Two hundred students from high schools, colleges and universities across Ontario took part in an intensive 36-hour experiential learning event at York University recently. At the event, participants had an opportunity to use “design thinking” to identify and solve a major world issue in fields such as clean water and air, access to education, food security, affordable healthcare and mental health.
In early November, the Lassonde School of Engineering’s Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology (BEST) program hosted the event, its inaugural Startup Experience Weekend, which was sponsored by Rogers and KPM Power.
Working in groups to develop a “How Might We (HMW)” statement, participants identified a problem that was big enough to be meaningful, yet small enough to be addressable.
Assisted by more than 15 mentors, the students were given the choice of which HMW statement they wanted to address. They formed teams and began putting their ideas together, brainstorming and developing solutions into a compelling business case.
Over the course of a weekend, participants had the opportunity to connect with role models from The Knowledge Society, Lassonde’s BEST Lab and various technology ventures through NEXT Canada.
They also had the chance to learn about interesting topics like systematic inventive thinking, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, design thinking, business models, storytelling, virtual reality, leadership and entrepreneurship through a series of workshops.
“I think what I learned within these two days, I wouldn’t have been able to learn for quite a few years. It really gave quite the perspective when approaching business and entrepreneurship in general. I now have a relative idea on how to approach my own problem I’d like to solve down to how to pitch it when I am pursuing my own ventures,” said student Avantika Nair.
Attendees were able to see the real-world application of their efforts, contributing meaningful solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems.
The weekend concluded with teams pitching their creative solutions to fellow student groups and a team of experienced judges. The winners are:
- First place: Happify – a solution to help students achieve their full potential and handle stress-induced mental health concerns through an intuitive application that acts as a dashboard of students’ school, work and social needs, so that students can organize their lives and achieve better mental health. Team members: Reem Aleithan, Paul Charles Owe, Caleb Kim and Jaleel Sayal.
- Second place: VERT – a solution to reduce strain on our healthcare system caused by substance addiction. Team members: Allen Kaplan, Kourosh Toghrol, Denis Karasik and Christian Augustyn.
- Third place: ai – a solution to reduce the harmful artificial impact on the environment for the cultivation of agriculture to prevent pollution and environmental destruction. Team members: Pragieth Suresh, Nikkita Lesishvilli, Annika Fotr, Ishan Chenthooran and Aarnav Sachidanandan.