INNOVATION July-August 2018

As the official publication of Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia, Innovation is circulated to almost 34,000 BC-registered professional engineers and geoscientists, other professionals, industry and government representatives, educational institutions and the general public. The magazine is published six times each year on a bi-monthly basis.

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JULY/AUGUST 2018 | volume 22 number 4


COVER STORY EYES ON THE UNIVERSE Advanced designs from BC engineers are forming a key part of next-gen telescopes that will help astronomers see more clearly and much further into space than ever before. BC engineers are even helping design and build crucial elements of the forthcoming Thirty Meter Telescope—expected to be one of the largest and most powerful telescopes ever.




WHAT IS ADAPTIVE OPTICS? Adaptive optics is turning up




everywhere. It sits at the core of both the advanced telescopes and SFU’s retinal scanner featured in this edition o f Innovation. So—what is it?




ON THE COVER An artist's conception of the planned Thirty Meter Telescope, scheduled for first-light operations in Hawaii by 2027. Find out more in our feature beginning on Page 12. Illustration: TMT International Observatory

SEEING INTO THE FUTURE A new award-winning, made-in- BC retinal scanner is capable of producing images with unprecedented clarity and precision—and it’s poised to help ophthalmologists identify and treat serious eye diseases in their earliest stages.



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JULY/AUGUST 2018 | volume

22 number


INPUT LEADS TO BETTER GOVERNANCE During the June Council meeting, I mentioned how I thought the agenda was exciting—which is not something often heard around the Council table! The agenda was long, and Council was asked to make some significant decisions. The agenda also included two items that underpin my professional service commitment to our association: good governance, and diversity and inclusion in our professions. The agenda included significant governance questions, like how we nominate and elect members to Council. It included opportunities to improve how we protect the public interest,

ENGINEERS AND GEOSCIENTISTS BRITISH COLUMBIA Suite 200 - 4010 Regent Street, Burnaby, BC Canada V5C 6N2

Tel: 604.430.8035 Fax: 604.430.8085 Email: Internet: Toll free: 1.888.430.8035

COUNCIL 2017/2018 President C.J.A. Andrewes, P.Eng., CPA, CMA Vice-President K. Tarnai-Lokhorst, P.Eng. Immediate Past President R.P. Stewart, P.Eng.

COUNCILLORS D.W. Barry, P.Eng.; S. Cheema, CPA, CA; S. Hayes, P.Eng.; C.J. Hickson, P.Geo., FGC; K. Laloge, CPA, CA, TEP; L. Mah, P.Eng., FEC; R.B. Nanson, P.Eng.; R.N. Rajapakse, P.Eng.; S.R. Rettie, P.Eng., FEC; L. Spence, P.Eng.; J. Turner, P.Ag. (ret); J.D. Vincent, P.Geo.; T.C. Watson, P.Eng.; D. Wells, JD

Caroline Andrewes, P.Eng., CPA, CMA President

such as through the regulation of companies. We also moved to create a more inclusive practice by approving the terms of reference for our new 30 by 30 diversity champions, and asking the Professional Practice Committee to help embed the principles of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action into our professional practice. When Council addresses the breadth of business in an agenda like this one, we rely heavily on feedback from trusted stakeholders. To anyone who has read this column,it should come as no surprise that feedback is something I personally value. Hearing the perspective of others allows us to reflect on our performance and our beliefs. Council and the association team regularly seek feedback from each other, and from stakeholders. It keeps us on track, and sometimes challenges us to take a different approach. It’s a practice that benefits each of us personally, improves our performance as a team, and maintains our ability to make decisions that are in the best interest of the public. Throughout June, Council received significant feedback: from members through the consultation on the Life Membership bylaw revision and both the Nominations and Elections Review Task Force and Advisory Task Force on Corporate regulation; from experts in regulatory practice through receipt of the Professional Standards Authority review of our association governance; and from trusted consultants like Nalaine Morin, who assisted us with the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations. We sought this feedback from trusted partners so we would be better informed and to provide context for our discussions. But feedback is not the sole driver for decisions; instead it is how we reflect, test and consider information that is the key to good governance. Information may be compelling, but Council may choose a different path than recommended by feedback. In the same way, when an important stakeholder wants to talk about how we are performing as a regulator, we listen—and we respond. We thought carefully about the recommendations in the Ministry of the Environment’s release of the Professional Reliance Review final report, issued on June 28. A number of the recommendations were positive, but others involved sweeping governance changes that raise a number of questions. Government has indicated that further consultations are planned with affected regulators, and we intend to inform this process with honest and forthright feedback, and a clear focus on building a framework that will enable improvements to this model. Feedback is a gift, and I greatly value the voice of our members – especially when our opinions differ. Your consideration, thoughtful reflection, and commitment to continuous improvement of the association is a positive reflection on the professions and is always welcome.

ASSOCIATION STAFF A.J. English, P.Eng. Chief Executive Officer and Registrar T.M.Y. Chong, P.Eng. Chief Regulatory Officer and Deputy Registrar J. Cho, CPA, CGA Chief Financial and Administration Officer M. Logan, Chief Of Strategic Operations M.L. Archibald Director, Communications and Stakeholder Engagement D. Gamble Director, Information Systems P.R. Mitchell, P.Eng. Director, Professional Practice, Standards and Development D. Olychick Director, Member Services G.M. Pichler, P.Eng. Director, Registration E. Swartz, LLB Director, Legislation, Ethics and Compliance V. Lai, CPA, CGA Associate Director, Finance and Administration M.A. Rigolo, P.Eng., Associate Director, Engineering Admissions L. Steele, P.Geo., Associate Director, Professional Practice

Chris Hawley, Managing Editor

EDITORIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE M.I.H. Bhuiyan, P.Eng.; J. Bracho, P.Eng.; E.A. Brown, P.Eng.; K.C. Chan, P.Eng., CPA; T. George, P.Eng.; H. Ghalibafian, P.Eng.; G. Grill, P.Eng.; R. Ord, P.Eng.; A.M. Westin, GIT; M.J. Zieleman, EIT

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Innovation is published six times a year by Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia. As the official publication of the association, Innovation is circulated to members of the engineering and geoscience professions, architects, contractors and industry executives. The views expressed in any article contained herein do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Council or membership of this association. Submission Guidelines: Innovation encourages unsolicited articles and photos. By submitting material to Innovation , you grant Engineers and Geoscientists BC a royalty-free, worldwide licence to publish the material; and you warrant that you have the authority to grant such rights and have obtained waivers of all associated moral rights. Innovation reserves the right to edit material for length, clarity and conformity with our editorial guidelines ( and is under no obligation to publish any or all submissions or any portion thereof, including credits. All material is copyright. Please contact the Managing Editor for reprint permission.

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Own a condo? Own a condo? Own a condo?

What You NEED TO KNOW About Strata Deductibles for Condos and Townhouses in British Columbia Many condo owners are unaware of the very high earthquake and water damage deductibles that are becoming very common in Condo/Strata Master Insurance policies. In the event of a claim, this deductible could be shared between all unit owners in the building. Protect yourself: 1) Review your Condo/Strata Master Insurance Policy annually. (This should be provided at your strata corporation’s AGM. If you do not have a copy, contact your property manager.) 2) Contact the experienced insurance advisors at Park Insurance who manage the Engineers and Geoscientists BC Member Insurance Program to ensure that you have adequate coverage. CALL US TODAY 1.800.663.3739 What You N ED T c bles for Condos and To e ri s ol ia Many cond owners are unaware of the very hig r age deductibles that are becoming very co mon in Condo/Strata Master I s r I vent of a claim, this deductible could be shared betw en all unit owners in the buildi . Pr y lf: 1) Review your Condo/Strata Master Insurance Policy a ll . (This should be provided at your strata corporation’s AGM. If you do not have a copy, contact your property anager.) 2) Contact the experienced insurance advisors at Park Insurance who manage the Engineers and Geoscientists BC Member Insurance Program to ensure that you have adequate coverage. CALL US TODAY 1.800.663.3739 What Y u NEED TO KNOW About Strata Deductibles for Condos and Townhouses in British Columbia Many condo owners are unaware f the very igh earthquake and wat r damage deductibles that are becoming very common in Condo/Strata Master Insurance policies. In the event of a claim, this deductible could be shared between all unit owners in the building. Protect yourself: 1) Review your Condo/Strata Master Insurance Policy annually. (This should be provided at your strata corporation’s AGM. If you do not have a copy, contact your property manager.) 2) Contact the experienced insurance advisors at Park Insurance who manage the Engineers and Geoscientists BC Member Insurance Program to ensure that you have adequate coverage. CALL US TODAY 1.800.663.3739


CAST YOUR VOTE FOR MEMBER BYLAW CHANGES AND 2018/2019 COUNCIL ELECTION There are two important votes for members of Engineers and Geoscientists BC: the 2018/2019 Council Election, and member ratification for changes to four member bylaws. Both votes will be conducted electronically, beginning September 5 and ending October 5 at 12 noon. Members and licensees will be emailed on September 5, 2018, with links to candidate statements, information about bylaw changes, and voting instructions. Be sure to verify or update your contact information with Engineers and Geoscientist BC before this to receive election information. Candidate statements will also be available on our website; paper ballots can be requested from our office. Voting opens on September 5 and remains open until 12:00 pm, Friday, October 5, 2018. Members eligible to vote include professional members (P.Eng. and P.Geo.) and engineering and geoscience licensees (Eng.L. and Geo.L.).

C redit : ©M arc /F otolia

When logging into our website to update your information, consider updating your password. Regular password changes help keep your information secure. To update your information or change your password, log onto our website at , or contact our office at 604.430.8035, or toll-free 1.888.430.8035.

Between September 5 and October 5, members will be asked to elect several Council positions, and vote on four proposed bylaws governing membership. Voting will be electronic. To ensure you receive information about bylaw and Council voting, visit before September 5, 2018, and update your contact information. If you prefer to use paper ballots, please contact our office at 604.430.8035.

Members eligible to vote include Professional Engineers (P.Eng.), Professional Geoscientists (P.Geo.), Engineer Licencees (Eng.L.), and Geoscience Licencees (Geo.L.).

BY SEPTEMBER 4 Update Your Contact Information

BY OCTOBER 12 Election Results Announced


SEPTEMBER 5 Council and Bylaw Voting Instructions Sent Voting Opens

OCTOBER 5, 12 noon Voting Closes

OCTOBER 20 Annual General Meeting New Council Assumes Office

Council election and bylaw voting information, including links to Council candidates and voting instructions, will be emailed to members on September 5. Council positions include President, Vice President, and five Councillors. Details about the bylaw amendments can be found on Page 7.

Saturday, October 20, 2018 Vancouver Convention Centre East 8:30 AM–12:30 PM

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UPDATE ON PROPOSED BYLAW CHANGES LIFE, HONORARY AND NON-PRACTISING MEMBER BYLAWS Council is proposing amendments to four bylaws that govern Life Membership, honorary membership, and the use of the Non-Practising title. The proposed amendments to these four bylaws will ensure that the association: • rescinds bylaw elements that contravene the BC Human Rights Code; • better meet public expectations by clearly indicating if a member does not have practice rights; • clarifies obligations for non-practising members; and • separates honorary recognition from the granting of practice rights. PROGRESS TO DATE Engineers and Geoscientists BC staff presented the results of the consultation on the proposed bylaw amendments to Council in April. Council reviewed the feedback provided by members and made the following adjustments to the proposed amendments to Bylaw 10 (c): Non-practising member: • Non-practising members will have the opportunity to select one of two restricted titles: P.Eng. (Non-Practising) or P.Eng. Members and licensees who wish to submit motions are encouraged to do so by September 20, to allow publication of motions in advance of the AGM. The advance publication of motions allows members to inform themselves about a given motion before it is discussed at the AGM, and enables members to decide whether they have enough information to immediately consider the topic being raised in a motion. Advanced submission also allows the association to address procedural issues with the proposed motions’ movers before the motion is presented at the AGM. This year, an enhanced process will enable members to use an online form to submit motions, and to learn more about how motions are assessed by Council if they are passed by the assembly at the AGM. To submit a motion in advance, complete the Proposed AGM Motion Form by 5:00 PM, September 20, 2018. SUBMI TT ING MOT IONS AT THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEET ING Members and licensees of Engineers and Geoscientists BC can bring forward motions for Council’s consideration during the annual general meeting (AGM) . on Saturday, October 20, 2018, from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM, at the Vancouver Convention Centre East, in Vancouver, BC. For more information, visit

(Retired) for 50% of the full fee (pending ratification of the bylaws). Throughout consultation, it was evident that there is confusion among members as to what constitutes "Non- Practising" status. To ensure clarity and to understand what perceptions or circumstances might deter a member from electing this restricted title, staff held a second set of focus groups in early June to gauge member insights on this specific bylaw. Upon receiving the results, we will provide more details and guidelines to address any concerns or questions. NEXT STEPS The association will present the amendments to the proposed bylaws to members for ratification via electronic voting, along with the Council election, on September 5. Amendments to Engineers and Geoscientists BC’s bylaws require at least two- thirds (66.67%) support by voting members in order to pass. LEARN MORE For more details on the consultation results, the bylaws and for full text of the proposed amendments, visit . The form and instructions can be found at . Motions may be proposed by professional members (P.Eng. or P.Geo.) or licensees (Eng.L. or Geo.L.). A motion’s mover and seconder must both be present at the AGM to introduce their motion. Members and licensees may also submit motions from the floor at the AGM. All motions must be received prior to the deadline approved by the assembly— usually 10:00 AM on the day of the AGM. The AGM will take place



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appropriateness of contingency fee arrangements; guidance on thresholds for incompetent practice; and, guidance on determining sanctions. The second proposes that government standardize, through umbrella legislation, 10 elements of professional governance, including the authority to regulate firms, council authority to pass certain bylaws, requiring continuing professional development, clarifying public interest duties, and addressing codes of ethics, reporting duties, and whistleblower protection. In addition, the legislation would specify new rules for the composition of councils and committees, with the Office of Professional Regulation and Oversight taking on the role of vetting and appointing council and committee members, potentially eliminating council elections. IMPLICATIONS FOR REGULATING ENGINEERS AND GEOSCIENTISTS Over the past several years, Engineers and Geoscientists BC has been proactively assessing ways in which the professional regulatory model can be improved, and has made a number of recommendations to government that support that goal. These tools include the ability to regulate engineering and geoscience companies, adding new tools to improve flexibility and responsiveness of regulators, and the ability to ensure competency of engineers and geoscientists through continuing professional development. We are pleased to see that government is committed to maintaining the current results-based regulatory model that relies on qualified professionals and we are gratified to see

The BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has released the final report on the review of professional reliance in the natural resource sector. The report makes 34 recommendations under the categories of Professional Governance; Laws, Regulations and Authorizations; First Nations Engagement; Public Confidence; Natural Resource Information; and, Ministry Staffing Levels and Resources. The review was initiated in October 2017 with the goal of examining the current legislation governing qualified professionals in the natural resource sector, and the role their professional associations play in upholding the public interest. Engineers and Geoscientists BC was one of the five professional regulators named in the review’s Terms of Reference, along with the regulators of agrology, applied science technology, applied biology, and professional forestry. KEY RECOMMENDATIONS The two recommendations concerning professional governance are expected to have a significant impact on Engineers and Geoscientists BC’s role as regulator of the professions. The first suggests that government establish an independent Office of Professional Regulation and Oversight that would oversee the five associations subject to the review, and administer their legislation. The office would research and develop best practices for professional governance, such as those related to investigations and codes of conduct; the

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many of our recommendations for improving the model included in the final report. While the report includes a number of positive recommendations, it also recommends sweeping changes to the governance of regulators like Engineers and Geoscientists BC that raise a number of concerns. In particular, we are concerned that the creation of a new Office of Professional Regulation and Oversight would add cost as well as an additional layer between government and practising professionals without a clear indication of how it would improve the regulatory model. It is our view that the regulatory improvements included in the report can be achieved through amendments to the Engineers and Geoscientists Act, without creating a new level of potentially costly administration. Furthermore, we are concerned that the one-size-fits-all model proposed in the report does not account for the varied size and complexity of regulators. For instance, in the case of Engineers and Geoscientists BC, where only

In addition to the governance changes for regulators, the report also deals with a review of various regulations that fall under nine government statutes. Government has indicated that over the next several months ministries that oversee these statutes will be reviewing and considering the recommendations. Again, Engineers and Geoscientists BC expects to be consulted by government as part of this review and more details will be provided as they become available. In all of our engagements with government on this topic, our focus will be ensuring British Columbia has a modern, progressive, comprehensive, effective and efficient regulatory regime that protects the public and the environment. Engineers and Geoscientists BC remains committed to working with government and our fellow regulators to find the right solutions that will strengthen our regulatory model in support of this shared goal. The full report can be accessed at professionalreliance/.

20% of our members work in the natural resource sector, how would such a body regulate the other 80% of our members? At this point, the potential for unintended consequences has not been assessed. NEXT STEPS Government has indicated that following the report’s release it plans to initiate further consultations with affected regulators, industry groups, First Nations and other interested stakeholders over the summer. In the fall, following the consultation, government intends to implement what it has described as “tangible changes” to governance of the affected regulators. Engineers and Geoscientists BC will be an active participant in these consultations and will be urging government to proceed with caution and to take a phased approach, focusing first on changes to existing legislation where it is clear how implementation would occur and what the benefits would be. If after making those changes it is clear that further improvements are warranted, we will work with government on any necessary broader changes.


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made to account for inflation and to ensure our policy is more closely aligned with the association’s counterparts in other provinces. Providing honoraria to members of the Discipline Committee is intended to incentivize members to participate, and encourage diversity by enabling a wider range of members to serve on the Discipline Committee and inquiry panels. COUNCIL RECEIVES RECOMMENDATIONS ON NOMINATIONS AND ELECTION PROCESS Council received a report of the Nomination and Election Review Task Force with 28 recommendations to improve the association’s election process. Council directed that further review of recommendations related to governance and nomination processes be conducted by the Governance Committee in concert with the Professional Standards Authority Report and the results of the Professional Reliance Review. Staff will develop a work plan in support of the recommendations that relate to cultivating leaders for board governance, providing voting rights for members-in-training, and election processes. Council endorsed a number of recommendations affirming existing practices, subject to the Governance Committee’s review of governance and nomination processes. A summary of the report will be published shortly. CORPORATE PRACTICE RECOMMENDATIONS AND NEXT STEPS In April 2017, the Advisory Task Force on Corporate Practice presented its first set of recommendations to Council on whether the association should pursue regulatory authority over corporate practice of professional engineering and professional geoscience in BC. The task force recommended that Council pursue this authority, and provided direction on which types of organizations should be regulated. Council accepted the recommendations of the task force, and directed that it proceed to the second phase of its work to consider the regulatory model needed, as well as a more in-depth evaluation of the regulatory coverage required. The task force presented its Phase 2 report to Council in June. The report recommends that the regulatory model be based on three pillars: ethics, quality management and professional development, and that it include all organizations in the private and public sectors that provide products and/or services in BC requiring the practice of professional engineering and professional geoscience. With respect to sole practitioners, Council directed the task force to proceed with consultation with members to further examine the appropriate level of regulatory oversight. The task force will be proceeding with the third phase of its work to develop a business plan for a corporate practice program in the fall. The task force’s full report will be published

JUNE 15, 2018, Engineers and Geoscientists BC’s Council of elected members and government representatives meet throughout the year to conduct the business of association governance. The following are the highlights of the June 15, 2018, meeting. FRASER VALLEY REGIONAL DISTRICT GEO-HAZARD ASSURANCE STATEMENT AND GUIDE Council has approved the Guide to Geo-Hazard Assurance Statement for Development Approvals and Geo-Hazard Assurance Statement for Development Approvals . These documents were developed jointly by Engineers and Geoscientists BC and the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) to create a more efficient process for geo-hazard assurance and development approvals in the FVRD. The assurance statement merges and streamlines the expectations of both organizations into one process. REVISIONS TO BC BUILDING CODE LETTERS OF ASSURANCE ENDORSED Council endorsed revisions to the BC Building Code Letters of Assurance, pending final legal and editorial review. The revisions respond to changes to the BC Building Code at the beginning of the year to introduce the BC Energy Step Code, and include updates to Letters of Assurance, specifically Schedule B and Schedule C-A. BUILDING AND SPACE PLANNING The Engineers and Geoscientists BC’s office building is close to full capacity and can accommodate the organization’s operational needs for another three to five years. Council approved the terms of reference for a Building and Space Planning Task Force that will provide advice and guidance to Council for developing options to address the anticipated space needs of the association over the next 20–30 years. Committee’s recommendation to introduce an AGM Special Rule to require that AGM motions from members be submitted at least 30 days ahead of the AGM. This would allow more background information to be made available to members, supporting informed discussion and decision making. Council directed that the proposed AGM Special Rule be put to a vote concurrent with the 2019 Council election, and approved a process and timeline for implementation pending ratification of the AGM Special Rule, as well as a proposed guideline for the evaluation of member-approved AGM motions. UPDATE TO DISCIPLINE COMMITTEE COMPENSATION POLICY Engineers and Geoscientists BC’s Discipline Committee serves a key role in the association’s duty to protect the public. Council has approved an update to the current honoraria policy for members of the Discipline Committee who sit on an inquiry panel. Updates were 2019 VOTE ON AGM SPECIAL RULE At its April meeting, Council approved the Governance

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in the coming months, along with information pertaining to member consultation opportunities. MOVING FORWARD ON TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION RECOMMENDATIONS In response to a 2017 AGM motion, Engineers and Geoscientists BC is exploring how the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Committee can align with the association’s code of ethics and duties under the Engineers and Geoscientists Act . At its June meeting, Council received a report titled “Truth and Reconciliation – Options for Inclusion Recommendation Report.” Council approved the report and referred it to the Professional Practice Committee to create an action plan for Council consideration based on the recommendations identified in the report. The plan will identify budgetary and other resources required for implementation of the recommendations. AGM MOTION ON RECOGNITION OF DECEASED MEMBERS In response to a 2017 AGM motion, Council approved a procedure for recognition of deceased members at Annual General Meetings. An In Memoriam booklet will be published and made available at the meeting, listing the names of the deceased members, and a moment of silence will be observed while a list of names is displayed on the screen. AMENDMENTS FOR LIFE, HONORARY, AND NON-PRACTISING MEMBER BYLAWS Council is proposing amendments to four bylaws that govern Life Membership, honorary membership, and the use of the Non-Practising title. The changes aim to provide more accurate information to the public, provide members with flexibility to manage their license during career transitions, and clarify the professional obligations of those without practice rights. Members provided feedback through a consultation process in the spring, and Council updated the proposed bylaws to reflect member input. The bylaws now include a proposal to repeal honorary memberships in the association, provide additional clarification with respect to the obligations of non-practising members and licensees, and allow non-practising members the option to select one of two restricted titles (e.g., P.Eng. (Non- Practising) or P.Eng. (Retired). Council also approved a non-practising member/license fee for 2019 at 50% of the full member annual fee. This fee will be reconsidered in 2020 taking into account the results of the fall bylaw vote and the uptake of non-practising status. In addition, Council approved the removal of a limit on consecutive years that a member can be on reduced fees. The bylaws will be presented to members for ratification during the fall, in conjunction with the Council election.

APPOINTMENTS Council approved the following appointments to Engineers and Geoscientists BC committee, boards and task forces.

BOARD OF EXAMINERS Dr. Rishi Gupta, P.Eng., FEC Dr. Monica Varga, P.Eng. Renata Kay Wood, P.Eng. CANADIAN ENGINEERING ACCREDITATION BOARD Emily Cheung, P.Eng., FEC DISCIPLINE COMMITTEE Oliver Bonham, P.Geo., FGC

INVESTIGATION COMMITTEE Peter Helland, P.Eng. J. Douglas Joorisity, P.Eng. SCRUTINEER FOR COUNCIL ELECTION 2018/2019 John Clague, P.Geo., FEC (Hon.), FGC John Watson, P.Eng., FEC, FGC (Hon.) Ken Williams, P.Eng., FEC

Neil Cumming, P.Eng. Thomas Leung, P.Eng., Struct.Eng., FEC

STANDING AWARDS COMMITTEE Tomer Curiel, P.Eng. Rebecca Fan, P.Eng. Dr. Brian Guy, P.Geo.



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UNIVERSE ALEX B. LEBLANC B C E N G I N E E R S L E A D I N A D A P T I N G A N D D E S I G N I N G T E L E S C O P E T E C H N O L O G Y W hen the Plaskett Telescope, near Victoria, BC, began collecting starlight in May 1918, it launched Canada on a trajectory of world-class research in astronomy and astrophysics. Astronomers have used the 1.8-metre reflecting telescope, which is named for its first advocate and director, John Stanley Plaskett, to study stars and star clusters, define the size, shape and rotation of the Milky Way, determine how to detect planets circling distant stars, and track asteroids that could threaten Earth.

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P hoto : TMT I nternational O bservatory


The telescope, 10,000 times more powerful today than it was in 1918 thanks to technology upgrades, was Canada’s first contribution to the design and operation of large telescopes that have significantly expanded humankind’s understanding of the universe. Canada has since collaborated with many other countries on leading-edge telescopes—in Hawaii and Chile, and has projects in the works for South Africa, Australia and elsewhere. That experience and reputation in astronomy rests on a foundation of engineering excellence. The BC engineers working on Canada’s telescope projects are known in the global astronomy community for continually pushing the boundaries of what is technologically possible, and for helping Canadian scientists peer ever-deeper into space and time towards the universe’s beginnings. Engineers from many disciplines and fields—optical, structural, mechanical, electrical, software, and more—are designing sophisticated technologies to include in the next generation of both optical and radio telescopes. Here, we present three projects that highlight telescope technologies that BC’s engineers are currently developing to keep Canada at the forefront of astronomical and astrophysical research. TELESCOPE-ENCLOSURE ENGINEERING Two key factors drive the design of the buildings that house large telescopes, says David Halliday, P.Eng., CEO of Dynamic

Optics. “The enclosure must protect the telescope, and it must make the telescope believe that the enclosure isn’t there—that the telescope is sitting out in the open.” Dynamic Structures is designing the enclosure for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), one of two key components that Canadian engineers are contributing to the five-country international telescope project. The TMT belongs to a new class of extremely large telescopes that will allow us to see deeper into space and observe cosmic objects with unprecedented sensitivity. With its 30-metre, segmented primary mirror, the TMT will enable new observational opportunities in essentially every field of astronomy and astrophysics. A well-designed telescope enclosure protects a telescope’s costly, sensitive optics and instruments from the extreme environments of high mountaintops, where modern optical telescopes are located. It also smooths airflow around the telescope to minimize turbulence and the mixing of different air temperatures that can cause the starlight to distort optically, which compromises the telescope’s scientific results. In addition, a well-designed enclosure minimizes telescope shaking—often caused by wind, surrounding activity, or the mechanical parts of the observatory that move as the telescope tracks a star across the sky. Applying designs already in use would not work for the TMT. The size of the TMT’s primary mirror and the opportunities

to integrate technology advances to see further and more clearly into space mean new enclosure solutions are required, says Halliday, who has guided the company’s work on 12 telescope projects since the 1970s. The largest telescope in operation today—the W. M. Keck Observatory telescope, on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea— measures 10 metres inside a 30-metre- diametre enclosure. Using that design for the TMT would result in an enclosure bigger than a sports stadium. “increasing the size of the enclosure, a whole raft of thermal and wind and other issues that disrupt the telescope accelerate.” The company’s solution for TMT is a “calotte” enclosure. The eyeball-shaped structure rotates at the base. A cap sitting on that base at 32.5 degrees also rotates. The combined angles of rotation allow the enclosure’s eye to Scaling creates structural and cost challenges, and, Halliday says, by

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match the telescope as it tracks. Doors around the base open to allow airflow through the building to eliminate the heat-difference problem. Baffles shape the wind’s path around the telescope’s main mirror. In addition, “the calotte design allows us to make the enclosure smaller relative to the telescope’s size,” Halliday says. “It also protects the telescope better because we can seal it up and focus on controlling the thermal issues.” With the TMT projected to be finished by the late-2020s, Dynamic Structures is now completing the enclosure’s engineering plans, with drawings scheduled by the end of the year. ADAPTIVE OPTICS ENGINEERING Earth’s atmosphere is a challenge for starlight-gathering telescopes that operate on Earth. As the atmosphere swirls, it causes the starlight passing through to refract and shift. When that twinkling light hits a telescope mirror, the resulting image is a blurry blob that creates problems for astronomers doing research. Engineers in BC are developing technology for the TMT that will remove that twinkle. They are designing an adaptive optics system that will allow the telescope to create images of the universe that are 10 times clearer than, for example, those created by the Hubble Space Telescope. “Adaptive optics measures the optical disturbances introduced through the atmosphere and corrects those in an instrument on the telescope in real time,” says Scott Roberts, P.Eng., with the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre in Victoria, and TMT Systems Engineering Group Leader. Roberts coordinates TMT systems across the entire telescope project to help ensure that, for example, the components Canada provides work flawlessly with the components India, Japan, or the other country-partners provide. “Adaptive optics is the key technology that will enable the TMT to have 100 times the sensitivity of the previous generation of telescopes.” The TMT system, called the narrow field infrared adaptive optics system—or NFIRAOS (pronounced “nefarious”)—that NRC Herzberg engineers are designing focuses on key reference stars, then measures the turbulence in the atmosphere between those stars and the system’s photon detector. “The instrument feeds that information to the adaptive mirrors within the system,” Roberts says. “These mirrors can change shape 800 times each second to adjust for and fix, in real time, the optical aberrations that the atmosphere introduces.” When light from the 30-metre-diameter mirror hits these deformable mirrors, the result will be a sharp, focused image. The system then passes that image to the science instruments that make the measurements astronomers need for their research.

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“The performance of one subsystem impacts the performance of adjacent subsystems,” says Sightline principal Nathan Loewen, P.Eng. “They’ll be assembled and working in tight spaces on the support structure, so we have to determine with high precision how they will be installed and maintained, and consider access to bolts and other aspects. Each instrument needs to be removable without jeopardizing the rest of the assembly.” When it is complete, NFIRAOS will be the size of a small house. “Structurally, these projects are pushing the limits of what we can do with steel structures using modern

The NRC team is also designing one of those science instruments as part of the NFIRAOS

package. The infra-red imaging spectrometer (IRIS) will capture images and spectra of astronomical objects at resolutions and brightnesses beyond the capabilities of any currently existing instrument. “Imagine NFIRAOS as a pair of

eyeglasses for the telescope,” says astronomer Dr. Luc Simard, who directs the NRC’s Astronomy Technology division, a team of 68 scientists, engineers, technicians,

and support staff based in Victoria and near Penticton, BC. “These super-goggles correct the atmosphere in real time, then feed that to the eyeball. The eyeball, in this case, is IRIS.” The NRC engineers pioneered use

The IRIS assembly will help TMT capture images of unprecedented resolution and sensitivity. IRIS is comprised of a vacuum science dewar (white cylinder), a wavefront sensor (grey hexagon) and mounting struts and snout that connect it to the underside of NFIRAOS.

technologies, based on its properties,” says Loewen, who worked at Dynamic Structures until 2014. “It makes for interesting, challenging work.” The results, says Simard, will be worth it. “Adaptive optics is what is going to make a telescope like TMT reach its full scientific potential. The science we will be able to do will be mind blowing.” The TMT is in the design process, with the telescope likely to see first light in late-2020s.

of adaptive optics for telescopes in the 1980s. They continue to develop the technology. The TMT’s system is the first to be integrated within a large telescope’s design. Earlier telescopes, in contrast, have been retrofitted to use adaptive optics. “If your goal is to use the full potential of adaptive optics for science,” Simard says, “integration is a huge opportunity. But it affects how you design the mirrors of the telescope itself, the enclosure, the telescope. All these things, in addition to the adaptive-optics box itself, are critical to achieving the full potential of adaptive optics.”

NFIRAOS (blue box) and IRIS (grey cylinder with struts) form the heart of the TMT "first light" optics system. Light beams from the telescope enter into NFIRAOS, then pass through its complex maze of mirrors and beamsplitters, and then into the IRIS. I llustrations : N ational R esearch C ouncil of C anada


developing cutting-edge technologies for radio telescopes— both for observatories here in the province and elsewhere. While optical telescopes such as TMT collect light with mirrors or lenses, radio telescopes detect radio waves with dishes and antennae. Last October, the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), located at the NRC’s Dominion

Creating that box is challenging, too. Sightline Engineering, of North Vancouver, BC, is designing both the supporting structures for all the NFIRAOS instruments and the equipment to move the various instruments around as needed once the telescope is operating.

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from the cellphone industry, amplify the faint target signals while minimizing noise. The telescope’s data-processing brain is another advance. Made from customized electronics and commercial graphical processing units, the signal correlator combines and converts, in real time, the analogue-radio signals collected by

Radio Astrophysical Observatory (DRAO) near Penticton, BC, began detecting radio waves emitted by hydrogen clouds in distant galaxies, radio bursts from pulsars, and a newly discovered phenomenon called fast radio bursts. Scientists at UBC, McGill, University of Toronto, DRAO, and other research institutions across North America will use these

data to map gravitational waves, as well as radio emissions from our own galaxy. According to Dr. Mark Halpern, the UBC astronomy professor who led the development of CHIME in BC, the information will also allow researchers to “make a three-dimensional map of where neutral hydrogen is in the universe and, from this map, […] we will infer the expansion history of the universe.” The $16-million observatory consists of four fixed 100-metre-by-20- metre U-shaped dishes. Sightline Engineering’s Loewen helped Halpern design the telescope’s structure when he was chief engineer at Dynamic Structures. He says that, unlike the TMT, the structural engineering for CHIME was relatively simple. “Structurally, the tolerances are very loose compared to the TMT, which requires super-precise, super-low tolerances,” he says. “CHIME is a simple, repeating design without moving parts, so our task was to optimize construction details for cost-effectiveness.” Other aspects of the telescope are more complex. Because humans generate so much radio noise and the Milky Way emits its own strong radio signals, CHIME must sort through that local din to isolate the faint radio whispers from far-flung galaxies—whispers that have travelled billions of light years through space and time. The telescope, which is about the size of five hockey arenas, includes more than 1,000 custom-designed radio antennae to detect wavelengths in hydrogen’s 400– 800 MHz range. Low-noise electronics, built in BC from components adapted

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