Media Releases

Engineering students solve 11 of Toronto’s persistent challenges

April 8, 2015

TORONTO, ON – Inac­ces­si­ble gro­ceries in Park­dale, gym equip­ment that wrecks your work­out on Dun­das, worms that take for­ev­er to extract from soil at Brick Works, and blood dona­tions that involve unnec­es­sary dis­com­fort on Col­lege – GTA com­mu­ni­ties nev­er seem to run out of chal­lenges.

This Fri­day, April 10, first-year engi­neer­ing stu­dents at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to are host­ing a day-long event to show­case their design solu­tions to some of the GTA’s per­sis­tent prob­lems – with full-scale pro­to­types, ren­der­ings, and more.

The event is the finale of Prax­is, a unique course from U of T’s Engi­neer­ing Sci­ence pro­gram. The course had stu­dents col­lab­o­rate with com­mu­ni­ties across the GTA to find new ways of improv­ing our great city, includ­ing:

  1. Cut­ting dis­com­fort dur­ing blood dona­tion

Chal­lenge: From find­ing the vein, to insert­ing and secur­ing the nee­dle, to remov­ing adhe­sive tape, the blood dona­tion process can be agi­tat­ing. Engi­neer­ing stu­dents cre­ate bet­ter ways to keep donors com­fort­able at the Cana­di­an Blood Ser­vices clin­ic on Col­lege Street.

  1. Boost­ing inde­pen­dence for sledge hock­ey play­ers

Chal­lenge: They may be pros at han­dling a hock­ey stick on their own – but off the ice, hock­ey play­ers with phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties often need the help of oth­ers to move their spe­cial­ized equip­ment. Engi­neer­ing stu­dents col­lab­o­rate with Cruis­er Sports to design ways to move hock­ey equip­ment that safe­ly pro­mote play­er inde­pen­dence.

  1. Speed­ing up worm extrac­tion in com­post

Chal­lenge: Worms can be a gardener’s best friend – they turn ordi­nary com­post into valu­able, fer­tile soil. But when it comes to har­vest­ing that soil, extract­ing the worms is a time con­sum­ing process. Engi­neer­ing stu­dents design a faster method of remov­ing worms for a com­post­ing pro­gram at Ever­green Brick Works.

  1. Sav­ing sea­plane crash vic­tims from deep water

Chal­lenge: Accord­ing to the Trans­porta­tion Safe­ty Board of Cana­da, more than two-thirds of deaths from sea­plane crash­es could have been pre­vent­ed if occu­pants could evac­u­ate before the plane fills with water. Engi­neer­ing stu­dents answer Trans­port Canada’s call to iden­ti­fy and improve how pas­sen­gers get out safer.

  1. Tap­ping into eas­i­er craft beer bot­tling

Chal­lenge: Bot­tling a craft brew can be a dif­fi­cult process – bot­tles jam on the line, employ­ees face repet­i­tive strain injuries, and bro­ken glass is a major safe­ty con­cern. All of these lim­it growth for small­er com­pa­nies. Engi­neer­ing stu­dents design more effi­cient, ergonom­ic and safe sys­tems at Black Oak Brew­ery in Oakville.


  1. Access­ing afford­able local food in Park­dale

Chal­lenge: Access­ing local food that’s inex­pen­sive and close by can be dif­fi­cult for City res­i­dents in dense neigh­bour­hoods like Park­dale. Engi­neer­ing stu­dents team up with West End Food Co-op to start a new, low-cost deliv­ery sys­tem that brings gro­ceries straight to those in need.

  1. Safer squats for gym rook­ies

Chal­lenge: The squat is one of the most essen­tial exer­cis­es in any work­out rou­tine, yet many new gym go-ers lack prop­er guid­ance and the right safe­ty equip­ment. This delays mus­cle gain and caus­es injury. Engi­neer­ing stu­dents pro­pose new designs that assist new squat­ters at the YMCA on Grosvenor Street.

  1. No more beards for Huntington’s dis­ease patients

Chal­lenge: For some­body with Huntington’s dis­ease, mus­cle spasms can make shav­ing a daunt­ing chore. This dai­ly task has to be done by care­givers, as try­ing it inde­pen­dent­ly caus­es cuts or a poor shave. Engi­neer­ing stu­dents worked with the Huntington’s Soci­ety of Cana­da to find bet­ter tools for a close shave.

  1. No math abil­i­ties? No spend­ing prob­lem

Chal­lenge: Over 360,000 peo­ple in the GTA are affect­ed by dyscal­cu­lia – the inabil­i­ty to under­stand num­bers and do sim­ple math­e­mat­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions. To some of these peo­ple, count­ing change in a store can be a night­mare. Engi­neer­ing stu­dents cod­ed new apps that help those chal­lenged when they’re at the check­out.

10. A mixed bag for mar­tial artsChal­lenge: In mar­tial arts, train­ing with heavy punch­ing bags is essen­tial for improv­ing car­dio, strength and tech­nique. But if the bag is not the right height or weight, train­ing results suf­fer. Engi­neer­ing stu­dents design new heavy bags and sup­ports for Kru­dar Muay Thai gym that can quick­ly adapt to their users.

11. Grow­ing more wild­flow­ers, with less

Chal­lenge: Vol­un­teers at River­wood Con­ser­van­cy are try­ing to cul­ti­vate more native plant species in the wild areas of the GTA, but they are run­ning out of space for seed ger­mi­na­tion. Engi­neer­ing stu­dents devised new seed grow­ing sys­tems that use less ground space, while still ensur­ing ade­quate sun­light.

The show­case is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for stu­dents to explain their pro­posed designs and receive imme­di­ate feed­back from com­mu­ni­ty rep­re­sen­ta­tives, city coun­cil­lors, gov­ern­ment offi­cials, and pro­fes­sion­al engi­neers, as well as mem­bers of the gen­er­al pub­lic. All are wel­come.


What:                                 U of T Engi­neer­ing – Prax­is II Show­case

Date:                                   Fri­day, April 10, 2015

Loca­tion:                         Great Hall, Hart House (7 Hart House Cir­cle)

Pub­lic Show­case:    9:30 am – 5:00 pm

Media Show­case:       11:30 am – 3:00 pm (Media mem­bers are wel­come to attend through­out the event)


Media con­tact:

RJ Tay­lor, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to; 647–228-4358