Canadian team wins $51,000 international James Dyson Award

Canadian international James Dyson award winners meet with James Dyson in the UK

A Canadian team was won the international James Dyson Award for the second time since the competition’s inception.

The 13-year-old design competition was created to celebrate the work of current and recent design engineering students. This year, a team of biomedical and electrical engineers from McMaster University won for their handheld device, the sKan, which diagnoses melanoma. The team received a prize worth $51,000 for their device.

The first Canadian team to receive the award was Waterloo-based Voltera for its V-One project in 2015, a custom circuit board printer that turned files into prototype circuit boards within minutes.

The Hamilton-based students have estimated that their technology will cost less than $1,000.

According to the creators of the sKan, other thermal imaging techniques for melanoma diagnosis do exist, but they use high-resolution thermal imaging cameras that are expensive. The Hamilton-based students have estimated that their technology will cost less than $1,000.

The winning team was inspired to develop this technology based on a few key facts: melanoma is one of the 10 most common cancers diagnosed, an estimated 1,250 lives are lost to melanoma every year in Canada, the median wait time to see a specialist is 20 weeks from referral to treatment, and the patients who do not get a biopsy have an increased risk of missed detection.

Cancer cells are said to have a higher metabolic rate than normal cells, which means they release more heat. The sKan uses temperature sensors on areas of interest to track temperature variation, and this information is then displayed as a heat map showing the presence — or lack of presence — of melanoma.

The sKan team met with James Dyson at his headquarters in the UK last week to speak with Dyson engineers about their project.

Aeman Ansari

Aeman Ansari

Aeman Ansari is a freelance writer who has been published in many Toronto-based publications, including Hazlitt and Torontoist. When she’s not re-watching Hitchcock movies, she’s working on her collection of short fiction inspired by stories from her grandmother, one of the few women in India to receive post-secondary education in English literature at the time.