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Canadian University Puts Tech Whiz Kids in 'Dormcubator' 188

jades writes "The University of Waterloo (Canada), sometimes billed as the 'MIT of the North' is establishing a residence 'incubator'. Meant to challenge 70 of their very top students in the tech and business fields, students will live together and work on 'the future of mobile communications, the web and digital media'. It's called 'VeloCity', and it launches in Fall 2008 after renovations are completed this summer."
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Canadian University Puts Tech Whiz Kids in 'Dormcubator'

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  • I was going to say PIX PLZ but then, hey, why not start "Geek Big Brother" or "I'm a Geek... Get Me Out of Here!"

    I'm not sure, that it is the best way to get serious things done, but it sounds fun.

  • nice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @05:43AM (#22621660) Journal
    We have a similar thing going at the University I go to. It's nice to be around other people that are as academically minded as yourself.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Isn't this similar to what happens in the Vatican? They have this kind of brainstorming thing too when they have to elect someone. Maybe they should call theirs a Mass-cubator.
    • Of course... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ivan256 ( 17499 )
      The school wants you to think of your profitable ideas while they still have some financial claim to them...
  • bs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by theheadlessrabbit ( 1022587 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @05:47AM (#22621670) Homepage Journal
    I have friends who go to The U of Waterloo, and not one has EVER called that school "the MIT of the North"

    when asked, "how's your University", most of them just shrug and say "meh, it's alright, its a University."

    MIT of the North? who said that? the Marketing department for Waterloo?
    • Re:bs (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 03, 2008 @05:54AM (#22621688)
      As a UW student it's true that UW isn't the most engaging atmosphere, it's full over no-fun over-achievers (the best party I can find on some Friday nights is the math homework party). But one thing is does have is great academics and international performance. It is definitely regarded as the best university in Canada for computer science, and possibly the best in north america. Many tech companies (Microsoft, Amazon, RIM, etc.) hire more UW students than any other university. It has the worlds highest cumulative score in the ACM competition. So although it's lacking in student engagement in many respects, calling in the MIT of the north probably isn't the worst title. At the very least it's as well respected in Canada as MIT is in the US.

      Submitted anonymously because I'm gonna get modded down for bragging. Slashdot user taylortbb if you want to reach me.
      • by Potor ( 658520 )

        I agree - (UW '92) - back then, I heard Microsoft indeed hired more grads from UW then anywhere else (could never verify that). At any rate, I did get hired at IBM (long since left), from an English programme!

        Join the Imprint - that rocked way back when - we were always pissing of the engineers with obscure record and film reviews. It seemed all they cared about was Monty Python.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Well, I have an MMath in CS from Waterloo. Let me tell you that UW is nothing like MIT or any other top notch university. UW's achievements are almost exclusively on the undergrad teaching level, and while that is great if you are an undergrad and want to be taught, it doesn't put UW anywhere in the same league as a true research university like MIT (or UofT, UBC, and McGill in Canada).
      • What's wrong with Friday night math homework parties? (BMath '91)
    • Re:bs (Score:4, Informative)

      by wrook ( 134116 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:04AM (#22621726) Homepage
      I'm going to have to agree. Waterloo isn't a bad school for engineering and comp sci. But it's not significantly better than any of the other accredited schools. As someone who has hired a lot of people in my career, I wouldn't even put Waterloo in the top 5 of the schools I aimed for. Mostly that's because the less well known schools have a lot of good people, but they are in less demand and thereby easier to hire. In fact the two best Canadian programmers (in terms of pure talent) I've met came from Calgary and Carleton.

      In Canada, my opinion is that there isn't a good undergrad program for comp sci at all (I'm willing to be convinced, though). But all of the accredited schools are adequate. I'm not qualified to comment on engineering. However, my understanding is that Waterloo primarily achieved it's engineering reputation by being one of the first (if not the first) Canadian engineering department to really embrace a coop program. Now almost every school has one.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy ( 595695 )
        Only having experience with UofOttawa myself, I'd have to quite a agree at the quality of computer science programmes. However, you may want to take a look at the software engineering programmes. Personally I think that a software engineering degree can prepare you much better than a comp sci program for real world programming. Now I could be a little bias, because I have a degree in software engineering. However based on what I've seen from the two disciplines, and the people I've met in both programme
      • Re:bs (Score:4, Informative)

        by p0tat03 ( 985078 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @12:48PM (#22624628)

        Now almost every school has one.

        As a UW student who's looked at many other Canadian co-op programs... I urge you to look more deeply into UW's co-op. I hate to be a braggart, but I do not exaggerate when I say that UW's co-op is leaps and bounds beyond ANYTHING any other Canadian university has, despite their best efforts. The level of support, organization, and opportunities you get with UW co-op far exceeds any other school.

        With many other schools I feel as if the co-op is another thing to strike off their list "yep, we've got that too", whereas at UW you really feel that the school strives to make it part of its identity, and the results speak for themselves. We place a ridiculous number of students in jobs every term, incredible satisfaction and success rates from both employers and employees, and heck, companies come interview students on *our* campus...

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by KillerCow ( 213458 )

      MIT of the North? who said that?

      American reporters.
    • you code only in basic, and you rip a decent university. Let me guess. You were shot down for admission?
      • If you pay close attention to my post, I am in no way ripping U of W.

        I simply state that not one person I know calls it the 'MIT of the North', and I know quite a few people who go there.
        This leads me to believe that its a BS line made up to sell an article.

        I'm sure it's a very good school.

        But why call it the "MIT of the North"? thats like announcing "hey, we play second fiddle to MIT", "we're not quite as good, but we're close."

        • I was just kidding. Every nation has what they regard as their own MIT. Some really do compete, and others do not. All nations are proud of what they have to offer, for in general, they have at least one person in each major fields who is competitive. After all, I noticed that North Korea was matching their child prodigies around the stage for the philharmonic. Says a lot.
    • Re:MIT of the North (Score:3, Interesting)

      by chronosan ( 1109639 )
      Waterloo is only ONE degree north of Cambridge, and not too far west. On a global scale, they're in the same place.
    • by IainMH ( 176964 )
      I WENT to UoW on exchange. I've never heard it called that. Anyway, isn't MIT the the MIT of the North?
    • Re:bs (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Francis ( 5885 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @09:45AM (#22622682) Homepage

      I have friends who go to The U of Waterloo, and not one has EVER called that school "the MIT of the North"

      when asked, "how's your University", most of them just shrug and say "meh, it's alright, its a University."
      You're right on the first point, noone ever calls UW the "MIT of the North". As far as being just another university though, I'd have to disagree. I think UW is one of the strongest technical universities in the world. One of the things they like to brag about at UW is their results in the world ACM programming contest. (For reference, UW placed ahead of MIT 10 years in the last 15.) More anecdotally, having worked with graduates from all around the world, I'd really have to say that UW tends to produce more effective software engineers than other schools.

      I can see how your friends might have mixed feelings about the place though - the administration can treat people quite poorly, and life as an undergrad can be stressful. As an alumni, I'm glad to have gone through it, and I'm glad not to be there :)

      As for the original story, I'm glad to see UW doing something like this. Developing UW spinoff companies wasn't something that most of us considered, but this could really encourage that sort of thing. I think that's good for the school and the economy in the long term.

    • You do bring up a good point.

      If I went to MIT, I'd major in marketing.

      I have no reason to doubt that their technical degrees are quite good. However, based upon the absurdly disproportionate amount of press they receive, their marketing people have got to be absolutely fucking brilliant.

      Perhaps one of their engineers managed to clone Steve Jobs' Reality Distortion Field......
    • Waterloo is only about 75 miles more northern than MIT.
    • Re:bs (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @10:22AM (#22622978) Journal
      Speaking as someone in a Computer Science department in the UK, I'd put Waterloo near the top in terms of perceived reputation internationally (as would my head of department, who I discussed the university with a couple of weeks ago in reference to some historical parallels). That said, I'd put MIT in the same league as Cambridge for computer science - did some really great stuff a few decades ago, a few interesting things recently, but survives mostly on inherited reputation and marketing these days.
    • Waterloo is not "MIT North".

      MIT is "Waterloo South".
  • by kamapuaa ( 555446 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:00AM (#22621708) Homepage
    That's funny, I never heard of MIT before, I've always heard of it as "The University of Waterloo (Canada) of the South."
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MightyYar ( 622222 )
      I just want to know what chuckle-head thinks that University of Waterloo is significantly further north than MIT. Pretty sure that Boston and Toronto are roughly at the same latitude.
      • by yabos ( 719499 )
        Tell that to the idiots that come here to Southern Ontario to go skiing in the summer.
      • Probably the same people that think Barry is in Northern Ontario.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Pope ( 17780 )
          Well, he did move a few years ago and it's been a while since I talked to him. Tell him I said "Hello!"
        • Barry?. Last I heard he was still in Pickle Lake. Why, has he moved?
      • by Ctrl-Z ( 28806 )
        I just want to know what chuckle-head things that University of Waterloo is in Toronto.

        Yeah, I checked it out... Waterloo is 1 degree north of Boston.
        • Well, strictly speaking MIT isn't in Boston either - I was just sort of going for closest major city. I know that Waterloo is close to Toronto (what, an hour's drive?), and I've actually walked across the river to Boston from MIT. It's the first stop in Cambridge on the "T".
    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Monday March 03, 2008 @10:00AM (#22622782)
      I wonder if the French Canadians secretly resent having to go to a school called Waterloo.
      • by Azarael ( 896715 )
        Actually, it gets even more complicated. Waterloo used to be called New Hamburg, but they changed the name around WWI for some reason.. I hear good things about their OctoberFest though.
  • by mykdavies ( 1369 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:03AM (#22621722)
    but known as the "Dorkubator"
    • I'm thinking 'Dumbcubator' - particularly if the tech students interact in any significant way with the business students.

      The business students won't gain anything from the lash-up because they won't be able to understand what the techies are saying, and the tech students IQs will drop by double digits from listening to inane golfing stories. ;)
  • by IBBoard ( 1128019 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:04AM (#22621730) Homepage
    They wanted an incubator for academically minded people and they called it VeloCity? Seriously? You'd have thought they'd have come up with a decent name rather than trying to combine a word for speed with a word for a large conurbation (which I doubt it is) in some jauntily capitalised construction.

    The basic idea is quite good, even if it does just sound like a slightly more segregated version of "Halls of Residence" from the summary.
    • by p0tat03 ( 985078 )
      Honestly, the name sucks... I thought it was some sort of municipal bike initiative (velos? anyone?) when I first heard about it...
  • Waterloo vs U of T (Score:5, Interesting)

    by florescent_beige ( 608235 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:04AM (#22621732) Journal

    Waterloo has always fancied itself an industry supplier of productive bodies. My brother the EE went there and benefited from their work-term model. He got lots of practical experience which helped him land a job, although he took longer to get his degree than me.

    I did an ME at the U of T. (Funny that the article calls Waterloo "MIT North", because U of T profs liked to call MIT "U of T South". Which is all very embarrassing, like stop with the MIT comparisons for heck's sake.)

    The problem I have with this Velocity thing is: who pays and who benefits? Seems to me a chunk of everyone's tuition will go toward it, while only some will be in a position to get in. And those who can get in will be the ones who can deal with the extra work load.

    In a perfect world, it would be the more clever who could handle the added work. In reality, it is the ones who have external support, like whose parents live not far away, or who come from richer families, that can focus on the work. The poor slobs who have 2 pair of pants for 4 years and who eat leftover mac & cheese for 5 days in a row wouldn't fit in.

    I have no problem with elitism, it's a central component of hereditary capitalism, our beloved system. But not when the winners are being subsidized by the losers, that just strikes me as wrong.

    I'm obviously biased, but I like the U of T approach: classical. Give everyone the same education and chuck them all into the market and let life sort them out. I hate the idea of university admins having the power to pick winners.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Dulcise ( 840718 )
      Mod perant up.
      While this may benefit a select few, those that were already achieving well, those that aren't doing so well now have less places to look for good study practice, which I have found (at least on me) rubs off.

      When you're working with people who party all the time, you tend to work less, when you are with people who study more, you study more. So now the struggling student has even less of a work atmosphere than before, and the students that don't need more of a work atmosphere and are doing fin
    • Well, for starters, I imagine that this will be funded through the government's grant rather than tuition dollars.

      Most students outside of the US pay very little for tuition. Tuition fees generally fund the university's variable costs associated with taking on more students, whilst the university's core operation and fixed costs are paid for by the government. State universities in the US operate on a somewhat similar principle, unless you happen to live in a state that is unwilling or unable to fund its
      • Well, for starters, I imagine that this will be funded through the government's grant rather than tuition dollars.

        If it is funded from general revenue then the money comes from a mixture of tuition and subsidy. Subsidies are allocated per student, so each student is worth a certain number of tuition plus subsidy dollars to the university. The university is not compelled to spend the money it gets from a given student on that student.

        That might sound hard to believe but it's true. At my alma mater the administration was much hated for allocating less money to the engineering faculties that it received from them. Bas

    • I completely agree on the MIT comparisons, but this:

      I'm obviously biased, but I like the U of T approach: classical. Give everyone the same education and chuck them all into the market and let life sort them out

      doesn't make sense to me. EVERY university is in the business of picking winners; it is called "admissions".

      One problem that Candadian Universities face is that because of their public status, and (in most provinces) the resulting mandate to educate the masses, the variance of student capabilities is much higher than at elite universities down south. Most lectures will aim somehwere at the center third of the students, leaving behind the bottom third,

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by p0tat03 ( 985078 )

      Note: I'm one of the selected students for this VeloCity thing, so I may be biased. To answer some of your questions...

      The problem I have with this Velocity thing is: who pays and who benefits?

      The residence component is paid by the residents, barring a small (

      Beneficiaries is everyone. In the worst case scenario nothing of real value comes from this, and nothing happens, money down the drain. In the best case scenario we're talking about massive new employment opportunities in the region, and potentially tens of thousands of high-tech jobs (the type the gov't likes) created

    • by Rakishi ( 759894 )

      The problem I have with this Velocity thing is: who pays and who benefits? Seems to me a chunk of everyone's tuition will go toward it, while only some will be in a position to get in. And those who can get in will be the ones who can deal with the extra work load.

      You mean like how everyone pays for the introductory classes even if they don't need to take them because they're too easy for them? You know all that classroom space they take up is paid for by everyone as well and some of those classes aren't very populated. What about the counseling classes that exist for students with mental issues or study habit problems? What about the writing tutoring that probably exists as well for those who don't know how to write a resume? No of course, if it benefits you but so

  • Campus news sources (Score:3, Informative)

    by Valacosa ( 863657 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:09AM (#22621750)
    If anybody is interested in further reading, the campus newspaper did a story on this [] a couple of months ago, as well as the engineering newspaper [].
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Waterloo, jeesh. That's not a campus newspaper....THAT"S [] a campus newspaper. (Large pdf warning).

      Example article titles: "White Guilt Month Set to be Best Ever" and "The Many (Retarded) Uses for Facebook". Yeah. Waterloo sucks.

  • What a waste (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shohat ( 959481 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:18AM (#22621796) Homepage
    It realy "grinds my gears" to see bright people waste their valuable time on Web/Social/Communication applications. If one thing in the world is currently going well, it's that field. That field has been developing well, there are plenty of bright minds working on it, no need to direct more geniuses that way.
    Let them work on REAL challenges. Like better engines (we've been using the same combustion engine for 100 years now), better flight (which as not progressed much since WW2 jets), new energy sources (we never went beyond nuclear, which was 60 years ago). Why not let them work on wireless power, on indoor agriculture, desalinization technologies ? REAL challenges, not some hyper-popular niche that doesn't suffer from the lack of talented people.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tinkerton ( 199273 )
      I tend to agree with the anonymous coward (who in a cruel display of injustice got modded -1) that you got your priorities wrong. The real challenges are not so much technological, they're in areas like sociology, economy, politics. Technology is easy, that's why it can evolve so fast. Of course, technology is also an area where you can achieve a lot by just being intelligent.
      • I am going to be modded down for this, because there is no "+1 I hate this person and he is fucking wrong" mod thingy.
        I agree with you, that our great challenges are sociological, economical and political. But Thing is, we are already living in the peaceful times in human history. We have not a single real war outside of Africa. If you think I am wrong, I advise you to take a few history classes.
        But the real social challenge is moving away from democracy and capitalism, and embracing a more advanced mode
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by piemcfly ( 1232770 )
          Not entirely disagreeing here, but last time I checked, Colombia, Papua, Iraq, Mexico, Birma and Kashmir were all in a state of war...

          I think your high opinion of the chinese system is also a bit... silly. Unless you agree with a confucian ethic (nepotism, corruption, yay?), mixed with dictatorial suppression (that is what the chinese model is after all... capitalist economics with political dictatorship). Unless you're talking about the old china, which was just as bad as Russia.
      • That is bullshit. The solutions to our social and political problems will be almost exclusively technological. To suggest that our society's economical structure - a mind-bogglingly wasteful festival of gratification, which also dictates the social and political challenges you talk about - can be improved or made sustainable with anything but technology is laughable.
    • We all know that happened the last time we tried to develop a plane in Canada [].
      • That was most definitely not the last time Cnaada developed a plane. Baombardier must have developed a dozen new plane models since then. It MAY be the last time Canada developed a FIGHTER plane (I wouldn't know for sure), but maybe you can give it a rest after 50 years? Sheesh.
  • by Smordnys s'regrepsA ( 1160895 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:23AM (#22621818) Journal
    What is the average air speed VeloCity of an unladen geek?
  • Very smart (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @06:29AM (#22621828) Journal
    I have been trying to get the state of Colorado to offer various X prizes for needs of the state. For example, one of the suggestions was to come up with a means of stopping Pine beetles, which are devastating literally 100 of millions worth of lodge pole and other pines. I figured that ppl, roughly students, would go into the woods and look for lodge pole trees that appeared to survive the beetles. Once they do that, they could then look for what is different. What is amazing is that now a company in Mass (from MIT), has a way to stop them. They found it by following the method that I suggested. It appears that Colorado will spend somewhere between 10-100 millions to save just a fraction of the lodgepole pines. I suspect that other states will spend similar amounts or more.

    All in all, Gov. CAN help fund ideas. The Canadian approach will help lead to companies with loads of ideas AND ppl to try and incubate them. My suggestion would only have costs iff an idea was worthy. Hopefully more universities will pick up the idea of integrating ppl, rather than separating them (and perhaps offer incentives).
  • Judging by my freaking freezing ears, MIT is in the North.
    • Kind of like declaring that you are the smartest person North of Barrow, or the best public University in Wyoming.
    • by Animats ( 122034 )

      Judging by my freaking freezing ears, MIT is in the North.

      Yes. I'm a Stanford grad, live in Silicon Valley, and some years back someone from MIT was trying to recruit me for the Media Lab to work on physically-based animation. We're walking across the MIT campus to the T station. It's sleeting, with light hail. He says "and there are fewer distractions out here".

      I'm still in California.

  • "As Far Away As..." (Score:4, Informative)

    by Taeolas ( 523275 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @08:19AM (#22622196)
    Gotta love the article saying how they got applicants from "As far away as Wilfred Laurier" (a university that is literally a block away from UW) and UofT (90 minutes away by the 401). In any case, seems like UW's looking at ways to turn their new company budding into a formal process of sorts.
  • by yebb ( 142883 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @10:42AM (#22623164)
    Waterloo, Ontario, Canada - 43 28'
    Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA - 42 36'

    Most people forget that southern Ontario dips well south into the great-lakes basin.
  • ...I have to say that the geekubator concept is already up and running, and has been for a long time. It's called WCRI []. It was well-established when I was there in the 80s.
  • We segregate our student athletes at a lot of schools, now we're going to segregate the nerds? Am I the only one who feels uneasy about this?
  • Where the whole school is that way. Its an amzing experience to be surrounded by people with 140 IQs 24/7 and interested in technology.
  • by Kinthelt ( 96845 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @11:20AM (#22623554) Homepage

    The university has received applications from as far away as Wilfrid Laurier University

    2 blocks is considered far away?
  • 70 is not enough to form a culture. In fact, it is barely enough to represent most fields.
  • Sounds like Big Brother. What channel do I tune into to see who gets evicted next?
  • Oh god (Score:3, Insightful)

    by imgod2u ( 812837 ) on Monday March 03, 2008 @01:13PM (#22624942) Homepage
    As if CS/Engineering majors needed their college experience to be even more of a sausage-fest.
  • ... decorated to look like their mom's basement.

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel