On Saturday February 25th, MindFuel hosted the Project Pitch Showcase event, where the teams participating in the 2023 edition of the Tech Futures Challenge program shared their project ideas and received feedback from mentors and community members on how to make those ideas a reality. The event took place online and was funded by ATB Financial, Anonymous Donor, Cenovus Energy Inc., Future Skills Centre, NSERC PromoScience, RBC Foundation, Syncrude Canada Limited (operated by Suncor), TC Energy Corporation, TELUS Friendly Future Foundation and The Hunter Family Foundation.

Attended by a total of 92 participants, including 73 students, 6 team advisors, and 7 judges, the event showcased a total of 14 teams from middle- and high-school to post-secondary, all determined to tackle real-world sustainability challenges using technologies such as coding, automation, robotics, bioengineering and synthetic biology.

Reflecting the framework and scaffolding of the Tech Futures Challenge program, the showcase event was organized in two tracks, with the participating teams assigned to either the beginner or the advanced track based on their skill level, prior experience with real-world tech projects, and their capacity to access resources and self-manage their work.

There were five middle- and high-school teams pitching in the beginner track:

Team OLS/In the Box – Our Lady of Snows Catholic Academy, Canmore, AB
GreenEarth – Toronto, ON
EcoBottle- Rundle College, Calgary, AB
Tech Trade Trio – Rundle College, Calgary, AB
Migraine Mate – Rundle College, Calgary, AB

The advanced track showcased pitches from nine high-school and university teams, as follows:

CCHS SynBio – Canmore Collegiate High School, Canmore, AB
Lethbridge HS iGEM – Lethbridge High School, Lethbridge, AB
NeurAlbertaTech uLeth – University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, AB
Beedie Bright – Simon Fraser University/UBC, BC
ULethbridge – University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, AB
RHS – Calgary – Renert High School, Calgary, AB
U of C iGEM 1- University of Calgary, Calgary, AB
U of C iGEM 2- University of Calgary, Calgary, AB
U of C iGEM 3- University of Calgary, Calgary, AB

A group of seven knowledgeable, supportive and enthusiastic mentors and judges evaluated the teams’ project ideas, and provided them with insights and practical guidance: Art Proctor, Dawn Pratt, Elijah Lucian, Beatriz Pacheco, Mary Mohammed, Ian Hargreaves and Patrick Wu.

Based on the judges recommendations and feedback, five of the teams were highlighted and received prizes in recognition of their project pitch work.

Beginner track
Best Pitch: Rundle College – Tech Trade Trio for their project that proposes to build an app for E-waste recycling.
Best RunnerUp: Team OLS – In the Box for their project proposal to sustainably handle food waste through a contained dehydration, thermal energy generation and carbon capture.

Advanced track
Best Pitch: UofC iGEM 3 – CholesterLock for their project proposal of designing a protein capable of lowering LDL cholesterol levels by inhibiting a mediator protein for cholesterol absorption called NPC1L1.
Best RunnerUp: RHS – FabriFuel for their project proposal to reduce fabric waste via an enzymatic system capable of degrading and metabolizing polyethylene terephthalate and its byproducts, as well energy capture via a microbial fuel cell.

Recognition of Feasibility & Impact: GreenEarth for their project proposal of reducing food waste through an educational app that includes gamification

The Tech Futures Challenge Pitch Showcase was a rich and exciting learning experience for all the participants and particularly for the innovative young teams on their way to building a sustainable future.

This is illustrated by the following comment made by one of the students: “Thank you for putting all the work you did into this! It’s been a huge promoter in my knowledge and interest in synbio.”

Another student said, “One thing I enjoy about the project pitch is how I get to integrate art into science since I’ve always viewed science as intimidating, but to apply my art skills into the unknown world of synthetic biology is a privilege! ”

Following this event, all participant teams have the option of joining Part 2 of the Tech Futures Challenge program, Project Prototype, which starts on March 6 and provides teams with the resources and support necessary to further develop their project ideas. The MindFuel team, along with their dedicated community mentors and partners, as well as generous funders, look forward to continuing to support the teams and seeing the prototyping unfold.

The MindFuel Team

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