Graduates of Dalhousie University’s new Creator Series, an entrepreneurship program for students interested in producing hardware, showcased their work Wednesday evening. The new program is intended to give students the basic skills they need to create their own prototypes.
Audience members were entertained by projects that included a globe-like 360-degree camera, complete with all-seeing ‘eyes’, an automated floor-sander, and a headset that uses virtual reality to train firefighters by positioning them in a room full of flames.
The prototypes were rudimentary, but the members of the student teams are now ready to improve upon their work and proceed with their business ideas.
Program creator Cat Adalay, head of Creator Initiatives at Launch Dal, said she devised the program to help non-engineers become technically literate and creative.
“With automation taking at least half of human jobs over the next 20 years, we need to give ordinary people a basic technical education as well as getting them to be involved in entrepreneurial pursuits,” she said.
“If job security existed once, it definitely won't soon. By creating more entrepreneurs, we create jobs… Teaching people how to create basic physical prototypes gives them an understanding of their products and what is possible.”
The students, all from Launch Dal’s Starting Lean and Innovation courses, learned skills such as 3D printing, CAD modeling, coding and circuitry design and assembly.
At the start of the program, most team members had little or no experience of these technologies.
Adalay said the students were helped by the fact that so much open-source technology is now available free online. (‘Open-source’ refers to resources where the original material is made freely available, and can be modified by other users.)
“Open-source materials are immense for the creation of both hardware and software,” Adalay said. “Students can find very similar projects online, which allows them to speed up the development of their own work.”
One team, for example, found an existing image-recognition project online, which assisted them in developing their own image-recognition system for use underwater.
Adalay said students also benefitted from being able to use tiny and affordable Raspberry Pi computers and Arduino microcontrollers.
The participants learned the curriculum in 10 workshops over 30 hours. They also had access to Dalhousie’s state-of-the-art 3D printer, the Form 2.
Mary Kilfoil, the Academic Lead for Starting Lean, said the university is working on forming partnerships that will hopefully make the program available across the country.
The participating teams included:
- AutoSand--a robot that sands wooden decks ad floors autonomously to save contractors time and money and safeguard their health.
- Camerly--a selfie-taking solution that consists of a 3D camera that can be attached to a drone, selfie-stick or tripod to take 360’ pictures.
- ROVault--a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) that educates users on ocean life and environments.
- V-RAD--a virtual reality system designed specifically for training first-responder professions like police and firefighters with the aim of reducing injuries and deaths.
- QuickTap--a mobile, touchscreen solution for restaurants so clients can order and pay for meals in a simple, streamlined way.
[Disclosure: Cat Adalay, the leader of the Creator Series, is the daughter of the owners of Entrevestor.]