More than 100 Grade 4-7 students from across Surrey put their problem-solving skills to the test recently, during a challenge organized as part of Canadian Innovation Week celebrations.
The only Western Canada event of its kind, the Youth Innovation Academy was a collaboration of PowerPlay Young Entrepreneurs in partnership with Rideau Hall Foundation.
PowerPlay’s Bill Roche said participants were all alumni of his young entrepreneurs program, which “focuses on helping young people develop an entrepreneurial mindset.”
During the academy event, held May 31 at the Surrey School District Resource and Education Centre, the students had to work in groups to come up with concepts to solve “real-world challenges.”
Vaccinations, hunting, obesity and litter were among topics tackled.
White Rock Elementary Grade 5 student Maddy Olver’s group chose the latter, presenting their idea for a Litter Bot – “a robot that picks up plastic.”
They chose the idea “because there is litter everywhere,” Olver told PAN.
The robot is self-sustaining, as it is powered by the litter it picks up, she said.
Another group sought solutions to racism, suggesting a website – “a safe place to get help” – and creating events that encourage the recognition that “we’re not that different.”
Volunteers included Ben Raps, a South Surrey resident who remembers taking the PowerPlay course when he was a kid attending Star of the Sea School.
He said he came across the program booklet, circa 1999 – his Grade 1 year, and the year that Roche launched the program – about six months ago, while rummaging through his dad’s garage.
It brought back memories of selling peanut butter-covered pine cones in a young entrepreneur fair, and perhaps explains why he’s continued to do some form of business ever since, he said.
“Since then, I’ve been selling things,” the 26-year-old said, noting next up for him and his girlfriend is a summer market they’ve planned for July 13.
“It all kind of started from stuff like this,” Raps said.
Reconnecting with Roche gave him the volunteer outlet he’d been looking for, Raps added.
“This is way more like me,” he said. “Four days after finding that booklet, I was sitting down with Bill.”
Roche told Peace Arch News one of the key messages of the May 31 academy was that “it’s OK to make mistakes.
Olver described it as good practice for an u pcoming entrepreneur fair, and said she enjoyed the challenge.
“I like being creative and coming up with the impossible,” she said.
“We’re learning how to talk to people and how to have an open mindset, and don’t turn down an idea.”
Doing the latter, she said, is the best way to ensure a great idea won’t be missed.