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Alberta high school student discovers new diamond extraction method

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CTVNews.ca Staff, with a report from CTV Edmonton’s David Ewasuk


Published Thursday, December 27, 2018 8:00PM EST

An Alberta teenager has discovered a new way to extract diamonds that might otherwise be destroyed by current harvesting techniques.

Hamdi Ali is a 17-year-old high school student and a participant in the University of Alberta’s WISEST program, which is designed to encourage women to explore different scientific fields.

“What Hamdi discovered was pretty unique and unexpected,” Ali’s grad student mentor, Margo Regier, told CTV Edmonton.

“I didn’t really know anything about geology,” Ali added. “So it was a little disconcerting when I first saw the SELFRAG and realized I was going to be working with it.”

That machine, Ali explained, is “a high-voltage electronic disaggregation device, which sounds pretty fancy, but it just means that it destroys rocks using 200,000 volts of electricity.”

It can also harvest diamonds that would otherwise be destroyed by established extraction methods, Ali soon discovered.

To test this, Ali began by X-raying a piece of rock to show it had diamonds in it before cutting it into two halves. One was then crushed with industry standard mechanical vibrating plates, destroying the diamonds inside. For the other half, Ali used a SELFRAG machine, shooting high-voltage pulses to break down the rock.

“She found ten diamonds,” Regier said of the second method. “So what that implies is that when you use a mechanical crusher, you are actually damaging a significant number of diamonds and decreasing your total diamond yield.”

The discovery led to a presentation in front of diamond industry geologists.

“I actually presented in a theatre with a lot of people there,” Ali said. “I was nervous but it was a pretty great experience.”

Brad Jongkind, an Edmonton-based gemologist and jewelry store owner, said Ali’s discovery has the potential to “set the world on fire” in the diamond industry. The University of Alberta is also hoping that Ali’s discovery inspires other young women to pursue scientific studies.

“You don’t need to have a PhD to do good scientific research,” Regier said. “You just need to have a new idea and you need to work hard to make sure it happens.”

As for Ali, while her future is not set in stone, she’s now considering geology as an option.

“I am excited to figure out where to go from here,” she said. “I still have to finish high school.”

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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