ZerotoStartup Showcase

By Isabelle Docto on Saturday, May 13, 2016

The Launch Zone in the Student Learning Centre at Ryerson University was buzzing on Saturday as youth tinkered with their creations, once again proving the impossible.

Shawn Blakney, director of global technology and innovation at Celestica spoke in front of a group of proud family members about how people were dubious of ZerotoStartup’s goal of getting kids interested in technology and entrepreneurship.

“When they’re in grade seven, eight, nine, they don’t know they can do this yet,” he said.

One by one, each of the five groups of bright-minded youth proved that they could in fact become entrepreneurs and presented their products in front of three industry professionals: Valerie Fox, chief innovation consultant at The Pivotal Point; Hamoon Ekhtiari, director of strategy and PMO at Telus; and Nina Gesa, economic development officer at the City of Toronto.

Youth from grades seven to 11 worked together to create and present their products that were a culmination of 13 weeks of hands on work in the program. This was the second cohort of ZerotoStartup and not only was there diversity in age, but also an equal amount of male and female participation. Founder Anandhi Narayanan says that the program’s goal is to continue to demystify technology to kids and challenge youth unemployment.
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Riya Karumanchi, 13, was part of the team that presented SMART Streetlights. She says that she learned a lot about herself throughout the process.

“I’m comfortable talking in front of an audience and I knew that I could code, I could do hardware and I’m looking forward because I might be interested in doing business when I grow older,” said Karumanchi.

The students received guidance from mentors at STEAMLabs and SAGE Canada, who helped them craft their products for the showcase.

Tuck-Voon How, who was a mentor for SMART Streetlights, says it was very rewarding seeing the students learn and grow.

“You get to see the kids develop their potential, exploring the technical side of things, but also creativity, overcoming challenges and seeing how they work around those problems,” he said.

Not only did the students’ mentors in the program go along with them for this 13-week journey, but so did their mentors at home. Sonia Qureshi, mother of Hamza Khan who was part of team Eco Chute, says that she wishes a program like this existed when she was younger.

“I really have to give kudos to Anandhi and to David because these types of programs will create the next inventors, the next entrepreneurs of the coming generations,” she said.

Registration for the next cohort will begin July. The program will also be held at a new location in Newmarket called NewMakeIt. The downtown location at STEAMLabs will continue to run.

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