University of Calgary engineering students won first and second place in Mines Action Canada's fourth annual Appropriate Demining Technology Competition.
Tara Dorscher and Carl Roelt won the $5,000 first-place prize for their design of the Intellicharge Battery Charging System, which is an inexpensive alternative that charges mine detector batteries using solar power. Second place went to Brian Lim, Michael Moriarty, Katrina Brandstadt, and Kristjan Gottfried, in the personal protection category. They designed the Demining Mat, a shield designed to protect deminers from injuries. The winners were presented with giant cheques from the Canadian Auto Workers Social Justice Fund on Nov. 21, and the Faculty of Engineering received a special plaque in recognition of its ongoing support of the competition.
Designing demining technologies is sometimes used as the fourth year design project. This year, five student teams from U of C entered the competition.
"Engineering students can make valuable contributions toward resolving the landmine crisis," said Paul Hannon, Executive Director of MAC, which is the Canadian affiliate of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines. "The competition has resulted in several projects offering new and innovative approaches to demining efforts."
Although the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines was signed by 75 per cent of the world's countries, landmines continue to affect civilians in over 90 countries worldwide, such as Afghanistan and Cambodia.
The MAC competition not only recognizes some of Canada's brightest engineers, but also helps protect people who try to remove mines.
"When a mine is detected, the deminers get down on their hands and knees, or even their stomachs," said Lynn Dickson, Youth Mine Action Ambassador. "Then they prod the ground to find the mine. This shield will help protect miners in case an accident occurs."
Margaret Back, a MAC competition committee member, agreed.
"Clearing a suspected landmine is not a simple task," said Back. "In order to restore the land safely, every inch of ground has to be checked with 100 per cent confidence. You cannot remove the human component from the demining process--and that is why we need better humanitarian demining technology."
The Demining Mat is currently being tested at the Suffield military base and along with the Intellicharge Battery Charging System it will eventually be integrated into current demining technologies.