August 2010

AMS Vans Boasts New Lake Front Property

Some days something enchanting happens that makes the world just that much more magical when you arrive at your place of employment, and today was certainly one of those days. After waking up and going through our morning routines to show up for another fantastic day at work, all of the AMS Vans employees arrived at the office with an unexpected barrier in front of the building. We had acquired new lakefront property overnight!

We can say that it resembled this beauteous park setting with a gravel walkway…

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…in front of a calm lake with frogs singing…

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…and water lapping at the shore…

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but then we realized that something was different… something was wrong.  This wasn’t a newfound lake or the fountain of youth that had sprung overnight…

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For those pictures were the work of our extremely talented graphic artist and photographer…

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And it was really the road in front of our parking lot…

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And part of our parking lot itself!

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Our new little paradise was something we certainly did not expect, and Jill wandered away with Chris to test how the waters were for fishing.

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News crews arrived to film the momentous occasion…

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While construction crews looked on with wonder after arriving earlier this week to fix mysterious sink holes that appeared near us.

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As Jill spotted some trout in the lake.

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We learned what caused our momentous day, and Matt was even on television talking about it. (view below)  Apparently the construction crew didn’t create a way for the storm water to drain while fixing our sink holes.

Otherwise, life is almost back to normal again on our plateau.  The water has been pumped out, the roads are clear, and now we just have to see if the crew will still be on schedule to have the sink hole fixed by Monday.  Regardless, we welcome customers and have plenty of room to park on the side parking lot. :)

Paralyzed Computer Engineer Helps Develop Technology for Kids with Disabilities

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Eric Wan is helping to develop specialized software for children with disabilities. His latest project is a virtual music instrument that plays music and displays colorful shapes on a screen when the user “touches” the shapes by swaying their head from side to side or moving their wheelchair. Essentially the user sits in front of a webcam, and the video shows them surrounded by shapes on the live video that they interact with. As the pace increases of the user, the melody and video responds and accelerates along with flow. With every bob of the head, the program combined with the user craft their own musical composition.

“There’s a lot of kids that are not able to play music just because they’re not able to hold the musical instrument,” said the 32-year-old Wan. “I think that there’s a lot of children who would like to play music through some kind of way, so this is one of the reasons that I’m interested in this project.”

This Virtual Music Instrument is one of several projects Wan has been working on all aimed at helping children with disabilities, a topic he knows much about. Wan was paralyzed at age 18 after a diagnosis of tranverse myelitis – a condition resulting from inflammation of the spinal cord. Doctors could only point to a measles vaccination 4 days before that could have caused the problem. They had hoped he would be walking again, but it didn’t happen. Wan was paralyzed from the shoulders down and initially unable to breathe on his own. Two years later he was able to breathe during the day, but at night he requires a ventilator.

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Wan notes that he was very depressed early on after the trauma, but school kept his mind occupied and helped him navigate through some of the toughest times. He dealt with the barriers of having people stare at him on campus, and he put it all behind him.

“I don’t put much focus on that. I go to school, and once in a while I see students staring at me. Maybe they’re curious, or maybe they feel I shouldn’t be there. I don’t put much thought into it because it won’t change anything. I focus on where I want to go and my purpose in being there. “

Through attending school, he met Tom Chau, a senior scientist with Bloorview Research Institute located on-site. The two were connected through a respiratory therapist Wan had worked with while in long-term rehab. Wan started volunteering at the hospital in the summer and returned the following year as an intern. He’s been part of the team ever since and was brought on board as an undergrad to work with the Paediatric Rehabilition Intelligent Multidisciplinary lab, or PRISM for short. PRISM focuses their efforts on children with disabilities or special needs and their families.

Other projects Wan helped bring to life include an iPod-based system that allows an individual who requires the use of a vantilator to wander freely throughout the hospital independently as well as a device called the Aspirometer for detecting swallowing safety.

This fall Wan is heading back to the books after graduate school, and he’s off to pursue a two-year master’s degree at U of T. He plans to continue down his current path of developing software to help children with disabilities gain more control of their environments.

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To view a video about Eric Wan and the Virtual Music Device, follow the link below:

http://www.metronews.ca/halifax/local/article/610970–paralyzed-man-s-work-helps-disabled-kids–page1

Video: Free Hugs Offered on the Street

Juan Mann had a mission.  It can be hard to be sincere to strangers in modern day society without coming off like a weirdo, begger, or someone that is missing a few pieces of the puzzle.  Enter the free hugs campaign.  Juan Mann made it his goal to reach out and hug strangers, putting smiles on their faces.

He stood alone for a while in a busy area holding up a sign, and people veered far away from his path.

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Why is he there?

What’s going on?

Finally, people started reaching back for Juan and giving him the hugs he requested with the words “FREE HUGS” so large on his homemade sign.

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The hugs were infectious as people ran, jumped, and flew into Juan for the free hugs.  Others began holding up their own signs for hugs, and smiles were everywhere.

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What happened next surprised Juan and everyone involved.

Police and city officials BANNED the Free Hugs Campaign. It was declared unfit for public areas.

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That’s when the magic happened.

Gathering signatures started slow at first, but gradually 83 turned into 572 which turned into 5395 and resulted in the goal of 10,000 signatures reached.

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With that many voices speaking, the city officials decided to let the new tradition continue.

Long live the Free Hug Campaign.

Watch the video below!