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 APEX Robotics from Calgary won the Most Marketable Project Award for their self-driving snow cleaner, while teams Lethbridge High School iGEM and Canmore’s OLS Syn Bio shared the Best Communication Award for their synthetic biology projects on making biological ink and sorting plastics, respectively.
On the next day, four newly onboarded geekStarter iGEM teams from Edmonton (University of Alberta and Urban Tundra High School), University of Calgary, and University of Lethbridge attended geekStarter’s Collegiate & iGEM Season Kickoff Event held at the Foothills Campus of University of Calgary.
Four of the experts from the High-School Jamboree came to Sunday’s workshop as well, where they gave talks in their areas of expertise.
The topics covered were as follows.
- DNA Programming: Your Sustainable Future – presented by Justin Pahara
- Modeling for Synthetic Biology – presented by Robert Mayall
- Fertile Intersections of Art and Design with the Sciences – presented by Julie Legault
- Introduction to Visual Design Communication – presented by Patrick Wu
In the afternoon, the guest speakers met with each of the teams individually to discuss their projects and provide specific suggestions and feedback. This comment from one of the attendees says it all: “Both the breakout sessions and the talks were amazing.”
“This was an incredible opportunity to learn and collaborate!” said a participant. “All speakers gave relevant knowledge and the event has given me more confidence in our ability to achieve our goals”, said another.
The weekend’s events offered geekStarter teams much food for thought and a bounty of new ideas and opportunities for networking and mentorship. We hope the inspiration and learnings will go a long way and wish them good luck with their projects!