Conestoga news

June 5, 2014 3:09 PM

4X4 Challenge Opens Eyes and Doors

The 4X4 Challenge is one of the amazing entrepreneurial initiatives that have been blossoming on campus in recent years. With 4X4, students are challenged to move into an innovative headspace and create viable entrepreneurial solutions, an invaluable experience to prepare students for life after graduating.

4x4topcorner.jpgIgnac Kolenko, Chair of the School of Engineering and Information Technology, launched the 4X4 Challenge in 2012 with the idea of four entrepreneurial solutions in four days. He exceeded that goal and the Challenge continues to have strong participation with forty students involved in 2014. Ig knows the importance of being able to offer this kind of opportunity to students across disciplines. "Many students come to campus to acquire skills to land a 'job' but are often unaware that the skills they have allow them the potential to create their own opportunities as an entrepreneur."

This year, Canadian Tire Innovations (CTI) came on board as a sponsor, contributing a $1,000 prize towards a themed stream of the challenge that focused on Digital Retailing/Marketing. Craig Haney, Manager, CT Innovations at Canadian Tire Corporation, recognizes that these investments benefit students and companies, as well. "We participated in the 4X4 Challenge to connect us with some of the brightest young minds in the Region. We are investing heavily in new grad recruitment and sponsorships like this - specifically for the Canadian Tire IT group - allow us to see new ideas and new minds in action."

There is tremendous support locally for the program. Space was offered through Communitech and Wilfrid Laurier University's Launchpad space within the Hub, which meant students had access to whiteboards, projectors, etc., and were able to interact with other entrepreneurs sharing the space.  Blackberry provided Playbook tablets and Z10 devices for students to use as part of their project development.  In addition, Blackberry donated a few days of developer support to students, running training sessions at both Communitech as well as the College. 

Students value the experience highly, noting that it's not only the process of creating the solutions but the opportunity to connect with an incredible network in the heart of innovation in Waterloo Region.

"4X4 is a well-rounded competition allowing students to stretch their creative, engineering, business and relational skills," shares James Caswell from Team iAlert, who took first place in the non-themed challenge. "It provided me with a fresh perspective of project management, agile development and leading a team."

Members of The Dream Team, winners of the themed challenge, agree. "Having won the competition two years ago, we knew the amount of talent/opportunity to grow would be higher than ever and we were not disappointed.  We gained technical knowledge and expertise to go out and make a name for ourselves. But the biggest takeaway was the connections and contacts we made.  This year, there were members of CTI, D2L, ESolutionsGroup, and a number of startups in the Hub.  Being able to have access to these kinds of people in the area was incredible."