Conestoga news

September 16, 2016 1:59 PM

Conestoga celebrates Geek Week with local tech and innovation community

More than 20 technology-related events are underway in Waterloo Region as part of Geek Week - a celebration of the dynamic and growing innovation community in Kitchener and Waterloo. Conestoga helped kick off activities at Geek Week’s launch event, Maker Expo.

Conestoga's VP Applied Research and International Education Barbara Fennessy shared the stage with an impressive line up of panelists yesterday for the Women in Innovation: At the Leading Edge workshop as part of this year's Waterloo Innovation Summit.
Photo credit: Communitech

The Expo was held September 10 at Kitchener City Hall and featured more than 70 exhibitors that included groups, teams, local tech companies and the region’s post-secondary institutes. Makers are part of a growing community of do-it-yourself enthusiasts who create things that may be physical, like robots or art installations, or virtual, like software and Internet-based services.

Ig Kolenko, director of Conestoga’s Centre for Smart Manufacturing and chair, Engineering and Information Technology, said Maker Expo helps make the technology connection between the college and the community. During the event, students from Conestoga’s Robotics Innovation Group (RIG) and student chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) displayed and discussed projects they worked on outside of class time using skills developed through their coursework. They also promoted Conestoga’s Makerspace, which is a shared workshop for students equipped with various tools, equipment and a 3D printer. 

Kolenko said Conestoga’s exhibit at the Expo provided an opportunity for industry leaders and entrepreneurs to learn more about Conestoga’s Centre for Smart Manufacturing (CSM) and Centre for Entrepreneurship (C4E). The CSM is a regional hub for applied research to support small and medium-sized enterprises and C4E offers business startup services and education programs that would be of interest to makers who want to market a product or service. Kolenko added that Conestoga’s participation at Maker Expo over the past two years has resulted in connections that will lead to potential new research and capstone project opportunities for the college and its students.

Other events throughout Geek Week included the Waterloo Innovation Summit, held at the University of Waterloo on September 14 and 15. Dr. Barbara Fennessy, Conestoga’s vice president, Applied Research and International Education and executive director of C4E, joined Bardish Chagger, Minister of Small Business and Tourism, and Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, for a panel discussion about women and innovation. Moderated by Venture Communications CEO and former Dragons’ Den host Arlene Dickinson, panelists discussed ways to encourage and support women in innovation in order to build a more inclusive community of business and science leaders.

This year Conestoga’s Cambridge campus will also be open to the public for Doors Open Waterloo Region. Doors Open has partnered with Geek Week to include nearly 20 technology-related venues on the list of unique spaces and heritage buildings that will be open for viewing on Saturday, September 17.

The Cambridge campus, home to Conestoga’s School of Engineering and Information Technology, is a 260,000 square-foot building that houses innovative technology labs, a welding shop and the Craig Richardson Institute of Food Processing Technology (IFPT). The technology labs facilitate classes for a broad range of Engineering diploma and degree programs.

The IFPT, the only one of its kind in Canada, features an 8,000 square-foot plant with processing lines for beverages, baked goods and vegetables, as well as a food testing laboratory. The facility supports one of the largest manufacturing sectors in the province by providing training opportunities in food safety, food processing techniques, packaging and plant supervision.

Geek Week runs from September 10 to 24. A full list of activities is available on the event website.