3-D printer that produces a lower-cost, more functional prosthetic hand for amputees nets top prize in Ontario universities’ IDeA competition

A 3-D printer that produces a lower-cost, more functional prosthetic hand nets the top prize in the Council of Universities’ (COU) Innovative Designs for Accessibility (IDeA) student competition, designed to break down barriers to accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Carleton University undergraduate students Tim Inglis, Alim Baytekin, Natalie Lavasseur and Alborz Erfani took top spot over eight other Ontario university finalists in a stiff competition to take home the second annual IDeA award.

“The 3-D prosthetic hand is an extraordinary invention that could make the world far more accessible for anyone missing a limb,” says Alastair Summerlee, Chair of COU and President of the University of Guelph. “This is a fantastic demonstration of what the bright, young minds developed at Ontario universities can produce when their creativity is tapped.”

The prosthetic hand is more nimble when it comes to opening doors or picking up small items such as eggs, and costs considerably less than the average of $15,000 for prosthetic limbs, its inventors say.

Ontario universities are committed to the provincial goal of creating an accessible environment on campus, and in all walks of life. The IDeA competition asks Ontario undergraduate students to use their creativity to come up with ideas to turn that goal into reality.

“The level of talent on display in this year’s IDeA competition was off the charts,” says Bonnie M. Patterson, COU President and CEO.

“It’s our expectation that, as a result of the contest, these students will contribute to a culture of accessibility for the rest of their lives, and that’s a tremendous benefit for everyone.”

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

The Hon. Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, announced the winner at a COU event at the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Discovery conference at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

“Competitions like IDeA help prepare our youth to become leaders in the development and commercialization of accessible goods and services,” says Hoskins.

“Not only will this benefit Ontarians with disabilities, it will also give our province a competitive edge in global markets, where the demand for these products and services is growing. I commend all the IDeA participants for opening our minds to countless possibilities, and for demonstrating new ways of advancing accessibility in our communities.”

Finalists in the 2013 IDeA competition included students from Carleton University, McMaster University, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo and Western University.

The first runner up was a team from Carleton University that developed a variety of assistive devices for users in rural Uganda requiring better mobility so that they could participate in small business.

The second runner up was another Carleton University student whose navigation system alerts users to obstacles in their environment and provides location on command via audio.

Winners received cash rewards in the amounts of $1,500, $1,000 and $500.

Next year’s competition will focus on parasport and active living in honour of the upcoming Pan American and Para-Pan American games taking place in Ontario.

OCE’s Discovery conference brings together industry, investors, entrepreneurs and researchers to showcase leading-edge technologies and research in Ontario.

COU is a membership organization of 21 publicly assisted universities in Ontario. It works closely with the provincial and federal governments to shape public policies that help universities deliver high-quality programs for students, and the research and innovation that improves the social, cultural and economic well-being of Ontarians.

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