Students encouraged to mix creativity and technology at Halifax congress

High school students participated in the Big Data for Productivity Congress

A Nova Scotia Community College recruit shows a student how to use a Lego robot.
A Nova Scotia Community College recruit shows a student how to use a Lego robot.   Payge Woodard

Need to find the perfect eyebrows for your face shape? These high school students may be able to help.

Five Nova Scotia teens pitched the idea of a website in which users upload their picture and are matched with the perfect brows. Wax strips are then sent to the user to create the shape at home.

“It’s cheaper [than a salon] and gives you exactly what you want,” said Ali, a Grade 12 student, who helped develop the idea.

The pitch was part of the Superpower Challenge, a competition that gives teens a chance to use creativity and technology to tackle real world problems. Finalists will have the chance to win $5,000 to develop their prototype.

More than 600 students were given the chance to pitch their ideas during Education Day,a partnership between the province, the Nova Scotia Community College, Brilliant Labs and the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development at the Big Data for Productivity Congress in Halifax on Wednesday.

Students pitch their idea for a website that perfects eyebrow grooming.
Students record their pitch for a website that perfects eyebrow grooming.   Payge Woodard

During the event, students were taught about the possibilities of data and technology, as well as entrepreneurship. Students were encouraged to mix the innovation of an entrepreneur with technology.

Dan Russell, a search technology researcher at Google, told students they were at the perfect age to get creative.

“Don’t lose the entrepreneurial spirit,” he said.

Mingling with robots

Students were also given the opportunity to explore the technological opportunities that their province has to offer.

NSCC and Cape Breton University were among the post-secondary institutions at the event to talk to students about the tech related programs they have to offer.

Schools brought robots along so students could gain hands-on experience.

Kim Desveaux, a director at Brilliant Labs, an organization that promotes technology to students, brought a Makey Makey to the event, an invention kit that makes everyday objects like bananas operate like touchpads.

Students were able to control a computer using Play-Doh and a banana as keys.

Zach, a Grade 12 student, said he is interested in studying software and the event was a chance for him to see the technology he is interested in, in action.

“I’ve seen it online but never had it right in front of me before,” Zach said about the Makey Makey.

Students use Play-Doh and other objects as touchpads with the Makey Makey.
Students use Play-Doh and other objects as touchpads with the Makey Makey.   Payge Woodard

Technology hits the classroom

Karen Casey, Nova Scotia’s minister of education, told the crowd about the province’s new action plan, designed to modernize the education system.

Introductions to the basics of coding, technology and design will be introduced into the education system, starting at the elementary level.

“Taking the steps to modernize the education system is a key component of the action plan and is critical to student success,” Casey stated in a news release. “Participating in Education Day is an excellent opportunity to highlight the steps we’re taking.”

Last year, 60,000 students worldwide took part in Hour of Code, an event that introduces students to computer science.

Casey asked that more students take part this year. She hopes the number will rise to 100,000 students participating.

Making an impact

CEO and founder of Fast Forward Labs, Hilary Mason, told students to use the “superpowers” data and technology give them, to make an impact.

“You’re building the future, so build one you want to live in,” said Mason.

Watch students test out Cape Breton University’s student built robot

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