Four geekStarter robotics teams recently took part in a full day of mentorship and group activities designed to provide insight into how to take their research projects to market. Students from Ted Harrison School (Calgary), Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy (Canmore), Father Mercredi High School (Fort McMurray), as well as the Nexus Robotics team (consists of high school students from across the city) spent the day learning from and interacting with local entrepreneurs and robotics experts on what’s required to launch a successful startup.

“This was a rare opportunity for students to spend a whole day learning directly from real-world entrepreneurs,” said Magdalena Pop, program manager, geekStarter. “The hands-on exercises simulated the beginnings of a startup and it was amazing to see the students ideas evolve throughout the day.”

Special guests shared their experiences and offered mentorship at the event:

  • Scott Gravelle, co-founder, CEO and CTO of ATTAbotics;
  • Ash Esmaeili, co-founder and head of operations at Aimsio;
  • Nolan Liss, founder of Arcane Lights; and
  • Emily Marasco, education specialist at EZ-Robot Inc.

Teams presented their projects – which included the real-world problem they are trying to solve through robotics – to attendees. They then, following the Lean Startup methodology, tackled the challenge of crafting a value proposition to help guide their research future development. Using feedback from mentors and special guests, the teams refined their value propositions, and then worked on identifying assumptions behind their value proposition, and developed a strategy to test those assumptions.

The workshop ended with a panel discussion on Robotics and Society. Speakers addressed concerns about autonomous weapons and the fear of “killer robots,” job loss due to mechanizing the workforce, and privacy issues linked to developments in artificial intelligence.

“I really enjoyed listening to the experts and their stories because it showed the reality of entrepreneurship.” – Student in attendance

2018 geekStarter robotics team projects:

  • Ted Harrison School – A system for cleaning large public spaces
  • Our Lady of the Snows – A robot for sorting out different types of plastics
  • Father Mercredi – Tackle dummy for safer football practice
  • Nexus Robotics – Plug and play software for hobbyists building robots with autonomous collision avoidance capability

All geekStarter teams – both robotics and synthetic biology – will come together once again on May 26 and 27, 2018, in Canmore, for the geekStarter high school Jamboree and iGEM 2018 season kickoff. Stay tuned for more details on this exciting annual event as we draw closer to the date.


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