Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

July 08, 2003

Engineering students win award for dog-cooling device

Two University of Guelph biological engineering students have received national recognition for designing a tool to aid dogs that are searching for lost land mines in regions with hot climates.

Jason Pearman and Dan McEwen developed the mine detection dog cooling assist device, which is worn like a collar and a vest and dissipates heat from two critical areas of a dog’s body. The invention recently won second place in the Canadian Appropriate Mine Action Technologies Competition. “It’s pretty exciting,” said Pearman, who will share in the $2,500 cash prize. “It feels good to be successful in a competition where you are up against schools with much larger programs.” Sponsored by Mines Action Canada and Engineers Without Borders, the annual contest gives engineering students an opportunity to make a difference to people working in land mine-affected communities.

Pearman, who will begin his final year at U of G in the fall, said he and McEwen chose their project because “dogs have proven invaluable in demining operations. They are the first tool for detection because their sense of smell for explosives is so sensitive. Operations can clear mines three to four times faster when they are working with dogs.” But, he added, the animals are often working in very hot and humid regions of the world. “The heat starts to get to them after only a few hours.”

The device created by Pearman and McEwen, who graduated in June, relies on polyacrylamide crystals, which retain several times their own mass in water. The crystals are placed in pouches inside a collar and a vest, which are then soaked in water. The heat generated by the dog warms the absorbed water in the crystals and causes it to evaporate, acting like an external sweating device. The vest is made of breathable material and allows the dog to move shoulders and front legs. “It is a very subtle design,” Pearman said. “The whole point of the competition is to come up with technology that is low-tech and simple and can be implemented by people working in faraway countries with relative ease.”

Indeed, the competition’s judges commended the pair for the project’s sensible and rational design. They also called the invention “extremely interesting” and an “insightful and unique approach to a problem that few even considered.”

Pearman said he and McEwen did not set out to “do anything revolutionary” when they entered the competition. “We just wanted to provide the mining detection dogs with a little assistance. We figured if we can prolong the amount of time a dog can work by even 15 to 20 minutes a day, it will really add up in the long run.”

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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