Robotic sewer camera tech earns accolades for Cambrian student innovators

The winners of the Cambrian College Student Innovation Challenge have developed solutions to help people

They saw first-hand problems that had a real impact on people and wanted to do something to help. That is the common theme that is evident in all of this year’s winners.

Cambrian College Student Innovation Challenge, supported by RBC Future Launch.

Students pitched ideas for new products or services to an industry panel for a chance to win $6,500 in cash prizes. This year, winners were inspired by real-life situations.

This year’s grand prize winner is mechatronics student Joe Greco from Timmins for his presentation “Automated Inspection Robots,” a fully autonomous robotic camera system for inspecting municipal water and sewer pipes.

Most current remote inspection cameras still rely on human operators because the systems are tethered, meaning operators can put themselves in danger when using the cameras.

“When I was working for a pipe inspection company, I saw people doing dangerous work. For example, they would put their feet on either side of a manhole cover and try to lower an inspection robot that can weigh up to 45 kilograms. One slip and they would fall,” explained Greco. “It's an accident waiting to happen, and I wanted to come up with an idea to eliminate that risk.”

For his efforts, Greco took home the grand prize of $3,000, sponsored by RBC Future Launch.

The business analytics team of Fatima Ayo Williams from Lagos, Nigeria, and Layisha Paerhati from China showcased the Smart Vivant analytics software along with a fingerprint-locked smartwatch with a removable battery. The device sends real-time alerts to caregivers and authorities in the event of an emergency affecting vulnerable people.

“I came up with this idea when my son's school bus was delayed and I realized I couldn't track where he was,” explains Fatima. “But then I thought that such a system would be more useful for people who are at risk and need help.”

The idea for Smart Vivant was further developed when Layisha's roommate's grandmother died of Alzheimer's.

“I remember my roommate telling me that her grandmother's doctor said that many Alzheimer's patients die not because of the disease, but because they disappear,” explains Layisha. “I knew we had to develop something that could alert authorities in real time so that people at risk could get immediate help.”

For their idea, Fatima and Layisha won the second prize of USD 2,000, sponsored by Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations and XPS – A Glencore Company, and the USD 500 prize for best use of technology, sponsored by HARD-LINE.

Sujith Ashok from Chennai, India, who is studying project management, worked at a large retail company and introduced Unavu, a mobile app that helps individuals and businesses coordinate donations to food banks and other charities from the office or home.

Unavu users post food items they would like to donate, along with their address and availability for pickup. Volunteers from the organization come at the agreed time to pick up the donation.

“During my retail shifts, I regularly throw away hundreds of dollars worth of food that can no longer be sold, such as a dozen eggs, one of which is broken but perfectly edible,” explains Sujith. “And yet there are people in our community who do not have enough to eat. I wanted to find a way to bridge these extremes and do what I can to eliminate hunger.”

His idea earned Ashok the $1,000 third prize, sponsored by Ontario Power


“Every year it's great to see what ideas the students come up with,” adds Dr. Mike Commito, Director of Cambrian R&D. “What was really impressive this year was that the students proposed ideas based on a desire to help people in need. Our industry panelists were very impressed with this year's entrants, their passion and their work. Congratulations to all the winners.”

The Student Innovation Challenge is organized by Cambrian R&D, the applied research division of Cambrian College. Cambrian College has made the list of Canada's top 50 research colleges for ten years in a row. In the most recent rankings, Cambrian reached its highest ever, ranking 18th in Canada.

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