Engineering students from the University of Guelph won a national design competition last week after coming up with a single-handed bike braking lever that was inspired by the needs of a nine-year-old girl with a malformed hand.

The girl, named Lauren, couldn’t safely ride a standard bike with hand brakes, so the team — made up of engineering students Micha Wallace, Katie Bell, Anina Sakaguchi and Andrew Morris — designed a system that can be operated with one hand.

“We came up with a bike brake lever that combines both the front and the back into the same lever handle using linkages,” said Wallace, 23, who is now working toward her master’s degree.


The competition was sponsored by the James Dyson Foundation, which was set up by the inventor of Dyson vacuum cleaners. It was open to full-time students or recent graduates from a recognized college or university.

The winners receive $5,000 and the design is entered into an international competition for the James Dyson Design Award.

Wallace said the hand brake was designed so it could be used on any bike.

“It uses the same brake cables as any other bike,” she explained. “It would be very easy to integrate it to any bike — just take the old handle off and connect the cables into the brake lever.”

The designers built a prototype and Lauren has used it.

Two other inventions were contenders for the top award: A Shake-N-Scrape snow brush that uses heat to remove ice from car windshields, entered by Ray Kwa of Humber College; and B-Care, a syringe system for vaccinations that hides the needle to make the experience less frightening for children. It was submitted by Maude Blanchard, Audrey Desjardins, Maxime Roy and Mayka Thibodeau of Universite de Montreal.

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