International field schools help students from across the globe see Canada in a new light

Plane copyStudents from around the world — 473 in total this summer— have come to Canada to create innovations across all manners of academic disciplines through the Mitacs Globalink internship program.

This non-profit research organization offers research and training program opportunities to students from Mexico, Brazil, China, India, Germany and many more countries in hopes of showing how Canadian labs work, and to offer students ways to study in Canada.

Many of the students have a background in engineering, sciences or mathematics, which helps elevate Canada's reputation in international innovations. It is a two-fold program that is beneficial to both the student and Canada's innovation sector.

Christine Gillies, vice-president and marketing-communications officer at Mitacs, says 40 students have returned to study in Canada after the completion of their program.

"We have success rate of around seven to 10 per cent of students coming back to Canada, but as the program goes longer we anticipate it growing," Gillies says. "We are competing with Oxford and Harvard for these students, they are the world's top students."Mitacs copySai Pandi Selvaraj (left), Dr. Alejandro Remirez-Serrano and Adyasha Dash spent a lot of time in the last 12 weeks in a lab like this at the University of Calgary creating unmanned aerial vehicles to serve different purposes such as search and rescue operations.  Selvaeaj and Dash are international students from India studying in the Mitacs Globalink internship program.

Photo by Victoria Pizarro

Mitacs has been growing for six years with now up to over 700 students participating.

Forty-one of the Mitac students entered the University of Calgary this year. Many of the international students worked with Prof. Alejandro Remirez-Serrano, a member of the department of Mechanical & Manufacturing at the university's Schulich School of Engineering.

The students and Remirez-Serrano worked on making long-endurance, highly manoeuvreable, unmanned aerial vehicles. These prototypes are being made for search-and-rescue missions. However, they hope that these aerial vehicles will be able to be used in other industries as well, such as in the oil and gas sector.

"We need help in trying to solve challenges and I think that unmanned vehicles can help," says Remirez-Searrano. "They can look for corrosion on oil and gas lines, they can help farmers with fertilization and irrigation, also logging to know which trees to cut."

The main reason these Mitac students are developing these prototypes is for search-and-rescue operations. They want to be able to send planes into collapsed buildings, fires, or other closed spaces that would otherwise are too dangerous for people.

Indian student Sai Pandi Selvara has been working on the codes for these unmanned aerial vehicles.

"What I am trying to do is make these planes fast enough so that they can be used in real time," Selvaraj said. "We are trying to make it think — how a human would think, that's what am trying to replicate."

Adyasha Dash, another student from India who contributed to the project, is currently studying fluid mechanics.

"One good thing about these planes is that they are so versatile. (With) other planes you can't fly them into a small room or collapse(d) building, but with these you can," says Dash. "Our goal is to make it more moveable — what I am trying see if (it) can (be) tilted (both directions) to make it more agile "

Dash also said that while she was inspired by her father to pursue this career path, it is also very exciting for her to bring planes from big-screen films such as Avatar and Edge of Tomorrow to life.

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