Western team among IDeA finalists

By Communications Staff
May 10, 2014

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A team of five Western students with an idea to aid visually impaired athletes is among the finalists in the Council of Ontario Universities’ (COU) annual Innovative Designs for Accessibility (IDeA) student competition.

Nine finalists from seven Ontario universities will showcase their inventions at the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Discovery Conference Monday and Tuesday, May 12-13, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Winners will be announced Tuesday.

This year, 18 of 21 Ontario universities participated in the contest, which is supported through the Ontario government’s EnAbling Change program and partners at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario in the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment.

The Western team – comprised of Joseph Santarelli, Ahmed Tanashi, Justin Lam, Shuang Song and Nicole Kucirek – developed a sensor that emits a sound when swimmers who have visual impairments near the end of a pool, or runners make their way around a track.

Song, Santarelli and Kucirek were part of a team that competed with the idea in the competition last year.

Other ideas include:

  • A mobile app and wristband that vibrates to alert those with visual disabilities that friends are nearby, allowing them to initiate conversation instead of having to be approached – Carleton University;
  • A portable toilet that can expand by four times the usual size to make room for wheelchairs, walkers, strollers and personal support workers – Carleton;
  • A mapping system that rates the accessibility of campus paths and corridors to help students with disabilities navigate unfamiliar territory – McMaster University;
  • A tablet-like device that allows fans who have visual impairments to get tactile experiences of  sports events as they follow the ball by feeling a puff of air, and following the players by feeling pegs – Carleton;
  • A mobile app that gives users insight into how things look for those who have visual impairments - University of Guelph;
  • A workshop that teaches Grade 3 students what life is like for friends and family in a wheelchair - Brock University;
  • A device that uses Open Source data to help students anywhere in the world with cognitive and other disabilities to audibly respond in class – York University; and
  • A device that allows users to take pictures on their smart phone that can then be translated into text and audio - Ryerson University.

The winner and two runners-up will receive prizes of $1,500, $1,000 and $500 respectively. A bonus prize of $1,500 will be awarded to the IDeA that best addresses a barrier in Para-sport and Active Living.

Last year, Carleton swept the top three awards.


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