Tech round-up for November 25: Giving Tuesday, James Dyson Award winners, Deloitte Fast 50, tech toys

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This week, another group of University of Waterloo students impress, a look at some of the best tech companies in Canada, and the annual holiday tech gift guide begins with picks for the best tech toys. But first, you’ve heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but do you know about Giving Tuesday?

The antidote to Black Friday and Cyber Monday is Giving Tuesday

Today is Black Friday, which has become as big a deal in Canada as it is in the U.S. On Monday, all the things you could ever want to purchase online go on sale, if they aren’t already.

And then there’s Giving Tuesday.

In Canada since 2013, the initiative aims to bring together efforts to support charities by encouraging donations and volunteering.

Among the founding members are Canada Helps, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, and the Canadian Red Cross.

You can give to any charity through the Giving Tuesday site, or find ways to get involved.

Other participating charities this year include the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s Gifts for the Cure collection and True Sport.

Canadian students runners-up in international engineering competition

University of Waterloo students who have designed a contact lens that can automatically monitor glucose levels to help people with diabetes have taken third place in the James Dyson Award.

The three students formed a company called Medella Health and the Smart Contact Lens is based on a nanotechnology design project from one of the students. They are currently working on miniaturizing the various subcomponents.

The runner-up award is worth five thousand British pounds.

A student from the United States took the top prize for a folding, recyclable helmet designed for use by bike share systems.

This is the third year in a row that a team from UW has placed in the competition. Last year, a design for a small printer that prints circuit boards won the top spot.

Canadian tech companies are “diverse and growing faster”

Last week, Deloitte revealed its annual list of 50 Canadian tech companies [PDF] that the professional company believes “demonstrate innovation, leadership, and rapid revenue growth” according to a release.

In the top three spots this year are two tech firms from B.C. and one from Calgary.

UrtheCast, based in Vancouver, provides imaging data and services that look at the Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) and a series of satellites. The company’s website also gives you a live look at our planet from the ISS. UrtheCast’s revenue growth between 2012 and 2015 was nearly 73,000%.

Richmond’s Cooledge Lighting is capitalizing on the shift to digital lighting technologies to drive growth of nearly 17,000%.

Calgary’s Benevity provides services to make it easier for corporations and employees to participate in workplace giving and volunteerism.

Another 10 companies from B.C., including Unbounce, Neurio, and Avigilon, are in the top 50.

Two other Calgary companies made the cut: Livestock Water Recycling and VistaVu Solutions.

Two companies from Saskatoon, Solido Design Automation and Vendasta Technologies, are also on the list.

Tech holiday gift guide: Tech toys for kids

  • Code-a-pillar ($70) from Fisher-Price for kids as young as three, rearrange the segments of the creature to alter its path.
  • Robot Turtles board game ($32 at your local board games store and Amazon) helps young kids learn the building blocks of coding.
  • Osmo Coding ($100) brings logic and problem-solving to the iPad with fun learning experiences.
  • Force Armband ($100) from Sphero works with the BB-8 droid, and enables you to control your robot by simply waving your hand.
    Dash ($150), a cute robot that can be programmed using a number of different tools, including Wonder and Blockly.
  • Kidizoom Smartwatch from VTech tells time, includes action challenges, and has a camera and voice recorder built in.
  • Hexbugs, including the new AquaBot Wahoo ($7) a perfect stocking stuffer, and the Nitro Habitat Set ($30 to $35), which has kids creating a track for the nanobots to skitter around in.
  • Boogie Board Play n’ Trace ($40 to $50) is like an artist’s palette, but digital.
  • Rubik’s Spark ($35) turns the cube into an interactive puzzle game.

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