University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Summer 2006

Early Warning

"Flake Awake" takes first prize in the Idea Competition sponsored by the Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

You wake up to the sound of your alarm clock on a blustery, snowy day, and the radio announcer warns of massive traffic snarl-ups and treacherous black ice. You don’t have a chance of making a critical 9 a.m. meeting downtown. But what if that same alarm clock could monitor the weather and traffic conditions overnight, wake you earlier than usual and tell you which roads to avoid?

That concept – an intelligent alarm clock called the Flake Awake – won first prize in March at the inaugural Idea Competition, sponsored by the Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE). The competition, run by Professor Parham Aarabi, encouraged Ontario high school students to produce unique engineering ideas and technologies, and attracted 100 entrants.

“In terms of recruitment, we need the best possible students in Ontario,” says Aarabi, director of undergraduate recruitment for ECE. “This will show the students that engineering is a very worthwhile direction to pursue.”

The contest may also appeal to those who do not traditionally consider engineering. “I think a group of girls winning the Idea Competition is great, because some women are intimidated by the male-dominated engineering field,” says Emily Debono, part of the winning team of 10 female students from Branksome Hall (an all-girls high school in Toronto). “It was empowering.”

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