Renowned UK STEM student competition comes to SFU

SFU's Venture Connection launches support programs and preview for undergraduate students participating in the $20 K STEM Spotlight Awards.

The STEM Spotlight Awards are coming to B.C. after a successful three-year run in the UK, and SFU students are among those preparing  to participate.

Since 2014, the awards have produced a medication reminder bracelet, a wind energy reservoir storage, and rocket hybrid in the UK. Now the program is looking to Canada’s next generation of problem solvers to provide solutions for energy, sustainability, marine, natural resources, and technology industries.

Babcock Canada Inc. recently announced the competition’s inaugural Canadian launch. Janice OBriain, co-associate director of SFU’s Venture Connection, says the competition is a good fit for SFU’s early stage business incubator and Western Canada’s first university incubator. Venture Connection is spearheading support programs for students entering the competition.

To encourage, support, and excite potential SFU STEM competitors, Venture Connection is organizing a panel on Tuesday, October 18 at SFU's Surrey campus, featuring award-winning local entrepreneurs who happen to be SFU alumni.

The panelists for, "Rising Tides: Emerging Talent and Trends in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math" include:

  • Kody Baker, P.Eng., founder of Velometro, who earned a MoT MBA from SFU;
  • Ben Britton, CEO of Ionomr, a top 10 finalist of New Ventures BC 2016; a PhD student in chemistry and graduate certificate in science and technology commercialization at SFU;
  • Matias Marquez, founder and COO of Buyatab, also an SFU Entrepreneur of the Year and SFU Beedie School of Business marketing technology BBA alumnus;
  • Maryam Sadeghi, founder and CEO of MetaOptima Technologies, maker of the MoleScope, now at London Drugs franchises nationwide; received a PhD in computing science at SFU.


The panel will be moderated by SFU SIAT alumnus Michael Cheng, a "serial entrepreneur" and founder of Sniply.

“We’re pleased to be among SFU’s pioneers in interdisciplinary collaborations,” says OBriain. “It’s all hands on deck for the groups we’ve connected with—faculties, co-op advisors, and student groups—who see the immense value in further exposure of STEM at SFU.”

This event is presented by Venture Connection's Discovery Foundation Mentoring & Catalyst program, in partnership with the STEM Spotlight Awards. Event sponsors include the Beedie School of Business, Faculty of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Science, and the School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT).

Primed by the tech e@sfu program (an eight-month cohort comprised of budding engineers and business savvy undergraduates), Yash Pachchigar is among those hoping to benefit from the $20K STEM Spotlight Awards grand prize.

“By connecting business students with engineering students, Tech-e has created a risk-tolerant environment to develop technologies solving a societal need,” says Pachchigar, a fourth-year Mechatronics Systems Engineering student and co-founder of Vamotech.

“Ultimately STEM allows stronger integration between cross-functions," he notes. "Bridging the industries together can create something bigger."

STEM Spotlight Award competitors need not be engineering students. Teams must include up to four undergraduate students keen about STEM.

In addition to the kickoff panel, Venture Connection is also organizing a series of activities to support interdisciplinary team formation, provide guidance on challenge submissions, and mentoring sessions. See for more details.

While organizers will reveal the industry sponsors and challenges on Wednesday, October 19th at their official competition launch, those who attend SFU's Oct. 18 panel event will receive a head start.

Learn more about the Stem Spotlight Awards.