Teaching Excellence Award – Class of ’65 tops $1.5M to The Foundation

Class of ’65 Teaching Excellence Award Presentation

Class of 1965 Teaching Excellence AwardClass of 1965 Teaching Excellence AwardClass of 1965 Teaching Excellence AwardClass of 1965 Teaching Excellence Award


In what could only be described as a classy presentation, 22428 Captain Kristin Topping (RMC 2002) spoke to a large crowd last week at Currie Hall.  Members of the RMCC Board of Governors, and a mixture of staff, family & friends joined five members from the RMC Class of 1965 and listened attentively as she explained the significance of chemistry and the Canadian Forces.


principal-dr-scCommodore and Ms, Truelove, members of the class of 1965, members of the Board of Governors, members of the Topping family, colleagues, students and guests, welcome to 2009 Teaching Excellence Award lecture.

Given that the undergraduate Cadet program is at the core of the Royal Military College of Canada’s academic program and that dedicated teaching and mentoring by our civilian and military faculty makes that program possible, is it is most appropriate and important that we honour excellence in teaching. Thus I know I speak for the entire RMC-C community in once again thanking the Class of 1965 for their generosity and foresight in making this award and this special evening possible.

22428 la Capt Kristin Topping regut son diplôme du Collège Militaire Royal du Canada en génie chimique. Elle compléta par la suite sa formation requise pour son groupe professionnel militaire (GPM), le genie aérospatial, pour ensuite être mutée a 1’unite de Recherche et développement pour la défense Canada (RDDC) a Toronto. Au RDDC elle fut assignée au rôle d’officier de projet a 1’equipement au sein du groupe aérospatial qui a comme tache la gestion, le développement, la modification et les essais sur 1’equipement de survie aérospatiale existant ou nouveau. Par la suite la Capt Topping est allée compléter une maîtrise en génie environnemental au CMR et fut ensuite mutée a la faculté de chimie et de génie chimique en 2007.

She teaches a wide variety of courses including a summer math refresher course for the Department of Applied Military Science (AMS) and incoming UTPNCMs, first year engineering chemistry, engineering economics and some chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear courses for both AMS and the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. Capt Topping is currently completing her PhD which focuses on the application of microfiuidic technology for use in field-deployable chemical warfare agent detection equipment. Please join me in congratulating Capt Topping RMC’s Teaching Excellence Award Winner for 2008-09.

Dr. Joel J. Sokolsky
Royal Military College of Canada
Collège militaire royal du Canada

Class of 1965 tops $1.5M to The Foundation

The RMC Class of  1965 sponsors the teaching excellence award and the $5,000.00 that goes to the recipient each year.

Class of 1965 Teaching Excellence AwardCaptain Topping showed the audience just why she is worthy of this recognition with a combination of wit and wisdom.

The evening kicked off with an introduction and background talk on the Award by 6604 Jim Carruthers. Along the way he took good friendly swipes at the Class of 1966 and 1964.

“We know the Class of ’65 is unique – admittedly we only have ’64 and ’66 to compare …. We are very close Class with everyone putting the class above our college of entry [okay, we Roadents know we are better but we sacrifice for the class]. I am not sure of the numbers but I believe ’65 has contributed over $1.5M to The Foundation” , said the member of The New 18 Society for 2008.

Projects from the Class of 1965 include:
• The Teaching Excellence Award;
• The Research Excellence Award established by Dr John Cowan who is an honourary member;
• The Carruthers RETP scholarships;
• The John Bart Obstacle Race awards and dinner; and
• The Professorship in Leadership which is our Old Brigade entry project

A pretty impressive list indeed!

Jim didn’t miss the opportunity to promote the Foundation.Class of 1965 Teaching Excellence Award

“The work of the Foundation is critical to RMC. The Foundation makes the difference – it provides for ‘The Margin of Excellence’. As a personal observation, I would offer is that The Foundation should fund those things which contribute to RMC being the best military college in the world and which have a direct influence on the experiences of cadets while they are here.”

During his talk, the formal naval officer mentioned the input of many of his classmates: “In the late 80’s the Class of ’65 was looking for an undertaking we could sponsor in conjunction with our 25th reunion in 1990. Keith Ambachtsheer, an economist and world authority on pensions, discussed the class giving back to RMC with fellow classmates Tom Barton and Steve Arnold.”

He also recalled,

“Tom was a driving force at RMC and would have won the teaching excellence award had he not died tragically shortly after the committee finished its work…”

In closing, Jim Carruthers summed up his highly polished presentation with these words. “The excellent instructors at Royal Roads, CMR and the RMC collectively had a huge impact on the class of ‘65, an effect magnified in the small class sizes of the senior years. Members of this class have thereby gone on to assume leadership positions in all sectors of Canadian society. With the Class of ’65 Teaching Excellence award, this class shows that it is eternally grateful.”

Class of 1965 Teaching Excellence AwardClass of 1965 Teaching Excellence Award


1) 6630 Peter Glynn presenting, $5,000.oo cheque on behalf of the Class of 1965.

2) Five members of the Class (’65) in attendance: 6475 Mike Houghton; 6678 Bill Rattray; 6604 Jim Carruthers; 6630 Peter Glynn; and 6575 LT Taylor.  Click here on a short article on Bill Rattray aka Rat

3) 6575 LT Taylor presenting a beautiful framed souvenir of the – Class of 1965 2009 Teaching Excellence Award Poster.  L.T. Taylor traveled from Halifax to attend this ceremony.

Photo credits: Capt Topping, Dr. Sokolsky  & Jim Carruthers by Brad Lowe – Base photographer.  Class of 65 group (5) photo by a friend of the class.


Teaching Excellence Award Lecture

Capt Topping – 3 November 2009

Title: Chemistry and the Canadian Forces

I’m going to do things a bit differently and start with my thank-yous before I get too flustered. I’d like to first take the opportunity to thank the Class of 1965 for this wonderful prize. I’d like to thank my family and friends for putting up with me complaining about lecture prepping for the past two and half years. I’d also like to thank two of the people who have helped me discover my passion for teaching, Dr. Weir and Dr. Kelly. Two amazing professors, Dr Weir having won the TEA twice and Dr Kelly having been nominated twice, both of whom are conveniently my supervisors. I have shamelessly stolen bits and pieces of their teaching style to form my own. Last but not least I have to thank my students. I have had a really unique opportunity at the College – I teach everything from high school math and engineering economics to engineering chemistry and courses in Chem, Bio and Rad warfare. Because of this, I’ve gotten the privileged opportunity to interact with a huge cross-section of the students here at RMC – all of them from different parts of the country, in different academic programs and with different career aspirations. I wouldn’t be up here today if I didn’t have such interested and interesting students.

I’ve found the greatest aspect of teaching is when, after you’ve packed student’s brains with theory, you can flip a switch and literally turn the light on when you show them the application of that theory and how it applies to their everyday lives or to their future career. So, this lecture today is for the students. I’ll be channeling David Letterman of the Late Night Show.

Todays presentation will be subtitled: Capt Topping’s Top 10 Coolest Applications of Chemistry in the Canadian Forces. We’ll be sticking with the current and one or two future applications. No chemical warfare agents, no nuclear weapons. Canada is a member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and has signed onto numerous Nuclear Non-proliferation agreements so I’ll be staying away from those applications of chemistry.

I’ll start out tonight with a few honourable mentions of applications that didn’t quite make the list but which have improved our operational capabilities significantly.

Glow Sticks: This is basically an acid-base reaction with the addition of an active ingredient called Luminol (same thing that is used to show residual blood in forensic crime scene analyses) – the luminol basically acts as an electron scavenger during an acid/base reaction. It is the relaxation of the excited electrons which will emit photons (light) that cause the characteristic glow.

C-4 Plastic Explosives: C-4 is made up of conventional explosives, RDX 91% by weight, as well as plastic binder, plasticizer and, usually, a chemical marker to help detect the explosive and identify its source. C-4 is 1.34 times as explosive as trinitrotoluene (TNT). (video)

Class of 1965 Teaching Excellence AwardReverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit: This is an advanced water treatment system capable of purifying water from any source including water that has been contaminated by chemical, biological or radiological warfare agents, salt water, brackish water or fresh water. This type of osmosis is a pressure driven, separation process that uses membranes to separated dissolved substances and suspended particularly from water.

“Green” Energy Technologies such as Fuel Cells: A fuel cell system can utilize hydrogen to produce energy rather than the burning of fossil fuels. Since the fuel cell relies on chemistry and not combustion, emissions from this type of a system would be much smaller than emissions from the cleanest fuel combustion processes.

Number 10: Smoke

Number 10 is the application of smoke in field and emergency operations such as to screen or obscure an area, riot control scenarios or location marking. Two main types exist, colored smoke (for signaling) and screening smoke. Smoke can be disseminated in the field in 3 ways: Smoke Grenade, Smoke Shells, Smoke Generators. Smoke production involves REDOX reactions – these reactions look at the transfer of electrons from one species to another to allow the recombination of different elements and in this particular case one product of this reaction is a solid/liquid aerosol that is dispersed as a smoke. In colored smoke grenades, the filler consists of potassium chlorate, lactose and a dye. Screening smoke grenades usually contain a hexachloroethane/zinc smoke mixture (which is unfortunately toxic) or a terephthalic acid smoke mixture.

Number 9: MACS – Modular Artillery Charge System

This is the new propellant system used to launch artillery shells from the M777 Howitzer. Previously, there were four different types of bag propellant charges used. MACS uses a “build-a-charge” concept in which based on the distance to the target two different charge increments are used to build-up your total propellant charge.

The M232 and M231 increments have a centre core igniter and main charge granular propellant enclosed in a rigid combustible case which is smaller than a coffee can. The M232 includes additives to reduce flash, gun wear and barrel coppering. The M231 is fired either singularly (Charge 1) or in pairs (Charge 2) to engage targets from three to 12 kilometres. The M232 is fired in groups of three or more increments to engage targets to ranges exceeding 29 kilometres.

Some of the other benefits of the MAC System include a high rate of fire, extended range, lower cost and a significantly reduced environmental impact. (video)

Number 8: CARC – Chemical Agent Resistant Coatings

CARC is an equipment surface treatment that are designed to provide protection against chemical and biological agents. When a tactical vehicle is exposed to these weapons it must be able to be decontaminated. CARC provides equipment protection before and after decontamination as well. Alkyd paints which are normally used as surface coating would absorbed chemical agents and decontaminating solutions – CARC eliminates this hazard.

These coatings are used as the finish on all vehicles (including vehicle interiors). The CARC system we employ is a combination of pretreatments, primers and topcoats that are all two-component systems. When these components are combined a terminal chemical reaction takes place which creates an impermeable coating. The surface of your equipment has to be pretreated to accept the coating, following that vehicle exteriors are painted with an epoxy primer, then with an aliphatic polyurethane topcoat. The interior of hull-type vehicles gets an epoxy enamel over the epoxy primer.

These coating systems can be designed to integrate your equipment into different environments by incorporating additives that allow for your equipment to reflect or emit different IR signatures. Key to survivability in a combat environment is avoidance of enemy detection systems. CARC coated vehicles and equipment have these signature-reduction properties that diminish the effectiveness of existing and emerging enemy detection systems. While infrared reflectivity is one element of signature-reduction, others and their particulars are considered classified information.

Number 7: Composite Materials

Composite materials are engineered materials made from two or more materials that have different physical or chemical properties. These properties remain separate and distinct within the finished structure. Composite materials take advantage of the different strengths and abilities of different materials to form a finished product with specific design requirements. I’d like to talk about three different uses of composites that demonstrate their broad application.

Helicopter Rotor Blades

Helicopter rotor blades were originally constructed of laminated wood and fabric and then in the 1960s steel and aluminium structures were introduced. These metal blades were a huge improvement on previous designs but still had quite a few disadvantages associated with them. Recent developments in composite materials such as carbon fibre reinforced plastic have allowed the creation of rotor blades that have and will no doubt improve on these blades in the future. Helicopter blades in newer airframes are based on carbon fibre layers overtop of a honeycomb and foam inner structure.

Ballistic Eyewear

Polycarbonate shatter resistant lenses – saved the eyesight and many lives of those exposed to blast and munition effects in Afghanistan.


Advances in plastic poly laminates, reinforced textiles and the composite lamination process have allowed prosthetics to become stronger, lighter and more comfortable for the user. Plastic polymer laminates such as acrylic, epoxy and polyesters are used for the fabrication of prosthetic sockets. Reinforcement textiles are the fabrics used in a laminate to provide strength and include. materials such as fiberglass, nylon, Dacron, carbon, and Kevlar. The final step is a lamination process which involves the saturation of reinforcement textiles with plastic polymer resin.Class of 1965 Teaching Excellence Award

Number 6: CBplus

One of the primary design challenges in designing protective clothing is the fact that all impermeable barriers impose a thermal burden. The need to protect against particulates and vapours presents further challenges and complicates the issue. The CBplus suit is a research initiative that is looking to provide a shield against short-term exposure to toxic agents (chemical and biological in nature) in a system that can be worn similar to and feels like your standard combat uniform.

In order to accomplish this novel materials are being developed based on carbon sphere (fullerene) and fiber technologies. CBplus offers the same level of protection as the military’s current chemical and biological warfare suit (the Horizon suit), but for a shorter period. Simulations conducted by DRDC Suffield have shown soldiers wearing CBplus perform on the battlefield at about the same level as if they were wearing a regular uniform.

The uniform has two layers of protection built into it. One layer deals with aerosol forms of toxic agents, while the other resists penetration by liquids.

Number 5: Nuclear Detection Technologies

I’ll be discussing two applications of nuclear detection technologies including Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA) and Neutron Radiography (NR).

Neutron Activation Analysis

NAA is a nuclear process used for determining the concentrations of specific elements in different materials (such as the nitrogen in explosive compounds). It is significantly different from other spectroscopic analytical techniques in that it is based not on electronic transitions involving the electron cloud but on nuclear transitions involving the nucleus of an atom.

To carry out an NAA analysis the specimen is bombarded with neutrons, this creates artificial radioisotopes of the elements present. Following irradiation the artificial radioisotopes decay via the emission of particles or more importantly gamma-rays which are characteristic of the element from which they were emitted.

The Canadian Forces has fielded the Improvised Land Mine Detection System which is a multicomponent detection system that includes Ground Penetrating Radar, a Metal Detector, Forward Looking Infrared Radar, and a Thermal Neutron Activation Detector.

In simple terms, TNA detects nitrogen levels in soil when an unnaturally high level is detected it confirms the presence of nitrogen-based explosives. It is a complimentary technique that is used to confirm the findings of the others sensors in the the ILMDS. The neutron source is a Californium-252 source or a deuterium/tritium neutron generator (depending on the model). This source injects slow neutrons into the soil which are absorbed by whatever is in the soil and the returned electromagnetic radiation from the artificial radioisotopes is measured. It is capable of confirming the presence of antitank mines buried to a depth of 20 cm and shallow, large antipersonnel mines. The ILDS TNA sensor is manufactured in Canada by SAIC Canada and Bubble Technologies.

Nuclear Radiography

A second nuclear detection technique is employed here at the College in the Slow-Poke reactor and it is a non-destructive testing technique called neutron radiography. You can think of it like an x-ray but using a higher energy radiation source (which means you wouldn’t want to used this technique on yourself). Neutron radiography can be used to produce images of water ingress into the honeycomb structure of aircraft wings. A neutron beam penetrates a sample material – the neutron energy is attentuated and detected by a two dimensional imaging device. Contrary to X-rays, neutrons are attenuated by some light materials, as i.e. hydrogen, boron and lithium but penetrate many heavy materials.

Number 4: Smart Nanomaterials

Nanomaterials look at the application of nanotechnology to materials science. It studies materials with advantageous structural and reactive features on the nanoscale (very very very small). How can these be useful in the CF? Three different areas of research into different surface coatings using nanotechnology are being investigated in the CF.

Chemical Warfare Agent Penetration Resistance

This application of nanomaterials looks are the incorporation of nanostructures into polymer-based materials that increase the material’s total properties such as increasing its strength and permeability. The Protection Group at DRDC Suffield is investigating the optimization of nanoclay platelets into polymer films as thin as 20 micrometers in order to improve a coating’s resistance to the penetration of toxic chemicals such as sulphur mustard agent (mustard gas).


This application examines reactive nanoparticles which are encapsulated in protective coatings. These systems are designed to respond to specific toxins – in response to exposure the core nanoparticle material will be released which breaks the toxin down into harmless reaction products. While this reaction is taking place the particles will change colour and indicate the presence of a toxic compound. These are smart chemical sensors with a detoxification mechanism built-in.

Self-healing Coatings

These are nanomaterials that react to an external impact such as changes in pH, humidity, or disruption of the coating’s integrity and they are designed to repair themselves.

Number 3: Fuel-Air Munitions

Fuel-Air Explosives are one type of thermobaric weapon which disperses an aerosol cloud of fuel which is ignited by an embedded detonator to produce an explosion. The main destructive force of an FAE is high overpressure this factor enables their usefulness to extend to soft targets such as minefields, armoured vehicles, aircraft parked in the open, and bunkers.

Class of 1965 Teaching Excellence AwardThere are dramatic differences between explosions involving vapour clouds and high explosives (such as C4) at close distances. Conventional high explosives have a blast overpressure that is much higher than that from a vapour cloud explosion but it is relatively short in duration. The blast from an FAE has a longer duration which will increase the amount of time a structure is imposed on by a high pressure shock front. Fuel-Air explosives are used out at DRDC Suffield to test the effectiveness of different designs for Hesco bastion protective structures that are used over in Afghanistan.

There are accidental version of an FAE as well and these include incidents such as a boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion (BLEVE), for example when a tank containing liquefied petroleum gas bursts or in silo explosions caused by the ignition of finely-powdered atmospheric dust. If you watch Myth Busters – the boys also made a homemade FAE using coffee-whitener as the solid particulate fuel.

Number 2: Quik-Clot

Quik-Clot is a brand of hemostatic agent which in its original format was a granular product that was to be poured directly on wounds to stop bleeding. New formats have the active ingredient, zeolite, infused into fabric dressing materials. Zeolite is a molecular sieve that traps small molecules in a molecular “cage” and holds these molecules by forming hydrogen bonds. The platelet and clotting factor molecules naturally found in human blood remain in the wound in a highly concentrated form. This promotes extremely rapid natural clotting and prevents severe blood loss.

Quik-Clot while being a very effective tool did not make the number one spot simply because of the serious limitations associated with its use. As with anything it has be used properly in order to achieve the desired effect (which is reduced blood loss in order to achieve lower mortality rates). These limitations include:

1. This hemostatic agent must be applied directly to the source of bleeding which means that deeply buried and inaccessible damage, like that imposed by a puncture or gunshot wound, will be difficult to treat;
2. Foreign material and accumulated blood must be washed out to facilitate access to the bleeding vessel;
3. Prolonged direct pressure must be employed following application therefore the person providing assistance must consider their own safety during tactical operations; and
4. If large amounts of blood and QuikClot are combined the heat generated by the reaction of small molecules with zeolite can cause burns. Newer versions of the product, particularly those infused into cloth bandages, are partially prehydrated and generate less heat at the cost of the clotting capacity.

Number 1: RSDL – Reactive Skin Decontaminating Lotion

Developed for the CF by the CF at DRDC Suffield, RSDL is a unique broad – spectrum decontamination lotion designed for use on the skin after exposure to a chemical or biological attack. This lotion replaces Fuller’s Earth, a non-destructive absorbent material that is used to sponge off and mop up contamination. Fuller’s earth does not induce chemical reactions – the agent is still effective once absorbed by the Fuller’s earth.

RSDL is a bright yellow viscous liquid that is spread onto skin that is exposed to chemical or biological agents or toxins. The decontaminating reaction also acts as a visual indicator because upon reaction the liquid will turn brown – that’s how you know its doing its job. RSDL is impregnated in a specially designed sponge pad this is packaged as an easy to open single unit.

RSDL is the decontaminant used for immediate and operational decontamination.

How it works: RSDL contains Dekon 139 and 2,3 butadiene monoxime (DAM) which are dissolved in a solvent composed of polyethylene glycol monomethyl ether (MPEG) and water. This solvent system promotes the decontamination reaction by actively desorbing and retaining the chemical agent, while the active ingredient (Dekon 139) chemically reacts with, and rapidly neutralizes the chemical or biological agent. The decontamination reaction starts immediately and complete neutralization is usually complete within seconds or a few minutes. The final product is a nontoxic liquid that can be removed away with water. The RSDL is safe for use on all intact skin surfaces and for limited duration use in the eyes.

That concludes my Top 10 Applications of Chemistry in the Canadian Forces. Thank-you very much for your attention and I’d like to leave you with a final question before I open the floor to yours: “What in the World Isn’t Chemistry?”.