Jan. 12, 2023

Schulich student humbled to be 1st recipient of bursary in geomatics engineering

Jan Kendrick Lao strives to succeed as 'they believe in me and my future'
Jan Kendrick Lao
Jan Kendrick Lao is the first UCalgary recipient of a new $10,000 bursary through TECTERRA. Joe McFarland, Schulich School of Engineering

Growing up in the Philippines, Jan Kendrick Lao was always fascinated by globes, maps and technology.

He took his passion to the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering, where he’s been able to further his education and be part of the geomatics engineering community.

While hosting a recent event as the VP Events for the Geomatics Engineering Students’ Society, Lao glanced at his phone for what he thought was a weekly email newsletter. In fact, he had been chosen as the winner of a new $10,000 bursary through TECTERRA, a Calgary-based non-profit organization dedicated to the development of geospatial technology through its work with industry, researchers and governments.

“I thought that maybe the organizers might have gotten the wrong name since there are hundreds of students out there wanting this as much as I do,” Lao says. “After letting the news sink in, I felt honoured and humbled to be chosen.”

Bringing his passions together

Lao says he has always been passionate about solving practical problems by looking for tangible solutions.

It was during a high school class working with robotics that he decided engineering would be the route he wanted to take for his post-secondary career.

After receiving both his English and Chinese high school diplomas in the Philippines, Lao researched possible universities to attend and landed at Schulich. He sees geomatics engineering as the perfect opportunity to bring his passions together.

“Upon hearing about the program, I found a spark that enlightened me that I was choosing the right program,” says Lao, who is now in his third year of studies. “I find that this is the one and only program that best fits me.”

Funding for future leaders

Lao is the first of two UCalgary students who will receive the TECTERRA bursary, which will be available annually over the next five years.

The awards will go to full-time undergraduate students enrolled in remote sensing, computer science with geographic information system (GIS) mapping, or geography, and who intend to pursue careers in those fields.

“Ensuring the industry is equipped with a workforce is part of our mission to grow the geospatial industry,” says TECTERRA CEO Jonathan Neufeld, BSc (Eng)’03, MBA’15.

We are excited that our contribution can help support this by giving students a little extra for their efforts. Our hope is that these students will end up leading the industry someday.

The bursary’s criteria also includes the number of credit hours completed by the student, as well as financial need.

“We are extremely grateful for the partnerships we have in our community,” says Dr. Emmanuel Stefanakis, PhD, head of the Department of Geomatics Engineering. “The generosity shown by TECTERRA will leave a lasting impression on the chosen students as they continue their education and soon begin their journeys in becoming leaders in geomatics engineering.”

Lao says he is excited to have more peace of mind on the financial side of things, but there is a deeper meaning for him in receiving the bursary.

“The most important impact for me is having the positive reinforcement of someone believing that I am capable and deserving of this award,” he says. “This will be an added drive for me to do better in my studies as there is someone who chose me because they believe in me and my future.”

Lao has an internship set to begin in May, and one day hopes to work in the areas of global navigation satellite systems and autonomous navigation.

TECTERRA is a non-profit focused on community-level initiatives which grow geospatial thinking, develop skills, and lead to the creation of innovative technology.