geekStarter Weekend of Celebration and Deep Learning

This is an exciting time of the year for the geekStarter community! On June 10 and 11, geekStarter teams gathered together to share and celebrate their projects. They met with experienced guests and mentors and learned tips for how to succeed at competitions and what it would take to bring their projects to life and make an impact in the real world. Highly anticipated events like these are at the core of our program, which is operated by MindFuel with funding support from Alberta Innovates. They are key to Alberta teams’ excellent performance at competitions such as the international Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM), and plant the seeds for start-up companies in new technologies such as synthetic biology. Here is what Justin Pahara, Co-founder and Chief Science Officer at Amino Labs and one of the expert guests, commented: “It’s amazing that Alberta has this program – This is a great example of Alberta leading Canada out of the commodity economy.” At geekStarter’s 2017 High School Jamboree held at Notre Dame Collegiate in High River on Saturday June 10, six of geekStarter’s high-school teams presented their projects and received feedback and guidance from six experienced judges from academia and industry: Emily Hicks (President and Co-Founder at FREDsense Technologies), Julie Legault (CEO and Founder at Amino Labs), Robert Mayall (Vanier Scholar at University of Calgary, and Co-Founder at FREDsense Technologies), Justin Pahara (Chief Science Officer at Amino Labs), Anam Rizvi (Student in Mechanical Engineering with Biomedical specialization at University of Alberta), and Patrick Wu (Biotechnology Consultant). The Jamboree culminated with the top three teams winning special awards chosen by judges based on each team’s performance and areas of strength. Team...
Spotlight on geekStarters: Lethbridge High School iGEM Team

Spotlight on geekStarters: Lethbridge High School iGEM Team

Best Communication Awardees at geekStarter’s High School Jamboree on June 10: Lethbridge High School iGEM team – Pictured with them (at left) is judge and mentor Emily Hicks, presenter of the award Meet the High School iGEM team from Lethbridge, and learn about them and their project from this recent interview they gave us. What is unique about your team? Any memorable moments? We are an ethnically diverse group of high school students that very much enjoy synthetic biology and have found a way to try to solve a significant real world problem with syn bio. We have also found success with our project, performing greatly at the recent high school jamboree! What is your team’s favorite fun activity? What’s something your team does to bond? We have had a game night with our team, where people brought snacks and we played board games for hours! How does your team use social media? As of now, our team does not have a social media presence, but that is something that would be great to use! How would you describe your team’s project in 3 sentences or less? We will be manufacturing pigments using synthetic biology, to use for our own environmentally-friendly inks. To do this, we are using genes from many different organisms to create four colours, cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Our pigments will be created in the bacteria Escherichia coli, therefore being natural and much less environmentally damaging than current ink products. What has been one highlight of working on your project so far? Just recently, we won a special award at geekStarter’s High School Jamboree for best communication! What is your team’s biggest challenge?...
Innovation and Entrepreneurialism to Breathe Easier

Innovation and Entrepreneurialism to Breathe Easier

Meet TZOA. This start-up found that there is a real need in today’s society for us to be able to monitor the air quality and pollution in the world around us. By combining optical technology with a UV sensor they found a way to create a device that is both effective and appealing to general users! Read on to find out more details about their project, the hurdles they have faced and the advice they give to any aspiring innovators! Company Name: Tzoa Product: Tzoa Enviro-Tracker Number of Founders: 2 What problem is your project trying to solve? Imagine being able to see air pollution on a map, similar to weather and traffic data. The problem we are trying to solve is a lack of geographical air quality data. Governmental organizations have built air quality monitors that cost tens of thousands of dollars, but this is not a scalable solution, and now they need supplementary monitoring from low-cost sensors. This would allow us to identify sources of pollution and understand how pollution affects us from a public health perspective, helping save lives. The EPA documents this problem here: http://www.epa.gov/research/airscience/next-generation-air-measuring.htm How does your solution solve this problem in a new innovative way? Does it rely on other previously developed technologies? We attempted to solve this problem by designing a product that would appeal to the average person, so that we could collect data as quickly and widespread as possible. We decided to position ourselves in the popular ‘wearable technology’ category, which includes step-counters and heart rate monitors like Fitbit and the upcoming Apple Watch. Existing technology did not allow us...