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News Release

Ontario Science Centre presents the 2019 Weston Youth Innovation Award to six enterprising teens from coast to coast

TORONTO (June 26, 2019) From protecting the environment to redesigning surgical tools to an adjustable-speed robotic heart, Canadian youth are making a difference through science, technology and innovation. Today, the Ontario Science Centre presented six inspiring young innovators from across Canada with the Weston Youth Innovation Award for the valuable work they are doing to make the world a better place. Established in 2008, the Weston Youth Innovation Award recognizes and supports young Canadians who apply science and technology creatively to make a positive difference. Beginning this year, the Award includes new award levels, for a total of five cash prizes. 

“Although their projects tackle different real-world issues, this year’s Weston Youth Innovation Award recipients all share qualities that drive innovation: leadership, passion, creativity, risk-taking and problem-solving,” said Maurice Bitran, PhD, CEO and Chief Science Officer, Ontario Science Centre. “As an organization dedicated to encouraging future leaders, we’re thrilled to recognize the enterprising efforts of these impressive young innovators and to give them the opportunity to share their projects with Science Centre audiences—and beyond—to inspire other youth.”

Fifteen-year-old citizen scientist and environmental activist Stella Bowles from Upper LaHave, Nova Scotia receives first place. Bowles carries out water sampling and successfully works with local, provincial and federal governments to eliminate pipes that dump raw sewage into waterways on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. A force of change, she also teaches other youth to test their local water, sharing the story that kids—armed with good science—can make a difference. In addition to a $15,000 cash prize, Bowles receives a Science Centre membership that also provides free admission to more than 300 science centres and museums worldwide. In the next few months, a video animation featuring Bowles will be shared online and shown in the Weston Family Innovation Centre at the Science Centre.

Eighteen-year-old inventor Nicolas Fedrigo from Victoria, British Columbia, takes second place, which includes an $8,500 cash prize, for redesigning a pedicle probe, a surgical instrument used in spinal reconstruction. His prototype uses sensors and microcontrollers to provide doctors with instantaneous feedback, helping them avoid damage to the spinal cord. He tested his device in his kitchen using lamb vertebrae sourced from a local butcher.

The Weston Youth Innovation Award also offers three individual, $3,500 third-place prizes for outstanding inventions, recognizing:

  • Sixteen-year-old Riya Karumanchi from Burlington, Ontario, for inventing SmartCane, a device that uses GPS, sensors, audio feedback and computer vision to help the visually impaired better navigate their surroundings.
  • Sixteen-year-old Jack Ceroni and eighteen-year-old Abdullah Hadi, also from Burlington, for developing a computer program to run an autonomous robot prototype to detect forest fires using computer simulations.
  • Eighteen-year-old Jonathan Lévesque from Lévis, Québec, for creating the QualyL Robotic Heart, an electronic organ that adjusts its pumping speed to the individual conditions of patients awaiting heart transplants.

This year’s increased prize amounts and expanded prize structure are possible thanks to renewed support from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation. In November 2018, the Foundation announced a $180,000 commitment over three years to encourage youth further to pursue science, technology and innovation.

“The Foundation is extremely proud to recognize and celebrate these inspiring young Canadians alongside the Ontario Science Centre,” said Wendy Rebanks, Director, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation. “By encouraging and supporting youth innovators like the recipients of this year’s Award, we ensure excellence in future innovation for a better Canada—and world.”

Based on the established judging criteria and after careful deliberation, a jury comprised of local leaders in innovation selected this year’s Weston Youth Innovation Award recipients:

  • Maurice Bitran, PhD, CEO and Chief Science Officer, Ontario Science Centre and Jury Chair
  • Scott Bowman, Senior Director, Ontario and Western, Futurpreneur Canada
  • David Cramb, PhD, Dean, Faculty of Science, Ryerson University
  • Eugenia Duodu, PhD, Executive Director, Visions of Science Network for Learning
  • Emma Mogus, 2016 Weston Youth Innovation Award recipient
  • Carolyn Van, Director, Program Design, Canada Learning Code

Detailed information about the Weston Youth Innovation Awards, including past recipients, can be found at OntarioScienceCentre.ca/InnovationAward. Applications for the 2020 Weston Youth Innovation Award open October 1, 2019.

  • For general information about the Ontario Science Centre please see the Visit Us section of the webpage and for contact information please refer to our Contact Us page or
    phone: 416-696-1000.

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