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