Lakehead University Research and Innovation Week 2011 Launches at Intercity Shopping Centre


Researchers and SupportersTHUNDER BAY – With scores of people waiting to get in line for the $50 Ancestry DNA testing, the Research and Innovation Week Intercity Mall Launch really drew a crowd. At a media conference, Lakehead’s Vice President of Research, Dr. Rui Wang, enthusiastically told the crowd about the $290 million dollar annual impact that Lakehead University makes in our city and region. Wang emphasized the importance of research to economic development and welcomed speakers to the podium who were in full agreement.

Councillor Iain Angus, representing the City of Thunder Bay, said “We (the City) have gone beyond talking about doing something to putting our money where our mouths are. And it’s working. We have scientists coming to work in Thunder Bay all the time. You can’t find a house these days.”

Lakehead President Brian Stevenson emphasized how research plays a key role in fueling the local and regional economy as innovative projects become commercialized. The launch today of Bitcold Technologies and the Strength Assessment Inventory (SAI) are excellent examples of how research is changing and improving our lives in the areas of healthcare, social development, and in job creation.

Lakehead University researcher, Ed Rawana, Associate Professor of Psychology and President of Bitcold Technologies, shared that the Strength Assessment Inventory that he and his partner Keith Brownlee have created is already being used in Lakehead Public Schools, Children’s Centre Thunder Bay, the William W. Creighton Youth Services, and may soon be used in all schools managed by the Matawa First Nations. Rawana was passionate when he stated “This business is truly local. It is University-based, and Thunder Bay-centred. Right now, the SAI is moving into Guelph, Ottawa and Hamilton and I am very confident that this product will be a provincial, national, and international success.”

Building on the success of previous Research and Innovation weeks, today, Lakehead University launched its 6th annual R+I Week at Intercity Shopping Centre with unique interactive displays accessible to the entire community. As part of the launch, two new start-up companies, nurtured through Lakehead’s Innovation Management Office, were announced and celebrated.

Strength Assessment Inventory (SAI): The first company, 2254829 Ontario Inc., is commercializing a psychological test known as the Strength Assessment Inventory (SAI). The SAI, delivered through a customized online portal, measures and assesses strengths of Canada’s children and youth. By contrast, most currently available assessment tools measure weaknesses or challenges of young people to find what is wrong, instead of providing positive feedback by finding what is right. The researchers define strengths as “a set of developed competencies and characteristics embedded in culture that are valued both by the individual and by society.” These strengths are identified through an evaluation that includes 124 items in 11 categories of strengths, for example: Strengths from Faith and Culture.

Lakehead University researchers Ed Rawana, Associate Professor of Psychology, and Keith Brownlee, Professor of Social Work, have spent years developing the SAI. Several customers, including Thunder Bay’s own McKellar Park Central Public School and the Sister Margaret Smith Centre, are already using the SAI. The project has received generous support from the Lakehead University Centre of Excellence for Children and Adolescents with Special Needs, and several community partners. Early results have been very encouraging.

“We have discovered that it is difficult to engage children and adolescents to work on their problems when they have not received ideas that will help motivate them to make positive changes,” Rawana explains. “With the SAI, children and adolescents are able to see that they have assets that they can use to conquer problems. Their problems do not have to define who they are.”

Bitcold Technology Inc.: Bitcold Technology Inc., Lakehead’s second new start-up, is the outcome of a successful research partnership between Lakehead University’s Department of Software Engineering, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. Researchers and doctors have collaborated to develop an intelligent new system that allows caregivers and hospital administrators to easily share patient documentation. At present, caregivers can spend as much as 40% of their time on tedious and repetitive documentation, in large part because the existing Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems have significant limitations.

Bitcold has developed a documentation tool that integrates with the hospital’s existing EMR system to enhance and expand its automated editing abilities. This tool is expected to have a clear and important impact on healthcare in Canada by reducing the time caregivers spend documenting their work, freeing more time for providing patient care. Since 2010, the project has moved from inception to a functional alpha-version prototype. Bitcold was incorporated in late 2010, with a commercial release expected in 2011.

DNA test“Bitcold Technology is a perfect example of how collaboration and cross-pollination can lead to effective, pragmatic solutions. Lakehead University’s Faculty of Engineering worked with partners in the medical field to produce an innovative new software system that improves efficiency in the health care realm. NOSM and the TBRHSC have been ideal community partners to help deploy and refine the platform because of their smaller team sizes, openness to new documentation systems, and drive to become leaders in medical academics, inter-professional care, and education,” says Dr. Rachid Benlamri, Chair of Lakehead’s Software Engineering Department and Chief Operations Officer of Bitcold.

Dr. Rui Wang, Vice-President (Research, Economic Development, and Innovation), adds that these are the kinds of technologies and community partnerships that showcase Lakehead University’s competitiveness with other universities. “Lakehead is proud of its entrepreneurial faculty, world-class research programs and resulting innovative research outcomes. Lakehead’s research is proving time and time again to be socially relevant, solving real-world issues, and contributing to economic development of the regions Lakehead serves and society as a whole.”

Michael Gravelle, Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry, was very excited about the two new start-ups. “These projects will both improve the qualify of life for people. We’re all very conscious of challenges that our healthcare professional face – particularly in long term care centres – and Bitcold Technology’s new software will make a big difference.”

Dr. Richard Khoury, Assistant Professor of Software Engineering at Lakehead, and Bitcold’s Chief Financial Officer, noted that “Caregivers can spend as much as 40% of their time on tedious and repetitive documentation. Our software solution will help free that time for better patient care.”

Some lucky audience members were treated to special Research and Innovation Week t-shirts and all were encouraged to browse exhibits, fill their passports, and enter to win the grand prize of the Thunderwolves Hockey Box for a 2012 home game.

Research and Innovation Week Events + Exhibits

February 12 – 18, 2011

Intercity Shopping Centre Research and Innovation Displays

Saturday, February 12, 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Participants who visit all the featured exhibits can enter to win a sporting night out with family or friends in the Thunderwolves Fort William Gardens Box for a 2012 season hockey home game.

Office of Admissions & Recruitment and Faculty of Graduate Studies – Come investigate graduate and undergraduate programs and opportunities at Lakehead.

Biotechnology Research Program

This interactive display provides a fun introduction to Lakehead’s diverse, cutting-edge biotech research.

Centre for Analytical Services

Visit the LUCAS booth to learn more about local rocks, garden soils and soil ecology.

Centre of Excellence for Children and Adolescents with Special Needs

Check out the Strength Assessment Inventory (SAI) online tool along with current strength-based research.

Faculty of Natural Resources Management

Browse display posters that depict ecological and climate change adaptation research.

Food Security Research Network

Check out research initiatives including: the Chicken Abattoir, a marketing study on economic development of blueberries, and research on youth engagement in the science of food issues.

Formula SAE® Race Car

See and get into the FSAE car from the 2009 FSAE competition at the Michigan International Speedway.

Lakehead University Wizards in Motion (NSERC PromoScience Program) Examine the science of human motion while learning about head safety with a multimedia presentation and technology demonstrations that teach biomechanics, force, impulse, shock absorption and safe helmet design and practice.

Paleo-DNA Laboratory

Ancestry DNA Testing at special rate of $50 – Saturday, February 12 only.

Lakehead University Campus Events: Come to campus for more special events happening all week, including lectures, panel discussions, a concert, a film premiere, a graduate student conference (posters and oral presentations), postdoctoral fellow poster competition, displays, information sessions and the celebration of Lakehead’s Distinguished Researcher Award.

All events are free and everyone is welcome to attend. For a detailed schedule of events, please visit

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