Undergraduates demonstrate passion projects and gain experiential learning through Idea Fund

Funding program through Student Innovation Centre, with support from AltaML, awards cash prizes to successful teams.

Andrew Lyle - 10 December 2019

An exciting evening of student project demonstrations unfolded on December 3 as part of the Idea Fund program through the Student Innovation Centre. The program, supported by a generous donation from local machine learning company AltaML, awarded cash prizes to extracurricular student projects as evaluated by a panel of judges from the Edmonton tech community.

"Fundamentally, the Idea Fund is a celebration of the inventive spirit of our students at UAlberta," said Chris Fetterly, director of the Student Innovation Centre. "It is an action-first, pitch-later event designed to encourage and reward students for taking those initial steps on their ideas. It is about building momentum, stretching comfort zones, and growing our culture of student innovation."

Three teams were awarded $1000 cash prizes for presentations on the progress of their projects since their initial applications on September 30. Submitted projects ranged from video games and apps designed to encourage sustainable habits, to a custom-programmed Game Boy interface able to post to Twitter, to high school math study aid software.

Key members from the Edmonton innovation community formed a judging panel to evaluate the students' five minute pitches, asking questions and providing advice for the undergraduate innovators.

Judges at the Idea Fund presentations included:

  • Chad Langager, vice-president (product) at Alberta machine learning company AltaML
  • Chelsea Hong, undergraduate student and president of student group Ada's Team, which promotes diversity in computing science
  • Greg Coulombe, product development leader at Intuit

"It was amazing to see what these students could accomplish in such a short period of time, all while balancing their full course loads," said Chad Langager, vice-president (product) at AltaML and member of the judging panel.

The Idea Fund, and its cash prizes for the winning teams, were made possible by a generous donation from AltaML.

"We strongly believe in the world-class talent at UAlberta, and programs like this help continue to foster that talent," said Langager. "The Idea Fund, championed by Chris Fetterly, is a great platform for students to showcase the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. These values are core to AltaML, so it made providing support a quick decision on our end."

In addition to the prizes awarded, the students also gained invaluable experiential learning opportunity and a chance to practice their innovation and entrepreneurship skills with the assistance of the Student Innovation Centre.

"We start the event with applause for all participants. It's very hard to commit precious free time to pursuing an idea-this is a way for students to get recognized for their tenacity, grit, and creativity." said Fetterly. "This first event was a huge success for both the centre and the students, and we look forward to growing the program alongside the Edmonton technology community."

Congratulations to all the students that participated in the Idea Fund presentations!

Learn more about the student groups making use of the centre and how the centre is helping undergraduate students develop their next ideas via the Student Innovation Centre website.

Hear more from Chris Fetterly on collaboration in the world of innovation in the Fall 2019 issue of Contours, the Faculty of Science alumni and friends magazine.