start businesses of their own.

The non-profit also runs a day program for people with intellectual disabilities.

“We as an organization have expanded so much over the years,” says Susan Morgan, EOW’s executive director. “We really felt it was getting difficult to schedule everybody and get everything on paper. Just physically keeping track of everybody was becoming a daunting task.”

“We had an idea for an app. We heard about the ACE program and we went down to meet with them and they certainly thought it was something they could help with. I had looked at these canned apps, but they were mostly for the restaurant industry. There are lots of good scheduling apps out there, but nothing quite as in-depth and comprehensive as what we needed.” Read More →