The Ontario Science Centre was abuzz with more than just its exhibits on Wednesday.
Six teenagers from across Canada were awarded the annual Weston Youth Innovation Award.
The award provides students aged 14 to 18 with a way to share their ideas big ideas. The only catch is the idea or invention must creatively apply science and technology with the goal of making a positive difference.
“We get submissions from all over Canada,” said Ontario Science Centre CEO Maurice Bitran.
The jury then decides on the winners. First place receives $15,000. The second-place winner receives $8,500 and up to three additional finalists receive $3,500.
This year, the top prize was awarded to Stella Bowles of Upper LaHave, Nova Scotia for her activism which led to a $15.7 million plan to clean up her local LaHave River.
“I tested the water for fecal bacteria and I found that the river isn’t actually safe to get on your skin without risk of becoming ill,” said Bowles.
Second place was awarded to Nicolas Fedrigo of Victoria, British Columbia for his redesign of the tool used in spinal cord reconstruction.
“Nearly one in every three patients who receives spinal fusion surgery will result in really poor outcomes which can include paralysis,” said Fredrigo.
Three of the honourable mention prizes were awarded to students from Burlington, Ontario. Jack Ceroni and Abdullah Hadi partnered together to create an autonomous robot along with a simulation algorithm they say can help to model the progression of wildfires.
“It sends that data back to a computer and then the computer uses that data in a simulation to simulate how a forest fire would be spread if one were to be started in that forest where the robot is gathering data from,” said Ceroni.
Through understanding how a forest fire might spread in a specific high risk area, the duo hope their innovation will help scientists and firefighters understand how a fire might spread.
Also from Burlington, Riya Karumanchi won another of the finalist prizes for her “Smart Cane.”
“The Smart Cane is an orientation and mobility device for the visually impaired to help with navigation,” said Narumanchi.
The idea for her invention came after watching her friend’s visually impaired grandmother bumping into things around the house.
“A lot of the visually impaired were using a stick that had never been updated to take advantage of new technologies in nearly 100 years.” said Narumanchi.
The 2020 competition will open in mid-October.