May 1, 2023

Students in Hunter Hub Solutions Lab tackle social isolation in Calgary

Three-week challenge invited undergrad students from all disciplines to work together to inspire real change
Aerial view of Calgary and the Peace Bridge
Aerial view of Calgary and the Peace Bridge. Adobe stock

As the winter term neared its end, the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking wanted to challenge students through the Hunter Hub Solutions Lab by tackling a systemic complex issue — addressing social isolation in the Calgary area — with support from Experience Ventures.

The Hunter Hub Solutions Lab is a unique future-skills building program that invites UCalgary undergraduate students to participate in developing innovative solutions to a local or regional challenge, while fostering entrepreneurial thinking skills. This challenge provides students with Experience Ventures placements that they can leverage for future career development through building skills such as resiliency, opportunity recognition, action orientation, risk management, and systems thinking/transdisciplinary thinking. 

The three-week challenge saw 67 students working in teams while interacting with UCalgary collaborators and community members to better understand social isolation and develop solutions to address this challenge in the Calgary area.

“Yes, it’s a complex systemic issue, so bringing together students from different faculties to build interdisciplinary teams was particularly pertinent,” says Jessica O’Connell, manager, talent partnerships and engagement.

“In addition to helping students develop entrepreneurial thinking skills, we wanted to further challenge them to deeply explore and understand the complexities of addressing social isolation. Providing students with the opportunity to not only develop skills that will set them up for their futures, but posing real-world challenges that they develop solutions for is extremely rewarding and inspiring.” 

After three weeks of hard work on building their solutions, the top three teams were announced during the Hunter Hub Solutions Lab finale on April 11: 

  • First place ($750): Hello Calgary connects the immigrant population in Calgary through an event-focused app that includes cultural resources and event suggestions based on relevance and the user’s budget. Team members include Sukriti Sharma (undergraduate student with the Schulich School of Engineering), Syed Hasan (undergraduate student in Science), and Taylor Van Hell, Stephanie Tan, and Sarah Joy Mendoza (undergraduate students at the Haskayne School of Business). 
  • Second place ($375): Community Connect is a social gaming app that centralizes all community events occurring throughout the city and connects users of similar interests with events that fit their app profiles. Team members include Zainab Haki (undergraduate student with the Cumming School of Medicine), Theo Van der Westhuizen (undergraduate student at the Haskayne School of Business), Tianyi Gao (undergraduate student in Science), and Vaibhav Kapoor and Thanishque Harshaa (undergraduate students for the Schulich School of Engineering). 
  • Third place ($250): New Endeavors is a user-friendly app and in-person initiative that, through the creation of a personality profile, links users with similar interests in the Calgary area. Team members include Kate Coninx (undergraduate student at the Haskayne School of Business), Kassandra Esau and Katya Change (undergraduate students with the Faculty of Arts), and Jay Chang, Jennifer Shearer, and Khushleen Khun Khun (undergraduate students with the Schulich School of Engineering). 

The winners were selected by a panel of judges that included community members and UCalgary staff who work to support social change in Calgary through their roles and entrepreneurial initiatives. 

“The Hunter Hub Solutions Lab gave me a unique opportunity to work with a multidisciplinary team of students to learn about, analyze, and strategize the development of a solution for social isolation in the Calgary area,” says Van Hell.

“This project gave us the opportunity to act as social entrepreneurs all the way from problem identification to solution feasibility analysis. I’d urge all students to participate in future Hunter Hub events to make a real impact in our community.”

The challenge was funded by Experience Ventures, a national program led by the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking that enables post-secondary students across Canada to develop critical skills alongside real-world innovators through entrepreneurial thinking placements. 

Created with a transformative gift from the Hunter Family Foundation in 2017, the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking is UCalgary's community innovation hub that transforms lives and economies through fostering entrepreneurial thinking in students, faculty, and the community. Our mission is to create and support game-changing innovators and accelerate their ideas from conception to impact. 

The Hunter Hub contributes to the University of Calgary's strategic vision to be the most entrepreneurial university in Canada. 

Experience Ventures is funded in part by the Government of Canada's Innovative Work-Integrated Learning Initiative. Learn more about Experience Ventures

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