Over the summer I had the exciting opportunity to take part in the Engaging in Entrepreneurship & Engineering Program (E3) at the University of Waterloo, a week-long program for high school students entering grades 11 and 12.
The program run by Catalyst and funded by TD Bank was selective, accepting only 30 applicants from across Canada. Catalyst is an initiative of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Waterloo, which empowers high school youth to be the agents of change in their community and in the world by creating opportunities for them to increase awareness, confidence, and leadership abilities in engineering, science, and technology.
Participants were treated to an action-packed week of business model creation, designing, prototyping, and market validation. Technology professionals and entrepreneurs from the Kitchener-Waterloo region, such as Ali Asaria, the creative mind behind Tulip Retail, Well.ca, and BrickBreaker, were brought in to speak on topics such as lean market research and rapid prototyping.
Real market research to support our product concept was conducted across the Waterloo campus through interviews with university students, faculty members, and visitors.
The program was quite fast-paced yet informative, providing exposure to the real-life world of business and engineering. It allowed us to further develop our collaborative, critical thinking, and public speaking skills.
The culmination was a pitch competition among nine groups at Communitech Hub, a start-up incubator in Waterloo. The judges were representatives from TD Bank, the University of Waterloo, and Communitech. Each group was given a limited time to pitch, after which the judges would ask questions. The skills assessed in the competition were the ability of teams to work together to brainstorm, rapidly develop a business model, and pitch their product idea to industry experts.
My team of three participants did not try to reinvent the wheel and sought instead to use available engineering technologies to create a new product. Even though there were technical wi-fi issues during our presentation, our team adapted well in the moment and successfully pitched our meticulously planned business model to the judges. In the end, the judges were unanimous in their decision and we were awarded first place.
Our responses during the question period, along with our handling of the technical difficulties, demonstrated to the judges that we had done our research well, thought outside the box, collaborated as a team, were aware of the stakes, and were able to respond and pivot in adverse conditions.
The win was a great point of validation for me as an SAC student who is interested in both science and business. In grade 10, I took the business course taught by Mr. Sean Ludwig, who provided us with the knowledge and techniques to make effective business presentations. At St. Andrew’s College, we have excellent resources in both the classroom and through co-curriculars that prepare us well, whether our future lies in business, science, or both.
Story by Matthew Deo ’20