OPA Connections program delivers real-world experience to students

November 20, 2013

Mats van Kleef (far right) and his team showcasing their OPA Connections project with client Colourful Gardens Ltd.

OCE’s OPA Connections program provides Ontario university and college students with the experience of working with an industry partner to apply their knowledge towards solving real-world problems in the energy sector. In the process, these students gain invaluable skills and insight that can better prepare them for the workplace and help shape their future careers.

Ontario Centres of Excellence recently surveyed student participants from the OPA Connections program and found that respondents placed a high degree of value on their experiences, with two students already working in the energy sector.

Mats van Kleef, a UOIT Mechanical Engineering and Management student, worked with industry partners AMEC (in Cambridge, Ontario) and Colourful Gardens Ltd. (in Simcoe, Ontario) to design a thermal energy storage system for a greenhouse. The system enables the owners to store energy during the day, when sunlight and heat are abundant, and utilize it at night when there is the greatest demand. This project improves the effectiveness of solar thermal systems and reduces natural gas consumption.

Mats stated that his OPA Connections experience gave him the opportunity to design a prototype without financial restraints, hone his project management skills, and network with industry experts. Mats is currently working as a Junior Engineer for Tebodin Consultants & Engineers, a company that designs natural gas well hook-ups for Shell.
Jean-Yves Watts, a George Brown student studying Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technology, worked with Dyna Current to obtain preliminary results on the efficiency of the DC electric Dyna Current Heat Wave furnace vs. a conventional AC electric furnace. Jean-Yves developed many skills completing the project that he applies in his current job at George Brown’s building automation research lab, including proper research methods, troubleshooting and problem solving skills.

Another survey respondent from Western University helped design a biodiesel refinery in order to process waste cooking oil into valuable biodiesel. The student stated that his experience in the program allowed him to apply his knowledge through hands-on experience. Working on the project gave him invaluable insight into what it would be like working in the energy sector and he is currently seeking a job in the industry.

A fourth respondent from Ryerson University also worked with Hydro One to design and implement a photovoltaic array simulator prototype. The project allowed him to investigate solar panel characteristics, a significant part of his academic specialization and a personal area of interest. The student indicated that he is extremely likely to pursue a career in the energy sector as a result of the OPA Connections program. He is currently building on his experience working as a Junior Electrical Engineer in the energy sector and has plans to pursue his interest in alternative energy systems.

Another OPA Connections participant from Ryerson University worked with Hydro One on a three-phase programmable power supply project. Of particular value to this student was that the OPA Connections program provided funding for a project he was interested in investigating that otherwise wouldn’t be possible because of the prohibitive costs. The student stated that he also intends to work in the energy sector.