The nanotechnological lunch

Maria deRosa’s TEDx talk on how nanotechnology can help feed the world. DeRosa speaks at the What Matters Now event in Thunder Bay on March 4.

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Laurentian researchers study social, ...

Yvonne Robertson | September 19, 2016

With the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games just wrapping up, researchers at Laurentian University used the past few weeks to study the social and cultural aspects of the sporting world. Dr. Ann Pegoraro and her colleagues deemed Rio “the most social games ever”, as they studied social media interactions and engagement. Pegoraro, an associate professor in the School of Sports and Administration and director of the Institute for Sport Marketing, has been focusing on the digital world for the past decade. As one of the first researchers to recognize the impact of social media in sports, she began studying its role during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and examined the development of networks around three hashtags: #sochiproblems, #cheerstosochi, and #wearewinter. She watched how each hashtag evolved—the first, organically, the second was hijacked, and the third became team-related. The second hashtag, in particular, originally used as a marketing tool for sponsor McDonald’s, was hijacked by LGBTQ activists, leading Pegoraro to investigate social media as an activation tool by Olympic sponsors and the impact it has on brands. A fourth, and official, hashtag, #Sochi2014, was used to monitor dissent, which some individuals used to voice their disapproval. Pegoraro has continued her research over the past two years, working with the Canadian Olympic Committee and National Sport Federations, providing new research opportunities and ideas for Pegoraro. While she kept a close eye on the social aspect of the Rio Games, another Laurentian team of researchers studied cultural diversity in the Canadian male and female national boxing teams. Drs. Robert Schinke, Kerry McGannon, and Diana Coholic used these two teams to gain deeper insight into how new Canadians engage in their teams, where they encounter resistance and silencing, and the psychological, social, and performance implications of these factors. Their research helps to create more inclusive sport practices, healthier experiences, and better performances. Schinke, McGannon, and Coholic discovered that some of the initial barriers for newcomers included not knowing how to access a suitable coach and training environment, and being overlooked for possible national team spots. Once on the team, athletes also struggled with racism from their teammates, as well as with acculturation, their Canadian identities, and whether to become career-oriented or full time athletes. Initially, many newcomers believed they needed to excel in sport and career in order to be accepted Canadians, according to the researchers. They hope their work will lead to better Olympic performance through a deeper understanding of athletes’ needs and identities. Schinke was also featured in Al Jazeera earlier this summer, commenting on the ground-breaking inclusion of the refugee team.

Advancing an accessible future

Yvonne Robertson | September 16, 2016

The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games have been making headlines this week with athletes setting new records and viewership hitting near-historic highs. While the Paralympians gear up for the final stretch—including some from our own Ontario universities—researchers at the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson continue to make important innovations in the education and research of accessibility. Such innovation has included the reinvention of the standards of biomechatronics to rehabilitate people with impaired mobility by Bionik Labs; Zagga Entertainment’s video-on-demand service enabling those with vision loss to stream popular movies and TV shows with described video; and multiple augmented seating devices for children with special needs. Deborah Fels, researcher and director of Ryerson’s Inclusive Media & Design Centre, has been testing a device that makes smart home technology accessible to people with upper mobility impairments. Smart home technology allows individuals to control aspects of their home such as lighting, heating/cooling, and security systems using their smartphones or tablets. However, this type of technology has been largely inaccessible to those with upper mobility impairments, who may only be able to control their environments with a single switch. The Tecla Shield 3, originally developed by Komodo OpenLab at OCAD University’s Inclusive Design Institute, works with assistive switches ranging from buttons, sip-and-puff controllers, head arrays, joysticks, and wheelchair driving controls. These switches all open up the touchscreen interface to those who would otherwise be unable to use them (those experiencing limitations as a result of spine or brain injuries, stroke, or diseases such as MS and muscular dystrophy), but would largely benefit from smart home technology. Through the Tecla Shield 3, individuals also gain full access to their smartphones, providing them the ability to communicate independently on their devices. The tool is invaluable in helping those with upper mobility issues live a more independent lifestyle and create accessible environments in both the workplace and the home.

Ryerson prof instrumental in ...

Yvonne Robertson | September 14, 2016

As we celebrate the second most attended Paralympic Games in history this week, one researcher at Ryerson University is partly responsible for the inclusion of athletes with intellectual impairments. This group of athletes was removed from the Paralympic Games after Sydney 2000 when it was discovered that some were not eligible for this classification. The Paralympic program consequently removed the group until a more reliable system for determining eligibility was developed. Dean Jennifer Mactavish, of the Yeates School of Graduate Studies at Ryerson, has since spent the last 15 years leading the research to get athletes with intellectual impairments re-introduced to the program. Her efforts saw success for the first time at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, with 120 intellectually impaired athletes competing, and now again at the Rio 2016 Games. “I’m very proud of what we have accomplished, and particularly so for the athletes who can again dream of representing their countries as Paralympians!” Mactavish told the university. Her research in the international sporting community for athletes with an intellectual impairment provided the framework for the Eligibility Classification Research project—directed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the International Sports Federation for Persons with an Intellectual Disability taskforce. Mactavish received the IPC’s 2015 Paralympic Scientific Award last year, which recognizes contributions in sports for people with impairments, and has been an expert in the field for the last 20 years. “This tribute rightfully belongs to a dedicated community of academics, graduate students, coaches, and sport federations from around the world, who have worked together over the years to address a complex question that unanswered would continue to exclude athletes with intellectual impairment from showcasing their talents at the highest level of sport,” Mactavish said. She was also awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013 for her national and international service to disability sport.  

Guelph Kids Love to ...

Andrea Buchholz and Joy Mackay | August 1, 2016

Snacking – what comes to mind?  Carrot sticks?  Granola bars?  Chips?  Yogurt?  Maybe all of the above?  Snacks can make up a large part of our calorie intake.  Ensuring that our snacking choices are healthy is especially important for children, because dietary patterns and other lifestyle habits established in childhood can carry into adulthood.  Despite this, little research has studied preschoolers’ snacking patterns. Enter the Guelph Family Health Study (www.guelphfamilyhealthstudy.com), an Ontario-based study of families with young children, housed at the University of Guelph.  The research team focuses on developing and testing ways to help families maintain healthy behaviours over many years.  We recently looked at snacking patterns (frequency, quality and quantity) of fifty-two preschool-aged boys and girls.  96% of children in our study snacked daily, with snacks making up an average of one-third of their daily calorie intake.  Children consumed an average of almost two and a half snacks each day, most frequently in the afternoon.  The most common snacks were crackers, apples, soft cookies, yogurt and granola bars. 78% of boys’ snacks contained at least one food group from Canada’s Food Guide, compared with 63% of girls’ snacks.  Girls consumed more sugary snacks than boys. What does all of this mean?  Guelph kids love to snack!  While their snacks are OK from a nutritional standpoint, there is room for improvement.  Girls’ snacks in particular could use a health boost.  Apples and yogurt (especially yogurt with less sugar) are great – two thumbs up!  However, not all granola bars are created equally.  Look for ones that are low in sugar (<5 grams per serving) and that contain healthy ingredients, like nuts (just watch those allergies). As for the crackers and soft cookies?  Not so much – these are typically high in salt or sugar and don’t contain a lot of nutrition.  Examples of healthy snacks for kids of all ages can include hummus and veggie sticks, peanut butter and banana on whole wheat toast or yogurt with low-sugar granola. In addition to investigating snacking patterns of young children, the Guelph Family Health Study is also looking at other health behaviours of families including dietary intake, food purchasing habits, physical activity, sleep patterns, body composition, and much more!  If you are interested in learning more about our findings, or interested in participating please visit our website below.  To be eligible for the study, you need to have at least one child aged 1.5-6 years and live in the Guelph area.  Visit www.guelphfamilyhealthstudy.com for more information.   Andrea Buchholz is a co-investigator of the Guelph Family Health Study, and a faculty member in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph.  Joy Mackay is a dietetic intern, and was a student in the Applied Human Nutrition program and a research assistant for the Guelph Family Health Study.

From solar panels to ...

Sharon Oosthoek | July 26, 2016

University of Waterloo electrical and computer engineer delves deep into the health and safety of renewable energy Nanotechnology is poised to become the next big thing in solar panels, but before that happens Siva Sivoththaman wants to ensure workers who make the panels and consumers who use them aren't endangering their health. Most research into using nano particles in the manufacture of solar panels has focused on their potential for more effectively converting sunlight into energy. Scientists predict nano particles could boost efficiency from the current 20 per cent to about 60 per cent. But Sivoththaman, a University of Waterloo electrical and computer engineer, says we need to pay just as much attention to their safety. read more »
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