Projects by students from Waterloo Engineering took both runner-up prizes in the Canadian leg of the James Dyson Award competition for student inventors.

SmartPatrol, which uses computer vision to prevent injuries at ski resorts, and Scope, which is developing a better zoom function for smartphone cameras, now move on to the international portion of the 27-country competition.

Sam Dugan

Sam Dugan of SmartPatrol is an avid skier and budding entrepreneur.

The top prize in Canada went to a six-member team of engineering students from the University of British Columbia for a catheter that uses bioelectric properties to monitor IV delivery and warn of leaks.

SmartPatrol was invented by Sam Dugan, an avid freestyle skier who is studying mechatronics engineering at Waterloo.

It includes a video camera mounted on a pole to monitor high-risk areas of ski hills and, with processing by computer vision algorithms, warn approaching skiers and snowboarders if there is danger ahead.

“Our goal is to make the world a safer place to play,” Dugan wrote in his submission to the contest.

Scope was created as a Capstone Design project by five nanotechnology engineering students - Alisha Bhanji, Ishan Mishra, Holden Beggs, Fernando Pena Cantu and Zhenle Cao - who graduated earlier this year.

It features lenses made of liquid crystals in a cell, not curved plastic or glass, that can be zoomed by the application of voltages rather than physical movement in compact cameras with limited space.

Contest aims to inspire innovation

“One of our lenses can replace three of the current multi-aperture ones in smartphones,” they wrote.

The annual Dyson contest - which was created by James Dyson, the British inventor of a bagless vacuum cleaner - aims to inspire innovative products and concepts that do a better job of solving tangible problems.

Waterloo Engineering projects have a long track record of success at both the national and international levels, including a global win by Voltera for its desk-sized circuit board printer in 2015.

SmartPatrol and Scope are among 81 national winners or runner-ups named today from over 1,700 entries. They will be whittled down by judges to 20 international finalists next month.

Banner photo: Scope team members (left to right) Alisha Bhanji, Ishan Mishra, Holden Beggs, Fernando Pena Cantu and Zhenle Cao.