By Johanne Adam
Once a year, people around the world are invited to show their initiative and innovation through various activities as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week.
This year, the week runs from November 16 to 22, and at the University of Ottawa, the goal is to inspire students by helping them discover the lesser known aspects of entrepreneurship.
“For most people, the world of entrepreneurship is complex, involving long market studies and business startups. Unfortunately, this perception discourages many students,” says Luc Lalande, executive director of the University of Ottawa Entrepreneurship Hub.
“That’s why the University tries to emphasize the entrepreneurial spirit instead, in other words, a way of thinking and acting to find solutions to problems,” says Lalande.
For example, when looking at a social problem, an entrepreneurially-minded person will find resources and call on his or her contacts in order to fix it. This approach is called “social entrepreneurship.”
Kristina Djukic, a student in mechanical engineering and computing technology, became a social entrepreneur herself when she decided to use 3D printers to motivate a group of youth from low-income backgrounds. Though the Young Makers Guild, which she helped set up, she teaches youth how to use the printers, in the hope that one day they will benefit.
“The printers make them use their creativity and allow them to make objects on their own. This raises their self-esteem,” says Lalande.
Campaigns to raise funds to purchase additional 3D printers for the community centres where these youth go have been organized.
Internet of Things
One group of University students is developing a system that could ultimately simplify farmers’ work. Thanks to sensors placed in the earth, farmers can access information on soil quality (humidity, acidity, presence of contaminants) on their tablets, saving them from having to take samples and analyze them.
New technologies are also increasingly present in the performing arts. The Cirque du Soleil created a magic moment with drones in the short Sparked, shown on YouTube. In the video, lampshades light up and take flight above a character. Naturally, there’s one of those much talked about drones under each lampshade.
Inspired by this, the University’s STEAMakers Guild is looking to incorporate various technologies in performance, by placing sensors on theatre sets.
“It’s a rare opportunity to see engineering students working side by side with theatre students,” says Lalande.
All of these projects are based on the uOttawa Proto-Ventures business incubator model, which favours learning by doing. This formula allows groups of students to have creative entrepreneurial experiences, while seizing potential business opportunities. All this without having to start a business… at least short term.
To develop a culture of entrepreneurship on campus, the University is presenting a series of Entrepreneurship Week events. The hope is that many students will participate and be inspired. Who knows? Maybe some will discover that there’s an entrepreneur in them as well.