Enterprising GraduatesEmad Rizkalla, President and CEO, Bluedrop Inc.
Emad Rizkalla co-founded Bluedrop Performance Learning (previously known as ZeddComm Inc.) upon graduation from Memorial University in 1992 with a bachelor's degree in engineering. He is a professional engineer with 12 years of IT industry experience and an additional background in marketing, organizational leadership, strategies for ROI, business strategy and corporate governance. Under his leadership, Bluedrop has grown to become one of the pre-eminent e-learning companies in North America. It currently has offices in St. John's, Halifax, Ottawa, Washington DC and Los Angeles. Deloitte and Touché recently recognized Bluedrop as one of Canada's Fast 50 Technology Companies and also as one of North America's Fast 500. Bluedrop has consistently appeared in the "Profit 100" list over the past 5 years. Mr. Rizkalla is recognized as a visionary in the IT industry and was featured prominently as a leading Canadian innovator in the book "Innovation Nation: Canadian Leadership from Java to Jurassic Park". Mr. Rizkalla has also lectured with public and private colleges extensively on marketing strategy, ROI, leadership and entrepreneurship. He has spent several months as a lecturer with Cabot College on these topics. He has also moderated and/or chaired sessions on Canada's place in the global economy and issues related to quality, innovation and trends and developments in the IT industry. Rizkalla is past chair of the NATI (a Technology Industry Association) and sits on the Board of Directors for Operation ONLINE (an R&D innovation fund). He is currently the Chairman of The Genesis Group (the technology transfer corporation for Memorial University). He also chairs the Small Business Advisory Council for the Royal Bank. He was the recipient of the Business Development Bank of Canada's "Young Entrepreneur of the Year" award in 1997, and was honored as one of Canada's Top 40 Under 40 for his leadership and vision in May 2000. From 2000 to 2003, Rizkalla sat on a Task Force Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) that reported to Minister Pettigrew on issues relating to exporting. He currently sits on an advisory board to DFAIT which is overseeing the implementation of new export related initiatives and policies. Mr. Rizkalla was profiled in a cover story on Young, Dynamic Entrepreneurs Who Will Create the 21st Century by TIME Magazine and has been featured on CBC's The National Magazine, City TV, BBC Radio, the Financial Post, and Maclean's Magazine.
Mona El-Tahan, President and CEO of InCoreTec
Mona El-Tahan has broken many boundaries in her days as an engineer and her experience at Memorial's Faculty of Engineering was no different. In 1980, Mona was the first woman to complete a Master's Degree in Ocean Engineering at MUN. Now, she is the president and CEO of her own applied engineering and consulting firm, InCoreTec Incorporated (formerly known as CORETEC and established in 1988) which uses patented navigational software technology to help the marine industry.
Mona may be best known for her work on iceberg drift prediction, which she began as a graduate student; developing the first mathematical model in North America to predict iceberg movement as part of her master's thesis at Memorial. A native of Egypt, Mona attended the civil engineering school at Cairo University. In 1975, she immigrated to St. John's, Newfoundland, with her husband Hussein, who is vice president and technical director of research and development projects at InCoreTec and also an engineer. Mona says she endured culture and climate shock as well as homesickness during the first months of her life in Canada. However, the welcoming atmosphere at MUN, and the Newfoundland people in general, helped her to overcome this. Mona says she loves this province for its beauty and its people. "I love Newfoundland and Newfoundland is my home," says El-Tahan. "I have two Newfoundland sons and both are at MUN. Tahmir is in his in last year at Medical School and Yassir just completed his second year at MUN. I miss Newfoundland when I travel."
Industry, however, wasn't as welcoming. In Egypt as many as 20 per cent of engineering graduates were women when Mona applied for her first engineering job at a Canadian firm after graduating from Memorial. There were no women in the company at that time and they offered her a job as a draftsperson. She turned it down and a year later, after her groundbreaking work on icebergs became known, the company hired her as a member of the engineering staff. After working as an engineer for Lavalin-Fenco (NL) and at Memorial's Centre for Cold Ocean Research Engineering (C-CORE) her entrepreneurial spirit took over. Since starting InCoreTec, Mona's work has been recognized internationally. In 2000, Mona was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE). Then in 2002, she was the first ever winner of the Sara Kirke Award for Canada's Leading Women High Tech Entrepreneur from the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA). She has also published more than 50 journals and conference papers, holds five copyrights and was appointed a member of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Committee on Scholarships and Fellowships.
Mona says there are still obstacles she faces in her everyday work. "People say female engineers have to work twice as hard," says El-Tahan. "I did that from day one. There are still some countries where gender obstacles exist. "For example, even though I was born a Muslim, I was not able to go on a trade mission three years ago to Riyadh where women were forbidden to attend meetings in government offices. That was a big shock to me. There wasn't even a washroom facility for women! But, for the most part, there's usually a way to get around any obstacles." Also, Mona says the lack of financial resources, such as venture capital and angel funding, for small high-tech companies in the Newfoundland region is a big hurdle. "You need to spend a lot of money to market and travel to meet face-to-face with clients. In our case, it is particularly expensive to take our engineers and equipment abroad to demonstrate our technology in a prospective client's lab."
InCoreTec, a company Mona began at Memorial, started as an R&D/consulting engineering firm specializing in offshore and environmental engineering and ice management prediction. One of the companies first projects was providing iceberg predictions for Hibernia and in 1994 it began developing a Predictive Artificial Intelligence technology (patented as PAI), which is a platform technology that can be utilized in a very broad array of applications because of its unique ability to "learn" and then predict future behaviour. The company's products also include a Ship Protector System and its successor, the Advanced Ship Autopilot System. They use artificial intelligence technology combined with standard ship maneuvering theory to combine inputs such as ship heading, wind speed and rudder angle, to predict the position and orientation of a ship at a future time. This information is used to assist the master of the ship in bringing the ship safely to port or to operate more safely in confined waters.
Since the early 1980s, the InCoreTec system of iceberg management (known as the El-Tahan Model) has been used by ships and offshore rigs. As well, its advanced auto-pilot system for ships is one of the company's most effective and cost-saving inventions. In addition, InCoreTec's method of forecasting and minimizing friction in robotics is being considered for use in the medical field, both in surgery and in replacement joints. But Mona says advances in the company's latest technology, Intelligent Friction Compensation (IFC), may prove to be the most lucrative to date. InCoreTec's unique predictive technology also has application in the robotics industry, specifically in solving one of the "Holy Grails" of robotics - how to create variable intelligent friction compensation in the motion control sector of the industry. Mona and her company are currently seeking to penetrate new markets in Singapore, China, and Hong Kong. The company employees about a dozen people.
For more information, visit www.incoretec.comFaustina Hwang
Born and raised in St John's, Faustina Hwang is an NSERC scholar who has dedicated her graduate studies to helping people with disabilities. Faustina graduated with her undergraduate degree in electrical engineering in 1999, with a focus in computing and communications. She then joined the fast-track master's program and completed her M.Eng., graduating in 2000 (Robotics and Intelligent Systems). Faustina was one of the first graduates of the faculty's fast track program, under which exceptional students are registered simultaneously for an undergraduate and graduate degree. She completed her undergraduate program with a 93 percent average and was a winner of the Memorial University Medal for Academic Excellence and The David Dunsiger Award for Excellence, as well as several national awards including PRECARN's Gordon MacNabb Scholarship, and an NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship. In addition, from 2001-2002, she served as the student representative for the IEEE's Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society.
"The faculty members at MUN are highly approachable and always made time for their students. As well, I found the coop program particularly valuable. It gave me the opportunity to gain work experience in a number of areas. Through my work terms and through the faculty, I was very fortunate to meet several people who have had a great influence on my life."
While here, Faustina's research focused on robotics and coordinating groups of mobile robots and she conducted thesis research on intelligent systems at C-CORE. "I have long been interested in the many applications of technology in healthcare. For my first three work terms, I was working at the NRC's Institute of Biodiagnostics in Winnipeg. There, I was part of a team that was developing an intraoperative Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) system - a system that could provide MRI images during surgery. I spent my fifth work term at the University of New Brunswick's Institute of Biomedical Engineering, studying speech information contained in electrical signals generated by facial muscles. My current research involves the application of technology to improve quality of life for people with disabilities."
In October 2000, Faustina received a full scholarship to undertake doctoral studies at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. The award by the Canadian Cambridge Trust enables some of "Canada's most promising students" to pursue graduate studies at Cambridge. She moved to the UK to begin a PhD in the Usability and Rehabilitation Engineering Group Engineering Design Centre. Her current research involves groundbreaking fields such as haptic computer interfaces - interfaces that provide feedback through the sense of touch - as a method of improving cursor control for people with physical impairments; rehabilitation engineering; human computer interaction (HCI); and cursor trajectory analysis.
"Studying in Cambridge is a wonderful experience. Famous for being the place where many important scientific discoveries were made, Cambridge is steeped in history, culture, and unique tradition. I've enjoyed living abroad, and meeting people from all over the world." Faustina says that although she is enjoying Cambridge, living overseas has given her a better appreciation her home. "Academically, having studied at a different university and met many people in international research communities, I now have a better appreciation for the quality of teaching and standard of research at Memorial. Newfoundland is also a beautiful place to live and its things like the ocean, the landscape, and the lobster that I no longer take for granted! The same holds true for "home" as a country. People around the world hold Canadians in high regard, and I didn't really appreciate that until I moved overseas."
Faustina was recently awarded a Best Student Paper Award at an international conference on assistive technology. She doesn't have any firm plans for her future after school, but says she'll continue researching and is exploring different research opportunities, both in industry and in academia.Verafin Inc.
Jamie King, Raymond Pretty and Brendan Brothers, entrepreneurs and co-founders of Verafin Inc.
For these four engineering graduates, it was a matter of 'build it and they will come'. And that's exactly what they did. They developed technology and were then approached by an investor interested in using it for anti-money laundering. And Verafin Inc. was born. Verafin is an information technology company providing anti-money laundering (AML) software solutions to the financial services industry.
Jamie King is currently completing his PhD and is a graduate of the Bachelor of Engineering (electrical) and Diploma in Electrical Engineering Technology, both from Memorial University. In the short time since he's graduated, he's become president and chief technology officer of Verafin. For the four years prior to this, Mr. King was president and chief technology officer of Intrignia Solutions, a company specializing in robotics and artificial intelligence for underground mining applications. During his time as president of Intrignia, he was pursuing his PhD in electrical engineering in robotics and artificial intelligence and his supervisor was Dr. Ray Gosine, IRIS researcher in robotics and intelligent systems and now dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.
Mr. King has worked for many organizations such as Syncrude Canada, Newbridge Networks Corporation in Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. In addition, he has written many publications, including a peer review publication for IEEE on his robotics research, and has received many distinguished awards and scholarships.
Raymond Pretty specializes in probabilistic artificial intelligence and is currently a part time PhD student in electrical engineering here at Memorial. As a software developer and architect, Mr. Pretty is Verafin's rule based and Bayesian Belief Network Specialist. He also conducts research in pattern-oriented software design, robotics and artificial intelligence. He has received an NSERC PGSB scholarship to conduct research in the area of intelligent systems and artificial intelligence and he has worked for Nortel Networks and Charles River Analytics, MA, United States. At Charles River Analytics Inc. Mr. Pretty was involved in artificial intelligence research projects funded by NASA and the US Army.
Brendan Brothers' area of expertise is intelligent systems and distributed computing. Currently, he is completing his master's degree in engineering at Memorial. Mr. Brothers has worked for many high-tech companies like Xwave, Mitel Networks, NRC (Institute for Ocean Technology) and Intrignia Solutions Inc. He is an excellent programmer and has achieved many awards and scholarships including an NSERC grant and the Sun Microsystems scholarship. He says the ability to be entrepreneurial while doing his graduate work has been an excellent opportunity. "To apply the areas of research to practical problems, and then form a business to commercialize and market the product has been an exciting journey, and was fostered by the Faculty of Engineering and Business as well as the Genesis Center and the various funding agencies that are available to young entrepreneurs."Eric Jerrett, Entrepreneur
At the age of fifteen, Eric Jerrett enrolled in first-year engineering at Memorial. The youngest student here at that time, Mr. Jerrett went on to establish himself as an outstanding engineer, licensed architect, land surveyor and notary public, the only person in Canada licensed to work in all professions. In 2002, he was awarded Memorial's Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement.
In 1971, Mr. Jerrettt began E.K. Jerrett and Associates in Bay Roberts and started practicing engineering, architecture and land surveying (a skill he had picked up while studying engineering and later became licensed in). As president of his own company, he designed and constructed more churches, schools and swimming pools than any other company in the province. He is also co-founder of the Bay Roberts Heritage Society and has helped to save many buildings and historical sites from being destroyed. For what he has given back to his community through his volunteer work and cultural preservation, Mr. Jerrett was awarded the Order of Canada in 1998 and the Award of Merit by the Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Newfoundland and Labrador for outstanding contribution to the profession and/or the community.
Steven Taylor, Colin Taylor, Mark Gillingham and Mark Simms, founders of Cathexis Innovations
Cathexis Innovations Inc. was founded by four engineering students. While still finishing undergraduate studies and operating out of a glorified storage closet on the 4th floor of the S.J. Carew Building, the founders made strides towards building a company that would have the necessary business infrastructure in place by the time of graduation in May 2002. Cathexis eventually outgrew this space and moved on, keeping close ties with the engineering faculty. With a second office now opened on the West Coast of Canada, worldwide partnerships, and international recognition, Cathexis is one of the global leaders in Asset Management technologies.
Colin Power is the chief operation officer for Cathexis. He says they're grateful to the faculty for helping them get started. "The Faculty of Engineering was very supportive of our efforts and eliminated some major hurdles that young companies must overcome. They helped us get off the ground by providing critical support when we needed it most." He adds they hope to work with the Faculty of Engineering in the future to promote entrepreneurial activity. "Hopefully, other students will look at what we have done, and see that it is possible here in Newfoundland. "Officially incorporated in March 2001, Cathexis provides real-world asset management solutions that allow for rapid and efficient deployment of barcode, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), and Smart Button technologies along with their integration into existing IT systems and software applications.
Steven L. Taylor, B.Sc., B.Eng.
President, Cathexis Innovations Inc.
Steve is a graduate of Memorial University, holding degrees in biochemistry and electrical engineering. His past work experience in the telecommunications sector and embedded systems design has given him a strong technical background. His current role as president of Cathexis involves development of business relations, corporate management, and strategic planning. His strengths include networking, project management, and planning. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Electrical Engineering at Memorial.
Colin Power, B.Eng
VP Product Development, COO
Colin holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Memorial University. With years of industrial experience in the oil and gas sector, he has exposure to both the design and construction aspects of engineering. His current role involves project management, hardware design and specification, and operations management. His strengths include hardware development and troubleshooting, project management, and planning. Colin is currently pursuing his Masters in Electrical Engineering at Memorial University.
Mark J. Gillingham
VP Sales & Marketing
Mark holds a degree in electrical engineering from Memorial. His earlier experience was in the field of industrial controls and automation, with several years in system design and implementation. Currently, the majority of his work involves marketing, product specification and system deployment. His strengths include system design and project management. Mark is currently pursuing his MBA here at Memorial.
VP Software Development, CTO
Mark holds a degree in computer engineering from Memorial. He has extensive experience in software development in a variety of fields, including telecommunications, computer security, embedded systems and process simulation. His current role involves software design, implementation, and testing. His strengths are system design and software engineering. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Electrical Engineering at Memorial.
Paul Hearn, P. Eng., chief operating officer and managing director, Baader-Canpolar Inc.
Paul Hearn is no stranger to innovation. He oversees a company creating innovative technology in an every-changing food processing industry. Baader-Canpolar Inc. specializes in the development and manufacture of advanced machine vision systems for food inspection. Mr. Hearn, a graduate of mechanical engineering (1986), is responsible for the management of day-to-day operations including product development and financial performance. Under Mr. Hearn's leadership, Baader-Canpolar Inc. has just introduced a ground-breaking concept to the food processing industry in Alaska. The BA820 Inspektor automatically sorts defective fish fillets at high speeds using an intelligent camera system and advanced image processing software. The company currently employees mechanical, electrical and computer engineering graduates all from Memorial's Faculty of Engineering program. As a graduate of that program, Mr. Hearn says that his experience suggests that "graduates from the Faculty of Engineering at Memorial have training and skills that are second to none."
Before Baader-Canpolar, Mr. Hearn was a mechanical engineer and an engineering manager for Canpolar East Incorporated in St. John's where he was responsible for all of Canpolar East's engineering projects totaling about $2 million annually. Mr. Hearn has almost two decades of experience in the development and delivery of complex industrial systems and products which incorporate software, optical, electronic and mechanical sub-systems.
Mr. Hearn has also had experience as project and product engineer on a number of jobs for organizations such as the Canadian Space Agency and Canada Customs.
Activities have included mechanical design and packaging of optical levitation technology for microgravity research, mechanical design of special test equipment for force-moment sensors and an investigation of automated technologies for monitoring the integrity of large space structures. Since graduation from Memorial, he has obtained a number of certificates, co-authored numerous patents and published a number of technical reports for various organizations both nationally and internationally.Rod Hale and Patricia LeFeuvre, Co-founders of iSYS
Intelligent System Solutions Corporation was formed in 2000 by two engineering students who wanted to take control of their research and their futures. They knew there was a market so they started iSYS and focused on developing intelligent system solutions for real-world problems. Intelligent systems refer to systems that emulate human capacity for perception, reasoning and action. iSYS draws on its strength in image analysis and pattern recognition to develop intelligent software for applications in photo imaging, automation, inspection and data analysis. iSYS operates in two ways: contracts and in-house product development. The profits from contract work are used to fund in-house product development and products developed by iSYS are sold on the international market place.
The first iSYS product was the Automated Red-eye Removal Software system. This software automatically detects and removes occurrences of the red-eye phenomenon in digital photo images with no user intervention. iSYS has licensed automated red-eye software to companies like Sony, Lucidiom and Axiom and it is in use world wide in the processing of consumer digital images. Rod and Patricia are currently pursuing other companies for this technology and are developing other digital image enhancement tools aimed at the same market. They have another business partner, John Guzzwell, who is also a MUN engineering alumnus.
Rod Hale, B.Eng. (Mechanical, 1995),
M.Eng. (1998), P.Eng.
Rod is from Newstead, Notre Dame Bay, so attending Memorial, and staying in Newfoundland and Labrador, was a natural choice for him. "Newfoundland is home. I have two kids and cannot imagine raising them anywhere else. Also, I very much enjoy hunting and fishing in the province." Rod says he enjoyed his experience at MUN, especially the co-op engineering program. He completed his masters in human-machine interfaces and started his PhD, which he put on hold to start up iSYS. Rod's main area of research at MUN was pattern recognition applied to human-machine interfaces and machine vision, work he continues at iSYS.
Rod says he and Patricia started their own business because of untapped potential in the applied research they were involved in. "We wanted to be in control of the projects we worked on and take them to their fullest potential and it has paid off. Our automated red-eye removal software has been tested world wide and overwhelmingly we hear that it is the best. Our customers have referred to it as a 'home run' and have been able to gain a larger market share because they use our software. It is extremely gratifying to visit a Sony booth at a trade show and see your software in use on several of their machines. We expect many more license agreements with the red-eye software and hope to release our next enhancement tool soon."
Patricia LeFeuvre, B.Eng. (Electrical,
1992), M.Eng. (2003), P.Eng.
Patricia LeFeuvre grew up in St. John's, Springdale, Buchans and Gander. She started her academic career at Mount Allison University in Nova Scotia but after one year, she decided she wanted to be an engineer. Patricia, who while at MUN was a Fellow of the School of Graduate Studies, says the excellent reputation of Memorial's Faculty of Engineering was what brought her here. "I thought the co-op program was excellent.The work experience helped me decide which engineering discipline to pursue and I realized that research and development was something I really enjoyed. Plus, my roots are in Newfoundland and I enjoy the outdoors and the relatively relaxed way of life. I'm thankful I don't have to commute for an hour to work every day."
Patricia's masters thesis focused on the application of image analysis and pattern recognition to remote fish species identification using echo sounder data. "My expertise is in the area of image analysis and pattern recognition. I became an entrepreneur because I wanted to work for myself and benefit financially from a skill set that I knew had growing market potential. I also wanted to see my work used in the real world."