April 16, 2020

Launchpad cleared for liftoff during pandemic

Creative camera work allows entrepreneurial student teams to present projects remotely
Aishwarya Khanduja presents online during COVID-19 isolation
Aishwarya Khanduja presents online during COVID-19 isolation Michael Platt

For the entrepreneur, there’s rarely a smooth path to success — and it’s how you adapt to challenges and setbacks that defines your strength as an innovator.

A global pandemic certainly qualifies as a major bump in the road, and on April 8, teams taking part in Launchpad had to adapt to a reality that forced them to make final presentations from remote locations, speaking to a computer chatroom rather than an in-person audience.

Laptop, camera, action

And adapt the student-led launchpad teams did, offering three-minute summaries of their entrepreneurial projects, while using slide shows and on-camera presentations to explain the trials and triumphs of their projects, and whether they planned to continue.

“We’re proposing a personalized dietary monitoring and recommendation device to help maintain a healthy lifestyle,” says Aishwarya Khanduja, BHSc'19, a member of team U-Metabolic, pictured above during her presentation. 

“This device, we will install in a personal toilet and we will capture urine from an individual, and from that urine we will be harvesting metabolites, preprocessing that data and recording it on a mobile phone, for the user to easily identify what they are eating and what they should be eating.”

To be or not to be, that is the question

A health-monitoring toilet was just one of the creative ideas proposed by the eight teams taking part in Launchpad, a partnership between the Schulich School of Engineering and the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking.

The program is designed to provide UCalgary students with resources and the network to make their entrepreneurial ideas a reality — or not, as the case may be.

“One of the key lessons we hope to share through Launchpad is to normalize the idea that successful entrepreneurial journeys include projects that don’t work out,” explains Dr. Alice de Koning, PhD, academic director of the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking.

With programming designed by the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, Launchpad offers first-hand experience in what entrepreneurs do and how they create companies. 

From ideas to prototypes

The nine-week program offers teams access to mentors, and the chance to build prototypes at the Schulich School of Engineering’s Maker Multiplex.

One team using the trajectory of Launchpad to further develop as a business is yOIL, which looks to tackle the issue of chlorophyll in canola through automated seed grading and removal of chlorophyll for reuse, potentially saving Canadian farmers millions of dollars.

Another team’s bright idea is QuickLytes, a speedy battery recharging concept that used Launchpad’s mentorship connections to help solve early-stage technical issues.  

Other entrepreneurial ideas covered cell therapy, and helping the flower industry abandon toxic foam stem holders with a safer option.

Launch of an entrepreneurial journey

Dr. Hamid Zareipour, PhD, was the engineering lead for Launchpad, and he describes the program as a chance for students to think creatively and see where their ideas can lead them.

“By connecting the teams to resources, both internally and externally, we hope that Launchpad can serve the students as a platform to literally launch their entrepreneurial journey to the next orbit,” explains Zareipour, a professor of electrical and computer engineering.

“Whether they decide to go or no-go with the idea at the end of the day, the connections, opportunities and the exposure will have a lasting impact on their career both in the short and long terms.”


UCalgary resources on COVID-19

For the most up-to-date information about the University of Calgary's response to the spread of COVID-19, visit the UCalgary COVID-19 Response website.