April 4, 2023
National Hackathon challenges students across Canada to develop solutions to tackle food security issues on campuses
As conversations surrounding food security continue to ramp up on a national and global scale, there appeared to be no better topic to focus on for this year's second annual Experience Ventures National Hackathon, powered by the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking.
Over the past six weeks, teams of students from different post-secondary institutions across the country came together virtually to help design ideas for the future of food security on campus and enrich the lives of Canadian post-secondary students.
"The Experience Ventures National Hackathon is a great opportunity to bring together our national network of partner institutions and challenge students from across the country to develop ideas to a real-world challenge currently affecting our communities," says Anica Vasic, director, talent at the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, at the University of Calgary.
"We want to cultivate entrepreneurial thinking skills through challenges such as this hackathon, as an opportunity to give students an accessible set of skills that everyone can leverage to make an impact, big or small, in any career."
On March 7, the Experience Ventures National Hackathon concluded with live pitch finals hosted virtually for a chance to win additional prizes. Teams of five to six students submitted their five-minute video pitches for judging and the top three teams were selected based on their rubric scores to pitch live. The following winners were announced:
- First place ($2,500): SustainStudent from Toronto Metropolitan University, a one-stop virtual food hub, in the form of an app, that connects students with food-related resources that are universally accessible and non stigmatizing. The platform has four critical functions that can be easily applied to any post-secondary campus. Team members include Samin Barakati (undergraduate in Nursing), Anna Bazangeya (undergraduate in Biology), Olivia Chow (undergraduate in Nutrition and Food), Yumna Moussa (undergraduate in Child and Youth), Jasman Tagger (undergraduate in Nursing) and Melissa Trinh (undergraduate in Business Management).
- Second place ($1,500): Circular Meals from Ontario Tech University proposed the idea of building an on-campus greenhouse where fruits and vegetables will be grown. They will then be used to create low-cost meals for students to purchase through convenient storage lockers on campus. Team members include Alizah Zaidi (undergraduate student in Criminology and Justice), Scott Dennis (undergraduate student in Commerce), Nicholas Varas (undergraduate in Engineering), Anupriya Dubey (undergraduate in Computer Science) and Michael Bondarenko (undergraduate in Biological Sciences).
- Third place ($1,000): Good2Go from Queen's University is a solution that uses advertising space as an incentive for grocery stores to sell their near-expired food at an on-campus grocery store. Companies can promote to their target audiences at no cost, which allows students to purchase nutritious food at low prices. Team members include Izzy Page (undergraduate in Mathematics), Joshua Adams (undergraduate in Music), Alice Chu (undergraduate in Commerce), Charlotte Murat (undergraduate in Engineering Physics), Logan Bramwell (undergraduate in Computer Science) and Kassandra Choi (undergraduate in Political Science).
The top three teams presented their five-minute pitches before a national panel of judges who have personal experience and knowledge in food security.
"The hackathon allowed me to think innovatively about solving a concerning problem: food security on post-secondary campuses," says Olivia Chow, whose team secured first place. "It was also wonderful to work with my teammates from different programs of study; we were able to contribute diverse perspectives, skills, and knowledge. I feel ecstatic about winning the competition. It gives me confidence that this solution has potential, and I would love to see if there is an opportunity to realize it soon."
"The Experience Ventures Hackathon experience granted me the opportunity to collaborate with individuals coming from a range of professional backgrounds, ranging from business to nursing and health sciences, to brainstorm feasible solutions for revolutionizing the future of food security on post-secondary campuses," says Samin Barakat, a team member from TMU.
"This opportunity was a true simulation of real-world interprofessional collaboration for solving everyday problems that emerge in our society. I am grateful to have been a part of the hackathon since not only did it push us to better understand the issue of food insecurity but also to devise and work toward implementing a solution for it. I thank all the organizers of the event for this great experience!"
The challenge was funded by Experience Ventures, a national program led by the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking that enables post-secondary students at 12 institutions across Canada to develop critical skills alongside real-world innovators through entrepreneurial thinking placements. All 50 students received a $325 honorarium for their participation in the challenge. The additional $5,000 in prizes for the winning teams was generously sponsored by the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking.
Created with a transformative gift from the Hunter Family Foundation in 2017, the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking is UCalgary's community innovation hub that transforms lives and economies by fostering entrepreneurial thinking in students, faculty and the community. Its mission is to create and support game-changing innovators and accelerate their ideas from conception to impact.
The Hunter Hub contributes to the University of Calgary's strategic vision to be the most entrepreneurial university in Canada.
Experience Ventures is funded in part by the Government of Canada's Innovative Work-Integrated Learning Initiative.