From Prime Minister's Youth Council to Home Builder - Q &A with Alex Bouchard
Friday, February 16, 2018
We sat down with Alex Bouchard, one of our three SHAD Fellows on the Prime Minister's Youth Council. As a resident of Haines Junction, Yukon, Alex has always been passionate about sustainability. Most recently she has become an advocate for young home owners after experiencing some set-backs as the builder of her own home.
Teddy: Let’s begin with you getting picked for the Prime Minister’s Youth Council. How surprised were you when you heard that news?
Alex: Extremely surprised. I mean 13,000 people applied for that position and it felt pretty surreal that I got picked out of all those people.
T: What did you say in your video pitch?
A: I went a little on a rant but my passion kind of shone through that.
T: You went on a rant? In what way?
A: *laughs* Well I live up in Haines Junction, Yukon and the internet wasn’t super great that day. I attempted to record my video many times and the more I did it the less composure I kept. Finally, I decided to keep the last one I recorded and thought, “Well, I don’t know if I’m going to get this job so I’m just going to say what I really think.” I talked a lot about the need for more drastic measures considering it is 2017 and we’re still really destroying the environment.
T: In 2009, you were a high school student. You went to SHAD at UBC. What impact did that have on you as a young student at that time?
A: SHAD had a huge impact on me. For one thing, I went to UBC afterwards, so it helped me pick my university for the future, which is pretty neat. But it was also one of the first times I was in a room with a whole bunch of leaders and we were told that we could do whatever we wanted, we just had to put our minds to it. That was a pretty special thing to have experienced.
T: I’m curious if you could describe one of these ice breaking exercises that you had at SHAD, because if I’m not mistaken, it was all about building a house out of newspaper?
A: Mhmm. So that was one of the first activities I remember doing as a group. We didn’t know each other super well and we were told you have to build a house out of newspaper and it has to be able to stand up on its own and fit everybody inside. And I remember looking at the task as this impossible thing. But as a group, we sat down and we thought, “Okay, so the triangle is the strongest form, so let’s go with that first. And well you know, I’m from the Yukon, so let’s do an igloo; those are pretty solid.” And so as a group and as a team, we actually built a house that totally stood on its own and fit everybody inside. And I remember it being pretty cozy and it was a pretty special lesson to say,“If you take things one step at a time, nothing is really impossible.”
T: Did you think about that lesson during the last year and a half, now that you were building an actual house of your own, with your own two hands?
A: Yeah. I think it’s a lesson that I’ve tried to carry throughout my life. I just finished building a house here in Haines Junction and it got very daunting. When you think of a house as a whole there are so many pieces to that puzzle, but when you think about the little pieces one at a time, it kind of builds itself. It was a really neat project and I’m really glad I did that.
T: Tell me what motivated you to actually go and do this, building your own house, basically from scratch?
A: To be honest, I was a little bored. I had just finished university. I had a little time off work and I was kind of looking for a new project. And I’ve always known I wanted to try to work with my hands. I find, you know, after a day’s work in the office you’ve emailed a hundred times but you haven’t really created anything. So the house really appealed to me because I would be building something that would stand time, you know? That’s kind of what motivated me and I was looking for a place to stay so it seemed like a nice project to start.
T: Tell me about how difficult it is to build a house? If you could put into context what it’s like to build a house up in the north where you are.
A: It’s a great question. It’s very difficult to build a house. If I knew all the aspects of it, I don’t know if I would have done it. I was very naïve about the realities of it. It’s really hard, both mentally and physically. Mentally you’re always thinking five steps ahead; you’re always thinking about the house. You can’t hang out with your friends because you’re working during the day with Parks Canada and working on the house at night. And physically, I think I ripped out three of my nails. I have so many scars on my hands now from the house building and it was a pretty hard process. But I do feel a lot stronger from it. You learn so many different tasks along the way and lessons, so it’s pretty cool.
T: Are there specific challenges to building a house in the north. I’m thinking at this time of the year with so little light, for instance?
A: Yeah we have more time constraints. I started taking down trees off the lot in July before we started to build, and then we were racing against winter. We had to get a frame solid before winter came, so it was a lot of working on a deadline. The darkness wasn’t too bad once it got there. We were lucky because we had a generator and we started to do the electrical work. But I know a lot of people can only work during the summer so their building time is a lot shorter than most. And you’re also racing a little bit against the cold. You know, you want to make sure that you have a fireplace in there or some sort of heat so that you’re not working at minus 40 inside.
T: Can you paint a picture of the house for us?
A: I’m calling it the “New York loft look". I had no idea what I wanted at first. I was on Pinterest a lot. I highly recommend it for anybody that’s looking to build a house or decorate. I would just look through pictures and be like, “Ooh ya I like this” or “I don’t like this” and “I like that”. So I kind of slowly over time built an image of what I wanted for the house and it turned out to be very modern – very loft looking. It has a lot of wood inside and it’s quite cozy. It has two nice fireplaces to keep the house warm.
T: And you have quite a view, I’m told.
A: Yeah I live beside Kluane National Park and Reserve which has the tallest mountains in Canada. I get to look at those mountains every morning.
T: Did you include certain elements? Your big thing is again the environment and sustainability. Did you think about building the house with that in mind?
A: The house has an eco-rating to it. So that means it’s so well insulated that it’s not using a lot of heat to heat up. I tried to buy appliances that would be environmentally friendly. I tried to do little things. The lights are all good for the environment. It’s hard. I was definitely thinking of solar panels but given where we are up north, it’s hard to justify solar panels when it’s pretty dark most of the year.
T: And what about electricity and water?
A: On my lot I’m not hooked up to the city so I had to get my own electrical and my own water. I dug a well for the water and then for the electrical I had a power line brought in. Most of the heat comes from the fireplaces and so I don’t take a lot of heat or electrical but I do still get some power.
T: Did you have anybody helping you with this, Alex? Or did you do all this work on your own?
A: I wish I could say that. I definitely had so much help. My dad was a contractor in the past. He’s retired now so he was a huge help to help me manage the project and show me the tricks of the trade. I also watched a lot of YouTube videos of how-tos, so those are also helpful. But yeah my dad would basically come in at the beginning of the week and say, “Okay, this is what you are going to be doing for the week. This is how it’s done,” and then leave me to it. I also had some awesome friends that would come and help me move some stuff that was too heavy. To lift up the walls I had a lot of friends come in. I had an army of friends just to lift those walls up. So I was really thankful for that.
T: How much does the house now feel like it has you written all over it? I mean could you see yourself basically selling this one day now that you put your heart and soul – your blood, sweat and tears – into this?
A: My dad’s talked about selling it because it would fetch a good price on the market. I would find it really, really, really hard. Before this point I had always lived in apartments or basements and things like that and now I have my own house with three bedrooms, two baths, my aesthetic, my look. There’s lots of space. And that’s going to be really hard to give up. I’m pretty attached to my fireplaces as well, just to be able to sit with a cup of coffee in front of the fire. Eventually I might sell it; I’m already thinking of different ideas for the next house. But for now I’m really going to try to enjoy it.
T: What were some of the surprises you had along the way? Because I’m sure there were some specific challenges you had to go through. Were there any in particular that came as a surprise to you?
A: I found there to be sexism in the industry. I didn’t think it was going to be that present but I found whenever I would go to Home Hardware with my dad, I would ask the question to the person at the counter and they would respond and look at my dad. There is a belief that a man is going to be in control, that a man is going to be in charge, but it wasn’t the case. This was my project; it was my house. And it was really hard to kind of command that respect from the industry. I found I would slowly pick contractors to help me out that were open to working with a woman and it wasn’t always easy. There were a lot of men in that industry that just trust other men more. I also had a lot of problems with the inspectors and while I think inspectors do a great job and they want you to be safe, I do feel like I was picked on a little bit because I was a young woman building by myself. I found they were triple checking everything I did while a friend down the street who’s building and is at the exact same stages in the house hadn’t seen an inspector in months.
T: And what about on the financing side? What did you face on that front as a young single woman doing this project?
A: Again, no institution wants to give their money to a single woman with only one source of revenue. So my parents are actually funding the house and once it’s done I will have to go to the bank, grab a mortgage and pay it back. Finance was really difficult because I was like, “I’ve got a great job, I can do it for a pretty small amount of money,” like it should be a pretty easy deal for them and nobody really wanted to give me the money. That was really surprising to me at first, so I actually went and complained to the Minister of Housing in the Yukon and she told me, “Well you know if you’re going to complain about this, you might as well join the board of directors for Yukon Housing and make a difference.” And that’s what I did. I joined the Yukon Housing board and one of the things I’m kind of advocating for is that the world is changing. People that are 25 and single – you know we live in a different world than our parents – we can do this on our own. It shouldn’t have an effect. Before at 24 you might already be married and have a kid at that point but now this is happening a lot later so I think the housing committee has to adapt with that reality as well.
T: Alex, remind me again, how old are you?
T: What do you think is the biggest takeaway and the biggest thing people can learn from your experience here?
A: I think one of the biggest things I learned – and it does really relate strongly to SHAD – is that you can do anything you want to as long as you take a step at a time. Whenever I would think of the house as a whole I would get so overwhelmed, but the second I would work on it step by step, piece by piece, that’s when the task didn’t become so daunting and I could just work at it slowly.
T: And what’s the one thing, or maybe a couple of things, that you take back to the Youth Council from this experience because I’m sure there’s a lot of different things that you learned from it?
A: For the Youth Council I think obviously I bring back a lot from the environment perspective but I’m also a bit older than most of the youth on that council – I’m the oldest one there – and I can bring back the challenges of getting a mortgage at my age or that sexism that you’ll encounter in the industry. I bring a bit of a different perspective. I also talk a lot about rural living. I had to bring in my own power. I had to bring in my own sewage system. And it’s too bad. The piece of land that we buy is just as expensive; the taxes we pay are just as expensive, but we have to bring in our own stuff so there’s a bit of an inequality there that I’m trying to advocate for.
T: Alex, thanks for taking the time to share your story of you building this house. It’s quite fascinating to hear you do this.
SHAD SPOTLIGHT: Dr. Tina Park - From SHAD to one of Canada’s leading experts on Korea
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
With the PyeongChang Winter Olympics taking place, you might see Dr. Tina Park on a TV screen near you.
Park came to Toronto from South Korea and has since become one of the country’s leading experts on Canadian Korean relations.
When she entered SHAD Queen’s in the summer of 2004 she had just finished grade 11. When she left after that summer she says she was a different person.
“Over the course of SHAD, I learned to think bigger, dream bigger, and meet new friends who have since become trusted colleagues -- one of them, Dania, remains as one of my best friends to this date," said Tina. "Through SHAD, I realized, quite simply, that if you put the brightest minds together, use the latest technology, and think outside the box, anything is possible. It was an absolutely transformative experience and I think I've applied the lesson for various other causes since then, such as human rights and gender equality.”
Tina co-founded a research centre, Canadian Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, in 2010. It tackles the very difficult task of preventing and responding to mass human atrocities, including genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The task at hand is very daunting when we look at the current crises in Syria, North Korea, Myanmar, and elsewhere. But she is certainly making a difference. She’s advised more than 30 governments and inter-governmental organizations on their human rights policy, has participated at the annual UN general assembly dialogue on Responsibility to Protect, and most importantly through her work with youth and outreach efforts.
Tina has worked with some of the brightest students at the University of Toronto and her chapters across Canada and around the world. And she remains close to her SHAD roots and the SHAD network. Since last summer, she has hosted more than 50 SHAD participants as summer interns, all of whom are so bright and eager and she says did fantastic work creating infographics on various humanitarian crises.
Tina says “I am a firm believer that education holds the key to the brighter future for humanity. We may not have all the solutions for stopping genocide, and geopolitics will always get in the way of saving human lives. But I take great comfort in the fact that well beyond my own lifetime, young students who have encountered R2P through our Centre's activities will carry the torch and come up with new solutions to tackle this daunting challenge."
Michele Romanow (middle) stands with Hong Yi (left) and Anthony Chang (right).
By: Hong Yi Chen
SHAD Fellow 2017
As a high school student, there aren't many opportunities where you get to have a meeting with a dragon from Dragon's Den. When SHAD gave me the opportunity to have a chat with Michele Romanow, it was a dream come true for an aspiring entrepreneur like me.
Michele Romanow is a serial entrepreneur, Co-Founder of Clearbanc, Co-Founder of SnapSaves, a Dragon on Dragon's Den, but also a SHAD Fellow. However, in my short time with her, she was one of the most down to earth people I've ever met. She spoke about her experience at SHAD Queen's quite a few years ago, but emphasized the vast power of the SHAD Network -- something that is infinitely valuable. With a rare opportunity like this, I took away more knowledge in an hour of talking to an actual successful entrepreneur than anything I would've learned in school.
It's the best time ever to be alive -- take advantage of it.
For all my life, I've grown up with technology. It was heavily emphasized that we live in a time where we can change the world with a click of a button. Anything we want to do is within our fingertips. Being someone who's always been passionate regarding innovative new technologies, I had a laundry list of questions for Michele. Several topics were mentioned, whether it was FinTech and blockchain technologies or Artificial Intelligence that can change the world, I was amazed by how much knowledge she had to share.
Surely, the disruptive, emerging technologies are fascinating, but to truly harness their true potential, it takes the passion and hard work of people.
As much as technologies evolve in the future, it's the people behind it that makes it something special. Technology is meant to solve problemsand create value for society, which explains why artificial intelligence is bigger than ever. In contrast, technologies also go through hype-cycles, where they eventually die out and become obsolete, thus it's crucial to be wary of those as well. She stressed the importance of building something that you're passionate about, and looking at where tech isn't applied already.
Just start and get up more times than you fall.
Most people are want-repreneurs, rather than actual entrepreneurs. Becoming an entrepreneur is overly glamorized by present day media, yet it's still one of the best professions out there. As an entrepreneur, Michele talked about how she was able to tap into the food, sales, and even finance industry all under one profession. She stressed that youth have the power to change tomorrow, and should constantly be trying new ideas.
Do everything and do anything, cold call, brainstorm everywhere, but just don't stop thinking.
The key is to just start and be comfortable with rejections. There's going to be challenges and failures along the way, but be passionate about your ideas.
Only around 20% of my ideas work. I fail a lot.
Brute-force your way through problems and accept failures. Solve the problems that society didn't even know it had. Ultimately, make life easier and be the change you want to see in society.
There's so much a young kid like me can learn from someone with vast experience. I'm forever grateful for an opportunity like this.
Huge thank you to Michele Romanow for spending time with us and to SHAD for organizing it. Although it was only a short period of time, I was motivated to do so much more.
SHAD Ambassadors Assemble – Spreading the word about SHAD one Fellow at a time
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
You never know if you don't ask - it's a fundamental truth in business and life.
So when SHAD Outreach Co-ordinator and UBC Program Co-Director Jess Tang wanted to find new ways to increase the number of SHAD outreach and recruitment presentations at schools and fairs across the country, she asked SHAD Fellows to help. The response was overwhelming.
"We were thinking we might get a few dozen really engaged alumni to help us out," Jess said about the program she's developed with her outreach colleague Kyle Blaney. "As a SHAD Fellow myself, I know that our alumni community is one that loves to contribute and give back, though I never expected to have so many raise their hands to volunteer.”
Jess Tang (left) with two SHAD Ambassadors, Mia Shih and Candice Chua.
"When 300 SHAD Fellows signed up to be Ambassadors - and pulled off over 110 presentations across the country we never would have been able to get to - we were amazed. That's the SHAD network in action. It's incredible."
The Ambassador program is for SHAD Fellows who want to share their experiences and stories about how the program impacted them. The ambassadors volunteer their time to do a presentation about SHAD to high schools in their regions, or set up a SHAD booth at conferences and fairs. These awesome SHADs aren't just expanding our reach, Jess explains - they're broadening our scope.
"Thanks to Ambassadors making presentations at their own schools, Kyle and I now have more capacity to focus on schools that haven't filed any SHAD applications in the last few years. We'll always foster our relationships with great feeder schools, and this way we can also focus on reaching high schools that may never have heard of SHAD - especially those in rural or remote areas. It's really exciting."
Here's an example.
"We received a request for a presentation from a guidance counsellor at St. Malachy’s in Saint John, New Brunswick," Jess explained. "It's a school that hasn’t had a SHAD application since 2013. In contrast, Saint John High School - a five minute drive away - sent six students to SHAD in 2017. So our SHAD Ambassadors at Saint John headed over St. Malachy’s to make sure their neighbours had the same chance to participate in the same amazing experience."
It's a simple solution to the problem of having limited outreach time and resources and a big country to serve.
Simple, but smart.
"SHAD Fellows feel the program gave them something special they may never have had otherwise. We all want to give back and stay connected to the program. This is a perfect way for Fellows to do that."
It takes two minutes for Fellows to apply to become a SHAD Ambassador. Or, to see the fun in colour, check out SHAD's instagram - photos of SHAD Ambassadors in action are rolling in across the country.
SHAD Parent, Bhavisha Morphet, has a message to other parents.
Thursday, November 9, 2017
“The SHAD working with me this summer was absolutely outstanding - bright, articulate, hard-working, positive, thoughtful and mature. It's a treat having her with us. People in the office are stunned when they find out she is just 15 years old!”
When I heard those words, I knew we had made the right decision. SHAD provided my child all that I hoped it would, not only during her one month campus experience at Lakehead University but also during the month following, at her internship at InvestorCOM.
As parents, we want our children to learn, succeed, and develop the skills necessary to cope with whatever their future brings. Last year I took our kids to the University Fair in Toronto. I met up with an old friend who I know was involved with SHAD at the University of Waterloo. We chatted about the program and her current involvement, and discussed why the program was beneficial to participants. As a high schooler, I recalled the allure of SHAD; it was known as an enrichment program for only those fortunate enough to be selected to apply. As a parent, I conducted my own research and saw that the program had grown significantly. There were now 13 campuses across Canada (for 2018, there will be 16) offering a core curriculum that supported an immersive experience that sounded impressive. The program included university style lectures; project based group work; and problem solving focused on real life societal issues such as food supply, the environment, and climate change. There was also the appeal of exposing my child to student residence living; the opportunity to apply for an internship after the program; and then belonging to a group of students that boasted Loran Scholars and Rhodes Scholars.
Within our family, we discussed the program and potential benefits. We have gravitated towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) activities to complement the athletics that our kids have always been involved in. I noted that the SHAD program emphasized STEAM, similar to STEM but with an added Arts component. I liked that there was recognition of the Arts given the creativity that often seems to accompany those types of activities and programs specifically. The world could certainly use more creativity.
As I looked into the program, the list of benefits and positives grew:
Independence – the idea of experiencing life in a university residence without the pressure of academics was appealing. As a parent, I know my children are going to leave home and I want them to be as prepared for it as possible.
New Perspectives – meeting a cohort of students who were selected based on their academics and extra-curricular involvement showed that the emphasis for selection into the program was multifactorial. The program appeared to promote being well rounded, ambitious, and driven. As a parent, I can only hope that my children learn to self-select their peers based on such positive traits.
Experiential Learning – no textbook or lecture is going to teach life lessons as well as actually living through an experience. Good or bad, experience teaches. As far as I could tell, the program had a long standing history and included the ongoing involvement of reputable, solid university institutions as host campuses.
Internships – as part of SHAD, students accepted into the program could also apply for a volunteer internship during August of their SHAD summer. As a former university co-op student whose placements changed the course of my career and life, I valued the inclusion of an internship opportunity. What better way to gain business experience than by being submersed in a corporate culture to gain first hand exposure to all that it entailed.
Investment – the cost to participate in SHAD was significant. Financial aid is available to those who are eligible, but what struck me as most compelling was that SHAD was also investing in my child because the program cost was subsidized for all participating students. If accepted, that meant that someone else was willing to invest in developing my child because they saw potential.
Post SHAD – there appeared to be a significant network available to my child after completion of the program. Access to a network of SHAD Fellows (those who have completed the program) and exclusive scholarship and internship opportunities were all listed on the website as post-program features.
Looking back, how did it all turn out? I knew my SHAD was having the experience of a lifetime when the texts stating that she did not want her month to end, started arriving. As much as I was excited to see her, I also knew that a transformation had occurred and her journey home would be bittersweet. On the positive, she shared her last night at SHAD Lakehead with her grandparents joining her at the end of program banquet, and had a SHAD internship to look forward to. It has been a fantastic summer of learning for her: she established a new network of peers and mentors, and gained insight into her strengths, weaknesses, and future career opportunities. The challenge moving forward is to ensure that she understands that this is just the beginning. As wonderful as her SHAD summer was, I hope she builds on that momentum to create even more possibilities for learning, growth, and success. For other parents considering the program, know that your child will leave SHAD with an invaluable set of skills and a solid foundation to build upon. Mine did, and that is why I thought it was important to share, from one parent to another.
“FIRST” things first… did you get my lame joke? As comedic as I believe I am, let me give you a proper introduction. Hello! My name is Kim Nguyen, I am an International Baccalaureate (IB) Student enrolled at Glenforest Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario and I have been involved in FIRST Robotics for 3 years and counting. I joined FIRST as a Student Member of FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team 6070 – Gryphon Machine but have since, also become an active Volunteer and Ambassador for FIRSTCanada. Like many students who join FIRST, I had no idea what I was getting into when I started! From being a student on a FRC Rookie Team to picking up 50+ neon yellow wiffle balls for FIRST STEAMworks 2017, I’ve been privileged to meet inspirational people and experience incredible things because of FIRST – like becoming a SHAD Fellow!
I first heard of SHAD from the multitude of SHAD Alumni roaming my school’s hallways. Coming from a school notorious for having the highest number of SHAD Fellows, it seemed like in the Fall, everyone from Grades 10 through 12 were busying writing their SHAD application. When I reflect now, I was always intrigued by SHAD’s unique experiential learning opportunities but, if you had asked me at the time if I was going to apply, I would have said no (funny enough!). In fact, I only applied to SHAD because I was peer pressured by one of Glenforest’s SHAD Teacher Champion, Ms. Diana Wang-Martin. Thankfully, this was the good kind of peer pressure that I wouldn’t regret! It was around this time that FIRST Canada had also just released some exciting news – for the first time ever, FIRST Canada would be partnering with SHAD to give one lucky FRC participant a full scholarship to attend SHAD. From stories about SHAD, I knew it would be a costly endeavour if I was accepted to go. Yes, my parents were supportive of me applying but being a lower middle-income family who already had to face the costs of IB and FIRST Robotics, the idea of adding another heavy burden was uneasy. Nonetheless, with the support of my family, teachers, and some self-confidence I gained from being in FIRST, I submitted my SHAD application. I knew in the back of my mind that I was eligible for the FIRST Robotics SHAD Scholarship but, I also knew that I wasn’t the only FRC participant applying so I didn’t get my hopes up.
Some months later, when I received a letter stating that not only was I accepted to SHAD but, I was also awarded the inaugural FIRST Robotics SHAD Scholarship, I was flabbergasted. I never could have imagined I would win the scholarship, let alone be accepted in the first place! Luckily, I didn’t have much time to overthink the news because it was the middle of FRC Competition Season! Before I knew it, I was sucked into a whirlwind; FRC 6070 competed in the brand new FRC Ontario District, I was slated to attend SHAD at the University of Waterloo, I publicly accepted the 2017 FIRST Robotics SHAD Scholarship at the 2017 Ontario FRC Provincial District Championships, and then I was heading off to SHAD for the month of July!
To be honest, the day I arrived at the University of Waterloo for SHAD, I was absolutely terrified. Surprisingly though, I discovered that once everything and everyone settled in, nothing at SHAD felt too different from my experiences in FIRST. Of course, both SHAD and FIRST have their own differences that make both remarkable programs unique but, as a student going from one to other, it never felt like I was making a huge jump. To describe it in an analogy, I was simply crossing a bridge between SHAD and FIRST Robotics, and vice versa. In fact, you’d be surprised how interconnected this bridge was! From workshops and speakers to just the people around me, I always found connections back to FIRST throughout my life changing time at SHAD.
One of my first workshops was centered around DIY Music Synthesizers in which we used Arduino Kits to create our very own musical instrument. The workshop reminded me of the work that the Technical sub-teams (i.e. Mechanical, Electrical, etc.) on my FRC team do. As someone who’s involvement in FIRST is more on the administrative and business side, it was exciting to explore some of the other side of FRC at SHAD.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a SHAD Program at the University of Waterloo without a workshop in the Engineering Faculty! Led by an Engineering Professor and two of his students (one of whom happened to be a FIRST Alumni from FRC 2056 – OP Robotics!), I got the chance to take apart a Coffee Machine. In the same building as all of Waterloo’s esteemed Design Teams, we learned about Criteria and Constraints in Engineering, and of course, what was actually inside an Instant Coffee Maker.
At SHAD, I was incredibly lucky to meet many wonderful speakers. This ranged from Professors at the University of Waterloo to Industry Professionals in Entrepreneurship, Business, Design, Strategic Insight, etc.! One memorable session in particular, was on Cultural Literacy by Quanser’s Chief Education Officer and FRC Judge, Dr. Tom Lee. It was an exceptional lecture, with points on Language, Philosophy and Education, and hearing it from someone I originally knew from FIRST, was just full circle!
A big part of my time at SHAD is spent working on the SHAD John-Dobson Entrepreneurship Cup Project which in a way, can be best described as a really condensed FRC Season. At the start of the program, the SHAD Head Office announces a design question that all SHAD participants will try to solve (very similar to when FIRST HQ announces the FRC Game every year!). Within in each campus, participants are split into teams to come up with their own solution to the Design Question, all under tight deadlines and tough restrictions. Like FRC teams who build their own robot during Build Season!
Something unique to the SHAD Program at the University of Waterloo is that during our final week, we take one day in our schedule to volunteer in the community. I was fortunate to work on a historical farm, helping to tend to gardens of fresh herbs and vegetables. Volunteering with my campus, similar to volunteering with my robotics team, served as a reminder that there is a world outside of the SHAD Program or a FRC Competition and that sometimes, we needed to step back and remind ourselves that the community needed us, as much as we needed them.
By far, my greatest memories from SHAD and FIRST alike are the people I’ve gotten to meet and connect with. Although SHAD was only a month long, everyone at my campus became a close family. It didn’t matter if you were a participant or a Staff/Faculty member, or which province you came from, everyone supported each other and deeply cared for one another. To go from my FIRST Robotics family to my SHAD family, there was always someone I could lean on and sometimes, it was a person who belonged to both my families. Take for instance, my astonishing Program Director and FIRST Judge, Dr. Rob Gorbet or my fellow FIRST participants, Ethan Childerhose (FRC 1360 – Orbit Robotics), Megan Gooch (FRC 5689 – CK Cyber Pack) and Matthew Beingessner (FTC 12265 – GearHeads).
Heading home from SHAD and going back into the world of FIRST, if there is one thing I’m taking from SHAD, it would be to enjoy the journey and not the destination. Remember that FIRST is “more than robots”. As difficult it can be sometimes, don’t forget that FIRST is more than just the competition – don’t focus on learning to be the best or win the next FRC Regional/District Event but instead, learn for the sake of learning. Connect with the people around you and learn from their stories and perspectives because you’ll be amazed how much you haven’t experienced yet!
All in all, SHAD is a place for any student who is curious, passionate and willing to learn – which makes it perfect for anyone in FIRST Robotics! If you are a FIRST participant considering apply for SHAD, do it! It doesn’t matter how unconfident you are you’ll get accepted, still apply – because I promise you’ll never know what will happen or where things will lead. Just look at me, for instance! If you are a FIRST participant who had never heard of SHAD until you read this article, please consider applying to SHAD because you won’t regret it. I guarantee you that if FIRST can change your life, SHAD can too. Exactly, like it did for me.
Team 6070 – Gryphon Machine
SHAD Fellow 2017
DID YOU KNOW?
A substantial bursary fund is available to ensure that this opportunity is financially accessible to all qualified students.
A look into the Missing Numbers and the Leaky Pipeline in Canada’s Innovation Agenda
By: Teddy Katz
A group of girls and women all connected to the award-winning summer enrichment and entrepreneurship program SHAD are calling for some drastic changes to help women become leaders in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math).
They say there are millions of dollars at stake for Canada if not.
They were all part of an expert panel today at the Canadian Science Policy Conference today in Ottawa.
Some of the panelists are still in high school including Emily Cross, who has won Canada-Wide Science Fair Awards for her research. (You can view the panel's slides!)
She says coming from Thunder Bay, it is difficult to find extracurricular STEM programs for youth in general but girls in particular. She says finding equipment to do research is also difficult.
But she says sometimes the worst part is dealing with stigmas and attitudes.
“I went into a hardware store this year for a science project looking for some materials and the attendant actually asked me if I was picking up something for my dad,” Cross says. She adds, “When I told him it was for me, he went and helped another customer.”
Cross’s message from that experience: girls need to know it’s ok and it’s their place too to get dirty. “Sticks and stones won’t break her bones. It can actually encourage her interest in science,” she told the audience.
Others on the panel lamented the lack of role models in STEM and talked about the notion, “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.”
Bethel Samson is a grade 12 student in Ottawa, an Ethiopian Canadian and aspiring neurosurgeon. But when she was trying to see the path ahead of her and googled “who was the first Canadian female surgeon of colour” she found nothing came up.
“Often what hinders young women and minorities from living up to our full potential is being unable to see what we would like to become,” says Samson.
She knows the same is true for First Nations women, women in rural and remote parts of the country, and women in tech.
Today’s panel in front of policy makers in Ottawa called on the federal government to set up a national mentorship program designed specifically for marginalized groups and incentivizing the hiring of women in STEM related private companies.
The importance of mentorship was on display as well. Winnica Beltrano a second year student at the University of Calgary in Health and Biomedical Science has won multiple awards including the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award Scholar.
She says that came as a result of going to SHAD and shortly after receiving an internship in the lab of Melanie Martin, a Physics Professor at the University of Winnipeg who also went to SHAD in 1990.
“That gave me enormous confidence and showed me what was possible,” Beltrano says. After that, Dr. Martin encouraged me to apply for different research awards which I did. Girls need to know these awards exist and have the confidence they sometimes lack to go for them.”
Martin also now runs the University of Winnipeg’s Magnetic Resonance Microscopy Centre. Through her research, she is aiming to help diagnose Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and a range of other diseases faster and more accurately.
But when she looks ahead to the future right now for promising youth such as Beltrano, Martin is quick to say things need to change.
“There used to be a large number of grants and scholarships that helped women like me progress in STEM and stick it out to become professors. All of those grants have now gone by the wayside,” Martin says. “If we are truly interested in showing women they have a place in science and tech and can reach for the top in STEM, we need to reinstate these grants right away.”
Another panel member Paulina Cameron is a Director at Futurpreneur Canada that helps start-up entrepreneurs. She says while Canada is often seen as a global leader in women’s equality, a small percentage of venture capital goes to women and there are few female CEO’s.
Worst still Cameron says women will likely leave the country looking for opportunities if something isn’t done and there is a bigger cost.
She points to a recent study by McKinsey and Company that concluded that Canada could add $150 billion in incremental Gross Domestic Product in 2026 by advancing women’s equality.
“This isn’t just good economics, encouraging women to reach their potential means more life changing companies and innovations. “ She says, “How could we not put everything we have behind this.”
I just had a summer I will never forget, one that I know will impact me for many years to come. And I have my dad and SHAD to thank. Unfortunately, SHAD has flown under the radar of many people in Quebec. But it is truly a life changing summer program.
SHAD is a summer program for students with a passion for science, technology, engineering and math, as well as art, design, business, entrepreneurship and innovation. Before going, all I knew about SHAD were these words, however the experience was so much more; more than I could have ever imagined. SHAD gives students (in grades 10, 11 and 12/CEGEP I in Quebec), from across Canada, the opportunity to attend the program at one of 16 host universities (now including McGill University in Montreal!). I was selected to attend the program at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Before SHAD, I didn’t even know where Thunder Bay was and now I have some of my most special memories from there.
When the big day came and I left for Thunder Bay, I must admit I was very excited but also nervous. Once I arrived, I saw that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. There were 59 other kids from across Canada, from big cities to small rural communities, in the same boat as me. It didn’t take long for those nervous feelings to subside.
My average day at SHAD began with a variety of university level lectures on science and entrepreneurship led by university professors and local business leaders. The lectures varied from topics about neurology and orthopedics (one of my favourites) to axiomatic design and physics. The afternoons included fitness activities, workshops and field trips to local industries. And the evenings offered us time to work on our team projects.
On weekends, we had the chance to explore and visit local attractions. One of our outings was a hiking and camping trip to the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, where the breathtaking views outweighed the many mosquito bites. As a city girl, this outing totally blew me away and I left with a new appreciation for the outdoors. This is what SHAD is all about – new experiences.
SHAD pushed me out of my comfort zone. It allowed me to see all of the amazing things that can be accomplished when people put their minds together. A big aspect of SHAD is hands on learning through a design and engineering challenge which tasks us to come up with an original product to solve a real world problem. This year’s theme was reducing an individual’s energy footprint. It was empowering to work on a problem that many professionals and really amazing people around the world are trying to solve. At first, it seemed impossible for a group of 11 students to solve such a problem, but when we put our heads together and understood each other’s strengths, we came up with something amazing.
Our product, Carbon Crush, is an app that will educate people on their own personal carbon footprint and enable them to take positive action to reduce it. It is a convenient and interactive platform that enables users to purchase and gift carbon offsets, as well as compare their carbon consumption with that of their friends, family and community. This carbon offset market is paired with various other features in order to foster a new generation of environmentally conscious and carbon-neutral renters of the world - us. I’m not saying that we saved the world in one month - not at all - but we did come up with a product that could help, designed a business plan for it, and pitched it to judges. It was almost like a mini-Dragon’s Den, in fact Michele Romanow from CBC’s Dragon’s Den is a SHAD Fellow. Just having completed the task was worth the long nights and the many coffee runs. In the end, my team won the local competition at Lakehead and was selected to represent our campus at the national innovation awards and the SHAD Cup in Toronto in October.
During my month at SHAD I got the opportunity to meet, Hon. Patty Hajdu, Federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, to discuss our ideas for promoting youth volunteerism. I was also interviewed along with Tim Jackson, President and CEO of SHAD, by CBC Thunder Bay about the program, what was happening at SHAD, and my experience with Patty Hajdu. I was nervous about speaking to Patty Hajdu and then speaking about her on live radio but all in all it was a great learning experience and I was really honored to have had these incredible opportunities.
In addition, to the university portion of the program, SHAD provides a select number of students with access to a 4 to 6 week internship. I got the opportunity for an internship at Nuance Communications. I spent 6 weeks using the skills and knowledge that I had received in my first year in the Computer Science and Mathematics program at Collège de Bois-de-Boulogne and at Royal West Academy High School. I contributed to technology that would be used in Virtual Assistants inside Automobiles. I worked on the artificial intelligence and natural language understanding solutions for making phone calls and sending messages from inside a vehicle. The internship was stressful, educational and fun! Somedays were pretty overwhelming when I had bugs to work out and it took me hours to find an error in my code; but I guess I had better get used to that if I pursue a career in programming as planned. I really got the chance to experience what it’s like to have a full time job and live the life of an engineer in a big company.
All in all, SHAD was an amazing and life changing experience! I left the program with new friendships and bonds that can’t be broken by the distance between us because we now have this great experience that will keep us together. Now, my friends live all over Canada, from BC to Newfoundland. From the very first day, I felt like I belonged and was surrounded by like-minded wonderful and amazing people who really understood me.
Thanks to my dad who went to SHAD UNB in 1988 and encouraged me to apply, I have these memories and experiences that will forever impact my future and goals. That’s why I feel SHAD is something I can’t keep to myself. www.shad.ca/apply (until November 20)
Let”s “see”… Or rather not see. I don’t know where to “look” for a good introduction. Ok, enough with the blind jokes. Here’s a proper introduction. My name is Céline Kavanaugh, I am enrolled at a francophone high school in New Brunswick, and I have a visual impairment. I’ve never had perfect vision, but through the years, I lost complete sight in my left eye, leaving me with 20/200 vision in my right. This understandably comes with many difficulties and hurdles which makes my life a bit different from my peers. A driver’s license is out of the question. I also have a hard time finding a part-time job which accommodates my visual impairment. Reading cash registers, price tags, receipts – they are all very difficult for me to see. These difficulties didn’t stop me from becoming a SHAD fellow.
When I first heard of the program, I had my heart set on going. Obviously, when I told my parents about it, they were totally supportive about it, right? Well somewhat. The thought of letting their blind daughter leave for a month, alone, without knowing anyone made them a little fearful. For me, that was my favourite part about it. I thought, “Oh my gosh, I can leave on my own for a whole month!” In spite of it all, my parents agreed and let me apply. I viewed SHAD as a great opportunity to prove to my parents that I could be independent and that I was prepared for postsecondary studies.
At school, I have a camera attached to a screen which projects what's on the board. At SHAD, I had my phone and a little telescope. That was a big change for me. I liked it. This one change reassured me of my own preparedness.
I think what intrigued me the most about SHAD was the way they made learning so interactive, by also teaching us valuable skills, work ethics, STEAM (science, tech, engineering, arts, and math) and entrepreneurial related subjects you’d never see in high school. At SHAD, I was just like every other student. I used a soldering iron – one thing I never thought I’d ever be able to do with my visual impairment. The professor gave me a trick he thought might help, so I tried it and I was able to solder a circuit board. I also took apart a lawnmower and programmed a robot.
Most people at SHAD didn’t even notice my disability until the sun would set and I’d grab someone's arm to guide me, or I’d pull out my telescope in the lecture hall to see the board. I’m not ashamed of my disability; it’s my everyday. I adapt, and I live with it, end of story. If I need additional help, I’ll ask for it, but I rather do things myself beforehand. When I was at SHAD people didn’t question my capabilities; I just had a couple of obstacles others didn’t. SHAD introduced me to professionals and other students who had dreams as big as mine, dreams that suddenly seemed within reach. Environmental engineering and working out in the field has been a strong interest of mine, but before SHAD, I never thought of it as a realistic goal. I am now more confident I can find ways to adapt and go into any field of interest. Another passion of mine is Para-Nordic skiing. Obviously, I can't ski alone, or I’d hit a tree or something. But I have a guide who skis in front of me and instructs me of the terrain to come. I will be competing in my first world cup this winter.
On top of all that, at SHAD I made lifetime connections with people just like me. No matter our differences, or the distances between where we grew up, they are family. And if I could re-do my SHAD experience, I would wake up for those 7 a.m. recreation activities every morning, just to spend a little bit more time with my 55 other family members.
SHAD has a place for every student with a passion and the willingness to learn, no matter the challenges they face in their daily life. It is a place where people that are different have a chance to not only belong but to feel empowered by their differences. SHAD helped remind me that my disability brings no limit to my abilities. My way of doing things might be different than my peers but it doesn’t make it inferior. It makes me stand out from others.
My name is Aaliyan Khan. I am a grade 12 high school student at Brampton Centennial Secondary School in Ontario, and a 2017 SHAD Fellow. I am the owner and founder of a business called The Positivity Project, a business where we create postcards filled with a positive message, that are hand-written and shipped by us, with the goal of inspiring others and spreading positivity around the world!
Many youth today are affected by all the negativity in society out there. Many suffer from depression, anxiety or other mental health issues which breaks my heart. I remember trying to send a meaningful card to one of my friends halfway around the country who was dealing with difficult issues at the time. But it was so time-consuming, expensive and complicated. I wanted to change that and that’s how The Positivity Project was born.
At SHAD, I was with all kinds of like-minded well-rounded youth and received so much encouragement for my business. I was exposed to mentors and so many amazing lectures that changed how I saw the world in so many great ways. One of the mentors was a corporate leader who gave me invaluable ideas on how I could get the word out about The Positivity Project and it has made so much impact to the business. SHAD isn’t just a summer program; it’s a life changing experience. It will remain with me at The Positivity Project and for the rest of my life.