These are exciting times for the geekStarter community!

On June 10 and 11, geekStarter teams gathered to share and celebrate their projects and to learn from expert guests and mentors how to succeed at competitions and, more importantly, how to make a difference in the real world.

Highly anticipated events like these are at the core of geekStarter, a program operated by MindFuel with funding from Alberta Innovates. They are key to Alberta teams’ recurring excellent performance at competitions such as the international Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM), and plant the seeds for start-up companies in new technologies such as synthetic biology.

Here is what Dr. Justin Pahara, chief science officer at Amino Labs and one of the expert guests, said, “It’s amazing that Alberta has this program – This is a great example of Alberta leading Canada out of the commodity economy.”

At geekStarter’s 2017 High School Jamboree, held in High River on June 10, six geekStarter teams presented their projects and received feedback and guidance from six experienced judges from academia and industry:

  • Emily Hicks (president and co-founder at FREDsense Technologies),
  • Julie Legault (CEO and founder at Amino Labs),
  • Robert Mayall (Vanier Scholar at University of Calgary, and co-founder at FREDsense Technologies),
  • Justin Pahara (chief science officer at Amino Labs),
  • Anam Rizvi (student in mechanical engineering with Biomedical specialization at University of Alberta), and
  • Patrick Wu (biotechnology consultant).

The jamboree culminated with the top three teams winning special awards, which the judges chose carefully based on each team’s performance and particular strengths. Team APEX Robotics from Calgary won the Most Marketable Project Award for their self-driving snow cleaner, while teams Lethbridge High School iGEM and Canmore’s OLS Syn Bio shared the Best Communication Award for their synthetic biology projects on making biological ink and sorting plastics, respectively.

The next day, newly on-boarded geekStarter iGEM teams from Edmonton (University of Alberta and Urban Tundra High School), University of Calgary, and University of Lethbridge attended geekStarter’s Collegiate & iGEM Season Kickoff Event held in Calgary.

Four of the experts from the high-school jamboree came to Sunday’s workshop as well. They gave talks in their areas of expertise and then met with each of the teams individually to discuss their projects and provide specific suggestions and feedback. Big thanks to our expert guests! This comment from one of the attendees says it all: “Both the breakout sessions and the talks were amazing.”

  • DNA Programming: Your Sustainable Future – presented by Justin Pahara
  • Modeling for Synthetic Biology – presented by Robert Mayall
  • Fertile Intersections of Art and Design with the Sciences – presented by Julie Legault
  • Introduction to Visual Design Communication – presented by Patrick Wu

“This was an incredible opportunity to learn and collaborate!” said a participant.

“All speakers gave relevant knowledge and the event has given me more confidence in our ability to achieve our goals,” said another.

This weekend’s productive events offered geekStarter teams much food for thought and a bounty of new ideas and opportunities for networking and mentorship. We trust the inspiration and learnings will go a long way and wish them good luck with their projects!

geekStarter jamboree participants