Faculty of Engineering helps design signature waffle plate for the U of O

The University of Ottawa recently became the first Canadian university to design and build its own waffle plate, which was unveiled to students for the first time on Friday, March 10 in the University Centre (UCU).

This new initiative was made possible thanks in part to Patrick Genest, director of the U of O’s Food Services, who came up with the idea after spotting a Mickey Mouse-themed waffle at a conference in Anaheim, California this past summer. Shortly after this discovery Genest enlisted the help of Chris Falconi, a U of O graduate student in engineering, to bring this kind of unique branding opportunity to campus.

“I thought to myself, ‘This would be great for students and to promote the Gee-Gees brand at the same time. How can we collaborate with the faculty and some students to make this happen?’” Genest told the Fulcrum at the March 10 event.

Following an initial meeting in September, Falconi and Hanan Anis, a U of O professor in electrical and computer engineering, went through the necessary parameters and specs of the project before building the first iteration of the waffle plate using a 3D printer at the Richard L’Abbé Makerspace.

According to Genest, while they were in the middle of designing the waffle plate, the team constantly asked themselves: “How are we going to know what this waffle is going to look like if we can’t really shape it?”

To solve this issue, they tested the prototype plate with Play-Doh to ensure that the Gee-Gees logo would be well defined.

Three versions later the final prototype was replicated in mid-November, and five waffle presses were shipped out to get food-safe coating, returning to the U of O in January 2017.

This tasty treat has paved the way for more collaborations between Food Services and the student body. Food Services is now working with several classes on a hydroponics project—which involves growing plants in water without soil—and sponsoring the project as a client.

“We’ve developed that relationship with the students now and they’ve got the real-life kind of feel for the client experience, and they’re working with us to fulfill our requirements,” said Genest. “All around I think it’s a win-win for everyone in this process.”  

The Gee-Gee waffle made its official debut in the UCU dining hall on Monday, March 13, and Food Services plans to host Gee-Gees Waffle Fridays every week starting March 17. There will also be spin-off specials in the near future to find the best toppings and pairings for the waffle.

As for seeing the Gee-Gees logo in other foods, Genest believes that the possibilities in the future are endless. However, as of now, Food Services is “taking (things) one at a time.”

“All these ideas bubble up to the surface, but now it’s all about what makes sense. I think the experience has been a positive one for the whole campus and for Food Services as well,” said Genest, noting that the makerspace is also available to any student wishing to leave their markquite literally.

While Food Services could have outsourced the project, Genest said that it was a great opportunity to work with the faculties, students, and professors.

“We’re all Gee-Gees as students on campus, whether you’re an athlete or not.”