Ex­plor­ing lo­cal so­lu­tions for lo­cal is­sues

The Beacon Herald - - FRONT PAGE - JONATHAN JUHA STAFF RE­PORTER

How can the city at­tract and re­tain high-qual­ity tal­ent? Or how can traf­fic con­ges­tion and mo­bil­ity is­sues be im­proved in down­town Strat­ford?

Those were the ques­tions 100 stu­dents tried to solve Sat­ur­day dur­ing this year’s uXpe­ri­ence De­sign Camp.

Al­ready in its third edi­tion, the event was or­ga­nized by the Ac­cel­er­a­tor Cen­tre in con­junc­tion with the lo­cal cam­pus of the Univer­sity of Water­loo and the City of Strat­ford.

As part of the 12-hour-long event, stu­dents from a wide range of dis­ci­plines, such as soft­ware de­vel­op­ment, en­gi­neer­ing, de­sign and com­puter sci­ence, were di­vided into groups and asked to find vi­able, tan­gi­ble so­lu­tions to these two real-life is­sues the city is ac­tu­ally try­ing to ad­dress as part of its Smart City ini­tia­tive.

Stu­dents also re­ceived as­sis­tance from a num­ber of men­tors, who pro­vided their ex­per­tise to help the teams de­velop their projects. Among those were Naeem Khan, man­ager of in­for­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies for the city, and Joani Ger­ber, CEO of in­vest-Strat­ford.

Chase Denomme, man­ager at the Ac­cel­er­a­tor Cen­tre and who was lead­ing the camp, said the event was a win-win op­por­tu­nity for both stu­dents and the city.

“One of the main goals of this event is to give stu­dents some ap­plied, real-world ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said. “A lot of the stuff they may work on in school may be prob­lems that may not ac­tu­ally ex­ist.

“And the city ob­vi­ously has chal­lenges they want to ad­dress and there’s a huge pool of cre­ative tal­ent here at the univer­sity that they can lever­age to solve some of those is­sues.

The ideal out­come of to­day will be that the city can get a bunch of so­lu­tions they can po­ten­tially im­ple­ment.”

To that end, the pro­gram in­cluded a panel of judges who re­viewed and eval­u­ated the pro­pos­als.

One of the groups, for in­stance, en­vi­sioned an au­ton­o­mous shut­tle bus that would take tourist around the main points of in­ter­ests around the city.

“One of the main is­sues in the city when it comes to mo­bil­ity comes from tourists, who come to the city and drive around go­ing to all these places. This dou­bles the num­ber of peo­ple and ve­hi­cle around the down­town core,” said Ryan Car­ruthers, who is from Strat­ford and is part of the school’s global busi­ness and dig­i­tal arts pro­gram. “This way, we could get tourists to park in one place and still be­ing able to go to all of these places.”

Some of the stu­dents pro­posed the idea of con­trol­ling the traf­fic flow in the city by mod­i­fy­ing the sched­ul­ing of traf­fic lights dur­ing peak times, while oth­ers ex­plored the idea of creat­ing a com­mu­nity hub that would house both com­pa­nies and en­trepreneurial stu­dents to fa­cil­i­tate the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween both.

But when asked whether 12 hours was enough time for stu­dents to truly de­velop fea­si­ble so­lu­tions to these is­sues, Denomme didn’t hes­i­tate for a sec­ond, say­ing this ap­proach was ac­tu­ally one of the most ef­fi­cient ways to do it.

“A lot of times, when peo­ple are work­ing on new ideas, if you have the time, you will take it,” he said. “Peo­ple of­ten take way longer than they need to come up with so­lu­tions, and the idea of a de­sign sprint is to get some­thing out into the mar­ket really quickly and that you can test be­fore you in­vest too much time or re­sources.” jjuha@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/JuhaJonathan

JONATHAN JUHA/THE BEA­CON HER­ALD

Ryan Car­ruthers, a stu­dent at the Univer­sity of Water­loo Strat­ford cam­pus, works on a project dur­ing this year’s uXpe­ri­ence Camp De­sign to find so­lu­tions to Strat­ford’s mo­bil­ity and traf­fic is­sues.

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