Design Engineering

Canadian engineering students win Microsoft Imagine Cup with smartARM prosthetic

By DE Staff   


49 teams representing 33 countries competed for a $85,000 cash prize a $50,000 Microsoft Azure grant and a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Undergraduates Hamayal Choudhry from UOIT and Samin Khan from U of T demonstrating their smartARM prosthetic, which won the Imagine World Cup Finals this year.

Two Canadian university students recently won the Microsoft Imagine World Cup with their smartARM invention-a robotic arm utilizing AI technology to help adjust it’s grip.

Out of 3,000 submissions, 49 teams representing 33 countries competed for a $85,000 cash prize as well as a $50,000 Microsoft Azure grant. Ultimately it was Hamayal Choudhry, a second-year mechatronics student from the UOIT and Samin Khan, a third-year computer science student at the University of Toronto who took first place.

“If you just take, for instance, your hands and your arms, you don’t often realize just how pervasive they are to your physical, everyday inter-activity with the world,” Khan said during their final pitch to the judges.

smartARM relies on a camera embedded in the palm of the prosthetic and then calculates the necessary pressure and force need to grip or rotate and object. For example: the camera would understand there’s a pen, apple or a key lying around, and adjust the grip accordingly.


The beauty of the design is that through machine learning, smartARM improves with the user over time, collecting and storing data through a cloud-based platform so that if they switch to a new model, all the prerequisite data is ready and available. Additionally the smartARM comes with a 3D-printed forearm that activates the grip through the flexing of upper arm muscles.

Choudhry mentioned the forearm activation in their pitch, stating “It doesn’t activate the grip right away – it’s waiting for a cue from a muscle sensor.”

Annalisa, a congenital amputee in Toronto, helped the team create the smartArm. Most prosthetics are cosmetic only, and provide little function, and robotic arms are simply cost prohibitive for the one million hand amputees globally. The team’s smartARM expects to close this gap with the device costing about $100.

Outside of the monetary prize, the duo was awarded a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.


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