Hal High grad part of 3D printing innovation research
By Darren Lum
Published: Sept. 19 2017
Edward Cyr might have left Haliburton County but the county never left him.
The Haliburton Highlands Secondary School graduate of 2007 revealed how much he appreciates the natural beauty of the area since he left for his post-secondary education pursuing engineering.
Cyr has become the face of the University of New Brunswick with his headline grabbing research to develop industrial 3D printing to possibly lead to the next industrial revolution.
Referencing a University of New Brunswick press release the mechanical engineer is the first post-doctoral graduate at the university to be a recipient of the McCain Fellowship worth $50000 a year.
This is part of the $1.25 million gift from the McCain Foundation which is funding the university’s new postdoctoral fellowship program for innovation as announced several weeks ago. The goal of these fellowships is to give graduates the means to transform research into a product ready for market.
Since May Cyr has built his research program at the university’s new Marine Additive Manufacturing Centre of Excellence. The press release said he is investigating the role that artificial intelligence and additive manufacturing play in the evolution of printed materials.
Efforts are being made to study printed aluminium alloy that could be reactive. When this alloy is put under certain types of stresses it will increase in strength. Possible applications are related to the marine automotive construction and aircraft industries. The potential for 3D printing powered by a computer is limitless because of the ability for a computer to create thousands of designs. Cyr has suggested it might not be too far into the future before a bridge could design and build itself.
Cyr said none of this would be possible without his UNB supervisor at the Marine Additive Manufacturing Centre of Excellence Mohsen Mohammadi. The two met during Cyr’s post-doctorate studies at Waterloo University. Two years ago Mohammadi went to the University of New Brunswick. The pair remained in touch. They discussed the possibility of working together.
“We were both interested in getting going and talking about how to do that and what we wanted to do and what kind of research was interesting to us” he said.
Earlier this spring Mohammadi learned of the opportunity for a post-doctoral fellowship in innovation and alerted Cyr about this first-time offer. Cyr applied and was successful.
The newfound fame hasn’t gone to his head.
“It’ll take some time to sink it but I bet it will soon be someone else’s face” he said.
Although he had an opportunity to pursue further studies in the U.S. he chose the University of New Brunswick because of how much Fredericton where the university is located reminds him of his hometown.
Cyr said Fredericton compares well to Haliburton with its natural beauty whether it’s because of the lakes and its forests and said it has a “small town attitude.”
“It feels kind of like home being here” he said. “I could have gone to the States. I felt if I went there I would be working underneath someone and probably feel like a small fish in a big pond. I’m not sure how much of a difference I could make. I could get a lot of experience by learning from somebody but I didn’t feel I’d have as many chances to expand or grow especially in teaching.”
He was accepted by the school in March and started in May.
Recently Cyr has begun to teach undergraduate students introduction to dislocations and plasticity.
His students will use the research from his PhD work and apply it to their work.
“The dream will be if everyone in the group understands it. I need to finish understanding it firstunderstand what’s in the thesis. They can start using it and modifying it on their own to suit the materials that they are dealing with” he said.
Students are working with high strength steels different aluminium alloys than what Cyr was working with such as titanium alloys.
Last January he taught third-year university students in mechatronic engineering – a hybrid course of electrical and mechanical engineering – at the university level for the first time at Waterloo University.
From this experience he was reminded how much he loves teaching and was caught off guard with how much work there is in preparing for classes.
“For every hour of lecture there is always at least probably two hours of preparing” he said. “But it was a lot of fun.”
The first time he ever taught was back in Grade 12. He and friend Rob Sherwood made regular trips to Cardiff Elementary School to volunteer to teach music since the school didn’t have a music teacher.
Despite his achievements he hasn’t forgotten the teachers who influenced him when he was growing up in the Highlands. He gives full credit to his past teachers for their influence in his academics and in life. With recent experience teaching he said he has great respect for his teachers particularly for the effort before and after classes.
“Mr. Klose was so enthusiastic and funny and made every class interesting. I enjoyed his class. Mr. Zondervan in chemistry really pushed you to think and really made you work hard. I value that a lot because you needed that work ethic at Waterloo for sure in engineering. That was very helpful” he said.
His English and French teacher was Mr. Cooper who went on a school trip to Spain and France in Grade 11.
“He was so diverse. He knew so many different things. He read what seemed like every book that has ever been written. He had so much knowledge and was so professional. I looked up to him for that” he said.
Mr. Regina his music teacher taught him to work towards excellence.
“When you add all of these things together from the high school experience and you put them together it’s a pretty good recipe for success anywhere really” he said.
His curling coach in high school Mr. Dibblee “taught me to not take myself so seriously and that it’s good to want things (an inside joke)” he said.
Cyr felt badly he was not crediting everyone.
“I also don’t want to leave anyone out but honestly all of my teachers I have had that have influenced my life positively from Haliburton and Minden” he said.
Cyr not only sees what his teachers did for him but also how growing up and coming from the Highlands has made him the person he is today.
“It’s easy to work with your neighbour. When you go to a big city. It’s not really the culture. You don’t really know everyone around so you have to work to get to know them but when you do it helps a lot” he said. It leads to a cascade of connections from one person then another to another.
“It starts to feel like a small community even though it’s a big city” he said.
There is often a perception that there is little opportunity for students from small communities.
Cyr is proof that there’s potential in everyone with the right attitude.
His advice for students in rural Ontario and anywhere is to not let fear stop you and always say “yes to opportunity.”
“Don’t say no if you’re afraid or unsure or don’t feel like doing something. Have an attitude where you want to experience trying new things and take opportunities when they arise. You never know where it will lead you” he said. “You’re going to be faced with disappointment and faced with obstacles but you’ll always find a way to succeed if you keep pushing and don’t stop.”
He remembers imparting some advice from a book he read to first-year students after they received disappointing test marks.
“It just literally measured their knowledge or what they had written down for those tests and it has nothing to do with them as a person. If you can associate you as a person and don’t value yourself by your marks or whether you win or lose. It doesn’t have anything to do with who you are. That was a big lesson for some students” he said.
Cyr was frequently in the Echo for his high level of curling in the high school and a few years ago for his success in triathlons most notably the Hawaiian Ironman.
In academics he still applies lessons from his athletics. He learned achievement is made through grit and pushing through boundaries even when you’re not at your best.
He grew up loving science building things with toys K’nex and Lego. His parents encouraged him to enter engineering and a friend of the family a few years older inspired him with his career path.
Being part of the early steps in this foundation for cutting edge technology excites him.
“It’s a dream I’ve always had to be working on something that no one has done before” he said.
Ten years ago 3D printing did not even exist he adds.
“It’s hard to know what’s going to exist in the next five years” he said.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be bored with this kind work. It’s changing every day” he said. “There’s no routine and I love that.”