Oct. 28, 2021

Creative solutions highlight first Engineering Entrepreneurship workshop

New program aims to give Schulich students an innovation-minded toolkit
Schulich students work together on a project. Schulich School of Engineering archives

They call it a “reverse vending machine.”

A group of Schulich School of Engineering students in the new Engineering Entrepreneurship certificate program put their creative minds together to come up with the idea during their first workshop together.

Thomson Midzi, a third-year chemical engineering student, says the concept is a machine that gives you money in exchange for recyclable materials like paper, glass and aluminum cans. An app would help you track how much money you have made, how much you’ve recycled, and even provide a leaderboard for friends to compete against each other.

“Our catch phrase is ‘To transform the way people recycle, provide lasting change, and that one small action can have a powerful impact,” Midzi says.

The team made its own impact in the inaugural competition, beating out 26 other projects to claim first place, as voted on by their peers.

First time’s a charm

More than 200 Schulich undergraduate students have enrolled in the certificate’s first cohort. They will spend the next few months learning about key entrepreneurial concepts like value propositions, market intelligence, product design and development, and Startup financials.

It’s a great opportunity to learn invaluable skills and insights that are separate from our regular engineering programs. This way, we will have the tools to tackle modern-day engineering challenges and come up with the right solutions.

- Thomson Midzi

He calls the opportunity a perfect fit, as he enjoys both the business and technical aspects of what the program offers.

“It was fun going through the brainstorming process and the interesting combinations of ideas we had going,” Midzi says. “Also working together as a team, owning our idea, and being able to address any concerns the audience had.”

The creative spark

It was clear that curiosity was a prerequisite to excel at the first workshop, given the diversity of ideas presented.

One was Gardenshare, an app for selling locally grown products from their gardens. Another was Digishop, a delivery service-style app spotlighting clothing trends and showing where they can be purchased and delivered locally.

Hana Salem, a fourth-year chemical engineering student, found herself fascinated by the ideas she heard during the workshop.

“I’ve come to realize that my university experience should be more than just thermodynamics and calculus,” she says. “This certificate is a way to broaden my interests beyond engineering, as I believe entrepreneurship can work hand-in-hand with engineering to make magic and better our world.”

The workshop also gave her a new perspective on herself.

“This session gave me a boost of confidence because I perceive myself as the least-creative person to ever exist on this planet,” Salem says. “However, after taking part in the exercise and coming up with three unique ideas, I realized there’s also potentially a spark in me that I haven’t discovered yet.”

Fuelling the fire

The excitement being felt by the students following the workshop was shared by the professors and staff in attendance days later.

“We hope the Certificate in Engineering Entrepreneurship provides students with a tool kit to help them inspire change and create value in their communities,” says Engineering Entrepreneurship educator Dr. Ghada Nafie, BSc (Eng)’00, MSc’17, PhD’20. “We want them to get hands-on experience, formal training, interaction with industry experts, and interpersonal skills development and improvement.”

Started as a pilot project in 2019 envisioned by Schulich Dean Bill Rosehart, the program is broken down into three tiers each with about 15 hours of content.

The first tier is embedded into the ENGG 200 professional development seminars to give all students a foundation of entrepreneurship, while the second and third levels are co-curricular. The first graduating class will receive their certificates next spring.

Nafie believes the certificate is a perfect entrepreneurial complement for engineering students.

“This certificate inspires students to apply the technical knowledge they learn in engineering in a creative and innovative way to solve some of the challenges in today’s world,” she says.

Learn more about the Engineering Entrepreneurship program.