Posted April 15th, 2016 by Christina Heidorn

U of T Engineering students bring design solutions to challenges in Toronto communities

  • Running with the dinosaurs, picking up litter and bottling honey: Praxis II Showcase event unveils innovative answers to nine problems plaguing local community leaders, businesses and agencies. (Photos: Roberta Baker)

From the Royal Ontario Museum on Bloor to Allan Gardens on Jarvis, each of Toronto’s neighbourhoods faces its own unique challenges. First-year U of T Engineering Science students unveiled their engineering design-based solutions to nine of these problems at the Praxis II Showcase event, held Friday, April 8 in the Great Hall of Hart House.

The annual event is the culmination of Praxis, an innovative design course that challenges U of T Engineering students with a single goal: to improve daily life in communities around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Student teams explored the city to identify opportunities where engineering could help solve problems at the community level. The students then worked closely with their stakeholders — community members, agencies and companies — to design, test, prototype and build the innovative solutions on display at the Showcase.

“The Praxis courses challenges our students to take what they learn in class and apply it to the real — and always much more complex — world of everyday life,” says course co-instructor Professor Jason Foster (EngSci). “For many of our students, working on high-impact projects like these helps them understand the role and responsibilities of being an engineer.”

Read more about the Praxis II Showcase in the Toronto Star

In attendance was Daniel Rowles, a teacher at the Bloorview School Authority who teaches the arts to students with a range of physical and cognitive abilities. He consulted with Praxis teams who designed mechanical and digital tools to help his students gain greater accessibility and independence in his classroom. “We don’t usually have a connection with the device designers, so it was very useful to have students visit our classroom so we could give direct feedback about our specific needs,” said Rowles.

Several teams took on the challenge of making litter collection on Toronto’s streets more efficient. Among the projects on display was LitterUp, an ergonomically redesigned litter collection tool that makes picking up more comfortable for the city workers who keep our streets clean. “One of the most important things we learned is that sometimes making an impact doesn’t mean a complete redesign, it can be modifying something that already exists,” said LitterUp team member Siyun Li (Year 1 EngSci).

See more projects:

Praxis II Showcase 2016 Story