Hamilton student and CEO wins national award for life-changing invention

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Published August 25, 2021 at 12:10 pm

Biomedical and mechanical engineering student Lianna Genovese has received the National James Dyson Award for her invention, Guided Hands, which she created in her first-year design course to help people with limited hand mobility write, paint, draw and access technology.

A biomedical and mechanical engineering student at McMaster University received the National James Dyson Award for her invention, Guided Hands.

Lianna Genovese, 21, is the founder and CEO of ImaginAble Solutions Inc. The award she received recognizes an engineering student who has created an effective solution to a problem with design thinking at the forefront. It seeks to celebrate and inspire the next generation of engineers.

In her first year of university, Lianna came up with a prototype for a device that enables people with limited fine motor skills to paint, draw, write, and even use a tablet or computer.

“In my first year at McMaster, we were presented with a real-world problem as part of a design project,” said Lianna, who is now a 4th-year Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering student. “We were introduced to a woman with cerebral palsy and we were told to design something that would improve her life in some way.”

The woman living with cerebral palsy explained that she was a passionate and talented painter who was no longer able to hold a paintbrush because of uncontrollable finger curling.

“I wanted to give her back what she loved to do, so I created a painting-assistive device,” said Lianna. “The original prototype was made out of pipe cleaners, sponges, corks…”

From there, Lianna said she transitioned from a dollar store to a 3D printer and Home Depot for her supplies. Guided Hands has won at least 8 different awards and recognitions over the last two years, including the 2020 People’s Choice Award at Hamilton’s leading business pitch competition, LiONS LAIR.

“I simply cannot put into words the amount of gratitude and happiness I have for all of those who voted for us,” said Lianna. “To be a finalist in the LiONS LAIR Competition was a huge accomplishment and milestone in itself, but to know that the public believes in our product and our company’s mission is something I cannot begin to explain.”

Guided Hands works with ambidextrous and multi-functional handpieces that swivel, while a stabilizing mechanism glides vertically and horizontally. The product is designed to help give those with arthritis, ALS, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s, and other debilitating conditions the ability to enjoy hobbies and tasks many people take for granted.

“It was really heartbreaking to see children who couldn’t even write the first letter of their name, whether it be due to a spinal cord injury or a disease that affected their motor skills,” said Lianna, who added that she travelled by bus to almost every assisted living and health facility in Hamilton with Guided Hands packed into a garbage bag.

“These children can feel frustrated and socially excluded so there’s also an emotional component behind Guided Hands that can really improve their quality of life and empower them.”

Over the past two years, Lianna has connected with over 150 patients of varying medical conditions, neurologists, and occupational therapists across Canada to help inform her design and perfect the device.

Her company is scheduled to launch Guided Hands into the market in late August 2021, making the device available to people across Canada and the U.S.

As the National James Dyson Award winner for Canada, Genovese receives $3,500 to go towards her innovation and will progress to the international stage of the James Dyson Award.

Genovese also recently received the Innovation Award at the 2021 Global Student Entrepreneur Awards and the U21 RISE Award for innovation.

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