geekStarter Jamboree and Workshop: Teams Share Projects and Gain Expert Feedback


Fun times! Teams and judges at geekStarter’s 2018 high school jamboree

On May 26-27, 2018, geekStarter high-school teams gathered together to share their projects, learn from experts and mentors, and celebrate their accomplishments. The highly anticipated weekend consisted of two events co-hosted with Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy in Canmore:

  • May 26: geekStarter High School Jamboree
  • May 27: geekStarter High School iGEM workshop

At the Jamboree on Saturday, the teams presented their work in front of a panel of judges, and received feedback and practical tips for improving their projects and prospects as entrepreneurs.

Post-presentation Q & A with Ted Harrison School team

Q & A with Ted Harrison School team

The following individuals participated as judges and generously shared their real-world expertise and insights.

  • Alexis Hope – Designer and Researcher, MIT Media Lab
  • Emily Marasco – PhD candidate, E.I.T., Education Specialist, EZ-Robot Inc.
  • Julie Legault – CEO and Founder, Amino Labs
  • Justin Pahara – CSO, Amino Labs
  • Nolan Liss – Founder, Arcane Lights
  • Patrick Wu – Biotechnology Business Development Consultant
  • Sandi Boga – Director of Innovation, ATB Financial

Ms. Emily Marasco also gave a presentation on ‘Effective Communication for Science and Engineering’ – a highly engaging skill building session that captivated the entire audience.

Emily Marasco talked about best communication practices in science and engineering

Emily Marasco’s talk on best communication practices in science and engineering captivated the audience

At the end of the day, the teams were presented with Certificates and Special Awards in recognition of their accomplishments and progress – as indicated below.

  • Father Mercredi High School Robotics (Fort McMurray): building a bear robot decoy for training protection dogs for workers on oil sand sites, and football tackle robot for reducing player injury and for collecting data to inform coaching – Special Award for Growing and mobilizing the STEM community – presented by Alexis Hope

    Father Mercredi team

    Father Mercredi team

  • Lethbridge High School Synthetic Biology/iGEM team (Lethbridge): developing a cost effective method for making drinking water from ocean water through desalination – Special Award for Best opportunity analysis – presented by Sandi Boga


    Lethbridge HS team

  • Nexus Robotics (Calgary): programming autonomous behaviours into human-operated robots to improve their ability for avoiding collisions – Special Award for Best engineering design – presented by Emily Marasco

    Nexus team

    Nexus team

  • Notre Dame Collegiate Synthetic Biology/iGEM team (High River): building a device for breaking down fat residue (fatbergs) clogging waste water pipes – Special Award for Most engaging presentation – presented by Julie Legault 

    Notre Dame team

    Notre Dame Collegiate team

  • Our Lady of the Snows Synthetic Biology/iGEM team (Canmore): developing a cost-effective system for tagging and sorting out plastics at recycling facilities – The Enterprise Award – presented by Magda Pop 

    OLS team

    Our Lady of the Snows team

  • Ross Sheppard High School Innovations Club (Edmonton): programming cars to learn how to drive autonomously, and first-person-view drones to shoot promotional videos

    Ross Shep team

    Ross Shep team

  • Ted Harrison School Design Thinking Club (Calgary): building a litter picker robot for large public spaces, researching ways to prevent and treat melanoma and osteoporosis
Ted Harrison School team

Ted Harrison School team

Saturday’s event renewed participants’ energy and ideas. Nimaya DeSilva (grade 12 student from Lethbridge) said: “This jamboree allowed me to remind myself of my love for science, and gave me inspiration for future careers.”

The May 27 workshop was organized for the three geekStarter high school synthetic biology teams which will compete in the iGEM Jamboree in Boston in October 2018.

In the morning, the teams participated in five speaker sessions that informed and inspired their projects.

  • “Discover to Making in Biology” – presented by Justin Pahara
  • “Modeling for Synthetic Biology” – presented by Robert Mayall (Vanier Scholar, University of Calgary & Co-Founder, FREDsense Technologies; geekStarter mentor )
  • “Thinking like an entrepreneur” – presented by Julie Legault
  • “Fundamentals of visual design” – presented by Patrick Wu
  • “Human Practices” – Chris Isaac (Graduate Student Biochemistry, University of Lethbridge & Biosecurity Fellow, Johns Hopkins University; geekStarter mentor)

In the afternoon, the speakers and mentors met individually with each team to discuss the projects and provide suggestions and feedback.

geekStarter HS teams prepare for iGEM

High School Syn Bio teams attended geekStarter workshop to prepare for iGEM

The teams highly appreciated the practical knowledge and great mentorship provided at the workshop. “We were able to have detailed discussions on different crucial aspects of the project and address many issues to do with it as well. This will allow us to have extreme improvements for our project,” commented a student. “This workshop made us as a team much more knowledgeable and realistic about our project,” said another.

We hope the weekend offered the teams an enduring learning experience, and wish them a great summer and good luck on their projects!