Engineering grads’ capstone project named runner-up in national James Dyson Awards

Three young people sitting on the ground smiling.

From left: Aaron Li, Amos Yu and Manny Lemos designed Cyclops Ride Assist — which uses advanced car safety tech to make roads safer for bicyclists — in their final year at McMaster.

A cycling safety device designed by three recent McMaster Engineering graduates for a capstone project has been named the runner up in the 2023 Canadian James Dyson Awards.

Mechatronics students Manny Lemos, Aaron Li and Amos Yu developed Cyclops Ride Assist, which incorporates advanced car safety technology, in their final year at McMaster in fall 2022 after Lemos was hit by a car.

In fact, all three had had “close calls” on bikes, which they relied on to commute to and from campus.

Advanced safety for cyclists

Cyclops, a multifunctional system that uses advanced car safety features, incorporates blind spot and crash detection, and video and data recording into a single, battery-operated portable unit that can be attached to a bike’s handlebars.

“Cyclops Ride Assistant’s main purpose is to capture video and information, like an all-seeing eye,” explains Li.

The name came to the team not only for its close association with the spelling of the world “cycling”, but also from an interest in Greek mythology and a character from the X-Men.

“The goal of this project was to find a way to make the streets safer for everyone, especially for cyclists who are the most vulnerable to life-threatening injuries in accidents,” explains Lemos.

Cyclops offers advanced features to keep cyclists safe by using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology, a remote sensing method that accurately measures distance between objects — in this case, between the bike and cars, street signs or curbs.

It also has an LED light strip that alerts cyclists to vehicles approaching from behind.

The sophisticated crash detection system analyzes acceleration data to identify accidents. In the event of a crash, the system automatically saves 60 seconds of front-facing camera footage and other data, which can be used for insurance claims, legal disputes and safety analysis.

Additionally, it records video and data throughout rides for enhanced safety and ride analysis.

Unexpected national recognition

The James Dyson Award recognition is “truly a great honour,” Li says. The national competition recognizes young inventors and their innovative solutions to real-world problems.

“We were all pleasantly surprised and extremely happy that our work exceeded its initial purpose,” says Li.

“Initially, it was a class project, but we poured our heart and soul into it. Being recognized beyond a simple grade feels incredibly rewarding and is a tremendous honour.”

Capstone experience fosters innovation

The trio began working on Cyclops in September 2022, when students’ years of course work and experiential learning culminate in capstone projects, which apply engineering solutions to address real-world issues.

“Creating a project like this, where we could make something tangible that interacts with the environment was rewarding,” says Li. “We used our skills to drive design decisions that would have real-world impact.”

After eight months of work as a team with mentorship from professors Lemos, Li and Yu were named co-winners of the Best Video Award at the final presentation expo in April.

The experiential learning model that supports student’s exploration of real-world engineering applications is part of the Pivot, McMaster Engineering’s reimagined engineering education curriculum.

What’s next

The Cyclops Ride Assist team plans to refine the design and lower the cost of manufacturing their product to bring it to market. Their strategy includes using different computer parts to reduce cost and power consumption while making their device more compact.

Additionally, Cyclops continues to work on their crash detection system algorithm while also focusing on improving device durability, making it more impact- and water-resistant.

The team hopes to collaborate with a custom manufacturing service to start injection moulding plastic parts in the future, all to ensure that Cyclops is ready to make cycling safer, one bike at a time.