Mark Whittaker and Mark Hall of Harbour View High pitch their idea for a Bluetooth-enabled car door unlock app at the Student Superpower Challenge pitch day at Planet Hatch. (Michael Hawkins/Wicked Ideas)
New Brunswick’s teens have superpowers. It’s in their ideas.
On Friday May 16th, 14 teens, representing eight teams, pitched their ideas to a trio of judges from the New Brunswick tech sector at Planet Hatch in Fredericton in hopes of earning one of the three $5,000 prizes to help make their ideas a reality.
It was part of the Student SuperPower Challenge, a competition launched by T4G at its Big Data Congress last February and managed in partnerships with the Government of New Brunswick’s new Brilliant Labs and Wicked Ideas.Full disclosure: Wicked Ideas’ founder Lisa Hrabluk helped design and manage the competition, and she co-hosted Friday’s event with Brilliant Labs’ Brian McCain. The three judges were; Giles Counsell, T4G’s director of energy analytics, Susan Almon, a senior consultant with Mariner Partners and a volunteer organizer with Ladies Learning Code NB, and Dr. Bill McIver, a computer scientist and the NSERC Research Chair in Mobile First Technology at the New Brunswick Community College (NBCC).
The winners are:
- Clique, a fashion swap and shop app created by Cassidy Allen and Nicoletta Gallagher of Fredericton High School;
- Solar heating solution created by Mitchell Cooke, Ryan Downey, Andrew White and Tyler Hicks of Caledonia Regional High School; and,
- Lost Fisherman search tool created by Rylee Foster of Campobello Island Consolidated School.
Clique’s two founders are grade 12 students and intend to use their money to hire a developer to help them build their new site, which is filling a need for Fredericton-area fashion-forward fans who want an easy and cost-effective way to swap their gently used clothing. The pair impressed the judges with their knowledge of their market, which was until recently served by a popular Facebook page, which had over 3,000 fans before shutting down earlier this year. “We learned a lot about how to put together a business plan. We had a short amount of time to get all the information together and it was something neither of us had really done before. We got to work with some really great people,” says Cassidy Allen, of Clique. “It was great prep for what we hope to do in the future.”
For Allen, the experience changed the way she viewed entrepreneurship in the region. “You think that starting a business you need to be in a big city, she said. “But it’s great that we have companies like Planet Hatch that are here to support young entrepreneurs.” The Challenge was held at Planet Hatch, Fredericton’s co-location space and the teams got to meet some of the start-up entrepreneurs working there.
Rylee Foster’s winning idea is very close to her heart. The grade 10 students wants to create a small tracking device that fishermen can wear and which, when they fall overboard, members of their crew can immediately begin to track them from the boat. Current technology uses satellite signals that are relayed to search and rescue teams on land. Born on Grand Manan Island and raised on Campobello Island, fishing has been a way of life in her family for generations. As she said in her pitch, when a fisherman is lost, the whole community grieves. “It happens way too often and a lot of people suffer,” Foster says. “Just knowing I can give [families] at least closure makes me feel good.”
A desire to help people in their community also inspired the quartet from Caledonia Regional High School “We heard about homes in our county where they couldn’t afford heat and the conditions inside the homes were desperate. That’s when we thought we could do something and discovered there might be an opportunity in solar heating,” said grade 11 student Andrew White, who along with Tyler Hicks, Mitchell Cooke and Ryan Downey are building a solar heat prototype this summer. Hicks is ready to get back into the shop. “We have data collection coming in the Fall and we want to be ready,” said Hicks. So now, we are just going to build.”
Phil Sweezey, a technology teacher at Hampton High School said working with his students to prepare for the pitches gave him some the most enjoyable moments of his teaching career. “Huddled around a couple computer screens hammering out the proper language and rehearsing their pitches with the students… all while figuring out challenges, possible features and defining a specific market for the product was a very engaging experience,” he said. “I was humbled by the outpouring of support from the local community.”
“We need to highlight the positives in this province,” said Sweezey, who also live-streamed the event via Google Plus. You can watch all the pitches here. “What I saw on Friday was an example of what is to come with New Brunswick’s knowledge age economy in action.”
Hampton High had two entrants in the Challenge. Dustyn Forbes and Colton Scott, founders of Paw Print, an app that will help people locate their pets when they run off. The pair are thinking of starting a crowdsourcing campaign to help them fund their idea, so stay tuned.
Their colleague Caleb Lane has developed Locker Bay, a portable charger for mobile devices that can be stored in a locker. It’s an idea he first got in middle school and this is his second prototype.
Even though they didn’t win the money, the guys are continuing to pursue their ideas. So is Rothesay High School grade 11 student Sophie Leonard, the creator of School Needs!, an online platform that links schools to the community.
“The mentor today said that I [should] give him a call and he would definitely do this with me and that he is very interested,” she said. “I’m not too worried about the money or winning. If I have the confidence in doing it and to apply myself, I think it can work out.”
Cherise Letson is a freelance journalist based in Saint John N.B. Find out what she’s up to at @CheriseLWrites.