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February 25, 2014 2:53 PM

Conestoga students showcase innovation

Good ideas are disruptive. That was the key message delivered to Conestoga students participating in the third annual 4x4 Challenge held the week of February 17.

Students in information technology, software and electronics programs at Conestoga came together at the end of the week-long event to hear a keynote address from Craig Haney, Manager of CT Innovations for Canadian Tire. Haney encouraged students to be innovators, telling them that the best ideas in business often make people uncomfortable.

“Being innovative means encouraging change and making people uncomfortable,” said Haney. “Those are the best ideas.”

The 4x4 Challenge was developed by Ig Kolenko, chair of Engineering and Information Technology at Conestoga. Created to showcase the entrepreneurial, software, IT and electronics skills of Conestoga students, the event takes place over four days during study week at the college.

Students are challenged to be innovative and develop real-world solutions to common industry problems. Industry professionals judge teams on the viability of their solutions, which are presented at a showcase event at the end of the week.

4x4challenge.jpg The theme for the 2014 challenge was Digital Retailing and Marketing. Students were encouraged to work with a variety of software operating systems including BlackBerry, Apple iOS, Windows Phone and Surface and Android in order to find new ways to ‘connect with consumers’.

Glendys Gil, a second-year student in Conestoga's Computer Programmer/Analyst (CPA) program, and her team took a decidedly more altruistic approach. Their software application, called AppRaiser, was developed as a ‘crowd-funding app with a heart’. Designed to connect with donors, the team wanted a project based on ‘social good’ and one that connected people with people.

“We wanted an app that touched hearts,” said Gil, “something that, when compared with other crowd-funding platforms, was local and helping real people with real causes.”

Gil, a native of Venezuela, came to Canada looking for better employment opportunities. She chose Conestoga because she had been told it was 'one of the best colleges around.’ In addition to her studies, Gil is also involved with Conestoga's Centre for Entrepreneurship and enrolled in the Technology Enabled Social Innovation (TESI) program. It was this program, in part, that helped illuminate her career path.

“The TESI program encouraged me to use my programming skills for social good,” stated Gil. “That’s why I am going to continue building my skills with a Computer Science degree at the University of Waterloo once I graduate from Conestoga.”

At the end of the judging, Gil and her teammates Galina Dzhasova, Stephen Campbell and Angus Alves were awarded one of the top prizes in the competition, winning entrepreneurial support from industry professionals who will help them pursue their commercial vision for AppRaiser.

For more information on the 4x4 Challenge and to view a list of all the projects, visit the website.

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