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#UofTGrad16: Engineering students put the "U" in U of Toronto

Three students carry a giant letter U

U-Haul: Members of U of T Engineering’s Blue & Gold Committee and Outreach Office on their way to Nathan Phillips Square (Kyle Coulter, U of T Engineering photo)

The order came in on June 3. The photo shoot of the TORONTO sign in Nathan Phillips Square was scheduled for June 8.

No problem for the Blue & Gold Committee.

“I don’t think that either of us were every really concerned about being able to complete the project on time, or even had thoughts about not taking it on,” Joshua Calafato, co-chair with Ozan Coskun of a volunteer organization of  Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering students who make it their business to make things – and make things happen.

“As engineering students, we aren’t strangers to hard work and short timelines, and the desire to help our community is much stronger than our worries about the difficulties of finishing a task.”

The task in this case was to construct a big “U” and lower-case “of” to stand to the left of the TORONTO sign, which was illuminated partly in U of T blue for a day as the City of Toronto recognized the university and its 2016 graduates.

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There were some complications. Coskun, a mechanical engineering student who was in charge of design, was visiting family in Istanbul. Not that the distance posed much of a problem in the Internet age. The main issue was coordinating working with waking hours.

Using Solidworks software, he was able to design letters of appropriate dimensions and font and sent the plans across the Atlantic, where Calafato, an engineering science student with a major in electrical engineering, had assembled a team of eight volunteers who were good with their hands.

“We were able to finish construction in about four hours, and painted them in an hour,” Calafato said. “All in all, we finished working just before midnight Tuesday night.”

The plywood and other materials came from Home Depot but the work was done in the Blue & Gold Room. True to engineering ideals, this space adjacent to the “pit” in the Sanford Fleming Building is outfitted as a woodworking shop rather than a conventional meeting space.

“We don’t get paid, and our involvement is totally driven by passion,” Coskun said. “We signed up for this role knowing that such tight timelines can occur.”

According to Calafato (who, like Coskun, has just finished his third year) the volunteer workers did not hesitate. Who could refuse an offer to give senior classmates and other graduates a fitting send-off?

“The best part about this build was seeing our peers come together,” Calafato added.

And what now happens to the Big U? It is an impressive letter, six feet high and four-and-a-half feet wide. The handsome font is Azo Sans Bold.

“The fate of the U is unfortunately the same as all of our builds, mostly recycling,” Coskun said. “We usually salvage any useful materials, like metals or big chunks of wood. However, we keep tons of photos which let us remember what we have accomplished.”