Windsor Teen Wins Ontario Science Centre’s 2015 Weston Youth Innovation Award

Wednesday May 27th, 2015

Posted at 9:07pm

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At just 18 years old, Alex Deans is already making his mark in the world, adding “award-winning scientist” to his résumé.

Deans will receive the 2015 Weston Youth Innovation Award for applying science in a creative way to make a positive difference in the world. Creator of the iAid, a navigation device for the visually impaired, Deans hopes his novel invention will help the visually-impaired gain greater independence by allowing them to navigate obstacles using ultrasonic sensors and smartphone technology.

“The best part of science is using it to make other people’s lives better,” said Deans. “It’s an honour to have my efforts recognized by the Ontario Science Centre. This award will allow me to further develop the iAid and ensure it’s available to those who would most benefit from it.”

Deans says that his inspiration came at 12 years old when he noticed a visually-impaired woman struggling to cross the street. Science-obsessed since the third grade, his natural next step was to go home and invent a tool that would help visually-impaired people get around unassisted, giving them greater independence. The result: the iAid, a set-up of four ultrasonic sensors mounted to a belt that scans the space around a visually-impaired person for potential obstacles both indoors and outdoors. Originally a hand-held device, Deans has now seamlessly integrated iAid with a smartphone.

“The entire jury was impressed by Alex’s creativity, motivation and dedication to finessing his design over a four-year period,” said Dr. Hooley McLaughlin, Vice-President Science Experience and Chief Science Officer, Ontario Science Centre. “We look forward to seeing future inventions from this outstanding young innovator.”

The Weston Youth Innovation Award was established in 2008 and encourages and recognizes young Canadian innovators. It was named in recognition of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation’s $15-million lead gift to the Ontario Science Centre’s Agents of Change initiative and to honour The Foundation’s support and commitment to education.

Deans’ project was selected for the award by a panel of judges, comprising Dr. Barbara Sherwood Lollar, Professor, University of Toronto; Dr. Marc Nantel, Associate Vice President Research & Innovation, Niagara College; Joe Deklic, Vice President Deal Management at Rogers Communications; Dr. Imogen Coe, Dean of Science, Ryerson University; Eugenia Duodu, Ph.D. Candidate Chemistry, University of Toronto and Executive Director, Visions of Science Network for Learning; and Dr. Hooley McLaughlin, Vice President Science Experience and Chief Science Officer, Ontario Science Centre.

“Our family is proud to celebrate inspirational and outstanding youth like Alex Deans who tackle real-world problems with ingenuity through the Weston Youth Innovation Award,” said W. Galen Weston, Chairman and President, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation. “The calibre of submissions received continues to be impressive. We are so pleased to support young innovators like Alex, who are sure to make their mark in Canada and beyond.”

Deans will be awarded the $2,000 prize at the Ontario Science Centre on June 2, 2015. In addition, he will work with a multimedia team at the Science Centre to create an animation to showcase his project, which will be displayed in the Weston Family Innovation Centre and shared via the Science Centre’s social media channels.

More information about Deans’ award-winning project can be found at www.OntarioScienceCentre.ca/InnovationAward.

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