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Ontario Science Centre celebrates six Canadian youths for innovative science projects
June 16, 2021

Have you ever looked at a pressing real-world problem, believed you could fix it, and then immediately got to work? That's exactly what young Canadian innovators are doing! Around the country, teens are leveraging their STEM knowledge from science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and using technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning ­to address a range of issues, from environmental science to healthcare.

Today, the Ontario Science Centre announced the winners and national finalists of the 2021 Weston Youth Innovation Award, first established in 2008. These young innovators, aged 15 to 18, are being honoured for efforts to pursue innovative ideas that bring positive change to our communities.

The top prize of $15,000 goes to Andrew Pun, 18, of Toronto, who created Polarderm, a 3D smartphone camera attachment and AI web app that identifies seven types of skin lesions including melanoma and basal cell carcinoma. "AI can seem intimidating, but it fascinated me," says Andrew. He notes that while eye specialists have access to expensive polarized dermascopes, his device only costs $25 to build, making it more accessible to family doctors and other clinicians.

Catherine Makarytchev, 15, of Vaughan, Ont, wins the second-place prize of $8,500 for her work on a machine-learning system that sorts recyclable materials by sound. Next, Catherine hopes to fine-tune her prototype. "I want to make it more automated," says Catherine. "My dream would be to go to the mayor of Vaughan or Toronto and ask them to put this technology in city parks."

The national finalists will each take home a prize of $3,500. They are:

"I congratulate each of the winners of the 2021 Weston Youth Innovation Award, and thank the Ontario Science Centre for continuing to showcase its commitment to inspiring Canada's youth -- encouraging a lifelong love of learning and discovery," said Lisa MacLeod , Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. "The incredible dedication these recipients have shown to helping others and improving the world around them highlights our collective Ontarian spirit and reinforces the value of STEM education."

"For more than 50 years, the Ontario Science Centre has sparked curiosity and passion to understand science and our world," says CEO Paul Kortenaar . "These young innovators have demonstrated those qualities by applying STEM education, knowledge and hard work to find solutions to challenging real-world problems that will benefit our communities and have life-changing impacts on people's lives."

"This year's Weston Youth Innovation Award recipients have shown intellectual curiosity and technological creativity to design their projects," says Emma Adamo, Chair, Weston Family Foundation. "Our Foundation is delighted to support this award that encourages scientific innovation with the potential to improve lives. We remain inspired by the young Canadians we have met over the years, and applaud each of you for leading change in today's complex and challenging world."

A virtual award ceremony to celebrate the winners is scheduled for June 24 at 7 p.m. ET.