In less than two years, the way we regularly use and interact with technology has seen a significant shift as remote work and learning have become the norm for many.
And as the world slowed down, Vancouverites had the opportunity to pause and reflect on their professional lives, with some people switching up gears in their careers or moving into entirely new fields of work.
Since one of the best ways to get a start in a new role or a different industry is to have a relevant diploma, certificate, or degree behind you, we’re taking a look at five aspects of incredibly cool high-tech equipment helping students reach their full potential at Thompson Rivers University (TRU).
Manikins for healthcare training
In the fall of 2020, TRU opened its state-of-the-art Chappell Family Building for Nursing and Population Health to train in-demand healthcare workers in BC. The three-storey building, which is home to lab spaces that replicate work environments for hospitals, features cutting-edge technologies, including medical manikins that act as patients for nursing students to work with.
The labs generate high-level learning scenarios with these computerized manikins, simulating real patients in different ways. This includes reflecting human body systems with critical, complex failures, talking, crying, breathing, having real heart rates, blood pressure, and bowel sounds (all subject to change throughout a learning scenario). The manikins can also simulate real patients by having heart attacks, or suffering from strokes, tumours, kidney failure, major wounds, mental collapse, being able to give birth, or by simulated death.
Working with these manikins in realistic healthcare environments allows students to learn by doing, ask questions, and practice techniques that will be used throughout their careers.
Genomics lab for research studies
BC’s first high-throughput genomics lab outside of the Lower Mainland, TRUGen, opened at TRU back in 2017, reducing time spent in the lab from 12 hours to 30 minutes. Under the direction of microbiologist Dr. Jonathan Van Hamme, the lab supports genetic research to enhance environmental remediation and waste treatment, plus agricultural industries, including food, beverages, and nutraceuticals.
Labs of a similar nature (many of which are dedicated to medical research) in Vancouver and Victoria can become overwhelmed by demand or have long wait times to access equipment. By contrast, TRUGen is home to sample-preparation robots that help technicians acquire more data in shorter periods and use sequencing tools to a greater degree — all while maintaining quality control measures.
Earlier this year, the genomics lab received an $850,000 investment from the federal government through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. With this investment, TRUGen is set to buy new tools that allow for impactful research and world-class experiential learning for students. To date, the lab has begun work on a soil biodiversity measurement tool, which will be useful for the mining industry and Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Drones to improve the cattle ranching industry
Together with research students, Dr. John Church, an associate professor of Natural Resource Science, is exploring the use of drones to help improve the cattle ranching industry. In 2017, one of the school’s research projects used drones to observe calves after castration with the goal of looking at more effective pain management.
BC ranchers, many of whom used a drug to mitigate pain from the procedure for the animals, brought the research question forward to Church. The drones allowed researchers to watch calves from the lab rather than the more traditional approach, which would involve following them into the field to record footage. The drones offered a way of measuring calves’ behaviour without being intrusive.
In a 2019 interview, Church shared a plethora of ways drones have or will impact livestock production, including herding and checking cattle and their health, finding cattle in the pasture, watching cattle in a feedlot, and checking pastures for watering as needed.
Environmental monitoring for future forecasting
TRU is a hub for climate change research with an environmental monitoring station on campus for students and researchers to access. This state-of-the-art station boasts meteorological, air quality, and eddy covariance systems, with the latter working to measure real-time carbon dioxide concentrations and evaporation.
The station also allows students to understand the bunchgrass ecosystem surrounding its location on the outskirts of TRU’s Kamloops campus. This ecosystem covers less than one percent of BC, yet it’s home to important and diverse wildlife.
In the classroom, students with an interest in meteorology, hydrology, or climatology can get hands-on and work with localized data from the environmental monitoring station, analyze it, and troubleshoot if problems arise. And since the station has meteorological and air quality systems at the same location, it creates the opportunity for more comparisons between systems (like the role of meteorology in air pollution), leading to the collection of impactful climate-change data.
Industrial training and technology workshop
To enhance opportunities for students looking for job-ready skills in the growing trades and technology industries, TRU built and opened a $32 million Industrial Training and Technology Centre (ITTC) in the fall of 2018.
Covering 5,344 sq ft, the centre brought with it three new programs: Instrumentation Engineering Technology, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic, and Power Engineering.
At TRU’s ITTC, students can learn transferrable skills using industrial instrumentation containing specs that one might find in ships, vehicles, or the ICUs of hospitals. The on-site workshop is complete with technologies including pumps, pressure transmitters, process control valves, an electrical calibration bench, and compression cutaway demonstration units, among other features, to reflect workplace-like settings.