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Pencilla Lang

Location: London, ON

Award: Young Canadians


Year: 2004


Optical Tactile Sensors for Medical Palpation

News Release

London, Ontario student Pencilla Lang captures Manning Innovator Award

ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland — (May 21, 2004) — Pencilla Lang, a Grade 12 student at London's A.B. Lucas Secondary School today was named one of four Manning Young Canadian Innovators. Her $4,500 cash award and a trip this fall to the yet-to-be-announced site of the national Manning Innovation Awards were among her total honours exceeding $8,000 at the 2004 Canada-Wide Science Fair held this past week on the campus of Memorial University. This was the largest national fair to date, with 483 students working on 375 projects, and with student representation from every province and territory.

Lang, 16, was recognized for her efforts in the development of an Optical Tactile Sensor for Medical Palpation, a minimally invasive medical technique to provide physicians with improved information about size, consistency, texture and location of human tissue when assessing the health of soft tissues while finding tumors, cysts and arteries. Her science research was also recognized with a Silver Medal ($700) in the senior Engineering Division, a $750 award from the Environment and Plastics Industry Council Award, and a $2,000 scholarship at the University of Western Ontario where she plans to continue her post-secondary education.

A team from GTA's Ontario Science Centre High School, Grade 12 students Nimmy Thakolkaran and Shirley Ho, were named Manning Achievement Award winners, sharing a $500 award for their project, Inducing Resistance in Peas against Mycosphaerella pinodes, a virulent fungus strain that causes one of the most serious diseases affecting the field pea in western Canada.

Pencilla Lang's prototype optical tactile sensor shares many engineering goals with industrial sensors, but involved two new concepts --- in tactile sensing: deformability and vision-based sensing. The ultimate product is envisioned to be a ballpoint pen-sized probe featuring a pliable silicone shell featuring a preprinted visual pattern that would deform on contact with the target tissue. Computer software would combine the visual pattern deformation with a mathematical model of the shell to calculate applied forces and recreate the surface being sensed. Lang's prototype required her to develop the hardware (probe and silicone tip) and write the interpretive software for he digital imaging system. Lang says future work will likely include 3D tracking of image features, modeling of the material response and further validation.

This is the 13th year for the Manning Innovation Awards at the Canada-Wide Science Fair, co-sponsored by Encana Corporation and Petro-Canada on behalf of the Manning Awards Foundation.

Don Park, Executive Director