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How is a baguette better than a cracker? It all comes down to car safety...

A Concordia engineering student's innovative project made the 2016 finals of the Canadian 3-Minute Thesis Competition. Vote for her by May 19!
May 2, 2016
By J. Latimer

It's a tall order for any complex subject: respecting a three-minute time limit, using laymen's terms and relying only on one slide as a visual aid.

But after she explained her master’s research into life-saving foam, Ana Maria Medina Ramirez placed first at Concordia’s Three-Minute Thesis and Project Competition in March for her presentation, "Production of Metal Foams Using Dolomite.”

Ana Maria Medina Ramirez Ana Maria Medina Ramirez

The graduate student in mechanical engineering then saw victory at the Canadian Eastern Regional 3MT competition in St. John's, Newfoundland, against seven other finalists.

Now, Medina Ramirez is competing in the Canadian 3MT Finals — national judges are currently reviewing her submission.

Plus, from May 9 to 19, you can personally cast a ballot for Concordia's champion to win the People's Choice Award.

To nationals! Vote online for Ana Maria Medina Ramirez

The Canadian 3MT Finals is a virtual contest, with judges at the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS) evaluating videos by 11 regional finalists, including Medina Ramirez.

The grand prize is $1,500. Voting for the $500 People’s Choice Award is open to the public and based on the number of likes/votes a particular video receives on the CAGS website.

It’s the third year running that a Concordian is going to 3MT nationals. Kristy Franks, a graduate student from the Individualized Program, competed last May and Sherin Al-Safadi went in 2014.

Safety foam: ‘It’s like a baguette’

During her presentation, Medina Ramirez makes a simple analogy to explain the structure of her new safety material.

Her low-cost “metal foam” has an internal pore structure like that of a baguette, so it can absorb the kind of energy and impact experienced in car accidents and other physical collisions.

“If I crush my foam, all the energy received from the impact gets trapped and dispersed,” says Medina Ramirez, whose thesis project was supervised by Robin Drew, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

“It’s like smashing a cracker and a baguette,” Medina Ramirez says. “The cracker will break apart, while the baguette, due to its composition, tends to stabilize itself after impact.”

Get ready for next year

Concordia's GradProSkills is offering support for those students who are already thinking about testing their skills at 3MT next March. "GradProSkills gives excellent advice and coaching, and they put up $750 for the Concordia 3MT first prize,” says Medina Ramirez.

Concordia’s School of Graduate Studies provided a conference travel grant for Medina Ramirez’s transportation to Newfoundland.

Any tips for next year’s 3MT entrants?

“You can never forget you’re addressing a general audience," says Medina Ramirez. "The challenge, when you’re an engineer, is that your competitors are often talking about topics that are less technical and more familiar to the general public — like linguistics, cancer, studies about disabilities and office stress."

Of course, it doesn't hurt if you can make a connection with a favourite snack — in this case, a loaf of freshly baked French bread.

Vote online for Ana Maria Medina Ramirez, Concordia's finalist in the Canadian 3-Minute Thesis Competition! Until May 19, you can view her video and cast a ballot for the People’s Choice Award.

Follow the competition on social media using the hashtags: #3MT, #Canada3MT and #gradproskills and follow @GradProSkills on Twitter.


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