Engineering Students Earn a Top Spot in International Competition

April 11, 2008 - News Release

A team of University of Guelph engineering students was named runner-up in the international competition for the James Dyson Design Award held in New York City April 10.

The students earned one of the top spots for their single-handed lever to operate a bicycle brake. It was inspired by a nine-year-old girl with a disabled hand.

Andrew Morris, Anina Sakaguchi, Micha Wallace and Katie Bell competed against 12 finalists chosen from national competitions in 14 countries and were judged by Dyson himself, the inventor of one of the world's most famous vacuum cleaners.

"We’re really proud that our team came up with something so novel," said Wallace. "It's been so exciting to take part in this international competition and to interact with students from all around the world."

The Guelph students qualified for the competition after winning a national competition held in Toronto in February for up-and-coming inventors.

The James Dyson Award is an annual design competition that recognizes young designers and engineers who demonstrate Dyson's design philosophy – the ability to think differently, persist in the face of setbacks and create functional, innovative products that improve the way we live.

Dyson created the international award program based on his own experiences and frustrations as an inventor.

The students took on the bicycle-brake project for their fourth-year engineering design course.

"Our inspiration is a little nine-year-old girl, Lauren Turner, who is missing part of her hand and as a result couldn’t ride her bike like her friends," said Wallace. "She could only use the back brake so we decided to incorporate both brakes into one lever. That way she can operate the one brake lever with her full hand and still be able to stop quickly and feel safe on her bike."

The one-handed braking system was designed to be used on any bike and may ultimately prove useful for other cyclists with disabilities or those who often have to brake with a single hand, such as police officers and bicycle couriers, said Wallace.

"We’re in the preliminary patent phase, but we do think it could be affordable to produce and has the potential to help a lot of people."

The design that captured first place in the competition was also a device for cyclists.

The winner was a student from London, England, who designed a jacket for urban cyclists to help them signal their intentions to others on the road. The jacket is outfitted with lights that sense movement. The back lights up green when the cyclist is accelerating and red when the cyclist is braking. A built-in tilt switch makes the lights flash amber when the cyclist lifts an arm to signal a turn.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338,, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982,

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