SHAD & FRC Connections - Abdullah Hadi

Are you involved in FIRST Robotics Canada? Learn about the SHAD scholarships offered exclusively to FRC competitors


Hi, my name is Abdullah Hadi, and I am currently an IB student at Robert Bateman high school. I have been a part of my school’s FRC team, the Wildebots, for 3 years now, and throughout my journey, like many other FRC members, I have learned a great deal about technology, teamwork, and a multitude of other 

things. Working with my peers towards the same goal, and surmounting the challenges that came our way has been an invaluable experience for me. Thus when I heard about a similar program through a friend I decided to do a little research. I found that SHAD was just like FRC in the sense that it immersed motivated youth in an academically rigorous environment, with an emphasis on STEAM and innovation. Not only are they alike in this regard, but both programs give you the opportunity of expanding your network, and getting to meet incredible people, from which you can establish lifelong relationships. I truly believe that the two defining factors of my high school experience have been being a part of the FRC community, and becoming a SHAD Fellow.


Suffice it to say I was extremely excited about the opportunity presented by SHAD, and was quick to start my application. After a couple weeks of carefully preparing my answers, and refining them, I hit the submit button, and hoped for the best. I was ecstatic when I received my acceptance into the program, along with the FIRST Robotics-SHAD scholarship. This covered all the costs associated with the SHAD program, and removed a huge financial burden for my family, for which I am ever grateful.


When I first arrived at the Western campus, greeted by the large blue and white SHAD banner hung across the front entrance of Delaware Hall, I was slightly nervous. I entered into the building I would be calling home for the next month and was greeted by the program directors. A program assistant subsequently showed me my room. As fate had it, my roommate was one of the executives of FRC team 610, and we automatically formed a close bond, discussing the competitions we had attended, and the strengths and weaknesses of the robots that we had built. After getting to meet the rest of the students at the campus through very well organized ice-breakers, I felt quite comfortable in this new environment, and was eager to start learning. Through the workshops, lectures, and excursions that followed, I was amazed at how SHAD and FRC practically embodied the same philosophy of engaging motivated youth. It allowed me to realize that FRC was more than building robots for a competition, but rather it was about the community that was built in the process, and the passion that we put into our work.



"Through the workshops, lectures, and excursions that followed, I was amazed at how SHAD and FRC practically embodied the same philosophy of engaging motivated youth."



For the first weekend of our SHAD experience we went down to the southernmost inhabited island in Canada, Pelee Island. Here we camped for three days. This was one of the most enjoyable parts of SHAD as I really got know the rest of my peers, and had some extremely interesting and insightful conversations over the campfire. After Pelee, we transitioned into a more structured schedule, which included engineering workshops (we got to build and program self-balancing robots), lectures from award-winning professors, and visiting world class research institutions (WindEEE institute, the Purple Crow Lidar Institute, Propel Entrepreneurship Incubator, and many more). This was just a small portion of the incredible, and eye opening activities we did on a daily basis.



During SHAD there was also a strong focus on our physical health. Everyday included a “rec session,” and there would be voluntary runs every morning at 7:30. These really helped with de-stressing at times as throughout SHAD we would be working on our business projects which had strict deadlines. Nonetheless, some of my most memorable SHAD moments were spent while working on these business projects with my group. The FRC build season and working on the projects was definitely a similar experience. Essentially, we were given a theme, and by the end of SHAD we had to have a product, or service with a functional prototype to present to judges addressing the issue we were presented with. I incorporated skills I developed through FRC into my project, which helped out in many aspects.


SHAD was also an amazing way of getting to meet industry professionals, professors, and many other accomplished individuals. We even got to listen to a lecture by a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate! The lectures provided many insights into several different areas, and provided new perspectives on things. The combination of the business project and the lectures greatly enhanced my entrepreneurial skills, and my understanding of STEAM.


With all that being said, if you are a part of FIRST Robotics, I would highly encourage you to apply to this amazing program, as it is an enriching experience. It is an opportunity to make lifelong friendships and connections, and learn things experientially, rather than through a textbook or what we are typically accustomed to. If you feel anxious or perhaps reluctant spending a month away at one of the many host campuses offered by the SHAD program, I say to you what Hill Du, one of the program assistants at SHAD Western told us many times, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”





Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn


These past two months have been the best months of my life, and for my life. I have been given two opportunities of a lifetime, one to spend a month at the University of Calgary with 63 other unique individuals through the SHAD program, and another to get some real-world experience with RBC’s digital technology team. SHAD and the RBC Foundation have been working together for years to help youth flourish in the 21st century, and as I head into grade 12, I feel lucky I have been able to experience both first hand. 


The SHAD program is such a unique experience because it gives high school students a chance to see what university life feels like by living in residence, attending lectures from university professors, and being pushed in new ways. I was able to attend workshops on numerous topics in STEM, such as soldering, nanotechnology, and coding to name but a few.  SHAD gives students like me a platform for growth and galvanizes us to take action and propose solutions to complex global issues; something you just don’t experience in high school.


The people at SHAD are such creative, innovative and amazing individuals – some have started businesses in high school- some have won science fairs—and all are driven to make a difference. These people start out as complete strangers but yet become your family in only one month. This is a network I plan to tap into for years to come.


During my time at SHAD Calgary, I was exposed to so many different career paths, and it helped me realize that I want to go into medicine to help others because of the inequalities I witness around the world. Every day, people die from treatable conditions because of factors like their socioeconomic status. I hope to change the world one day by providing healthcare in 3rd world countries where people may lack access to technology or education. SHAD helped encourage me to start working towards this goal now.


Aleeza Qayyum (right) and SHAD fellow Isha Verma (left) practicing after a soldering workshop, at the Schulich School of Engineering.


Working at RBC in August after returning from SHAD, it felt surreal walking from Union Station to a tall glass building with 31 floors right by the Harbourfront in Toronto – it almost felt like a dream. RBC has been working actively for the past two years to provide youth more opportunities through RBC’s Future Launch, a 10-year plan to unlock the potential of young people in Canada by addressing the issues of lack of experience, skills and networking. It has provided many youth like me with opportunities. Working at RBC, I never felt alienated because I was the youngest person there; it was a professional environment where my lack of experience and skills compared to everyone else was never an issue. My mentor, Lindsay, was very welcoming and made sure I was always comfortable, and I am truly grateful to have been able to work with such innovative, kind-hearted and intelligent individuals. This wasn’t one of those boring offices you see in movies - I didn’t just sit at a desk all day and type furiously on my keyboard - I was working with RBC’s Feel in Control team, who are working towards adding more features on the RBC mobile app and website so clients are less dependent on bank tellers and are more in control of their banking experience. At RBC, I was able to code in different languages, and I was truly able to apply the skills that I learned with SHAD in a real workplace environment.


Aleeza and part of the RBC Digital Technology OMNI-channel Feel In Control team she worked with.


But it wasn’t just all work and no play. When we weren’t coding or running tests, we played Mario Cart, shot each other with nerf guns, ate a whole lot of candy, and enjoyed the beautiful Harbourfront right in front of us. Leaving RBC, I was encouraged to stay in touch and come back for a co-op placement when in university, and I am so glad to have joined this network of highly skilled people.



Aleeza and one of her coworkers running an end to end test together.


Within these past two months at SHAD and then RBC, I learned how to network, how to be professional in a work environment, how to code, how to run end-to-end tests, and most important of all  how to  prosper and succeed in the future. I have gained countless life essential skills and experiences this summer, and I cannot thank SHAD and RBC enough for providing youth these opportunities. I am leaving this summer feeling more confident and inspired to reach my goals and take on any obstacles, and I have truly become a better version of myself.



Aleeza Qayyum, SHAD UCalgary 2018

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

SHAD SPOTLIGHT: Jordan Bertagnolli - Discovering what it means to be Canadian

My name is Jordan Bertagnolli, a SHAD Fellow from UBC 2010. As part of Canada’s 150th birthday celebration, I joined a signature Canada 150 project, Canada C3. Canada C3 started June 1, as the Polar Prince icebreaker left the Toronto waterfront bound for Victoria through the Northwest Passage. For 150 days as the ship traveled through Canada’s coastal communities, it engaged in the Canada 150 themes of reconciliation, youth engagement, diversity/inclusion, and our environment. It was a journey to connect Canadians, reflect upon our past, and look towards the future.


Polar Prince - Bathurst Inlet


I was one of 35 C3 youth ambassadors selected out of 3,000 applicants from across the country. I joined leg 10 of this voyage in the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut, traveling from Iqaluktuttiaq (Cambridge Bay) to Kugluktuk.


Hiking Tikiaruk “Index Finger” with fellow youth ambassador Alex



Much like SHAD, living in close quarters with a driven group of individuals is inspiring. The week I spent in Canada’s remote arctic can be best described as ‘Kadjianaktuk’, Inuktitut for all encompassing beauty from the human perspective. The endless landscape was beautiful and dramatic. However, it was the time spent with fellow C3 participants and the warmth of communities that welcomed us ashore that is still impacting me. It was a week that challenged my understanding of what it means to be Canadian.


I had applied as a youth ambassador because of my interest in the voyage’s theme of environment. Planning to continue my education examining how human health is shaped by our ecosystems, I was eager to use my background to engage Canadian youth in a discussion about the dramatic changes occurring in the arctic. However, leg ten had a significant focus on the theme of reconciliation. As a non-indigenous Canadian living in southern Canada, I was ignorant to the reality of the impact of 150 years of confederacy on Inuit communities. I heard how the Residential School System had left children unable to communicate with their families who only spoke Inuktitut. I was also told of the impact on northern communities relocated from traditional lands to government settlements.


The expedition leg started in Iqaluktuttiaq (Cambridge Bay). Cambridge Bay was traditionally a temporary Inuit dwelling spot, however, that changed. The residential school and centralization of economic opportunities relocated many of the surrounding settlements to Iqaluktuttiaq. This has separated many from their homelands.


On the water in Cambridge Bay with the Rangers for their search and rescue demo


While in Cambridge Bay, I had the opportunity to walk on Roald Amundsen’s ship, the Maud. He was the first European to successfully navigate the Northwest Passage. It was surreal to stand on this piece of history that had been at the bottom of the ocean for almost a century. I also had a tour of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station. As a testament to the warming climate of the arctic, a cruise ship pulled into the harbour of Cambridge Bay on our last day there. As the cruise ship disembarked, the community’s population doubled. It is hard to imagine that this form of tourism is now possible in remote northern Canada. 


The Maud


Our ship ventured into several bays along the Dease Strait, and we had several landings at abandoned Inuit settlements, archeological sites and geological features. To travel through these areas was a unique experience, requiring permission from the Inuit Land administration as the territory of Nunavut is Inuit-owned land. I was surprised to learn that most of our journey was in unchartered waters. At this stage in our nation’s history, it shows the limited attention Canada has given to the arctic. This rich area of Canada remains poorly understood to the scientific community; many of the research projects onboard are focused on creating a baseline for biodiversity in these ecosystems.


Traveling to these northern remote communities it became clear not all Canadians have the same access to services. Nunavut is Canada’s fastest growing region. With the increase in people, a housing shortage has occurred; some communities have hundreds of people on waitlists for homes.




These remote settlements have limited access, often relying upon ship or air for resupply. This isolation can be intensified with poor infrastructure. On this journey, the Polar Prince was unable to dock alongside any community from leg 5 in Nain Labrador until leg 13 at St. Johns B.C. 



Polar Prince in the harbor at Cambridge Bay


Across the Bay with the Rangers, in the background you can see Cambridge bay and the resupply ship off the shore. 


There are no hospitals in most of the communities. If there is a serious illness, people must be flown south. However, airports can also be difficult to access because of poor weather.


Despite these hardships, the Inuit communities we visited were rich, welcoming and resilient. It was also encouraging to see so many Canadians from diverse backgrounds across the country eager and willing to understand their past mistakes, as well as the diverse cultures, and ecosystems that make up Canada. As we look to the next 150 years as a nation, Canadians need to be actively engaged in the themes that are being explored in the C3 expedition. We need to better understand the challenges facing our indigenous communities and alongside them to work towards solutions, protecting our ecosystems for future generations and creating a diverse welcoming country.


Leg 10 participants at Tree River


I value my experience at SHAD UBC and the lasting relationships I forged during my time there.  We live in such as massive country, and this imposes barriers. Yet, like C3, SHAD created the opportunity for a group of Canadians to connect, and work together. It is through building these personal relationships that we better understand our country, our fellow citizens, and thus together we can work towards a brighter future for all Canadians.


On October 28, the C3 expedition reached its end in Victoria’s inner harbor. It was a surreal moment seeing the Polar Prince dock in downtown Victoria. It seemed so much smaller compared to its presence in the vastness of the arctic tundra in Nunavut.  I was able to join participants from all 15 legs as we celebrated the success of the expedition and its future impact through the development of legacy projects. A series of educational documentaries, visual art, and literary works will be produced to continue reaching Canadians, and engaging generations to come in the themes of reconciliation, environmental protection, diversity and inclusion, as well as youth engagement.


Polar Prince Docking at Victoria B.C.


It has been a few months now since my time in the Canadians arctic, and like SHAD this has been an experience that has shaped me. I came away from SHAD inspired about the role I can have in Canada as a youth. Through that month we successfully tackled a challenging task. Like SHAD, Canada C3 was inspiring. Leaving the legacy discussion in Victoria, I felt more equipped to be an active participant in the path towards reconciliation in Canada. Realizing that even the small things I do in my daily life can be a part of this process. As the expedition lead Geoff Green said, "We are approaching a potential turning point as a nation." In many ways Canada C3 felt like a tangible step towards that. I am looking at pursuing a degree in medicine. I have always had an interest in rural practice, however, after this trip I have had a growing desire to look north at more remote communities. If I am fortunate enough to receive medical training, bringing that to communities that have limited access to these services would be a tangible way for me to be involved with reconciliation and improve healthcare access for some for these communities.


Learn more about the expedition’s 15 legs 


If you would like to see more about my time in the arctic, the Canada C3 team has put together some amazing videos documenting the expedition. Here is a recap video of the leg 10. 


Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

From Prime Minister's Youth Council to Home Builder - Q &A with Alex Bouchard

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?


A: 25


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.


A: Thank you so much Teddy.


view all comments (1) add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

SHAD SPOTLIGHT: Dr. Tina Park - From SHAD to one of Canada’s leading experts on Korea

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." 


add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

Talking Entrepreneurship with Michele Romanow

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 problems and 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.


Big things coming in the future.


add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

SHAD Ambassadors Assemble – Spreading the word about SHAD one Fellow at a time

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.


The deadline to apply for SHAD 2018 is November 20.


add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

SHAD Parent, Bhavisha Morphet, has a message to other parents.

“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!”

Lois Norris, Chief Financial Officer, InvestorCOM


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, 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.


Bhavisha Morphet

SHAD Parent 2017


add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

Crossing Bridges – SHAD and FIRST Robotics

By Kim Nguyen


“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.


Kim Nguyen

Team 6070 – Gryphon Machine

SHAD Fellow 2017





A substantial bursary fund is available to ensure that this opportunity is financially accessible to all qualified students.


add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

SHAD Spotlight: Victoria Iannotti



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. (until November 20)




add a comment
Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn