Canada’s future innovators presented their bright ideas for taking better care of our environment at last week’s SHAD at Ryerson Open Day.

Held on July 27 at the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre, the event featured eight teams of high school students presenting their inventions for how Canadians can use less energy. The projects were the culmination of a month of teamwork guided by professors at Ryerson, the first Greater Toronto Area university to host participants in SHAD, a charity that empowers exceptional youths to solve complex social or economic problems through science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM). At the Open Day, the students exhibited their projects to community members, including President Mohamed Lachemi, and informally pitched their concepts to federal science minister Kirsty Duncan.

“We believe in what you’re doing. Our government is committed to science, research and innovation, and to supporting young people. After meeting you, the future looks extraordinarily bright,” Duncan said.

A month earlier, the students had flown in from across the country to meet in Toronto, settle in at Ryerson’s campus and discover SHAD’s 2017 challenge: use STEAM principles and practices to develop an original product or service that enables people to reduce their energy footprint. The 64 Ryerson SHADs were among 801 youths participating in the multidisciplinary enrichment program at 13 university host campuses in Canada. At Ryerson, the initiative was jointly organized by the Faculty of Science, the Ted Rogers School of Management, Student Affairs, the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship, the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science and the Sandbox by DMZ. Professors delivered lectures and workshops to help the students develop their ideas.

Among the innovations was ReCYCLE, which lets fitness facilities operate more sustainably by harnessing the power created by the use of their exercise machines. The team created a generator that can be affixed to exercise bicycles to access the generated kinetic energy and transport it to the gym’s electrical grid so it can be used for lighting or other power needs. ReCYCLE was chosen as the winning project of SHAD at Ryerson, so the team will present it this October at SHAD’s national competition, the John Dobson Entrepreneurship Cup.

“We wanted to take advantage of this physical activity people are already doing in a way that could help the world,” said group member Anna Halleran, of Newfoundland.

Three other teams concentrated on eliminating standby or “vampire” energy – the energy appliances and machines consume when not in use. Another team tackled food waste by creating an app to help supermarkets and restaurants advertise close-to-expiring or leftover foods at discounted prices. Another developed a wearable heater in order to reduce home heating use.