With MEC 2019 coming up November 2-3, 2019, we’re looking back to last year’s
competition and focusing on one part that was unique to the competition last year!
The 2018 McMaster Engineering Competition (MEC) chaired by Aya
Aboughanem was a grand event, organized to test the minds of many bright students in
the various fields of engineering. The event improves every year with MEC 2018 having
over 500 students participate and having many courses offer bonuses. There were new
exciting challenges for each of the 8 categories (Junior/Senior Design, Innovative
Design, Programming, Consulting, Debating, Communications, Re-Engineering). The
1st place team in each category was sent to compete at the Ontario Engineering
Competition which was being hosted at McMaster in January 2019. It was a jam packed
weekend of challenges, innovation, and much more. The competition had many kind
sponsors who also volunteered their weekend to judge the finalists of the competition.
Among those sponsors was a very special individual, credited towards proposing
perhaps the most interesting programming challenge MEC has seen to date! That
individual was none other than Bob Loree, P.Eng., B. Ed. Bob is a former Director of
Engineering 1 and if you were here a few years ago, you would have definitely heard of
The BLUE (Bob Loree Undergraduate Engineering) Lounge, named after him for his
invaluable work for the Engineering program at McMaster. Bob approached MEC weeks
prior to the competition weekend with his proposal of having a new challenge be put in
to the competition, and due to his very intriguing challenge, it was immediately placed
into the official programming competition coordinated with the Programming Challenge
Coordinator, Sahil Patel.
The “Don” app, named after Bob’s brother Don Loree, was the programming
challenge presented to the competitors. Don had Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a
disease that inhibited his physical movement and vision over time. He had lost his ability
to speak, and had a limited field of vision, however he could hear, thus the objective of
the challenge was to design, develop and implement a communication application to
behave as his voice -- the Don app! The competitors had to create an interactive and
efficient input system that utilized Don’s minimal hand movements, to gather Don’s
thoughts and output them locally. Then Bob would go to visit Don, in Ottawa, after the
competition with the winning solution for Don to use. Students came up with remarkably
innovative solutions such as gesture commands, predictive keyboards, preset buttons
etc. Students also went as far as to implement emergency protocols, and messaging
systems along with the required voice output, all within 6 hours! The pool of outstanding
solutions garnered a very difficult challenge to the industry judges. Dr. Matthew Minnick,
P.Eng., and assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Physics, also Vice Chair of PEO Hamilton-Burlington, and Cheryl Koval, HBSc, MASc, a researcher with
an interest in biomedical devices, accompanied Bob on the judging panel. After
presentations and demos, a team consisting of two very talented programmers, Khang
Nguyen and Michael Le, took first place!
Bob was very happy, and overwhelmed with the support and drive our
engineering students presented. He stated on numerous occasions how glad he was to
see all the bright minds eager to help Don. After the competition, the winners not only
received the traditional prizes and a ticket to OEC, but also the opportunity to work with
Bob himself! Michael and Khang worked with Bob to create a tutorial and instructions for
Bob’s family to be able to feasibly use it with Don.
Unfortunately, the weekend after MEC, when Bob and his family went to visit his
brother, Don passed away. Bob and his family were able to spend time with Don in his
last moments. Bob did not want to leave the app for his brother unused, thus, he
continued to work with Michael and Khang to improve and finalize the app. After
completion, the app was given to Bob and his family to continue the endeavour, for one
day it could help others like Don communicate despite their difficulties.
MEC is more than just a competition, it is a catalyst enabling the engineers of the future,
engineers that will one day make great changes in the world.
Ensure you check out MEC 2019 chaired by Michael Barbosa and Maninder Sran with
the newly added Biomedical challenge making it a total of 9 different categories!
If you have any questions about MEC, email email@example.com and check out the
MES Website for more details at www.macengsociety.ca
Written by: Aya Aboughanem and Sahil Patel
Edited by: Robert (Bob) Loree